Competitors started the day with an 89-mile connection to get to the start point of the special stage, and Barreda opened the road following his Stage 10 win. The Honda rider lost ground to Despres early on as the Yamaha ace pushed to the front of the pack. Coma made up ground as well following an early off, moving to second-place on the timesheet within the opening miles. The KTM rider and Despres swapped the lead position a handful of times in the run up to the first checkpoint.
Behind the frontrunners Coma’s teammate, Jordi Viladoms and Pain were in contention for a top-three spot, trying to get the edge on Barreda. Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues was also in the mix, trying to protect his overall fifth-place ranking from Despres.
By the third checkpoint Barreda had lost ground on Coma and Despres, falling back to fifth. Viladoms had moved up to third with Pain in fourth. Barreda’s troubles came after a fall which damaged his navigation system, forcing him to depend on other riders to navigate the way.
“Today was one of the most important days with a lot of timed kilometers,” explained Barreda. “I really tried, pushing hard from the beginning, but about 300 km into the race I had a heavy fall in the fesh-fesh zone and I broke the navigation system. I waited for Cyril [Despres] who was about six minutes behind and I stuck with him until the end of the special. I’m happy that we’ve got this difficult stage out of the way and we are a bit closer to the end.”
Coma opened up more of a gap through the dunes at Copiapo, holding steady at nearly three minutes ahead of Despres. Viladoms and Despres were in a battle for second-position during the latter portion of the stage, but when the two crossed the line the Yamaha rider had gained the advantage. Pain outpaced Viladoms late in the stage as well, beating the Spanish rider by 25 seconds.
“To find the right rhythm is never easy,” said Coma. “To find the compromise between going fast, but not taking risks, this is the most difficult. You have to feel comfortable on the bike and not ride crazy. This is important. It’s still a long way to go and tomorrow is a very difficult special. We have to be very focused.”
Rodrigues finished Stage 11 in sixth and now sits less than one minute ahead of Despres in the overall rankings.
Honda rider Laia Sanz overcame a difficult Stage 10 to finish 15th in Stage 11, moving her back up the general rankings to 15th overall.
Dakar Rally 2014 Stage 11: Antofagasta to El Salvador Results
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 6:36:08
2. Cyril Despres, FRA (Yamaha) 6:38:59
3. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 6:41:36
4. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 6:42:01
5. Joan Barreda, ESP (Honda) 6:44:20
6. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 6:45:31
7. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (Sherco) 6:45:58
8. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 6:49:33
9. Jakub Przygonski, POL (KTM) 6:50:48
10. Ivan Jakes, SVK (KTM) 6:50:55
Dakar Rally 2014 Overall Standings after Stage 11
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 48:24:41
2. Joan Barreda, ESP (Honda) 49:17:17
3. Jordi Viladoms, ESP (KTM) 50:32:37
4. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 50:46:21
5. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 50:55:16
6. Cyril Despres, FRA (Yamaha) 50:55:59
7. Jakub Przygonski, POL (KTM) 51:08:36
8. Daniel Gouet, CHL (Honda) 51:49:16
9. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 52:11:13
10. David Casteu, FRA (KTM) 52:32:37