He hasn't won a special test since Stage 8, but Marc Coma is in the lead and protecting his time advantage very well.
Today was the shortest stage of the rally with the exception of tomorrow's journey from Nema to Ayoun. Competitors traveled a total of 400 km today, 366 of which were contained in the special test. The loop route was won by Helder Rodrigues, the Portuguese rider who found victory in front of his home crowd during Stage 2. Since then, the Yamaha rider has been loitering around the top-15 overall, but has built a solid lead in the Super Production 251-450cc division. He's 47'29 in front of Frenchman Michel Marchini for that title.
Marc Coma did a masterful job of maintaining his lead over the rest of the field by finishing 44 seconds behind Rodrigues and seven seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Cyril Despres. Yesterday's winner, Janis Vinters, kept his momentum to score fourth, 2'53 off the winning pace. David Casteu nailed down fifth to remain in third overall for the eighth consecutive day.
Isidre Esteve Pujol continues to climb slowly back up the rankings after a terrible Stage 8 that dropped him from second to eighth. He finished 13th today. Tomorrow's 280 km route does not contain a special test so the standings will remain the same until racing continues on Stage 12 from Ayoun to Kayes.
A tie for sixth place was good enough to keep Red Bull KTM's Chris Blais in fourth overall. He finished the section with a time of 4:19'56, as did Honda-mounted Thierry Bethys who is currently has a general ranking of 10th.
Casey McCoy equaled his best mark of 28th today which he first attained on the opening day. He's still in 33rd overall.
Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) - Winner, 6th OA
This stage was very technical, which helped me to battle with bikes from other categories. With my 450 cc, I lost out somewhat on the straight sections, but I was able to make up for this on the technical parts. I've had a good day and this victory is very important for the team, and me as well, because it's the first time that I've won a special stage in Africa. Previously, my best was a 3rd place last year.
Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) - 2nd, 1st OA
This stage was harder than expected. The tracks were very technically demanding. I started in 3rd position and it's easier to control the others than when you open the race. Once I had caught up with Cyril [Despres], I was happy with just staying in contact with him. I'm satisfied because we have got Mauritania out of the way and have dealt well with this part of the rally. Another important aspect is the victory for Helder [Rodrigues]. We started our endurance racing careers together and I'm happy for him. Since the stage was very technical, it was well suited to a 450cc machine.
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) - 3rd, 2nd OA
This special stage was a bit like a 366-km long downhill skiing event, with a powdery surface, so obviously it's really hard on your legs and hands. It was a very physical and exhausting special stage, but very interesting for navigation. I didn't choose to stay at the back so I went for all out attack, but apparently Marc did as well, because he was seven seconds quicker than me. It's perfectly plausible for less powerful bikes than ours to win this sort of stage. After all, Rodrigues' bike weighs 30 kg less than mine, he didn't have to navigate and only finished with a lead of 50'' after 366 km. Right throughout the rally this year, I haven't seen a single stage where we have had an easy ride. For the general standings, it's sure that being 54' behind, I can't normally hope to win. But we mustn't forget that for St‚phane [Peterhansel], it was also mission impossible to catch up with De Villiers, and now he's the leader.
Chris Blais (Red Bull KTM) - 6th, 4th OA
It was a nice, quiet day on winding, sandy tracks, a real motocross circuit. I caught up with and overtook Ullevalseter but then Casteu and Rodrigues caught up with me. Today, riding a 450cc like Rodrigues was an advantage. I'm not too bothered about the third place in the general rankings for the moment. This special stage wasn't designed for opening up big gaps. I'm waiting to get to Mali and Senegal to make my move.
Stage 10 Results:
Riders wound up right back where the started today as the 10th stage formed a loop away from Nema where competitors will spend another night.
1. Rodrigues, Yam
2. Coma, KTM
3. Despres, KTM
4. Vinters, KTM
5. Casteu, KTM
6. Bethys, Hon
7. Blais, KTM
8. Marchini, Yam
9. De Azevedo, KTM
10. Ullevalseter, KTM
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