A navigational error by Dakar leader Marc Coma in the heart of the Atacama desert, made things difficult for the Repsol KTM rider on Tuesday.
But with a little patience, and knowing that he had lost the leg, he got through the day and in the end only lost 12 minutes to his team-mate Jordi Viladoms, winner of the leg.
Coma, who was riding alongside Cyril Despres, took a wrong turn, eventually forcing them to take the difficult decision to turn back, retrace their steps and find the correct route.
Once on the right track Coma and Després set a fast pace until they caught the group with Viladoms, allowing them to enter the final part of the special together. But the drama wasn't over as the group became split up while trying to find a path to the finish, as Viladoms explained:
“A very strange, amazing day!” he began. “I arrived at the first refuelling in more or less the position I expected. So I was very surprised, not to say a little concerned, to see that at the second refuelling Marc [Coma] wasn't there. Much to my relief, he arrived two minutes later, with Cyril [Despres] and Chaleco [Lopez].
“On leaving the refuelling CP Alain [Duclos] and I waited for our respective riders and then all four of us rode through the camel grass together - a lot of fun. Then, not far from the end, we couldn't find the waypoint. We headed off up this huge dune, more like a mountain, to get to it and in the process all split up. I started to get worried again and then two dunes later I saw an orange bike in the distance and fortunately it was Marc - a big relief,” he admitted.
Coma finished the stage in seventh position, but still gained time on nearest rival Davie Fretigne as the Yamaha rider could only manage 15th. Coma is now 1hr 24min and 50sec in front of the Frenchman.
“We left the bivouac at about 6 this morning, but because of the fog and the fact that the helicopters couldn't fly, we didn't start till 10. Then this evening we didn't get back to 17.30 - it was a very long day - and quite a stressful one!” said Coma. “Everything was going fine until we got lost after the refuelling CP and lost about 20 minutes Then nearly at the end we struggled to find a waypoint and had to ride through some pretty soft sand. If yesterday resembled Morocco today was a bit like Mauritania.”
Stage ten was going to be the longest and most difficult special of the whole rally, a 666 kilometre loop in Copiapó. However after a check this morning the organisers decided to shorten the special by 200km, and so in the end it was reduced to 476km.
Unfortunately, the weather conditions that delayed the start of today's special have also caused the cancelation of Stage 11, billed as the most majestic of the entire rally, which was scrapped on Tuesday evening due to predicted bad weather. Riders will now just go to Fiambala across the border in Argentina in liaison and restart from there the next day.
Argentina-Chile Dakar 2009 - Positions on SS10:
1. Jordi Viladoms
KTM 6hrs 35m 26s
2. Alain Duclos
KTM +0hrs 1m 06s
3. Pal anders Ullevalseter
KTM +0hrs 2m 07s
4. Helder Rodriges
KTM +0hrs 8m 29s
5. David Casteu
KTM +0hrs 8m 44s
Argentina-Chile Dakar 2009 - Positions after SS10:
1. Marc Coma
KTM 43hrs 52m 30s
2. Davide Fretigne
Yamaha +1hrs 24m 50s
3. Cyril Despres
KTM +1hrs 31m 11s
4. Jordi Viladoms
KTM +1hrs 56m 40s
5. Helder Rodriges
KTM +2hrs 5m 38s