Today’s heroes lie and sit totally exhausted in the bivouac and a sandstorm battles above their heads. This stage was one of a kind, even for the more experienced competitors. “It was a true Dakar day: Strenuous, with low vision and tons of camel grass,” exclaims Alfie Cox. He celebrated his birthday today and it seems he enjoyed the 660 km nevertheless. He came in 7 minutes behind the leader and was able to claim a 4th place. Cyril Despres reached the finish line just before him. “I had a hard time seeing anything. Never before have I crossed a 400 km stretch which constituted completely of camel grass. It was extremely difficult.” Cyril lost the overall lead to Marc Coma, the second fastest on the day. Coma is 16 seconds ahead of Despres. Andy Caldecott and Alfie Cox came in tied (+5:40) in 3rd place.The second part of the special proved to be selective today. Until CP 2 at km 397, the young American Kellon Walch led the pack. A miracle since he started off relying on pain killers. He too, took a dig into the sand yesterday, falling twice off his bike. But it was yet to happen again. “Right after CP 2 I fell several times,” explains Walch, “It cost a lot of time. It was also extremely difficult to find the tracks. I clung to a rider in front of me and I followed him. I was lucky that my bike ran flawlessly.”Joe Barker, deputy US team chief, was satisfied with his boys. “Kellon and Chris race very well. Undoubtedly it was a difficult stage today. The dunes at home have a totally different structure. I’m satisfied that the boys made it across the finish line. It is a plus that they achieved such extraordinary placements.” This was also due to the services of John Edwards, doctor of the team. This morning he was working hard. “I mixed protein and electrolyte drinks. The guys have to survive the next two most strenuous days. I need to give them all the help I can.” The wellness package also included a relaxing and refreshing back massage for each of his boys. His help was successful as one can see.Gio Sala also showed team spirit during the race. He provided Isidre Esteve with desperately needed gasoline. The Spaniard took along less than he needed. Anyone who still needed to repair the bike had to tackle these problems on the course of the stage. After crossing the finish line only refueling was possible. For the night the motorcycles are kept in Parc Fermé, which is a few hundred meters away from the bivouac. Last night the team managers advised their riders to pay attention to their equipment. Claudia Patuzzi, Team KTM Gauloises, explains, “All of them are taking along a few spare parts. For example: one or two tubes. And they certainly also carry along a few personal items for the night. The service trucks bypass this bivouac and are already continuing on to the next bivouac in Tidjikja.”One of the teammates could not continue on with the race this morning: Carlo de Gavardo. After yesterday’s bad crash he bruised his back and couldn’t move at all this morning. He father states, “Carlo felt like a 100 year-old man. He was in pain with every move he made.” Pulling out of the race is tough for Carlo. After several injuries during the previous years he is mentally in great shape again. KTM team manager Hans Trunkenpolz is equally disappointed, “Carlo’s retiring from the race takes away our chance to document the efficiency of the 450 KTM. The day before yesterday, Carlo took care of Jordi Duran and stayed with him after his severe crash. And yesterday Carlo suffered a bad crash as well and finished the stage very cautiously. For sure he would be leading his class, if these two things hadn’t happened. No matter what, we will continue on with our concept. It is the right way to keep on going with this motorcycle.”After a short night, the competitors head for Tidjikja early tomorrow morning. 520 km out of the 538 km will be judged. Once again the participants will face the vastness of sand. Between the dunes, the passages leading to the finish are hidden. It will definitely be a navigational challenge!