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Dakar riders return to Guinea - January 12th 2006

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    For the first time since 1996, the Dakar rally returned to Guinea today, which gave all competitors a great opportunity to test themselves in conditions well suited to enduro specialists, including rocks, jumps, potholes and water crossings.

    Today's 872 km marathon stage saw competitors leave Mali and enter Guinea during the 197 km liaison. The 368 km special passed through dense vegetation and many fords, giving several riders problems with water entering their engines.

    Frenchman Cyril Despres won today's special - his fourth of this year's rally - beating Spaniard Marc Coma by just 1'45" and American Chris Blais by 2'29". However, Coma still has a comfortable 32'39" lead over the Frenchman in the overall rankings, with Italian Giovanni Sala third in the points.

    Race to Dakar team rider Simon Pavey finished today's special stage in 66th place at around 3.15pm (GMT) before waiting for fellow BMW rider BMW and then beginning the long 307 km liaison to the bivouac at Labé together. Nick Plumb finished in 72nd place, 18 minutes behind Pavey.

    Tomorrow's 587 km stage from Labé to Tambacounda features a 345 km special and competitors will surely feel the finish line getting closer with the hope of arriving in Dakar on Saturday evening now definitely on the cards.

    For more information about the Race to Dakar team, enthusiasts can visit