Despres now leads the rally by 2'28" over the defending champion.
"It's feeling good," Despres said. "After a difficult day yesterday I had to get back to winning ways. It wasn't easy to psyche myself up for it, but I'm very happy with my day's work. We came into this looking at a battle for seconds or minutes. It's very competitive. Like any top level sportsman, if you don't like confrontation or squeezing the last ounces of strength out of yourself, then you're not ready for a fight. But, as for me, I'm up for it."
Coma and Despres have both had a big set back during this year's Dakar. Coma made a navigational mistake during the early stages which gave Despres a 13 minute lead, and yesterday, Despres spent the majority of the session fighting his way through the mud. Now, with just a few days remaining in the 2012 Dakar, the two title rivals are fighting for minutes and seconds.
"It was quick and difficult, dangerous with lots of dust and rocks," Coma said. "At the end, there was some navigation to tackle and it was possible to lose everything we'd battled for during the day. I had a few difficulties with the way points. I was 30" behind Cyril Despres, but I lost my way little so I decided to slow down a bit to make sure I didn't make any mistakes. For me, finishing here after the difficult last 50 kilometres of navigation is very positive. It's new to me and I'm happy to have managed to tackle it properly. It's been a good day."
While the focus of this year's Dakar is undoubtedly on the top two riders (who are currently 45 minutes ahead of their competitors) today's third place finisher put on quite the show for Dakar fans. Spaniard Juan Barreda Bort, who is racing in his second Dakar, took third for the day behind Despres and Coma. Bort was more than 8 minutes behind Despres, but he was also more than three minutes ahead of series regulars like Helder Rodrigues and Paulo Goncalves.
Here's a video of what the Dakar riders rode through today.