New Zealand's Faulkner wins Paris-Dakar race

New Zealand's John Faulkner has won the second Paris-Dakar cycling race, after riding some 7,214 kilometres from Paris, France over a 10 week period to be the first rider to arrive at the finish in Dakar, Senegal. Faulkner took victory from a group of 30 cyclists that set out on the adventurous race, which includes a crossing of the Sahara desert, that commenced on September 9.

The Kiwi rider beat Dutchman Bob Martens and Christian Billet from France, while the Netherlands' Mieke Arendsen was the first of the female finishers to reach Dakar suburb Lac Rose.

The race/expedition, which is modeled on the famed Paris-Dakar (now Lisbon-Dakar) car and motorbike rally operated by Tour de France organizer ASO, crosses the Pyrenees, the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert. Riders were exposed to high temperatures, huge mountains and desert storms along the road.

France's Billet had an excellent start in his home country and took solo the lead during the second stage. The 18 year-old Martens was the fastest in the European hills and mountains and was at the top of the ranking for more than five weeks. Faulkner from New Zealand was never far behind and took the lead in Marrakech after a physical breakdown of Martens. However it was only for short, Martens recovered and stroke back. Finally Faulkner proved to be the strongest endurance athlete in the Western Sahara and Mauritania, mentally as well as physically, taking the lead and keeping it until the finish in Dakar.

Not all riders contesting the event race, with some preferring to roll in small groups along the route. This year's event included riders ranging in the age from 18 to 76 years.

The event won't take place in 2008, with organizers planning an epic new 11,000 kilometre cycling race/expedition in South America, called The Andes Trail. The Paris-Dakar will again take place in September-November 2009.

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