Cyclist in critical condition after crash

A French motorcyclist was in critical condition Tuesday after being found unconscious in remote sand dunes during the Dakar Rally in western Argentina.

Officials at Teodoro J. Schestakow Hospital said Sebastien Coue apparently crashed during the second stage of the rally and was exposed to temperatures above 104 degrees before he was found. His body temperature also went above 104, officials said.

It was unclear how long he had been exposed to the extreme heat.

”He entered in critical condition,” hospital director Armando Dauverne said. ”We don’t know how long he was exposed to the sun. Right now he is in intensive care.”

The Dakar Rally, considered one of the most dangerous in motor sports, has already claimed three lives this year. Argentine bike rider Jorge Martinez Boero died in a crash in Sunday’s first stage. On the same day, the pilot of an ultralight plane and his son died when the aircraft went down while following the race.

This is the fourth consecutive year the event is being held in South America. The rally was held in Europe and Africa until the 2008 race was canceled because of fears of terrorism. It was moved to South America the next year.

The route this year is different from the first three, which were loop courses from Buenos Aires to Chile, and then back to Buenos Aires. This year the race begins in Argentina, passes through Chile, and finishes in Lima, Peru, on Jan. 15.