The tenth and eleventh stages of the Dakar Rally were cancelled this weekend after armed gangs reportedly terrorised travellers on the route.

The tenth and eleventh stages of the Dakar Rally were cancelled this weekend after armed gangs reportedly terrorised travellers on the route.

The announcement to cancel two stages ahead of today's rest day was taken on Friday. The route affected was the tenth stage between Nema and Mopti and the eleventh stage to Bobo Dioulasso.

Instead, drivers were required to go by liaison from Nema to Bamako on Saturday, and on to Bobo Dioulasso on Sunday, where the rest day would be. These were counted as "free liaisons" and did not count towards the overall scoring.

Riders had an easier time and were flown to the next stage where they too completed the liaison between Bamako and Bobo Dioulasso.

However, competitors were divided about the decision to cancel two of the hardest stages on the revised Dakar circuit.

Last year's Bike winner, Richard Sainct, said, "It's great to do the stage on a plane. It's relaxing. On the other hand, I would have preferred to do it on my bike in the race."

"These two days of liaison were a surprise," said overall Car leader Stephane Peterhansel. “900 km is very long. Of course it's not the kind of pressure as in a special stage, but it wasn't restful."

This is the first time in four years the Dakar Rally has been forced to cancel two of its stages due to a security threat. After the official rest day, racing will resume on Tuesday.