AlUla, Saudi Arabia – 13/01/2021
“Another day, another stage completed.”
That’s how Andrew Houlihan is looking at it as he pushes through incredible pain from a broken scaphoid in his right wrist.
“More bloody stones and rocks today. Really took its toll on the wrist!” he said at the end of Stage 10.
But Andrew is now 52nd overall after another steady run today.
He rode with his Coca-Cola Nomadas teammate Pablo Guillen for most of the day and did most of the navigation.
“I really enjoyed it and when I needed a break I’d swap with him for a bit”, Andrew said.
In the pre-stage briefing riders were told that navigation could be confusing because they would be crossing over tracks from yesterday’s stage. Andrew agreed, “yes it was at times”.
They also said there’d be no dunes. They were right there too, but there was “shit loads of sand!”
His wrist is giving him almost constant pain but he feels it held up ok today, at least it was no worse than yesterday, but it was still hard with all the rocks and camel grass. He found himself looking for flat spots that would be easier on the wrist, but said they were hard to find.
At some times, Pablo, Andrew and 2 other competitors were riding 4 abreast looking for the best way through the rocky sections.
The scenery through Stage 10 was spectacular. Winding tracks through beautiful canyons and undulating sandy sections.
And the weather has been kind this year as well. Last year the area was covered in snow but the Neom area has been experiencing 25-30° days and mild nights.
No incidents today, no offs and no near misses like yesterday’s, and no issues with the KTM 450RFR itself. In that way a near perfect run.
The only small technical issue Andrew experienced today was with the ETRF, part of the tracking and navigation systems on the bike.
Andrew said it went rogue at times and would beep for no apparent reason.
”It made it hard to tell whether someone was signalling me or it was alerting me to cautions.”
A 45th place in the stage today has moved Andrew up another place in the overall standings to 52nd.
For Pablo, the number 50 is significant today – 50th in stage and now 50th overall.
The pair are tracking very well in their first ever Dakar.
Getting there was an achievement in itself. Apart from the obvious, and huge, amount of preparation for an event of this nature, this year the COVID pandemic threw the world and the rally plans into chaos.
So getting to the start line is, in itself, a win.
And if the Coca-Cola Nomadas team can continue with the smart and steady riding they are doing, getting to the finish line in Jeddah in just 2 days time is looking very achievable.
One waypoint, one stage, one day at a time!
With only 3 Australians left in the event, Daniel Sanders has taken over the title of “the best placed Aussie”.
He’s still in 6th place and given the events of the past 2 days that saw many of the leading riders retire, he’s looking like a top 5 finish might be on the cards.
Michael Burgess, friend and training partner of Andrew, is in 29th now. He has been constant and staying out of trouble each day.
In his video report a couple of days ago he said “there were no pubs to drop into out there, devastated about that”.
And he’s still looking for that elusive pub in the desert! But maybe there’ll be one in Jeddah in a couple of days.
Nacho Cornejo exited the rally yesterday after a crash at the 252km mark. He managed to get back on the bike and finish the stage but has been ruled out of the rally after a medical.
That leaves Kevin Benavides, Ricky Brabec, Sam Sunderland and Joan Barreda in the top 4 spots, all separated by just 15 minutes and 40 seconds.
Stage 11 has been shortened by about 50km because of poor weather in the area and riders will experience an “ocean of sand” on they way to the next overnight stop in Yanbu.