Wadi Ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia – 05/01/2021

Stage 3 of the 2021 Dakar Rally was a 530km loop – 112km liaison, 403km special stage and another 115km liaison – starting and finishing at Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

About 90% of the stage was sand, and the dunes on today’s stage were much larger than the riders experienced yesterday.

Andrew said the dunes were much more enjoyable to ride and negotiate – until you got stuck!

He found himself bogged in the sand on one of the early dunes after a spray of sand from the rider in front of him caused him to lose momentum.

Getting the bike out turned into a real workout with Andrew having to pull the bike 20m down the sand one wheel at a time.

He said it tired him and it took a little while to recover, but teammate Pablo Guillen was waiting at the top of the dune to make sure he got through okay.

The two Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammates were able to ride together for some time today, arriving at the end of the special together.

Their times initially placed them 68th and 69th, but both riders had missed a waypoint along the way.

“I spent 15 minutes returning and trying to find it, but had to give up so I’ll get another penalty”, Andrew conceded at the end of the stage.

“Thinking about it later I probably would have been better to just to continue and take the penalty than waste the 15 minutes as well, but you don’t know that at the time.”

Both riders scored a 20 minute penalty pushing them a few places down the stage results. Andrew finished 72nd in the stage, Pablo 73rd.

Whilst adding to their consolidated times, the penalties actually had very little – if any – affect on their overall placings.

Pablo is now 67th outright, and Andrew 69th.

One of the changes for the 2021 Dakar is that the road book is only handed to the teams 15 minutes before the stage begins instead of the night before.

This is limiting the amount of time riders have to analyse the route before starting and making the navigation far more challenging. It’s one of the ways the organisers are trying to even the playing field out for all competitors.

And it seems to be creating chaos for the lead riders.

For two days in a row now the lead riders have found “opening the road” very challenging, and consequently they are dropping down the order the very day after they’ve made it to the top of the leaderboard.

Joan Barreda, Ricky Brabec and Ross Branch, who were the top three at the end of the second stage, all lost significant amounts of time yesterday. That allowed Toby Price to work his way through the field and claim another stage win.

Daniel Sanders is the best placed of the other Australians in the event. The KTM factory rider is currently sitting 16th overall.

And Michael Burgess has finished Stage 3 with another consistent result that’s moved him up to 42nd.

Michael operates Destination Dakar Roadbook Adventures a rally navigation training and tour company in Bendigo.

Prior to leaving Australia for Saudi Arabia, Andrew and Michael had been working on roadbook training together and clearly it’s working.

Something else that’s working very well are the team’s KTM 450RFR bikes.

Nomadas Adventure team owner and manager, Hernan Samaniego, along with Jakob – the team’s young Swiss KTM mechanic – are doing a fine job in preparing and maintaining the race bikes. Once again today neither rider had any mechanical issues.

Stage 4 will entail 850km of riding with a 337km special. Andrew starts at 6:39 am local time with Pablo one minute later.