Stage 3: Al Qaisumah to Al Qaisumah
Stage 3 was modified due to the heavy rain that soaked a part of the region around Al Artawiyah. Organisers moved the start point of the special to where CP1 was to be situated, shortening the special by around one hundred kilometres.
The route then became a 214 km link section followed by a 255 km special, and then a 166 km liaison back to the Al Qaysumah bivouac.
The rain packed the sand so that it was heavier, allowing the riders to travel faster and a bit easier.
The change was a blessing for Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) who is still suffering from yesterday’s high speed crash in the sand.
“I’m happy to have made it to the end of Stage 3”, he said.
“Once we got into the stage there were some very fast open sand tracks which made the day go quick. There was also a quite a few rocks hidden in the sand which you had to be super careful of.”
“There was nothing too difficult today. There were a lot of dunes and a few big ones but I was very careful and slow.”
“When I crashed yesterday I had to get assistance from another rider to get my bike back upright and I didn’t want to have to stop someone again if I fell today.”
Andrew finished 86th in the Rally 2 group today, which keeps him 85th in the group and 112th overall.
A strong ride and a 65th placing in the Rally 2 group today moved Andrew’s Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 Rally) up the rankings. He now sits 73rd in the group and 92nd overall.
The third Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola rider – Antonio Guillen Rivera (#111 – KTM 500 EXC-F) – is finding his first Dakar Rally challenging. After failing to finish Stage 2 his attempt at Stage 3 was also cut short. However, fellow Nomadas Adventure rider Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) is also going well in his first Dakar, sitting 60th in the Rally 2 group.
At the head of the field, Joaquim Rodrigues (#27 – Hero 450 Rally) took the stage win – the first for himself and for the Hero brand. It was an emotional moment for the Portuguese rider, who’s brother-in-law Paulo Gonçalves tragically died in the 2020 Dakar.
Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) still holds 1st place – just! He is only 4 seconds clear of Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) and 1 minute 30 seconds ahead of Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM).
Toby Price (#18 – KTM) regained some of the time he lost on Stage 1B with a 2nd place. That has moved him up to 14th overall. And Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) has picked up 2 places and now sits 5th. Don’t rule these guys out yet!
Stage 4 takes riders to Riyadh, where they will spend the next 4 nights. But it’s a long trip – in fact, the longest special of the entire rally at around 465 km.
There are some very long sections of fast tracks to navigate, a section of dunes of various sizes, and we also expect the riders will start hitting rocky sections as well. Does that suggest the end of all the sand – no!