2022 Dakar Rally – Stage 5

Stage 5: Riyadh to Riyadh

Today’s post comes late – delayed while we worked through the implications of an incident Andrew was involved in during Stage 5. I think Andrew tells it best ….

“My Dakar came to an end today.”

“Not by my choice. The medical staff and officials will not let me continue due to my rib fractures.”

“Today’s stage started well and I was feeling really good, had perfect navigation, passed many bikes and had worked my way up in 62nd position. The track was very fast with some rocks and stones littered in the sand. I misjudged a small section with a deep hole. I hit it very hard at high speed but did not come off, just jarred my upper body really bad.”

“It was only 20km until the refuelling point so I rode in very slowly.”

“I asked the medical team for some pain medication and they wanted to know what I needed it for. I made the mistake of mentioning rib and chest pain. They then started feeling my rib area and poking to see were the pain was which didn’t go very well.”

“After a long discussion / argument I had to accept their decision to not allow me to continue in the race. I argued the point with them for quite a while but their decision was final and for good reasons.”

It’s a gut wrenching outcome, especially after the effort Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) has put into his recovery from a crash in training last year, and then simply getting through the unfolding COVID issues around the world to be in Saudi Arabia.

“This Dakar was always going to be a big challenge for me but I was getting through the days without too much trouble taking my time and trying to enjoy it.”

“The terrain is so demanding you have to stay focused 100% for every second as the smallest mistake can have severe consequences and the speed you have to ride at is just crazy.”

“The sand and dunes are like nothing we have in Australia so to train and prepare for Dakar you need to be in the sand and dunes in Africa or Saudi Arabia, something I didn’t get the chance to do prior to this Dakar, although yesterday I had a great rhythm and flow through the larger dunes and really enjoyed them.”

Stage 5 was Andrew’s best day yet and it showed in how he moved up through the field before the incident. He was officially classified as 57th for Stage 5, and 76th overall in Rally 2.

Andrew’s Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) is now 66th in the Rally 2 group.

More unsettling news for Andrew today was that Walter Roelants (#67 – Husqvarna) who Andrew had met and rode most of the stages in Dakar 2021, crashed heavily yesterday. Walter is in intensive care at the Riyhad Military hospital after fracturing his spinal cord, neck, ribs and puncturing his lung in the crash. Another reminder of just how quickly things can go wrong at Dakar.

Stage 5 created dramas for many other riders as well. Skyler Howes (#5 – Husqvarna) is out, Joan Barreda (#88 – Honda) injured his shoulder but is determined not to fail again so is struggling on regardless, and Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) dislocated his shoulder but managed to put it back in place and continued.

The stage was cut short because of a sand storm and the “great demand placed on the medical aircraft dedicated to the bike race and the Dakar Classic”.

And if that wasn’t enough – Toby Price (#18 – KTM) won the stage only to be penalised for speeding, handing  Danilo Petrucci (#90 – KTM) his first stage win.

Andrew Houlihan will now watch the rest of the 2022 Dakar Rally from the sidelines.

“Katie and I will continue on with our Nomadas Adventure team for the remainder of the Dakar, with Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) our 2 riders still in the race.

“Let’s hope 2022 will be a year that I can fully recover and come back to Dakar 2023 injury free and 100% fit.”