Thursday 9th January, 2020 – Mhamid to Assa
A very strong result in Stage 3 has moved Andrew Houlihan back up the standings in the 2020 Africa ECO Race.
Andrew finished the stage in 20th position (17th in his group), which has moved him up 21 places. He now sits 37th overall.
Fellow Coca-Cola Energy/Nomadas Adventure team rider Pablo Guillen also had a good day. Pablo, whose bike places him in a different group to Andrew but still within the same category, put in the fastest time in his group to finish 14th in the stage and now sits 36th overall.
After losing time because of mechanical issues with Andrew’s bike in Stage 2, both riders started the day from well back in the field. Andrew said that starting that far back meant the road had a lot of dust and was quite dangerous.
Andrew lost a bit of time early on in the stage:
“We had a 30km dune section in the morning which was quite difficult. I got stuck in on the face of some big dunes 3 times and had to dig the bike out with my hands. I lost a fair bit of time in the dunes and was quite exhausted by the time I got out.”
“The rest of the day was fast and very rocky with some sand sections. Navigation was good today with only a couple of minor mistakes.”
Andrew also says he’s now getting the hang of the new Coca-Cola Energy KTM 450 Factory Rallye bike. He had not ridden the bike before Stage 1 of the rally, but says he is finding the suspension much better and that the bike has so much more power in the dunes.
Stage 4 takes the riders to Smara, a city in the Moroccan part of Western Sahara. It is an entirely new 404km stage with a 385km special. The rally organisers say the stage will have some interesting gravel tracks with a few rocky parts but they expect it to be fairly fast. There is a very fast chott – dry salt lake – and a very technical wadi – river crossing – that will test the riders skill and navigational abilities.