Wednesday 15th January, 2020 – Aidzidine to Tidjikja
A brutal 8th stage of the 2020 Africa ECO Race has decimated the field, with many riders still out in the Mauritanian dunes well into the night.
More than 15 hours after they started the stage many competitors, including some cars and trucks, are still trying to make their way through the difficult dunes to the bivouac in Tidjikja.
Some will not make it before midnight, if at all.
The Coca-Cola Energy/Nomadas Adventure team of Andrew Houlihan and Pablo Guillen made it through the stage relatively unscathed.
Andrew finished the stage in 16th place which now moves him into 20th overall according to the latest updates we have.
Pablo rode extremely well through the tough dunes to finish 9th in the stage. That bumps him up to 17th place outright.
The strong performance today has now put both riders back in the top 20 after losing around an hour and a half on stage 2.
Andrew Houlihan described the stage as brutal.
“It was brutal. The sand and rocks were very bad, and the dunes were extremely difficult.”
“There are still many bikes not in. I slowed right down just to be safe.”
“I was buried both wheels deep about 3 times.”
The team’s success today came from setting a reasonable pace with clean navigation. “Although I was slower today my navigation was good.”
Many of the top riders have agreed that today was one of the most difficult stages they have tackled. It was a physically demanding stage, a long hard day in the soft Mauritanian sand.
And the riders still out there as we publish this story would have to agree as well.
The best placed Australian in the event, Matt Sutherland (KTM), finished 6th today and that was enough to move him up 3 places to 6th overall.
The other Australian rider, Peter Caldwell (KTM), struggled somewhat – 34th in the stage and now 6 places down to 23rd overall.
Stage 9 is a loop from the Tidjikja bivouac and back, the only loop stage in the 2020 event.
Organisers say it the most beautiful special stage of the rally and participants will be really spoiled by what they will see during the day. They say they have a little surprise which will only be revealed the day before!
And of course, there will be more sand!
After the initial sand and pebble section, the riders will negotiate a section that alternates between dunes and large open spaces. Towards the end of the stage is a long sandy climb between large narrow rocks.
- #175 – Andrew Houlihan
- #176 – Pablo Guillen
- #102 – Matt Sutherland
- #136 – Peter Caldwell