“I wanted something difficult and Dakar delivered”, says Andrew Houlihan. After more than 8,000 gruelling kilometres, he has finished the 2021 Dakar Rally. And for Andrew, that also marks the achievement of a massive goal that’s been years in the making.
Here it is – the run to the finish! After just on 2 weeks the riders are heading back to where it all started in Jeddah on the 2nd January, and to the glory that goes with completing a Dakar Rally. A 105km liaison, 202km special and a final 142km liaison to the Finisher’s Podium.
“One more day!” It’s apparently part of the mental chat many of the riders, including Andrew Houlihan, use to get them through each day in the gruelling Dakar Rally. But today it’s real. There’s one more stage before the riders reach that finish line in Jeddah.
Organisers have shortened Stage 11 by about 50km due to recent bad weather in the area. The special is 464km long with a fairly even mix of sand and dirt tracks, and just a small amount of rocky sections. That will please Andrew Houlihan who is battling on with a broken scaphoid.
“Another day, another stage completed.” That’s how Andrew Houlihan is looking at it as he pushes through incredible pain from a broken scaphoid. “More bloody stones and rocks today. Really took its toll on the wrist!” But Andrew is now 52nd overall after another steady run today.
The riders will travel to AlUla today on their way back to Jeddah. The stage is made up of an 83km liaison, a 342km special and finally a 159km final liaison into the bivouac at AlUla. The terrain will alternate between narrow winding gravel tracks and undulating sandy sections.
Today was a tough day for many of the riders. The big news of course was that fellow Australian, Toby Price, crashed badly injuring his left arm and shoulder and was airlifted to hospital. Two other top riders, Ross Branch and Luciano Benavides, are out as well.
Stage 9 of the 2021 Dakar Rally starts and ends in the outskirts of Neom, Saudi Arabia’s 500 billion dollar “city of the future”. If the teams were expecting something resembling the spectacular imagery depicted in the flashy websites telling the story of Neom’s development ….. ah no!
The marathon stage is done and the riders have been re-united with their support teams. For Andrew Houlihan, arriving in the Neom bivouac a bit earlier than other days was a bit of a blessing. Andrew has revealed that he’s been riding with a broken scaphoid since a fall on day 3!
Stage 8, the second half of the marathon stage, will take riders on a 709 kilometre journey from Sakaka to Neom where they will meet up again with their support teams. The stage is broken up into an initial 226km liaison, 375km special and finally a 108km liaison into Neom.