Australian Andrew Houlihan is competing in his first Dakar event. Speedcafe.com is proudly one of Houlihan's sponsors and he will be filing a Dakar Daily Diary for us each day to give readers a real insight into the world's toughest event.
The riders headed out this morning in cold, damp conditions on the first part of this year's marathon stage. They will be separated from the team tonight and have no assistance, other than what they might be able to find from their fellow competitors.
Today's diary entry
After our rest day I knew I had a couple of big days ahead of me. Today was a 472km special and 742km in total, and the first part of the marathon stage.
The team was up at 4am getting things ready for my 5:50 start.
It rained during the night and there was still some light rain and a lot of mist when we headed out. It was freezing on the 250km morning liaison, certainly below 10°.
At the start of the special we went straight into a very difficult sand and dune section about 40km long.
After CP1 it was fast and rocky with a lot of big rocks hidden in the deep sand. I had to be very careful because the rocks were sometimes hard to see and would do a lot of damage if you hit one.
After CP2 there was another 30 to 40km of dunes which were very nice until I misjudged a big dune and cartwheeled over the peak.
I spent the next 20 minutes getting sand out of the push button starter before I could get the bike going again!
Other than that small mishap, I made it to the end of what felt like a very dangerous stage.
I finished 62nd in today's stage and that puts me in 60th overall. We've got five more stages to go and I'm happy just to still be hanging in there.
Pablo [Juan Pablo Guillen Rivera] finished a few places ahead of me today and is one place up on me overall. Not a bad team effort!
We're here in Sakaka without the team tonight.
They packed up camp and were on the road to Neom, 810km away, not long after we left.
Tomorrow for us is a 334km liaison and 375km special. Most of it is rocky tracks, there's a little bit of sand but no dunes.
Neom is on the Red Sea and apparently a fully designed city, but I don't think we'll be doing any sightseeing!