Day nine of the Dakar certainly lived up to its billing as the toughest yet. The mammoth Mauritanian stage from Nouakchott to Kiffa was by far the biggest test yet. Not only was it the longest stage at 874km but it combined some of the toughest terrain as well. Two huge sections of dune combined with a total special stage length of nearly 600km meant the previous day's rest period was much needed.
Experienced Race to Dakar rider Simon Pavey and team mate Matt Hall both completed the stage successfully aboard their BMW F650GS bikes with Pavey coming home first in a time of just over 17 hours. Hall had the misfortune to receive a one hour time penalty.
Hall and Pavey are now in 100th and 102nd positions respectively. Fellow BMW racer Nick Plumb brought his F650GS home in 90th position meaning he is now in 89th position overall.
Despite being out of the race due to broken bones in his hand Charley Boorman continues to travel with the Race to Dakar team to give his support to the riders.
"It's been very difficult for me to be out of the race and working with Si and Matt every day wishing I could still be riding with them," Charley said before yesterdays stage. "It has been a very tough couple of days riding for them but I feel if they get through today they will be in a very good chance of getting to the finish line at Dakar. Everyone on the team is in high spirits and we are looking forward to experiencing the rest of this crazy event unfold".
However the team's relief at completing the stage was quickly tempered by the tragic news of the death of Andy Caldecott. The Australian rider was killed when he crashed around the 250km point. Both Charley Boorman and the Race to Dakar team paid their respects to the talented rider.
"Everyone at Race to Dakar is very sorry about the tragic loss of Australian rider Andy Caldecott who died on the Dakar Rally today." Boorman said. "He was a very brave and courageous man and this was his third Dakar. Our love and thought go out to his family and everyone he knew."
As a tribute to Andy Caldecott today's 333km stage will be run entirely as a Liaison stage by the bike racing field. The stage runs from Kiffa, Mauritania to Kayes, Mali, the fifth country to be visited during this year's rally.
Stage nine was won by Cyril Despres ahead of Marc Coma and Helder Rodrigues. Despite finishing second Coma still leads the overall standings by 22 minutes over Despres.
For more information about the Race to Dakar team, enthusiasts can visit www.racetodakar.com.