Waldschmidt Eyeing Podium Spot

Namibia’s ace endurance bike rider Ingo Waldschmidt has been in great form in the Africa Eco Race and is well on track to claiming a podium spot when the race finishes in Dakar on Sunday.

Waldschmidt put in a superb performance during Thursday’s Stage 9 to finish second overall, 7 minutes 57 seconds behind the overall leader Pal Anders Ullevalseter of Norway.

Although Thursday’s times still had to be verified, it seems that Waldschmidt has also moved up one position to third place on the overall standings.

According to Thursday’s unofficial times, Ullevalseter is leading the race, followed by Robert Theuretzbacher of Austria, 2:32:08 behind, while Waldschmidt is third, four hours 4 minutes 58 seconds behind the leader.

In the process he made up a deficit of more than 26 minutes to overtake Gilles Vanderweyen of Belgium into third place overall.

Along the way, Waldschmidt had to overcome numerous setbacks, ranging from mechanical problems and getting lost, while he also survived a crash on Stage 7. Despite the competitive edge between the riders, Waldschmidt also underlined his integrity and sportsmanship when he stopped to help a fellow rider who ran out of fuel.

The Africa Eco Race covers more than 6 000km over 12 stages, spanning three countries, namely Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal.

A total of 22 bike riders started the rally in Morocco on 30 December, with most of the riders coming from European countries like Norway, Austria, France, Italy, Belgium and Great Britain, while Waldschmidt is the only competitor from Africa.

After an inauspicious start when he got lost on Stage 1, Waldschmidt put in a great ride to finish second on Stage 2 and move up to fourth place overall.

Waldschmidt maintained his consistency to finish fourth on Stage 3 and 4 to remain fourth overall.

He suffered a mishap on Stage 5 when he got lost with a Russian rider and eventually had to be guided back on track by a helicopter. In the process he lost more than an hour on the leaders, but still managed to hold on to his fourth position overall.

The sixth stage on 5 January was cancelled, officially due to bad weather, although it could also have been due to lost time after a long delay at the border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania.

The following day there was drama on Stage 7, a 433km-stretch between Chami and Azougui in Mauritania.

Waldschmidt got off to a bad start as he lost five minutes when his bike went dead and he eventually had to jump start the bike. After rejoining the race, he came across a fellow rider who had run out of fuel, and showed his sportsmanship when he stopped, stripped his fuel tank and gave him some of his own fuel.

They both took off into the dunes where they encountered some very steep slopes with hard sand layers interspersed with sudden soft spots. It was on one of these soft spots that Waldschmidt had his first tumble of the rally, as his front tyre dug into the sand, sending him flying over the handlebars, doing a full handstand and over the front of the bike.

He however recovered well to finish third on the stage while he maintained his fourth place overall.

According to Ingo’s wife, Lisa, he hurt his wrist and neck but it was not too serious and he once again gave a fine performance on Stage 8 on 7 January, when he finished third to maintain his fourth place overall.

“Ingo came third today, 12 minutes behind the stage winner. He really rode amazingly and sounds mega chuffed with himself,” she said.

The race continues with two more stages in Mauritania on Friday and Saturday, until the final stage which finishes in Dakar, Senegal on Sunday.

Source : The Namibian