Just over a month before the racing starts, the Dakar Rally’s organizers have announced their route for 2020.
The Dakar is running in Saudi Arabia this time, moving away from South America, where the past 10 rallies had been held. Previously, it had actually earned the Paris-Dakar name by literally running from France to Senegal, but threats of terrorism forced the rally to change continents in 2008. The racing in South America was a mixed bag, with some epic battles over the years, and stunning scenery, but also heavy rainstorms, altitude sickness, and by 2019, the race was running only in Peru, instead of across multiple countries.
For 2020, the race is running entirely in Saudi Arabia, starting in Jeddah and finishing in Qiddiyah, between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf with a loop south to the Dawasir Valley. Competitors are expected to see a wide range of terrain, from mountains to flat-out desert blasting to challenging dune navigation.
This year’s route is more than 13,000 km long (last year was just over 8.000 km). Racing runs January 5-17. There will be 11 days of racing and one rest day, and there is also talk of a “super marathon” stage, with riders allowed very little time to work on their bike between days of racing.
Despite naysayers believing the rally would be challenged by Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and that racers would stay away, there’s currently more than 150 riders signed up in the motorcycle category (no Canadians, though). A quick scan through the listings seems to show fewer South American riders than in years past, with more Euro competitors—no real surprise there.
Curious to see how the Kingdom will accommodate female competitors.