It's probably the first time in 10 years that I've been in no pain on a motorbikeAndrew Houlihan
Two gruelling African rallies in little more than a month present the next challenge for a Border motorbike rider.
Andrew Houlihan leaves on Sunday for Morocco where he will race the Pan Africa Rally from September 21 to 27 and then the last round of the world championships, Rallye du Maroc, October 3 to 9.
His preparation has been dominated by rehabilitation from a total knee replacement about eight weeks ago.
"The right knee's been on its way out for a couple of years now," Houlihan said.
But his knee worsened and he withdrew from the rally.
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Houlihan said progress since his operation had been positive.
"It's probably the first time in 10 years that I've been in no pain on a motorbike," he said.
"I'm looking forward to not having that distraction in Africa so it will be one less thing I need to worry about."
The rider's program, which will also include the Africa Eco Race in January, leads towards his long-term goal to compete in the 2021 Dakar Rally.
Steve McDowall, of Motorcycle Life, said the Pan Africa Rally comprised 1500 kilometres over six stages.
With the rally commonly used as a Dakar lead-up event, stage three, the longest section at 450km, would be set up to replicate those conditions.
"It really does stretch the guys and it's going to be great preparation for Andrew on his journey to Dakar," McDowall said.
"These events are not just physically demanding on riders, they are so intense and they're so mentally draining.
"You've really got to have strategies in place to be able to deal with all of that as well."
McDowall said Houlihan had been training hard, noting the rider had also recovered from horrific injuries suffered in a crash in Greece last year.
"He's come back physically and mentally stronger and more prepared than he's ever been," the industry writer said.
"I think he's in the best state right now than he has ever been."
Houlihan said he had no expectations about his performance ahead of the African rallies.
"Just to get through and finish," he said.
"Time on the bike and not hurt myself, stay injury free."
Part of the Nomadas ADV Rally team, which is based in Switzerland, Houlihan receives great support from his wife Katie.
While the couple is in Africa, Katie will complete some training on the team's new Can-Am Dakar buggy.
She may compete in some races next year herself if all goes well.