Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Wadi ad Dawasir, Saudi Ara­bia - Por­tuguese mo­tor­bike rider Paulo Gon­calves has died af­ter a crash in the Dakar Rally on Sun­day, the 40 year old be­com­ing the gru­elling mo­tor­sport marathon's 25th fa­tal­ity.

Gon­calves suf­fered the fa­tal ac­ci­dent af­ter 276km of the sev­enth stage from Riyadh to Wadi ad-Dawasir.

"The or­gan­is­ers re­ceived an alert at 10:08 (0708 GMT) and dis­patched a med­i­cal he­li­copter that reached the biker at 10:16 and found him un­con­scious af­ter go­ing into car­diac ar­rest," a state­ment on the rally's of­fi­cial web­site re­ported.

"Fol­low­ing re­sus­ci­ta­tion ef­forts on site, the com­peti­tor was taken by he­li­copter to Layla Hos­pi­tal, where he was sadly pro­nounced dead," it added.

Dakar di­rec­tor David Castera re­vealed it was Aus­tralian de­fend­ing bike cham­pion Toby Price who was the first to dis­cover the stricken Gon­calves ly­ing on the sand.

Gon­calves was com­pet­ing in his 13th edi­tion of the Dakar. He made his de­but in 2006 when it was staged in Africa, and took sec­ond to Marc Coma in 2015 in South Amer­ica.

The In­dian-backed Hero Mo­to­sports rider only made it to this year's first Dakar staged in Saudi Ara­bia af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a rup­tured spleen in a crash in his na­tive Por­tu­gal in De­cem­ber.

Gon­calves was placed 46th in the over­all bike standings af­ter Fri­day's sixth stage. His death cast a pall over the sev­enth stage ac­tion won by Car­los Sainz in a Mini with Joan Barreda tim­ing fastest in the bike cat­e­gory.

The last Dakar com­peti­tor to be killed was Pol­ish rider Michal Hernik in 2015 in Ar­gentina.

"The en­tire Dakar car­a­van would like to ex­tend its sin­cere con­do­lences to his friends and fam­ily," the or­gan­is­ers' state­ment said.

With 20 of the 25 Dakar deaths since the in­au­gu­ral edi­tion in 1979 made up of bike rid­ers Castera dwelt on the risks faced by rid­ers.

"We know that bikes are dan­ger­ous.

"You set off in the morn­ing, you have a knot in your stom­ach some­times be­cause you don't have any pro­tec­tion, you have noth­ing.

"They all know that, th­ese rid­ers," said Castera, a vet­eran of five Dakar Rally on a mo­tor­bike.

On a som­bre day in the desert Sainz tight­ened his grip on the over­all car standings with his third stage win of this year's edi­tion.

The 57 year old Spa­niard in a Mini com­pleted the long­est spe­cial be­tween Riyadh and Wadi ad-Dawasir over two min­utes clear of Toy­ota ri­val Nasser al At­tiyah with his fel­low Mini driver Stephane Peter­hansel in third.

Sainz, a two-time for­mer world rally cham­pion, is in a strong po­si­tion to add to his Dakar wins in 2010 and 2018.

With seven stages com­pleted and five day's rac­ing to go he en­joys a com­fort­able ten-minute cush­ion over last year's win­ner At­tiyah, with 13-time Dakar cham­pion Peter­hansel a fur­ther nine min­utes adrift.

Joan Barreda came out on top in the bikes cat­e­gory with Amer­i­can Ricky Brabec re­tain­ing his over­all lead fin­ish­ing fourth on the day.

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