Wadi ad-Dawasir – Defending Dakar Rally bike champion Toby Price spoke movingly on Monday about Paulo Goncalves, the Portuguese rider killed in a crash, and how riders risked their lives “every time we climb onto a motorcycle”.
The Australian was the first to come across Goncalves, 40, after his fatal high speed accident on Sunday’s seventh stage in the Saudi Arabian desert.
Price, 32, revisited those harrowing moments after Monday’s eighth stage was cancelled for bikes and quads to give riders time “to mourn their friend”.
“Unfortunately we know the dangers of this sport, just a hard day when that day arrives, unfortunately we were there for it,” said KTM’s Price who won last year despite a broken wrist.
“It was a big fast plateau, pretty much wide open full gas, right at the last minute the alarm on the GPS system went off, as I look up I saw a black shape out in the distance, that’s never good.
“Then to arrive and see Paulo on the ground… instantly I knew it was serious and he was in a bad way.”
With Stefan Svitko and 2006 car champion Luc Alphand also arriving at the scene Price said they tried to get a response out of Goncalves, Dakar runner-up in 2015.
Price said no one was to blame for the tragedy which brought the number of fatalities on the Dakar to 25, 20 of them on bikes since the first edition in 1979.
“Unfortunately when its your time it’s your time, unfortunately it was Paulo’s day yesterday.”
“We tried to do everything we could, we checked all the vitals, unfortunately no response.”
He described the wait for the medical helicopter to arrive “as the longest eight minutes of my life for sure”.
Price, who also won the 2016 Dakar, said despite the emotional trauma of the experience he was happy he had stayed with Goncalves.
“That’s what kind of gives me comfort, I remember him stopping for me in 2017 when I broke my leg in the Dakar… it was the right thing to do.
“At least I knew I was there for him, tried to comfort him as much as possible.
“My thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends and everyone in Portugal, they lost a good warrior that’s for sure.”
Despite the tragedy Price said not one rider on the Dakar would give up his day job.
“If you walk around here in the bivouac and ask anybody to stop in the race for sure they say no, it’s our love, it’s our passion, and for Paulo for sure the same thing.
“He did many years in the Dakar, he loved the event, he loved the sport. he went out doing something he loved – but day seven of the 2020 Dakar will be a sad one to remember.”