Motorbike racer Paulo Goncalves dies during Dakar Rally

Paulo-Goncalves

Paulo Goncalves of Portugal (Martin Mejia/AP)

WADI AL-DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia — Portuguese motorbike rider Paulo Goncalves died on the Dakar Rally after crashing in the Saudi Arabia desert on Sunday. He was 40.

Goncalves fell and suffered cardiac arrest about halfway through the 546-kilometre (339-mile) seventh stage, south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Australian rider Toby Price then Argentina’s Kevin Benavides stopped to help, and a medical helicopter arrived on the scene within eight minutes of being alerted, rally organizers said on their website.

He was flown to nearby Layla hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“The Dakar mourns Paulo Goncalves, one of the most experienced and beloved champions of the rally-raid family,” organizers said on their website.

The eighth stage on Monday, a loop course around Wadi Al-Dawasir, was cancelled for motorbike and quad racers “in order to give the riders time to mourn their friend,” organizers said.

They added, “Paulo … was immensely respected by both veterans and less experienced competitors who admired and were inspired by him.”

Goncalves was competing in his 13th Dakar. He was runner-up in 2015.

He’s the first competitor to die on the Dakar Rally, the world’s toughest rally, since Polish motorcyclist Michal Hernik in 2015 in Argentina. Two non-competitors were killed in 2016 in crashes with vehicles.

Benavides was deducted the six minutes-plus he stopped and declared the winner of the stage to Wadi Al Dawasir.

Price, the defending champion, stopped for more than an hour and his time was adjusted so he was within 29 minutes of overall leader Ricky Brabec of the United States.

Cars leader Carlos Sainz won his third stage and extended his lead to 10 minutes over second-placed defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah.

The rally ends on Friday.

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