The Portuguese Goncalves dies after a fall in the Dakar Rally

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(Reuters) – Portuguese motorcyclist Paulo Goncalves died after falling on the seventh leg of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Paulo Goncalves of Hero Motosports Team Rally during stage 7
REUTERS / Hamad I Mohammed

The 40-year-old Hero Motorsports participant, who has participated in his 13th Dakar Rally since his debut in 2006, plunged after 276 kilometers on the special stage from the capital Riyadh to Wadi Al Dawasir.

"The organizers were alerted at 10:08 a.m. and sent out a medical helicopter that reached the biker at 10:16 a.m. and passed out after a cardiac arrest," a statement said

“After attempts at resuscitation on site, the competitor was taken to the Layla Hospital by helicopter, where he was sadly declared dead.

"The entire Dakar caravan wishes to express its sincere condolences to its friends and family."

Goncalves was the first competitor to die in the grueling long-distance event since Polish motorcycle rider Michal Hernik in Argentina in 2015.

The Portuguese drove into the top 10 of the Dakar Rally four times and finished second in 2015 for Spaniard Marc Coma, who is competing against two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso this year.

Goncalves had mechanical problems on Friday, had to change the engine of his motorcycle to stay in the race, and dropped back to 46th overall after the sixth stage.

"The goal now is to do my best because the end result … there is no way to get a good result. Instead, I'm going to try to do good stages every day and that's what I'm looking for, ”Goncalves said.

The experienced Portuguese had participated in the Dakar on three continents, from his beginnings in Africa to South America and this year's debut in the Middle East.

The 2013 World Cross Country Rally champion represented the Indian team Hero Motorsports together with his brother-in-law Joaquim Rodrigues after five years of racing with Honda.

Goncalves crashed on the fifth stage in Peru last year. Rodrigues broke his back in a Dakar crash two years ago, but returned after extensive surgery and was 27th after stage six.

The 546 km stage on Sunday, the longest of the race, was won by Spaniard Joan Barreda. The American Ricky Brabec extended his lead in this category.

Australian defending champion Toby Price finished an hour and 20 minutes behind Barreda, but organizers said he had stopped to help Goncalves and his position was being recalculated.

The Spaniard Carlos Sainz, two-time Dakar winner with a mini buggy, took his third stage win in the cars category and extended his lead over Toyota's reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar to 10 minutes.

Mini has now won six of the seven stages.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, Edited by Ed Osmond