Defending champion Toby Price is out of this year's Dakar Rally after breaking his leg following a crash.
On Thursday, the Gold Coast-based Aussie was leading on the last part of the 416km stage, from San Salvador de Jujuy to Tupiza in Bolivia, when he lost control at over than 90km/h. Price was battling for the stage win with overall leader Joan Barreda, with the Aussie having surpassed his rival by 95 seconds at the final waypoint before the crash.
29-year-old Price was airlifted to a hospital in the Bolivian capital, La Paz, where he underwent surgery on a broken left femur.
Another rival, Paulo Goncalves, was first on the scene and stopped to help, sacrificing 20 minutes of his rally to wait with Price for the medical helicopter. "Doesn't matter the outcome today… Price fell in front of me and needed my help," Goncalves said at stage end.
Raised in a motorsport-loving family, with his father a former off-road buggy champion, Price started riding motorbikes when he was two years old. Living in far-western New South Wales, Price frequently won junior state and national titles before moving to Singleton, where became a professional rider.
He burst onto the Dakar scene in 2015 with a stunning third place finish, before rewriting the record books twelve months later when he became the first Australian to win the Dakar Rally in any category.
Back in 2013, Price survived a terrifying accident in the US when competing in the Mojave Desert in south-eastern California. That day, the then-26-year-old had shattered his C6, C7 and T1 vertebrae, leaving Price perilously close to paraplegia, bound for a wheelchair - a far cry from his KTM-powered motorbike. To make matters worse, Price was later told he was not internationally insured and was instructed to gather over $500,000 to pay for his surgery. If he didn't, he would have to leave the hospital. Unable to raise the money needed, Price left hospital in a halo brace and spent two days lying in a hotel room in excruciating pain with his parents by his side.
He made his way back, and reached the very top with the Dakar win in 2016, but Price again crashed back down to earth.
"Shattered – didn't even make the first week," Price said from his hospital bed via Facebook Live.
"It wasn't even the time to be going hard and everything felt comfortable, but it sucks to lose, that's for sure. The one and only important race, and it's over and done; just like that.
"I don't know what the plan is next or what happens, but I have to lie here and try to get sorted."