Toby Price’s dream of defending his Dakar Rally motorcycle crown has come to a screaming halt in the red dirt of Bolivia.
The 29-year-old crashed out of the race in stage four on Friday morning, fracturing his left femur.
He was leading the stage from San Salvador de Juluy in Argentina to Tupiza in Bolivia when he fell heavily at more than 90km/h about 371km into the 416km timed section.
Price was conscious and activated his emergency beacon, summoning a medical team. He was lifted onto a helicopter and flown to La Paz, the Bolivian capital, where he had surgery to repair a fractured thigh bone.
“Where he crashed it was in a riverbed, where the ground changed very quickly,” teammate Matthias Walkner said.
“First it was sandy and you could go flat out at 140km/h, but then you came to some big stones and it’s very hard to find the right speed. If you hit a stone, then it’s difficult.”
Price’s Singleton-based father, John, told Fairfax Media he had communicated with his son via social media from his hospital bed on Friday afternoon and was relieved to hear the broken leg was his only injury.
He said Price was more worried about “letting everyone down” than his injuries.
“I’m just a bit devastated for him, and I’m sure he’ll be devastated himself,” he said.
Price senior said rally-raid bikes were cumbersome in a crash.
“Those style of bikes are a bugger of a thing. If you do end up going end over, you get hung up on all the nav gear and then your legs go up the handlebars, and that’s what ends up breaking your legs.
“He was only 34km from the finish line.”
Price senior said his son had activated his own emergency beacon to notify rescuers.
Price, 29, had been determined to win the fourth stage after falling 16 minutes behind Spaniard Joan Barreda due to navigational errors the previous day.
His KTM teammate Matthias Walkner, himself the victim of a gut-wrenching fall in 2016, stopped to ensure Price was safe before claiming the stage win.
"I stopped with him until the medical team told me that he was not going to be able to continue. Health is the most important thing and I hope that he's OK,” Walkner said.
Price is no stranger to injuries.
His worst accident was in 2013 when he came close to paraplegia after a fall in California’s Mojave Desert in a round of the Hare and Hound National Championship. He broke his C6, C7 and T1 vertebrae but did not have American medical insurance.
He left hospital in a halo brace and spent two days lying in a hotel room with his parents by his side then took a perilous 14-hour flight home.
Spinal surgeon Paul Licina inserted two rods and eight screws and fused vertebrae in Price's back to ensure he could ride again.
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