He may not have defended his Dakar Rally title, but third in a trying 2020 event was a reward nonetheless for Toby Price after “some things were out of my control”.
Price began the 2020 rally with a win in the opening stage, but a number of setbacks – none greater than the death of Paulo Goncalves – saw the Australian ultimately lose his crown to American Honda rider Ricky Brabec.
Regardless, an incredible fifth Dakar podium in six starts proved Price’s ability to persevere in the gruelling event, which was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time.
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The drama began on the very first day when his road book tore after it jammed – but he still took out the win despite copping a time penalty.
He would later lose time due to a tyre issue – but the heartbreak of being first to discover the fallen Goncalves ensured Price’s head wasn’t “hundred percent” for the rest of the rally.
The KTM rider stayed with Goncalves – who did the same for Price when he broke his leg in 2017 – once medical staff arrived, with the Portuguese rider later succumbing to his injuries after he was airlifted away.
A shaken Price was awarded time after he lost over an hour due to the Goncalves incident, yet still remained in the hunt and eventually sealed another podium.
Speaking after the final stage, the 32-year-old reflected on his tumultuous rally and how Brabec eventually got away.
“Just everything, this whole two weeks, that have gone wrong,” Price said.
“Some things were out of my control, and I lose 16 minutes with a bib-mousse falling apart, so if I had these 16 minutes back, then the fight would have been really close.
“Then the first day I had the road book lock up on me, the road book tore.
“Stage 7 is one that I’ll remember forever, for Paulo, but not for a good reason, and just since then my head hasn’t been a hundred percent.
“But we’re at the finish line safe, I’m going to be able to go home and just think these things over, and come back hopefully bigger and stronger next year.”
Few on the bike circuit can come close to Price’s Dakar numbers, but he admitted third was “not the result we came for”.
Price’s efforts were reflected by the six other Australians in the rally, with Yamaha’s Rodney Faggotter finishing 13th. Ben Young (58th), Trevor Colin Wilson (76th) and Matthew Tisdall (96th) all training their countryman in the bike category.
Brabec’s victory ended KTM’s remarkable 18-year win streak in the bike category, while veteran Carlos Sainz broke through for a third win in the cars category at the tender age of 57.
For Price, though, his standards are incredibly high – a mark befitting of an elite athlete – and victory is the ultimate quest, having achieved the feat in 2016 and 2019.
Already, he is looking to 2021 to regain his crown – but for now, Price was satisfied to reach the podium despite a fortnight of frustration and heartbreak.
“Definitely it’s not the result we came for but, with the two weeks we’ve had, I’m quite glad to keep my podium streak going,” he said.
“Every time I’ve lined up and I’ve made the finish line, I’ve been on a podium step.
“This, for me, is a big achievement, especially after these two weeks.
“It’s been tough, and we just regroup and we get ready for Dakar 2021 and we come back here to try and get our #1 plate back.”