C.S. Santosh: Goncalves' death a huge loss to so many riders

The tragedy hits home for C.S. Santosh, who was Paulo Goncalves’ teammate at Hero Motosports Team Rally.

Paulo Goncalves passed away earlier this month after he suffered a crash in the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The motorsports community is in shock after the death of Portuguese motorcycle rider Paulo Goncalves, who suffered a crash in the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia recently.

The tragedy hits home for C.S. Santosh, who was Goncalves’ teammate at
Hero Motosports Team Rally. Santosh, in fact, rode past the site of the crash, even if he didn’t immediately realise the severity of the accident.

READ | Dakar Rally: Paulo Goncalves passes away after crash in Saudi Arabia

“I saw the medical staff administering CPR, and also saw the helicopter. I didn’t know who the rider was, as I focussed on completing the stage. It was disturbing, but I told myself to keep going,” Santosh told Sportstar on Tuesday.

It was only when Santosh stopped to refuel was he told the terrible news. “My heart sank when I was told that it was Paulo, and that he had passed away. Dakar didn’t feel like Dakar anymore. I rode the remaining 100 kilometers to complete the stage, but my mind kept going back to what I saw at the crash site. You never imagine that the worst could happen. It was overwhelming,” Santosh said.

The Indian rider remembers Goncalves as a great team man. “Paulo was always jovial. The expectations sat lightly on him. He never looked at racing as a job. He created a good atmosphere where the pressure was lifted off the others riders. He gave me small tips, which were so helpful. Paulo was a real leader,” Santosh, who is currently in Portugal to join the grieving family of Goncalves, said.

Goncalves, 40, was an experienced and highly-regarded rider, who finished in the top-10 at the Dakar Rally four times, and was runner-up in 2015. Hero Motosports Team Rally decided to pull out of the rally as a mark of respect. “A man of his stature - it is a huge loss. He was close to so many riders," Santosh said.

The loss does not change how Santosh will approach the sport, dangers and all. “This is a big shock. It makes riders question our sense of invincibility," Santosh said, "It will take time, but we have to deal with our emotions. Moving forward, we have to get back on our feet and start racing again. Paulo would have wanted us to keep going fast and continue to race hard - that’s what I intend to do.”

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