The fourth stage has been fatal to the ambitions of the title holder Toby Price, who suffered a high speed fall. His team-mate Matthias Walkner deputised ably by grabbing victory from the hands of Joan Barreda, the race leader.

The competitors commenced a series of five stages on the high plains of the Bolivian Andes, the world’s second highest plateau after Tibet. Swift acclimatisation is necessary with specials contested at 3,500 and 4,000 metres. At this altitude, the competitors are not used to encountering dunes, but that was indeed the challenge faced by the riders and drivers today. In addition, the end of the stage included tricky navigation, after no less than 400 km of the special!

It has been a sad day for Toby Price. The Australian was leading on the last part of the special, but lost control of his KTM at more than 90 kmph and fractured his left thigh bone in a fall, meaning the Dakar is over for the 2016 winner. He may well be leaving his trophy for Joan Barreda, who is solidly installed at the top of the general standings after another excellent stage that he almost won in spite of having had to open the way.

Matthias Walkner never gave up against Joan Barreda, who has been head and shoulders above the rest for two days. The Austrian managed to catch his Spanish rival over the last kilometres to grab his second stage victory on the Dakar after the one he won in 2015. After two withdrawals, perhaps the time is ripe for him to achieve a fine result in Buenos Aires.

It only takes an instant to go from hero to zero. Just as he was about to win the fourth stage following a superb battle with Joan Barreda, Toby Price found this out to his cost. The Australian, renowned for his consistency and the first man to win the Dakar on only his second participation, will not reach the finish this year, meaning KTM’s biggest chance of victory has gone up in smoke.