Exorcising his demons

January 13 th 2021 - 09:24 [GMT + 3]

Joaquim Rodrigues, brother-in-law of the late Paulo Gonçalves, yesterday completed stage nine of the rally in thirteenth position, 30 minutes behind Kevin Benavides. Although he is twelfth in the general standings, the Portuguese rider hardly cares about his position. The reason he is here this year is to first and foremost put flight to his inner demons.

Yesterday, when he reached the finishing line on stage nine in the sands of Neom, Joaquim Rodrigues removed his mask and started to cry. The tears ran down his dust-covered cheeks, taking with them the sadness and emotion of this day that the Portuguese rider had held in such apprehension. One year ago to the day, Paulo Gonçalves met his death on the seventh stage of the first Dakar organised in Saudi Arabia. The date of 12th January 2020 will forever remain etched in the memory of Joaquim Rodrigues. Paulo was his brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Sofia, the father of his nephew and niece. On that fateful day, Joaquim was also taking part in the rally. Devastated following the accident, he threw in the towel and relinquished the idea of finishing the race. Yesterday morning, as he left the bivouac in Neom, Joaquim could only think about Paulo. “When I woke up, I cried until the moment I climbed onto my bike,” he admits between sobs. “He’s been gone for one year and since then, I’ve been down in the dumps. If I’m here today, it’s because I promised myself that I would finish this Dakar for him, to honour his memory and to overcome the depression into which his loss plunged me”. Regardless of what awaits him on the last three stages, Joaquim will be doing his utmost to reach Jeddah. “I’ll do it for him,” says the Portuguese rider, pointing a finger to the heavens.

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