Paulo Goncalves climbs the leaderboard with some deft navigation

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The Atacama Rally is drawing to a close with some thrilling and picturesque stages that have required a high degree of riding dexterity. Team HRC’s Paulo Gonçalves opened the way for most of the fourth stage, coming home in the leading group.

Not for the first time, the camanchaca – the thick morning mist that dominates the desert region of Atacama – led to a delayed start. Riders got away an hour later than the scheduled start-time for safety reasons, for the second day running. The penultimate stage proved to be a demanding affair that included a thirty kilometre area of dunes and some fast track.

Yesterday’s troublesome stage saw some penalizations dished out once rider’s GPSs had been checked by race officials after the race. The leading riders in the special received a twenty minute sanction for missing one of the waypoints which meant that Paulo Gonçalves was reclassified up into third place. Today, the Portuguese rider had a tough time trying to whittle down the gap with race leaders due to the sheer amount of sand in the stage.

It was no pleasure cruise for Jeremias Israel either. The Chilean never really felt right throughout the race and prefered to take it steadily and focus on improving his navigation skills.

Tomorrow will see the final stage of the Atacama Rally with a final special stage of a little over 100 kilometres that comes to a close in La Serena.

Paulo Goncalves: "I’m fairly happy with today’s stage. I started from third and by kilometre 40 I was opening the way until almost the end. I’m pleased because I set a great pace and I knew that the riders behind would claw back a bit of time. The important thing is to keep up a good rhythm and navigate well. Everything went perfectly, the bike was impeccable and my navigating was great."

Jeremias Israel: "It was a very long stage today. I didn’t really feel that good. I wasn’t expecting it but at least I managed to have a safe ride. There were a lot of hazards – a very swift stage with long tracks at high speeds. I’m happy that we are almost at the end of this Atacama Rally and in one piece. Now we are going to start the hard stretch of training that has to take us to the Dakar in the best possible condition."