Sam Sunderland out of Dakar 2018

British rider abandons 2018 Dakar bid with back pain as Yamaha's Adrien Van Beveren takes first place in stage four

Sam Sunderland out of Dakar 2018

DEFENDING champion Sam Sunderland is out of the 2018 Dakar. 

A tweet from the organisers has just confirmed that the British rider has abandoned his bid to secure a second title. 

The tweet said: 'Sam Sunderland abandons the #Dakar2018 with back pains.'

A few minutes later the same @dakar account tweeted: 'Sunderland exits the rally!'

The Red Bull KTM rider reportedly suffered back trauma and was being evacuated by helicopter for examinations by Dakar medics. He is expected to be flown to Peru capital Lima for more tests. 

The 28-year-old Brit’s is understood to have suffered a compression injury while riding and continued for another 5km before retiring due to the pain.

KTM UK tweeted: 'Not the news we wanted to hear... Sam is now back at the bivouac receiving attention from the medical staff. We shall keep you updated as we hear more. #Dakar2018.'

The incident followed a promising start, in which he took two of the three opening stages and found himself atop the leader board with a four minute, 38 second lead on second place Kevin Benavides, of the Monster Energy Honda team.

Meanwhile, after a shocking day yesterday, in which  none of its racers finished within the top 12, Yamaha is once again on form, with Adrien Van Beveren taking first place (04H 08’ 23’’), and Xavier De Soultrait second (+00H 05’ 01’’) in today’s 330km Stage 4. Van Beveren is now the overall leader, while his teammate sits at fifth.

While Sunderland is now out of the running for the 2018 title, his Red Bull KTM Factory teammate has taken on the cause, finishing third today in four hours, 15 minutes and 33 seconds – seven minutes and 10 seconds behind leader Van Beveren. This result took him from sixth to fourth in the overall standings.

And despite finishing eighth in today’s stage, nine minutes and four seconds behind Van Beveren, Honda’s Kevin Benavides has only dropped one position in the rankings, to third place.

Toby Price also remained in the top ten overall positions, despite finishing 14th (+00H 13’ 23’’) today. The Aussie KTM rider dropped from fourth position to sixth in the overall standings.