Dakar 2020: Laia Sanz, pure survival | sports


He is 34 years old, an imposing physicist and the experience of the previous nine Dakar in which he competed, which he completed and who, too, won. Well, there hasn't been another woman since then that improves her records. Although she is worth the general classification. Not surprisingly, the 2015 edition finished ninth. And with whom it is measured, it is with the best. All men, by the way.

Laia Sanz competes with a KTM, enrolled in the Spanish Gas Gas team. And he moves through this test with his usual stubbornness. After completing one of her best Dakar last year, when she finished 11th after having spent three months on sick leave – she suffered a mononucleosis, contracted Q fever and suffered a neuropathy -, the Spanish tries to recover the ground lost in the First stages of this year as a result of a sharp fall on the second day. He stopped for a moment to review the road book and ate a stone that rolled it along the floors. Little else knows about the fall, because he lost consciousness and has not yet recovered his memory.

"I don't remember practically anything," he concedes. “I've seen videos of those who were helping me and I don't remember it. I guess I should have been a bit stunned. It was the worst day for something like this to happen to me, it was a marathon stage and we couldn't repair the bike. I went two days with the handlebar twisted and with some broken piece. And eating a lot of dust. It was hard. But I'm positive, ”he says, sitting at his motorhome table, where a couple of tablets of chocolate nougat rest. Essential to regain strength.

He was running with pain until the fourth stage. He had hit his hip and was a little lame. The right hand, with some scratch, resented more for the hardness of the Rally – so many and so many hours at full throttle, bypassing stones, swallowing dust -, than by the blow. “It has been dangerous days. And nasty. I was continually going in a cloud of dust, so you can't keep up. In addition, you see how time and more time are falling, ”he says. The day of the fall ended 37 and gave 43 minutes. This Thursday, in a very physical stage, “machacona,” she says, entered the finish line on 26, 28 minutes from the winner, Toby Price.

“The result is not super,” he says, but he knows perfectly well what he has to do in the complicated days and how much to save for when more propitious scenarios come. “I finished exhausted. It was all off-piste in sand, with vegetation and many potholes, all very fast and delicate because it was easy to have a fall. If the stages are going to be like this, many things are going to happen, so I have to continue along the same path. ”

Sanz prefers not to remember the accident last Monday. Although he recognizes that it is impossible to avoid being affected. “Falls affect you. I want to finish this Dakar and that it goes well and it is difficult to tighten again after such a fall ”. Although, today you can say that you have recovered the good feelings on the bike. And he returns to his plan: do not risk if he does not touch. In addition, recovering the smile costs little. Even less to share the experience of this Rally with his partner, Jaume Betriu, who is making an excellent debut. He finished 14th the fifth stage, 15 minutes from the best and is already 19th in the overall.

The level in the motorcycle category, says Sanz, is "amazing." Things have changed a lot since the Coma-Despres duo left. “Before it was run a few days, it was attacking the day it was time to attack and the rest the strategy was imposed. The pilots were expected. Now every day it comes out as if it were a motocross sleeve, it goes to the limit and there are 30 very fast riders. In addition, from the top ten anyone can win. ” She – "I'm the oldest", laughs – is not counted in the ten, but it is among those 30. And try to prove it for another year. In a country where athletes are looked at with some curiosity, others with suspicion, with some envy.

To Sanz, the Saudis seem “very friendly and welcoming people” because of the experiences they have lived these days. Although they did not facilitate things upon arrival in Jeddah, days before the Dakar Rally began. “The first day, when we arrived at the hotel, I went with Sam [Sunderland, KTM pilot] to see the hotel gym and they didn't let me in. It was the men's gym. They took me to another room, alone, and ten times smaller. ” In Saudi Arabia, women are discriminated against on a day-to-day basis and gender separation applies to almost everything. From the metal control of the airport to the gym, as happened to the Corbera pilot. She, accustomed to living, living and competing with boys since she was a dwarf, does not understand roles. And already think of a new challenge: running the Dakar by car. He even knows who his co-pilot will be. Dani Oliveras, the co-driver of Nani Roma, says without hesitation.

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