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Stage 14: Laia Sanz wins her second victory in the women’s class

15/01/2012
The Spanish rider continues to extend her fame with notable success in overcoming one of the hardest challenges that can face a woman on two wheels. Laia was the only woman biker to finish the rally and she repeats the 39th place she won last year. The Gas Gas rider had to contend with an injury to her right hand after a fall in the fourth stage and then go on alone after the ninth, when her backup Marc Guasch had to retire.
She’s done it again! Laia Sanz has impressed the world in finishing for the second consecutive time in 39th place, the same result as she achieved in her debut last year in the Dakar Rally, the toughest bike trial on the planet. As she did then, the Gas Gas rider once again takes victory in the women’s class home, where she must find space for this trophy beside her 11 titles as World Trial Champion, 10 continental titles in the speciality and 5 Nations Trial cups. This girl from Corbera de Llobregat thus adds to her fame as the best female bike rider of all times.

Always insatiable in her eagerness to improve, Laia Sanz started this year with the intention of doing battle on two wheels not only with the girls but also with the boys. Her ambition was to finish among the first 30 classified, but in the end she had to “settle” for an equally extraordinary 39th place in the final classification. Laia spoke of a result which concealed a great deal of effort: “I am better pleased with this year than the one before. It has been a very tough rally in some parts and the circumstances affecting me during the race made it even more complicated, but I kept going to the end. I am very satisfied with the way I rode and navigated. I think I have taken a very important step forward. I must thank Gas Gas for the opportunity that they gave me and all the team for their efforts and the great job they’ve done. We prepared this great project in a very short time and we should be proud. The bike also performed like a champion. It was fantastic and I am very happy. I dedicate this success to my team mate Marc Guasch, and I hope he recovers very soon”.

A Dakar with difficult moments
The race started with stiffer demands than the riders had expected, above all with the tremendous heat in the Argentine stages. The Spanish multi-champion, who this year had physically prepared herself very conscientiously, overcame the harshness of the rally and in the third stage achieved a promising 35th scratch place. Unfortunately, she had missed two obligatory way points and was sanctioned 40 minutes, which dropped her back to 69th place.

This circumstance was a big handicap, as she then had to start the next special a long way back and was hampered on the track by the dust thrown up by other slower competitors. The situation was worsened for the Catalan girl when she had a fall which caused a hole in her fuel tank and a bad injury to her right hand. In spite of the pain, Laia showed exceptional resistance and went on, without complaining and without ceasing to recover places. “That day I thought I had broken my hand and would not be able to continue, but it was not so bad and after a couple of days with the help of the physiotherapist it was getting better. Hurting my hand was a shock, but what worried me more while I was out there was the bike. With the tank holed I was losing fuel and had to transfer fuel from Marc’s bike. We almost didn’t finish...”.

In the eighth stage, Laia Sanz and the Gas Gas team had their saddest day: at 15 kilometres from the finish, Guasch had a serious fall which left him with four broken ribs, a perforated lung and damage to his spleen. Laia waited with him for an hour until he was taken away by helicopter and then she continued on her way. “It was the most shattering blow of the whole rally. I felt very disturbed by what had happened. I finished the day very upset, but in the Dakar there is never much time for lamenting, so in the next stage I just concentrated on what I had to do and the truth is that it didn’t go badly”, she said.

From that point Laia had to ride the remaining six stages without any help, but this was no problem for her. Her talent and tenacity enabled her to recover places every day and, at her 26 years and with only one previous participation in the Dakar, Laia showed extraordinary maturity: “I am very proud of the race I’ve finished because I navigated very well on all the days and I rode alone, reading the road book and being self-sufficient. I think I handled the race pretty well, without making too many mistakes and always minimising the risks and the wear on the Gas Gas”.

Laia Sanz is the only woman biker to finish the Dakar this year. Her reign lasts until next first of January, when she will have to defend her title as winner in the women’s class and face for the third consecutive time the challenge of the toughest raid rally in the world.

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