Some people have an inextinguishable drive to succeed. Regardless of past accolades, awards, and achievements, the best of the best always find a new hill to climb, and Laia Sanz will have plenty of those to surmount in her eleventh Dakar Rally this year. The thirteen-time Women's Trial World Champion had a pretty tough 2020, but she isn’t letting that stop her from competing in the 43rd running of the premier rally raid.
In January, the Spanish enduro rider injured her hand in the second stage of the 42nd Dakar Rally. Of course, Sanz’s indomitable will helped her finish the world-renowned race but the injury required more time than anticipated to heal. Follow that with Lyme disease diagnosis, and Laia spent more time nursing her ailments than time in the saddle. Luckily, swift and comprehensive treatment allowed Sanz to return to form just in time to train for the challenging Saudi Arabian desert.
The 2021 Dakar Rally route will cover 7,646 kilometers (4,751 miles) over 13 days (Jan. 3 – Jan. 15). Though this year’s course is shorter than past rallies, technical riding and navigation skills will be of utmost importance. Riders will also have to manage the conditions and their personal endurance with only one rest day halving the 12 stages.
“It helps that we have some experience now of the terrain we will face, and the way things work with the move to the Middle East,” admitted Sanz. “The event in January should also be a little more technical and with tougher navigation, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Riding for both GASGAS and KTM in the past, Sanz will rejoin the GASGAS team this year following KTM’s majority acquisition in September, 2019. Kenny race clothing and long-time sponsor KH-07 logos will also grace Laia’s kit and support her dash to the finish line.
“She knows very well how to manage the race and her finishing record is incredible, it really shows how determined she is as a racer, and how she understands the real challenge of Dakar,” noted GASGAS Rally Team Manager Jordi Viladoms. “With this year’s route looking like it will be more technical, I’m sure it will suit her really well.”
Treacherous terrain and unforgiving conditions lie in wait for Sanz and her fellow 2021 Dakar competitors, but Viladoms may have put it best when he said, “Dakar is always difficult, but Laia always rises to the challenge.”