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SPANIARD Laia Sanz is one of the world’s most decorated motorcycle riders and says she is coming to the Clipsal 500 as a natural part of her evolution as a rider.
Sanz, 31, is a 13-time world women’s trial champion but has switched her focus towards the famous Dakar Rally, in which she has competed since 2011.
She will be one of the most anticipated entries in this year’s Enduro X event in Adelaide’s eastern parklands next week and cannot wait for the chance to compete in what she considers top-shelf company.
“I’m really exciting to come to the Clipsal and Australia; it’s such a big event,” Sanz told The Advertiser. “I always enjoy new things, new races. The field is very strong; I feel small because they are some of the best in the world.
Sanz’s main event these days is the Dakar, and events such as the Clipsal 500 are parts of her annual schedule to improve for the gruelling event.
Technically, she is peerless because of her background in trials, but she says there’s still work to do when it comes to flat-out racing and jumping.
“When it comes to obstacles I’m pretty good but when it’s more like motocross with jumping and speed I struggle a bit; I’m not that good at that but I want to get better.
“For me, Dakar is the race of the year and the enduro helps with that.”
Sanz jokes about the fact that when she kept winning world trial titles her parents were really happy about her career of choice. When she crossed over to the dangerous Dakar, not so much.
She appreciates the dangers of the race — among those who have died in accidents in the famous race is South Australia’s Andy Caldecott — and said it’s something that can’t be at the front of one’s mind but has to be there in the back.
Overall, 70 people are estimated to have died from accidents in the race.
“I try not to think too much about it but it can be your teammate or your friend who have a crash and then you do,” she said. “But it’s important about thinking about trying to be safe.
“You never know with racing; I’d like to ride for many more years but you never know.”
The Catalan rider lands in Adelaide at a time when female sport is riding a wave of public support around the world.
The changing landscape hasn’t escaped Sanz, who spent the first part of her career as a sole girls against boys.
“For me, it’s normal because I’ve done it for all of my life,” she said. “I grew up competing against boys.
“When I started in trials I was the only one (girl). Now I feel so proud when I see a lot of young girls in the competitions for kids.
“And also that the level has improved so much.”