Sandra Gomez made her Dakar debut in 2022. This year, she came back to Dakar to win the Women’s Trophy. However, mononucleosis hindered her preparation and a technical issue prevented her from completing the rally. This difficult second adventure in the Dakar wouldn’t stop Sandra from trying again next year. We had the opportunity to talk to Sandra after the Dakar. Let’s see her story at the Dakar and beyond.
© All photos provided by Sandra Gomez
Sandra’s older brother Alfredo is also a rider. The siblings were introduced to the world of motorsport by their father. As a kid, Sandra competed in more than just motorcycling. But in the end, the motorbikes prevailed. “My dad was a cycling rider in trials, then he changed to motorbikes when he could buy one. He would put my brother and me on the bike. My parents took us to all the sports that they could around us. I was competing in skiing and gymnastics. At the time, I thought skiing was very expensive for my parents. I saw my dad and my brother having fun on the motorbikes. I thought maybe it was easier for the family to all go in a van together to ride motorcycles. I was asking my dad for a bike, but he said I had it and I didn’t like it. So I asked him every day for a year. Finally, I had my own bike at 10 years old.”
For sure my idols are my brother and my dad. I’m also close to Laia Sanz. Trials rider Dougie Lampkin and Iván Cervantes in Enduro are also my idols.
In her earlier years, Sandra had won multiple titles in trials and enduro racing. Similar to what she experiences at the Dakar now, those events also provide beautiful landscapes that capture Sandra’s heart. “The places where we go – the mountains, the rivers, and now the dunes in the rally, I’m a lover of nature. On my holidays, I also go to discover new places always. The people are also amazing. The best is that we always have the people around.”
When the Paris-Dakar Rally was still passing through Spain to go from Europe to Africa, the dream of one day competing in it was planted in little Sandra’s mind. Even though it took her almost 20 years to go from her first bike to her Dakar debut in 2022. “The Dakar has been this big dream for me since I was very small. I would watch the Dakar on TV, and I would go to Madrid when the Dakar was passing through or starting there. I saw all the big trucks, the motorcycles, and the cars. It was crazy. I never imagined being there, but I also really wanted to go. I have a sponsor I’ve been working with for years. Their boss is also a good friend of mine, and he has this dream of going to the Dakar as well. He wanted to give me the opportunity to go. I really appreciated it.”
Through her years of competing in trials and enduros, Sandra was able to build up her physicality, which became really helpful when she got the opportunity to go to the Dakar. “The Dakar last year was a bit crazy. I was very strong because of hard enduro. I was competing in Romaniacs and everything. I was very strong in the aspect of the body. But of course, I needed to learn everything about the roadbook, the rally, the rules, the motorcycle, and so on and so forth. I had three months to learn everything, but I was lucky I had another rider next to me – Lorenzo Santolino. He was showing me everything. I was doing more long training sessions, like long bicycle rides.”
Your first Dakar and maybe your every Dakar is still about learning. Sandra prepared herself before her debut, and she was still learning during her first Dakar. “As a rider, you need to accept that many things happen that you have no control of. The ride is very strange. You experience a lot of mistakes, but not mistakes of your own. I was more used to competing in the mountains, the Dakar is about the dunes in the desert. Everything is different. I needed to recognize the place. It’s very important to know how the wind is working on the dunes. So it’s continuing learning about it. When you make mistakes, it is important to understand what happened.”
It is important to learn that even with all your preparation and training, you are from nothing. Your first Dakar is like your first step as a baby. You need to catch everything that is happening. The Dakar is very big, and it only takes place once a year. The preparation is very hard for the rider.
While preparing for her second Dakar in the 2023 edition, Sandra was unfortunately struck by mononucleosis. Fighting through her recovery, she was able to compete in Morocco Rally and Andalusia Rally before stepping onto the starting podium of the Dakar at the end of 2022. “I was training for a few months so I was happy. I competed in two rallies in Morocco and Andalusia to improve my style and my riding. I was able to arrive at the Dakar without pain and I was there ready to win it!”
I don’t remember which day it was, but the place was so incredible. I wanted to stop and take photos everywhere.
Sandra wasn’t able to complete the Dakar this year. She had to abandon after stage 6 due to a technical problem which cost her the chance to win the Women’s Trophy. This is however still a great learning experience for Sandra. “I started taking it easy, then after 2-3 days, my body started to feel better and I became more confident on the bike. I had great control of the bike and the race. I could push more on the rock days. I was enjoying the ride a lot. I think I did my best when the bike broke this year, but maybe I could also try to speak with the mechanics to try to fix it faster. There are always points to learn and to change. I still want to come back next year. I will try to raise enough sponsorship to go again, because I think from last year to this year, I was learning a lot. I think we can win the Women’s Trophy for sure, and we can do great on the general classifications.”
As one of the trailblazers for women in motorsport, Sandra is also trying to help the younger generation to get started and to get better opportunities. “I’m helping the FIM’s Women’s Commission and I’m also leading the women’s commission in the Spanish federation. I want to open doors and make the women’s world in motorcycling better. As a rider, I think this is my responsibility. If I can change something, I will do it. We have training programs for young girls in all disciplines – in trials, enduros, motocross, and on track. We want the riders competing now to be better and we want to make it easy for newcomers. We need more women in the sport.”
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