The Women Riders of Dakar
With the 2015 Dakar Rally recently completed and the final results published, I could do little more than marvel at the skills, endurance and mental strength of the riders that had completed the entire rally. One hundred sixty-one motorcycle competitors left Buenos Aires on the 4th of January 2015 and only seventy-nine arrived at the finish line once again in Buenos Aires nearly two weeks later. That’s means that more than half the field of highly skilled, motivated and driven riders were not able to make it to the finish line.
Of the 161 riders that entered the event, only two were women. Both were able to finish meaning for the women, there was a 100% success rate. Finishing 9th overall, Laia Sanz was the highest woman’s finisher in the history of the Dakar. As you can imagine, Laia is not new to the off road world and her racing resume is impressive. She is a thirteen time Women’s Trial World Champion and ten time Women’s Trial European Champion in Outdoor Motorcycle Trials. She has also formed part of the Spanish Female Team in the Trial des Nations, winning it five times (2000, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2011).
In 2010 competed in the Women’s Enduro World Championship for the first time. And also in 2011 participated, for the first time, in the Dakar Rally winning the Female motorcycle category and finished 39th overall, position that she managed to better this year.
The other female motorcycle competitor was Spanish rider Rosa Romero Font. Wife of Dakar winner Nani Roma (A Dakar champion on bike cars) Rosa finished 52nd overall at the age of 45. This was her 4th Dakar and her first finish.
In this intensely physical and mental challenge, these two women riders were able to compete with the men and finish better than most of the starting field. Yet they drew very little attention from the media on their accomplishments. You have to wonder why. They compete on the same level as men, often on “inferior” non-factory machines. This year Laia was on a factory sponsored Honda and was able to provide the highest women’s finish in the history of the Dakar.
Her result may beg a question. “Should there be separate divisions for men in women in the Dakar, or is it better to leave the Dakar as it is?” Would having separate dedicated divisions bring more attention to the women of the sport and perhaps more female competitors for the future. Would creating separate divisions create an unnecessary rift between the men and women competitors and over inflate the women’s finishers performance in light of the current small female fields?
I don’t have the answer, but would like to hear what you think.
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