Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

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.

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time


8 responses

  1. itsmewilly

    If of the 161 participabts 2 were women it means that 159 were men. The 2 women made it and 77 men did , too , but 82 men did not. One would say that as “all the women” made it they are as strong competitors as men are then.Of course if there would have been 159 women, many would not have made it ether. Only we don’t know the percentage.It’s surprising that women don’t attract more attention though, as this is such a superhuman event.But if so few women enter can there be a separate division? Maybe if a women’s division were created would more women enter? It would be interesting if more women riders would comment on this site about it…


    January 24, 2015 at 4:27 pm

  2. We agree Willy. Let’s hope we get more comments!


    January 25, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    • itsmewilly

      I hope so, too. I’m curious what some have to say.In the meantime I’m in awe of these women that participate in such”iron man” type events. Having only ridden pillion behind my husband, I’m already impressed with women like Kim that ride their own bike on long trips. Wishing both of you many more interesting trips I remain a big fan of Ride2Adventure.


      January 26, 2015 at 5:58 pm

  3. FlyingWheel

    Dear Ride2Adventure,

    I would suggest that you research the name “Jutta Kleinschmidt” This woman, not only participated and finished, she beat men like Jean-Louis Schlesser in his famous buggy, and Masuoka. She won the Dakar and just any Dakar, she won one where things got really dirty….

    Here is a short video:

    I think a separate category for women should be created. I do however have this for you: A rally for women only. Check out this link:

    I think it’s a pretty cool race, especially because it’s not about speed but about navigation skills. No GPS allowed, compass and map…



    November 29, 2015 at 10:05 am

  4. Thanks for your comments FlyingWheel! We know of Juttas amazing Dakar accomplishments and they are impressive. However the point of this article was to point out that woman can and do compete on motorcycles in the Dakar but may not have been getting the coverage that they deserved.

    You correctly point out that Jutta won the Dakar, but that was on four wheels, not two. She did indeed compete in the Dakar on a motorcycle, but never finished higher than 22nd (not that such a feat is not an amazing accomplishment). Laia finished 9th overall last year which in a field of men (many of which are professional rally racers) is the best overall finish for any motorcycling woman in the Dakar.

    Other women have ridden motorcycles in the Dakar and I probably should have mentioned them as well. So in keeping with fixing my error, here’s a list of female Dakar riders not mentioned above that I know about:

    Annie Seel
    Andera Meyer
    Emanuelle Jannon
    Ludivine Puy
    Patsy Quick
    Maria Sandell
    Patricia Watson-Miller
    Mirjam Pol
    Tamsin Jones
    Tina Meier
    Silvia Gianetti
    Jenny Morgan

    I apologize if I left anyone out.

    As for the Rally Gazelles, I to think it’s cool, but without the speed component, I don’t think that it has the challenge of the Dakar. Not having a GPS for navigation is certainly a challenge, but GPS in Dakar is only permitted so that the race organizers can track a competitors position. It is not used for navigation.

    Again, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Please feel free to come back and comment anytime!



    December 5, 2015 at 5:11 pm

  5. I have dreamt of riding The Dakar ever since I started biking (which was at 16 and a long time ago :P). I have never competed, not interested in competition, but The Dakar is just simply about the taking part, for me personally. So far I have not had a chance, other life stuff took priority, and this is an expensive dream, but I have not given up on it yet!
    Should I get that chance to make it true, I won’t just be a rare female driver, but also a rather ‘old’ one (50 already o.O)

    However, as for the question whether females should have their own category or should receive more coverage, in my opinion – no. It’s not about gender, nationality, age. If you make 9th as a male, you won’t receive special coverage, and I see no reason why that should suddenly change for a female. The Dakar is about so much more than who wins it or who gets coverage. Personally it has actually never interested me who won, as this seems to depend a lot on money anyway. It is far more about the personal challenge and the adventure.

    If I get my finances sorted (and myself fit enough to dare take on this race), then the last thing I’d wish for is cameras stuck in my face because I am a female. This would seriously annoy me as I for certain would not be there to prove anything for ‘females’, nor would it be to seek attention. I’d be there to have taken part and experienced this amazing rally, a completely personal goal and dream.


    February 1, 2016 at 5:16 am

    • Think the biggest hurdle would be the competition experience (for me for sure), aside from the obvious costs, and I think this might be the reason why we don’t see many females at Dakar. Not many females race in the first place, and I for sure would struggle to prove a competition history, so if I’d ever get to race the Dakar, it would probably be not as an official competitor, but some nutter going it all alone >.< lol


      February 1, 2016 at 5:33 am

  6. Thanks for the post Aine! You make a good point about the number of women racers with this level of experience and the shortage of female riders is likely a hindrance. For the past few years, the number of women racers have been climbing and I for one hope that these numbers will continue to increase. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? A large number of female competitors or more awareness of those female racers that encourage female riders to race.

    With Laia Sanz again finishing in the top 15 (13th), I have no doubt that given as much riding, experience and time, females could win the Dakar. It’s certainly not about strength or endurance as Laia finished the rally for the second straight year. She even expressed her disappointment about the stage cancelled due to the heat saying; It was part of the Dakar. Clearly, she came to race and was not going to let the extreme heat stop her. Laia, came to race and win the Dakar. If this type of competitiveness continues, it may not be long before a woman wins the Dakar on a bike.

    Again, thanks for your post!



    February 3, 2016 at 2:24 pm

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