After dominating the GEICO Motorcycle EnduroCross circuit in the U.S. and winning Women's Enduro X gold at X Games Los Angeles in 2011 and 2012, American rider Maria Forsberg says she has met her match in Spanish rider Laia Sanz.
"Laia is an amazing competitor, and I look up to her a lot," Forsberg says. "I just hope to get a little closer to her next time."
Sanz grabbed gold at her X Games debut in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, in May, winning by an astounding 72 seconds and bumping Forsberg into unfamiliar silver-medal territory, then backed it up with another gold last month in Barcelona, beating Forsberg by a more charitable 11-second margin. They'll meet again in Munich, Germany, for the third of four X Games matchups in 2013 and once more in August at X Games Los Angeles.
"I've been training hard, and I feel like I've learned a little from her each time," Forsberg says. "She's really good at trials riding, which helps with the really technical obstacles in Enduro X, and she's very consistent: She doesn't mess up at all. She's also quite a few inches taller than me and longer legs help a bit, but I'm making no excuses. She's just a very talented rider in every aspect of motorcycle sport."
In addition to her new X Games hardware, Sanz is the defending 2012 Women's Enduro European champion and 2012 Dakar Rally champion as well as an 11-time Women's Trials world champion, 10-time Women's Trials European champion, and six-time Women's Trials des Nations champion. But Forsberg says she knows Sanz is beatable, especially given the wildly unpredictable nature of the sport and the ever-changing course conditions.
"Enduro X is mostly a mental game, and if you get stuck, you can't let it ruin your night because everyone ahead of you could very well be stuck, too," Forsberg says. "The Enduro X course is a great leveler in that respect, and the fact is there are five or six girls besides Laia who could win it on any given night."
In the men's field, two of Forsberg's closest friends and KTM teammates have been trading the top spot ever since Enduro X made its X Games debut in 2011. Taddy Blazusiak won it that year, Mike Brown won it the following year and they've each claimed one win so far this year. Blazusiak won gold in Brazil, beating out Cody Webb and David Knight, with Brown down in sixth place, but Brown was back on top in Spain a month later, ahead of Colton Haaker and Webb, bumping Blazusiak just off the podium.
"I enjoy watching the men's race so much because it's getting so competitive, and it's cool to watch them all battle," Forsberg says. "I'm obviously rooting for Mike and Taddy because they're my teammates, but really you're kind of cheering for everyone at the same time."
Webb will be out of the mix in Munich after breaking his foot two weeks before the event (Justin Soule is in as an alternate), an absence that will add further fuel to the fire of the Brown/Blazusiak rivalry.