BARCELONA, Spain -- Fittingly in this wild and tumbling sport, hometown favorite Laia Sanz overcame all kinds of obstacles to win her second straight Ford Women's Enduro X gold medal Saturday night in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium.
Not an 800-mile flight from Portugal earlier in the day, not a pileup around the first corner that bucked her off her bike into a sitting position in the mud and not a stunning last-place standing on the first lap could prevent Sanz from handily defending her X Games title from Brazil.
If the rest of the field can take any consolation, it kept Sanz within a half-minute this time. The Barcelona native won by 12 seconds over two-time X Games champ Maria Forsberg of Seattle, who dominated Enduro X until Sanz entered the picture.
"For my people, my friends and family, I want to say thank you for coming. It's really special to have you here," said Sanz, who originally was not going to enter this event due to a scheduling conflict with the FIM Enduro World Championship in Torres Vedras, Portugal.
As it was, she flew in from Portugal on Saturday morning for the race then left the venue to fly back to Portugal later Saturday night in time for Sunday's FIM competition. She is the defending champion in that series.
The first-turn pileup didn't faze Sanz, who quickly reeled in the rest of the field and took the lead for good late in the second lap. At 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Sanz used a significant strength advantage to hoist her bike's front end in the air and push off the elevated logs and concrete barriers with her inside foot, much like the men do. Forsberg and the rest of the women's field had a harder time getting through the rock piles and log sections.
"I just wanted to not lose too much time and ride a quiet race," Sanz said. "I knew that if I didn't make a mistake I could win, so I just wanted to ride quiet."
Another Spaniard, Sandra Gómez Cantero, followed Forsberg in the bronze-medal position, 24 seconds back of Sanz. It was the first time in X Games history that two Spanish athletes medaled in the same event.