Laia Sanz wins Women's Enduro X gold
FOZ DO IGUAÇU, Brazil -- Spanish rider Laia Sanz dominated the Women's Enduro X final on Thursday at X Games Foz do Iguaçu, thwarting Maria Forsberg's attempt at a three-peat after passing her in one of the first obstacle sections and taking a massive 15-second lead in the first of six laps.
The X Games rookie is the reigning Women's Trials World Champion, Women's Trial des Nations Champion, and Women's FIM Enduro World Champion, and also won the female class at the 2012 Dakar Rally. She was the top qualifier coming into finals, and lapped most of the field, proving she'll be a podium threat in any future events.
"I came here for my first time and I knew that taking a medal would be really difficult," Sanz said after the race. "I didn't hope to win, so I'm really, really happy. It's an incredible thing."
Sanz's win was a massive upset: She finished more than 32 seconds ahead of Forsberg, who had been previously undefeated in X Games Enduro X competition and went nearly undefeated in everything else in 2012, winning all 13 stops of the Grand National Cross Country Championships (GNCC) and all but one round of the 2012 GEICO AMA EnduroCross series.
"Laia rode awesome," Forsberg said after congratulating Sanz. "I'm a huge fan of hers because I just got into trials and that's what she does. And the more girls, the merrier, the more they push all of us to go faster."
Although Sanz had a comfortable lead, she got help from her crew in the corner about halfway through the last lap to let her know to slow down and not take any chances.
"I couldn't see [behind me] and I wanted to know [if I had] to go faster or be careful. And at the end it was a perfect race," Sanz said.
Forsberg had trouble in the rock downhill portion about three-quarters through the course, which was longer than is typically used in indoor hockey arenas for the EnduroCross series.
"It was way slippery," Forsberg said. "We practiced all day and it was dry. And when the night came, the dew came up and it got slippery, so it was like riding a whole different course."
The wet course proved to be an advantage for Sanz.
"At the beginning I thought that it was really fast and for me it doesn't help me because I'm a trials rider," Sanz said. "I think it was really wet and my trials experience helped me a lot to [not] crash and be careful. And I think I was strong with my mind, and at the end I won."
Forsberg is also the current leader in the 2013 GNCC Racing series, after wins in Georgia and North Carolina and a third-place finish at the series opener in River Ranch, Fla. She will be back in action as the favorite as the seven-stop 2013 GEICO AMA EnduroCross series kicks off on May 3 during the Monster Energy AMA Supercross finals weekend in Las Vegas.
Forsberg's longtime rival, Tarah Gieger, finished in third on Thursday.
Could there be a new Enduro X rivalry to watch for? Maybe, but Sanz says she won't be in the mix next month in Barcelona: The next X Games event conflicts with her Enduro World Championship schedule, which will have her in Torres Vedras, Portugal, for the GP Cross Pro Portugal the same weekend as X Games Barcelona (May 16-19).
Enduro X will also be contested at the upcoming X Games events in Munich, Germany (June 27-30); and Los Angeles, Calif. (Aug. 1-4).