MEETING – SANDRA GOMEZ
LADY IN WAITING
(Article reproduced with the kind permission of Trial Magazine UK)
Until Spain’s off-road motorcycling world champion Laia Sanz started to draw the attention of the media, female riders in trials and enduro were not really high on the radar. We then had Great Britain’s Emma Bristow join the elite to become an off-road world champion in both trials and SuperEnduro, and global interest has since escalated with the exploits of Laia in the Paris Dakar race well documented, hitting the television screens, affording her superstar status. Step by step we have another rising star from the female quarters in Spain by the name of Sandra Gomez; is she the lady in waiting? Winning the 2016 World SuperEnduro title has certainly given her one foot in the door.
Words: John Hulme with Sandra Gomez
Pictures: Trials Media – Irina Gorodniakova
Congratulations on your first world crown!
Sandra: “Thank you, I am very happy to have in my hand one of my dreams! Last year I couldn’t give 100% because I injured my ankle in the first round in Germany but finally this year I can celebrate my title. It’s been a hard season with only one event and two races. In the first race I was leading all the way but in the last lap I crashed twice and Emma Bristow passed me. In the second race I had a crash in the first corner and I thought the title was for Emma once again, but I re-started my machine and didn’t give up, I kept pushing as hard as I could and finally I passed Emma just one lap from the end. It was a crazy race and I was under pressure; I was really tired after the first race, but now I’m very proud of the result and finally the ultimate reward for my team.”
You are from a motorcycling family?
Sandra: “Yes, and my family loves the sport. My father started with cycle trials and he came fourth in the European Championship. He started with the trials motorcycle and he won some Spanish Championship events in the C class. My uncle always rode Motocross, where sometimes my father also rode. But I think the craziest person in the family is my mother. She was a city girl, she didn’t ride motorcycles but when my brother Alfredo and I started to ride she also practised and now she can follow us at the events always riding a motorcycle, I am so proud of her.”
Your brother Alfredo was successful in trials before enduro.
Sandra: “He is an incredible rider, he won the World Cup and the Junior World Championship in trials. I think he could have been a top rider in trials but sometimes your life changes. I’m very proud of him because he started from zero in Enduro and now he’s one of the best riders in the world with support from KTM and Redbull. It’s all we dreamed of when we were children!”
How did you become involved with trials?
Sandra: “I don’t remember my first time on a motorcycle, I think I was about three years old but everybody said I liked it. My parents showed me all the sports they could and I have competed in skiing, gymnastics, mountain biking, football, basketball and trials, but I loved skiing and trials more than the others. My brother started to compete in trials and I loved what my big brother was doing so I started to compete in trials and left my first choice of skiing.”
When was your first competition?
Sandra: “I had an orange 50cc Merlin passed down from my brother. I think my first trial was in a little place close to Madrid. It had some indoor sections and some outdoor and I remember exactly one section with a lot of rocks. I didn’t like that one but I saw Alfredo ride it and it looked easy, I was about six years old.”
You first rode in the Ladies’ WTC in 2007 in the Czech Republic and finished 16th. Tell us about what you remember.
Sandra: “I was only fourteen years old but the year before I saw the girls competing in Andorra and so I asked my parents to speak with Super, who was the RFME manager of the trials team in Spain, to see if I could ride in the Ladies’ WTC. The round in the Czech Republic was on a closed private ground course which meant I did not require a driving license and so I could compete as it did not use any road work.”
Were you nervous?
Sandra: “I remember I was very nervous but I really enjoyed it. I had a machine problem before the start but the riders, minders from the RFME and Gas Gas mechanics helped me and the nerves then changed to excitement. I just missed scoring points by one mark!”
In 2008 you scored your first points in Spain.
Sandra: “Yes but it was one of the hardest years for me… I broke my knee at the start of the season and two operations were required to repair it. I couldn’t be ready for the first round in Belgium but I did two more rounds in Spain and Andorra. I was really excited after I recovered and I was able to compete again.”
By the time 2010 arrived you had moved into the top five in the WTC.
Sandra: “My training stayed the same and I moved from eighth to fifth in the World Championship. I continued training hard with my brother, competing in Spanish events in the ladies’ class, when there was one, or in the men’s classes. I always love competing against the men because the sections usually are more difficult. In 2010 I improved so much as I was travelling around Europe with the RFME team watching my brother and the other team riders. Laia Sanz was competing in the junior class and we spent some time training together in Italy where she lived, which certainly helped.”
You made your first podium visit in 2012, was it at this point you realised you wanted to push for the title?
Sandra: “Not really as I always I want to give my best in every competition. Obviously when you arrive in the top three you know you’re riding well. If you think you have arrived you will fail. You have to train even harder to achieve your goals!
If you work hard and continue pushing day by day and section by section you will know you have given your best.”
In 2013 you moved to ride the Ossa, was there a reason for this?
Sandra: “Ossa wanted a lady in the world championship and when Emma moved to Sherco I was offered the opportunity to be part of a factory team. I tested the Ossa and it was very good to ride, and so for the first time in my career I was an official ‘works’ rider.”
The Ladies’ WTC was now very competitive with Laia Sanz, Emma Bristow and Becky Cook your main rivals.
Sandra: “Laia was a very special rider but she also has a very strong mind and she beat us before the trial had started. In my opinion the level of the ladies’ world championship is changing year by year because we are all so much more competitive. Since Laia is not riding trials and moved to Enduro I think everybody is more excited because the opportunity to win is more open.”
After moving up to 3rd in 2015 you moved to Scorpa before you injured your leg and could not compete in the final rounds.
Sandra: “I was very motivated for the opening world rounds in Spain, and I was very happy how the summer training went and how the team was working but unfortunately I broke my foot. I was testing my machine on the Friday afternoon next to the paddock as always. I had a stupid crash in some rocks and the machine crushed my foot breaking two metatarsals. It was one of those moments when you feel like your dream is over.”
When did you start with SuperEnduro?
Sandra: “My brother won the 2011 Junior Trials World Championship on Montesa but at the end of the year he could not find a team to move into the ‘Pro’ class and he made the decision to move to Enduro. This was a very tough decision for the family as we were 100% trials. I continued in trials but obviously the family wasn’t as interested, but they knew I had a dream in the sport. Alfredo started competing in SuperEnduro taking in some world events and he won the Spanish Championship. He was riding very well and getting the results and Husqvarna Spain started to support him. It was a very steep learning curve but he trained all the time and never gave up. He now has a new ambition, and is very happy with his riding and enjoying life.
So it was case of following in your brother’s boots?
Sandra: “Yes he has always encouraged me and my first time in SuperEnduro was at the XGames in Barcelona. My brother received a phone call to ask if I was interested in taking part. I was but it was the same week as the Scottish Six Days Trial and so that was my choice. I did eventually compete in Barcelona and took the bronze medal. I enjoyed it so much and continued riding, going to Munich in Germany where I took bronze again before going to the USA and Los Angeles where I finished fourth.”
You have now moved to Gas Gas for the 2016 season.
Sandra: “It feels very much like I am back home again but this is the start of a new journey for Gas Gas. Everybody in the team is very motivated, focused and wants to win, but the most important part is that everybody knows we need to be a team and work hard to win. These are exciting times for Gas Gas and I am very proud to be part of the adventure.”
Before we close tell us about how you like the Scottish Six Days Trial.
Sandra: “I really love this trial. I spend six days in a motorcycling paradise riding my machine with and amongst friends. Year by year I feel much better in Fort William and how I ride my machine there. The trial is very different from the other ones but I learn so much, especially this year because I couldn’t practice much on the Gas Gas. I also love to go there because I am with my English family during the week, the Moffat Family, I feel like I am at home! Without them the week would be much harder. They are part of this event for me… My first year I enjoyed the Scottish riding with David Moffat and I remember that it was very cold weather and the sections were difficult for me. With David the most important part was to have fun and smile; that’s been my philosophy since my first year despite the tough conditions.”
Article copyright: Trial Magazine UK