“This year is going to be hardcore. The distances and rest time don’t add up”

Dakar Rally competitors Laia Sanz and Joan Barreda weigh up their chances ahead of the event

Laia Sanz and Joan Barreda.
Laia Sanz and Joan Barreda.TEAM HRC

Laia Sanz and Joan Barreda are young, ambitious and competitive. Sanz has won 15 world titles, while Barreda was Spanish motocross champion at the age of 12. Last year he won four stages of the Dakar Rally, and Sanz has won the female motorbike category of the race twice. After Stage 2 of the 2014 race, which got going in Argentina at the weekend, Barreda is leading the general classification.

Question. Where did you first meet?

Sanz. At my first Dakar in 2011, which was also his debut.

Barreda. But the first time I saw her she was competing in trial. I was trying out a few bikes because I was writing for a magazine. Sometimes we meet to train in Castellón, but not much because she never wants to come...

S. The thing is you never invite me! But we have met a few times. One day he came to do trial. He wasn’t bad.

Q. What’s Joan like as a rider?

In the future I’d like to dedicate myself more to this, see where I can get to”

S. Everybody likes to watch him because he’s very different to what people are used to seeing in rallies. It looks as if he’s riding motocross. His style is aggressive and very, very fast.

B. Laia surprised me with the position she adopts on the bike: she’s always on her feet, with her shoulders well-placed. She has a motocross style and that isn’t easy.

Q. What attracts you most about the lives you lead?

S. I like the day-to-day, training, going to the gym, cycling, traveling, getting to see new places. And, above all, riding bikes, which is what I love.

Barreda. I live in my own world. When I see my friends, their day-to-day, I realize what I have and how much I enjoy it. It’s a completely different lifestyle.

S. The worst thing is how long the days are waiting for the Dakar to start.

B. Yeah, for me everything that isn’t competing is a bit of a drag. I know that we live from sponsorships and brand names, and I know what we have to do and I do it. But it’s not something I enjoy. I don’t like going on television, I’m quite shy about it.

S. Although in a competition like the Dakar the hardest thing is how little sleep you get.

B. This year is going to be hardcore. I’ve worked out how many kilometers I have each day and how much time for sleep and it doesn’t add up.

Q. Are you both prepared?

B. Definitely, and more so bearing in mind how important experience is in this race. You have to know how to prepare, how to improve, what you need to do on the important days. And both of us have that.

S. I feel ready, I have more experience and I was able to test the bike more than in previous years. Others spend all year getting ready for the Dakar and I have a lot of other races and little time to think about it. In the future I’d like to dedicate myself more to this, to see where I can get.

B. I’ve spent most of the year trying to get a good team together. The group you work with is very important; everybody has their part to play even if you are the rider. If someone falls short it affects everything.

Q. You’ve both moved to Honda.

B. I decided Honda was the best choice. And I’ve got the people I trust around me. The bike is very compact, there’s a good balance between the chassis and the tank, and it transmits confidence. It’s a powerful bike.

S. This is my first rally bike. Before I rode enduro bikes with tanks and it was nothing like this. This is the best bike I’ve ever had. I feel very lucky, and also a sense of responsibility to see if I’m up to the bike.

Q. What do you think you can do?

S. I’ll try to be in the top 25 or at least the top 30.

B. I have to try to win.

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