5 minutes: Sandra Gomez – First female to finish Romaniacs Gold Class
From ISDE and TrialGP to the World’s toughest Extreme Enduros, Sandra Gomez’s CV is like a dirt bike dream. The Spaniard can now add a 2020 Red Bull Romaniacs Gold Class finisher medal to that checklist which makes her the first female to do so in the event’s history.
“To finish the first day last year was an achievement but finishing the whole race seemed impossible,” so says Sandra Gomez. After making her first attempt at becoming the first female rider to finish the Gold Class at Romaniacs in 2019 and ending up in hospital, against the odds and many people’s advice she went back for another try this year.
Enduro21 talks exclusively to Sandra at her home in Cercedilla about what it took to finish this year’s Romaniacs, what it means having her bother Alfredo Gomez on her side and future goals on her bucket list.
Hi Sandra, you did it but…how on earth did you finish Gold Class?
Sandra Gomez: “After last year it was pretty clear I was lacking hours on the bike and that I had to get more riding time or leave it as impossible because the days are so long there.
“I was a bit scared this year because the daylight is quite limited in October, it’s not like in the summer. It’s true that the riding hours were shorter for the Pros and the normal thing for me would have been to spend 12 hours on the bike and not nine – 12 at this time of the year it would have been impossible. It was nearly dark in the forest by the time I was reaching the finish.
“But I took it day by day, uphill by uphill. If I started to think about everything, when we had like eight uphills a day, I would have quit. Also, the last day was brutal, not very long in kilometres but it was super-intense and with no rest.”
What does it mean to be the first female to achieve that Gold Class finish?
“I showed myself that if you work hard and suffer in training you can accomplish anything, no matter how hard it is. Also, you don’t have to let the people saying you won't be able to make it affect you, that is nonsense to go there get in your head…
“To finish the first day last year was an achievement but finishing the whole race seemed impossible. You have to finish one day and get back to it next day when your whole body is in pain and repeat that for four days.”
What’s the toughest thing about Romaniacs?
“The toughest for me is when you spend long hours on the bike and you fall down, the bike is pointing downhill and you have to pick it up and go again. You spend loads of time climbing up a hill, then you fall and you have to attempt it again, wasting all the work you’ve previously done. I don’t have the strength of the boys so I burn myself faster.”
Having Alfredo as a brother must come handy…
“To have Alfredo by my side is an advantage, I have loads of disadvantages so if I have one it’s not that bad. One main thing is he was one of the people who told me that I could make it.
“My bike is not as prepared as the Pros have, it’s basically a stock one, I’m not as strong, I'm smaller so to have him to advise me it’s amazing.”
“This year I talked with him and told him I needed more time on the bike, to learn to pick up the bike better and learn to push more and in a more efficient way because everyone has to push a lot in Romaniacs.
“He never told me I wasn’t going to be able to make it, he just told me I needed to find a good year to do it, one with no snow for example, even though we had some this year. Having him is great, not only because of the tips he gives me but because he’s really strong mentally, I really admire that from him.
“I used him a lot in the race also, mainly on the last day. By the time I reached the service point, which was in a ski resort and it was raining and freezing, I called him and he explained what I was going to find after it, where to push, where not to, and he told me I had it. I only asked him to bring loads of coats to the finish line!
What happened on day three in Romania?
“I broke the fan on my bike. The rules allow you can pull out one day but keep racing so I decided to turn around and call it a day before killing the engine. It wasn’t a big deal but if I had continued it would have probably meant the end of the race for me.
“It might had been better to not even start the day as some riders did but I didn’t want to stay at the hotel. I decided to go for it and if something happened or if I reached the service point completely exhausted I would pull out. I had it in the back of my mind but it came earlier than expected, two hours in my bike gave up and I decide to retire, it was a wise decision.”
Famously you race TrialGP as well as hard enduros and even the ISDE last year…how do you combine trials and enduro?
“If I didn’t do trials it would be impossible to do what I do, all my riding is based on technique. During the TrialGP championship I was fully focused on trials but once it was over I jumped straight onto the enduro bike. Anyway, I have to admit that I did some enduro during those weeks also. One discipline complements the other one so it’s great.”
Have you done any specific training this year?
“It has been a strange year because you never knew when you’ll be able to race or train. Normally I’ll do pre-season in winter and then a little pre-season during the year. When lockdown started we didn’t know what to do because it was impossible to know which races would be on, you couldn’t figure out if you were going to overtrain or train too little.
“I tried to get as much riding time as possible because I was lacking it. I trained in the mud also, another of my weaknesses, we don’t have much in Madrid so I travelled to other places in Spain to ride in different conditions. Romaniacs has loads of variety and long days on the bike so that’s what I have been doing and it looks like it worked.”
Romaniacs was a big tick on the bucket list, what is next?
“Now I have to finish the Erzbergrodeo. But I still have some homework to do, Lagares for example, which I have never raced. It’s what I like about hard enduro, you always have something new to try because every race is different. I would also like to go back to Romaniacs and try to finish each day in Gold.”
What is the best piece of advice you can offer anyone wanting to do Romaniacs?
“To think that you can do it. It’s hard, but it can be done. You have to find a different way to train harder and surround yourself with people that believe in you and support you. The most important thing is to get as much riding time as possible and get used to pushing a lot, because you’ll have to!”
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Photo Credit: Enduro21 | Andrea Belluschi + FIM | Pep Segales