The Morrocan culture is special as the locals still go about there daily lives like they have for centuries, riding horses around, living off the land and fighting for a good life. Riding around the hills and gorges before the race was rad, getting a glimpse of the locals lives and the scenery was astounding with the contrast of the dry dessert backed by the snow capped Atlas mountains in the distance.
The six day race itself was intense, with Tour De France winners, National Champions, and a lot of the top European marathon racers in line to battle it out for the title of King Titan. Stage 1 started with a bang as riders were attacking all over the place as we tackled a 115 km stage, with 2650 M of vertical through the Atlas mountains. At the summit of the first mountain I was sitting just inside the top 10 before we hit a sketchy descent down a very steep and rugged mountain road. Five riders immediately blew by me, two of them I would pass later as they crashed hard into the ditch and another guy wrecked his wheel. These guys were kamikaze!
Sleeping with 300 dirty bike racers, 95% of them being male isn’t what dreams are made of. Ear plugs and night shades can be used to block out some of the noise and light, but there was no solution for the smells. I slept on the edge of the tent with my head sticking out the underside of it, which actually lead to a solid sleep. Waking up in the morning getting ready for the race I found out someone had stolen my bike gloves off my bike over night. Either someone in the top 10 sabotaging my efforts, or some dork stealing my gloves cause he lost his. Getting to the start line I was further surprised when I realized I was pretty much the only guy in the lead pack that was still carrying his own stuff, as everyone else had hired teammates to be mules for them. This lit a fire inside and when the start gun went off I took off at the front of the race with two other riders.
Stage 5 was the Garmin, navigational stage. The 102 km route was unmarked, all we had were the coordinates on our GPS’s of the four mandatory checkpoints and a couple feed stations. The day started off with a 4km stretch across the magnificent sand dunes which have become legendary in the race. My friend Milton Ramos from Honduras has been on the podium five times at Titan Desert but had unfortunately gotten sick on stage 1 and was unable to finish. Now out of the contention, he was still riding the stages for training. He told me to follow him on the start of this day as he is known as the Desert Fox and can manage the sand dunes better than anyone.
All the riders took off in one direction, we hung back so the leaders wouldn’t follow us and then we took 0ff in another direction, climbing over a small sand dune pass, through some bushes and then onto the huge dunes, as the other riders took the long way around. From here Milton took off as he seemed to float across the dunes on his tires with about 8 psi in them. Seeing his tactics I stopped and deflated my tires and was soon riding pretty well on the sand myself. We had a huge lead and were the first ones to the 1st checkpoint, the problem was that riding the dunes properly required a lot of crashing and hopping on and off the bike which I couldn’t manage properly with a shoulder that was suppose to be in a sling.
Having nightmares of having to go back to the angry doctors to have them fix my arm again I knew this wasn’t an option so raced across the dunes like a handicap that I was. Eventually some other riders caught up and soon I drifted back to the high teens as we got off the dunes and onto the final 85 km of the stage across the desert. It was a ridiculous day trying to find all the checkpoints, I wasn’t riding very fast but my navigational skills were working good. Meanwwhile the lead group of ten riders had big troubles and road around in circles trying to find all the checkpoints. It was a giant easter egg hunt, mixed in with some hard riding. This was also one of the most beautiful days of they race as we passed numerous oasis’s backed up against the giant Dunes and could see Algeria far off across the desert. At the end of the day the overall GC as shaken up really good as 7 of the top ten guys lost over an hour, with Colombian Diego Tamayo taking over the race lead. Motivated for a good last stage I went to bed early this night but was soon woken by bed bugs at 11pm, it was a sleepless night as I scratched myself and ran between my Haima and the showers. Eventually I crawled into my bivi sac on the edge of the camp and found a bit of rest before morning light.
Stage 6 was only 65 km long and pancake flat as we raced across a moon like landscape. At the start the Dutch Champ Bram Rood attacked and road the first 10 km of the race off the front in 16 minutes. It was a hard day as we all chased, when we got past the checkpoint it got even more insane as we were told that three riders had already passed it four minutes before us. Huh??, 10 km in 12 minutes on mountain bikes!? How come none of us saw these riders take off? Rumour has it the three riders had signed in for the race and then road off into a town to hide before the race started, giving them a big advantage. In the end the leaders of the real race would catch two of these guys, but one of them would end up winning the stage by seven seconds. I’m not sure what occurred there but it was clearly monkey business. I left it for the other riders to figure it out as my race was well done at that point and I was stoked to finish without having to re-visit my Doctor friends.
The post race party was a grand show as we hung out in the giant courtyards of a nice hotel, watching race videos, awarding the winners, and getting served a five course Morrocan meal highlighted with a lamb Tangine, which is sheep roasted with prunes in a clay pot and a nice broth. It was a long evening as the Spanish really know how to prolong an event as they served up one course every hour starting at 9PM. All in all it was a stellar finish to a crazy week. Morocco is a special country and the race is a gem as it combines stiff competition, orienteering, adventure, and challenging tracks. To win this thing it takes a lot of skill and fitness with some luck mixed in. I have my fingers crossed I’ll get a chance to come back for redemption one day!
Now is recovery time as I figure out the next course of action with my damaged shoulder. Resting up in the Spanish mountains at my friends Willy Mulonias house in Navacerrada just north of Madrid is a great base to make a plan and get recovered from the African adventure.
Huge thanks to the Titan Desert organization for inviting me over to there race and to my title sponsor Kona for getting my bikes and gear ready for this trip!
Over and out!
Results not available at this time.