Meet the Hottest Race Under the Sun: Behind the Scenes of the 2023 Škoda Titan Desert Morocco

By Františka Blažková

About 520 cyclists on mountain or gravel bikes gather in the Saharan Desert in Morocco at the starting line in Boumalne Dades. Ahead of them are six days, 625 kilometres, over 7,000 metres of elevation, and unforgiving temperatures exceeding 40°C during the day. Welcome to the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco 2023, a prestigious and demanding six-stage race amid shifting dunes and the Atlas Mountains.

Since the race’s first edition in 2006, we can say that the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco has become one of the most unique events in MB stage races. The changes over its 17 years of existence have been enormous but the race never lost the allure, spirit of adventure, and the desire to push oneself to the limit it was founded on. Riders flock to the imposing and humbling desert landscape to conquer it in a sense but mainly to face their fears, overcome (probably) the greatest challenge of both their sporting and personal lives, and discover sides of them they didn’t even know were there.

Especially for rookies, the race poses challenges and situations they couldn’t have imagined, no matter how diligent their prep was. The riders agree that besides the obvious physical exertion, the environment is also extremely mentally taxing. The inescapable heat without respite, the constant feeling as if someone were holding a hairdryer to your face, shoes and clothes full of scraping sand, no proper way to cool off than to make it to the stage finish…

While this might sound like a purgatory to some, the collective straining experience and resulting exhilaration when you cross the final finish line could be summed up in the “Titan Spirit” philosophy. It’s the invisible umbrella of companionship, solidarity and camaraderie that spreads over the racing and camping grounds during the whole event.

Škoda Titan Desert Morocco
Not many annual MTB races boast such an unique and breathtaking environment as the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco.

As Jesús Garcia, a CEO of the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco’s organizing body and a former six-time participant, put it, it’s “today for you and tomorrow for me”. Even if the race’s atmosphere is highly competitive as all riders have to face it unsupported in its entirety, they are encouraged to “selflessly help a companion“ and forge friendships. After all, the huge overnight bivouac in which the riders stay in between stages is the perfect place to air one’s grievances and joys after a day in the saddle and bond over hardships.

The king and queen of this year’s Škoda Titan Desert Morocco were Roberto Bou and Tessa Kortekaas. Tessa’s victory was also very unique because she was a debuting rider. The second and third place in the women’s GC was taken, respectively, by Vera Looser and Ariadna Rodenas, and in the men’s GC by Josep Betalú and Fran Herrero.

If you want to get a taste of the true Titan Spirit, enjoy the on-site documentary we shot together with Škoda, where we followed the riders closely during the entire event to convey to you how brutal and, at the same time, rewarding a race like this can be.