Titan Desert Almería: There’s Always More to Life

By Frantiska Blazkova

Welcome to Tabernas, Europe’s only desert, located within Spain’s south-eastern province of Almería. Once again this year, it will be the stage of Škoda Titan Desert Almería, which will take place from the 7th to the 10thof October 2023. A sister event to the imposing race Škoda Titan Desert Morocco, Škoda Titan Desert Almería holds a substantial allure for cyclists from all across the globe – but maybe for a surprising reason. It’s one of the few larger-scale MTB races that you can do just for your enjoyment and for yourself, without the pressure of competing or even finishing, if that’s not your goal.

To expand on the last point, it is an event that beckons cyclists from all walks of life, many of whom are former professionals. This part is especially notable as many ex-pro cyclists stay in touch with the sport one way or another, for example, by becoming DSs, trainers and advisors, cycling brand ambassadors or founders, and more. So, for those, the Škoda Titan Desert Almería presents a perfect opportunity to enjoy the thrill of two wheels and a wonderful landscape without being pressured to perform.

Czech former pro cyclist and eleven-time Paralympic champion Jiří Ježek, who attended last year’s race, offered an insider view on this topic. “Since I stopped racing professionally, I started to savour riding more, that’s why I seek out events like this. I must admit without any shame that I wasn’t tempted to try the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco. That’s too great of an outdoor challenge for me as a former professional road cyclist,” shared Jiří, adding, “But I was drawn to the atmosphere of the Škoda Titan Desert concept and I got my fill in Almería, I was extremely excited to be there.”

What sets this race apart is its spirit of inclusivity. Participants are encouraged to embrace the journey in their own way and to pedal at their own pace. “I would not say that ex-pros go there to relax as the event is still pretty physically demanding. They still want to give it their best; they are still athletes and want to ride as if they were racing, even when not aiming for the podium,” Jiří commented on the race. Offering more insight, he added, “In my opinion, they go there to reminisce about the racing days but without the feeling of obligation. Also to meet their friends from the pro peloton and outside of their former career life, many are joined by their work colleagues to ride for charity, and so on.”

Almería is a province with the capital of the same name located in the stunning Andalusia – a region with a rich culture and a strong identity. In fact, many cultural phenomena that are perceived internationally as distinctively Spanish are largely or entirely of Andalusian origin. Take, for example, the passionate flamenco. It is also home to the hottest area in Europe but also to some of the wettest climates due to weather systems sweeping in from the Atlantic Ocean. As you can see, it’s a region full of contrasting, rugged beauty. Which brings us back to the Škoda Titan Desert Almería.

As Jiří Ježek never had the chance to visit this region during his racing career, the stunning landscapes were one of the reasons he chose the Škoda Titan Desert Almería last year. “The sandy dunes, which are very rare in Europe, are greatly enticing. Some of the stages passed through coastal routes with breathtaking seaside views. Paired with the local perfect gastronomy, I think it could be very tempting for an MTB cyclist who likes a bit of an adrenaline challenge and exploration.“

To sum up his experience, Jiří noted, “The Škoda Titan Desert Almería is a unique race where ex-pros and pros meet with cycling hobbyists and I’m a fan of that. I was also drawn to the fact, as mentioned earlier, that you can often meet pros from different cycling disciplines whom I haven’t had the chance to meet in my road career. The reason I’m not going this year is not dissatisfaction but the fact that I love to try new things and challenges.”

This year’s Škoda Titan Desert Almería spans four stages and nearly 400 km that pass through the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, sandy wadis (dried-out river valleys), mountain roads, include a climb up the mythical Velefique pass and other incredible views.