The Director of the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco, Manuel Tajada, on the Race’s Trickiest Moments

By Františka Blažková

Manuel Tajada’s name has been inseparably tied to the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco for 18 years. He has been in charge of the race since the first edition in 2006 and still plays a pivotal role. It’s no easy feat to set up a multi-stage and multi-day race spanning 590+ km and about 6,500 m of accumulated elevation in the stunning yet unforgiving Saharan landscape and climate – so we asked the most qualified person about how it all goes down.  

In 2022, with Mr Tajada, we’ve mainly touched upon the history of the race but this year, we wanted to shed light on some of the most challenging aspects. From the event’s logistics and unforgettable moments to the special Škoda Adventure category where utmost self-sufficiency is the word of the day (and night).

Mr Tajada, thank you for giving us your time so close to the race. Your colleague Jesús Garcia previously called the Škoda Titan Desert “a world reference event in MTB stage races”. Do you feel like it has become that since 2006?

The Titan Desert started in 2006 as ‘the Dakar of mountain biking’ and it was a big adventure for all the competitors and also for all of us organisers. Back then, there were not so many mountain bike stage races in the world, and after all these years, we have made one of the best races and a great challenge for a lot of riders in the MTB community. 

When do the logistics for this race start, since you need to move a huge amount of equipment into the desert?

We start working on the race more than a year before. Today, we are already thinking about the 2025 edition.

Which day seems to be the hardest on the riders and which stage gives them the most trouble?

For sure the first one because it is a long day with a big elevation gain. Also, stage 5 where the riders will cross the Erg Chebbi during the ‘navigation’ stage. There, the peloton will have no route markings or guidance for several kilometres, they will have to find the best paths to connect to dessert points on their own. The dunes of Erg Chebbi and the Atlas Mountains in the first two stages are also two locations I look forward to. 


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Příspěvek sdílený Manuel Tajada Vitales (@manueltajada23)

Do you ever go to the shared bivouac in the evening to meet the riders?

Sure, once the stage is finished, I like to make a little tour around the mechanical area or be in the competitor’s service tent before the daily briefing. In this briefing, we always share the logistical and sporting details of the stage that has just finished and the stage of the day after. Even on a busy day, after the briefing at around 8 p.m., I try to find time to chat with the GC leaders and other riders.

What is one moment in the race’s 18-year history that you will never forget?

It is not easy to choose just one moment. Maybe it’s the finish line of the last stage when we give the finisher trophy to everyone who completes the race. I will never forget the first time I decided to introduce a dune pass to the route in 2008, but I have several more nice moments on my mind. Also, I do not want to forget two very sad moments when two competitors unfortunately passed away, in 2019 and in 2022.

Do you have any wishes or dream scenarios about the future of the Škoda Titan Desert?

I just want to keep the same spirit we had when we started in 2006. The Titan must be more than a mountain bike race. I want to get people with their bicycles where they would not go by themselves.

Regarding the Škoda Adventure category, what do you think mainly draws people to the most extreme version of the Titan Desert, an already tough race, with minimal comforts and assistance?

I think they are looking for a special experience. Some of them already took part in the Škoda Titan Desert and they want to live it in a different way. Others just like self-sufficiency races. The most challenging limitation of this category is that we give you a box, not too big, where you have to store all the stuff you will need during the week of racing. It is hard to get right what is important and what is expendable for this kind of a challenge.


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Příspěvek sdílený We Love Cycling (@wlcmagazine)

 Was there an occasion when you had to break the stringent Škoda Adventure rules to help someone out?

No, I do not like to break the rules. The Škoda Titan Desert is an experience but we cannot forget it is also a race, and we must keep the rules without excuses. In case someone experiences a problem in the category, they will drop out of Škoda Adventure but can continue in the General Classification with a penalty.

Have you tried the Škoda Adventure category yourself?

Not in the Škoda Titan Desert, I cannot compete as the race director, but I like to live my own adventures in the mountains or take part in races where you have to push your limits.

And to wrap things up, your best strategic advice for the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco?

Each competitor has their own tips and tricks but my own is to be very tidy.