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Proper Moroccan MTB Rally: Josep Betalu Wins the Titan Desert

By Monica Buck

Six days full of sand, stones, dust, hot weather, and rationed water. The Garmin Titan Desert is a Škoda-sponsored race unlike any other. The extreme contest clearly draws inspiration from the original Paris-Dakar rally but does so in the best possible way. A 100-kilometre stage doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll ride 100 kilometres. It could easily be 150. And on the starting line, you can never be sure which way will the riders go. Half to the east and half to the west? Stranger things have happened at the Titan Desert.

The race has come a long way from the first edition in 2006. The roster grew from roughly 150 contenders to almost 700. You can find both amateurs and big shots such as Sylvain Chavanel in the field. And this year, a two-man team with the name of Škoda WeLoveCycling printed on their jerseys as well. Marek Rauchfuss and Filip Adel battled the hard conditions for us and thanks to them, we got to experience the race first hand.

Filip Adel fighting the dust in the Škoda WeLoveCycling – Superior Velsbike jersey. © titandesert.com

Navigation was key in the first two stages to stay in the competition. And unfortunately, Filip got lost in the dunes and finished the second day with a lot of time to make up.

“I spent a really long time there. Just walking the bike through sand. I lost all the remaining strength in those dunes. I didn’t have the experience to cope,” Adel admitted.

“You just cannot compare this race to any other,” Marek Rauchfuss added. “It’s something completely different. The route is almost unmarked. You just have to hit the checkpoints. Every contender can ride his own route.”

Marek Rauchfuss representing the Škoda WeLoveCycling – Kross Bikeranch team. © titandesert.com

Unfortunately, the extreme conditions claimed the life of Fernando Civera this year. Even the quick response from the paramedics couldn’t reverse the first tragic accident in the history of the race. The third stage was neutralised and the riders honoured Civera’s memory with a moment of silence.

“After something like that happens, you realize the biggest victory of them all is to come home safe,” Filip Adel said.

In the end, Marek Rauchfuss managed to finish 10th, trailing less than 20 minutes on Josep Betalu, the winner. Despite losing a lot of time in the dunes, Filip Adel finished in the 17th place.

“A long regeneration period is in order,” Rauchfuss said. “I’m most looking forward to seeing Czech nature in bloom and to have a cold beer in my garden.”

Well said. Thanks for the memories, guys.

2019 Titan Desert results

1. Josep Betalu – 18:12:00
2. Guillem Munoz – 18:15:19
3. Moisés Duenas – 18:17:07
4. Jose Luis Carrasco – 18:20:48
5. Jose Luis Gomez Miranda – 18:21:30
6. Avila – 18:21:58
7. Haimar Zubeldia – 18:22:08
8. Oscar Pujol – 18:23:43
9. Roberto Bou – 18:29:29
10. Marek Rauchfuss – 18:31:13
17. Filip Adel – 19:55:23