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What to Expect of This Year’s Škoda Titan Desert Morocco and What We Know So Far?

By Martin Atanasov

The clock is counting the last hours until the epic start of the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco, and while our bikes and minds are already in the vast deserts of Northern Africa, we can’t seem to stop talking about this legendary race. The event, which will take place between 30th April and 5th May, is more than a mere MTB stage race. It’s a trail of your physical and mental capabilities. But before heading to the airport and the starting line at Boumalne Dades, let’s recap what to expect in this year’s race.

The Titan Spirit

In 2006, a group of avid riders took an ambitious step in transferring the spirit of Rally Dakar into the world of cycling. Over the years, the Titan Desert spirit evolved and created its own identity, charm, and purpose. Today, this creme de la creme of MTB events is a dream for many upcoming riders who want to prove their skills, fitness, and endurance.

The Titan Desert challenge has become much more than a race. It’s a pilgrimage where people find much more than how exhausting it is to ride in the desert. Instead, they find themselves, face their fears, and overcome their limits. Seventeen long years have passed since that first Titan Desert, and many have taken this arduous challenge to heart, returning the next year.

The main idea behind the challenge is to put your body and mind to the test by having 6 straight days of cycling across various terrains, including rocks, dirt, and sand, while in the meantime enjoying a semi-nomadic lifestyle in tents among their peers. During the stages, the riders can count only on themselves, but at the tents, they can enjoy some awesome parties, delicious local food, and many more surprises.

Although the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco is a race, the event’s organizers and spirit encourage selflessly helping your teammates and competitors.

Titan Desert
At the end of each stage, the riders get to socialise and unwind in the famous huge overnight nomadic bivouac in the desert for about 700 participants.

The event

This year, Škoda Titan Desert Morocco is going to be the most challenging yet. Over the six days between 30th April and 5th May, the riders will conquer over 7,000 meters of elevation gain and cover more than 625 km over the unique Moroccan landscape. In addition, the riders will have to conquer one of the most rigid mountains in Africa – the Atlas Mountains – and ride through dirt, rocks, and even dunes.

As usual, riders will have to face this challenge entirely unsupported while crossing some of the most beautiful sights in Northern Africa under the scorching sun. At night, once again, participants will have the chance to mingle with each other in the one-of-a-kind nomadic-style bivouac located in the desert near the finish lines. There, along with delicious food and entertainment, riders can take advantage of mechanical assistance and physiotherapy. And when you have such a tough challenge in front of you, even Titans need some relaxing muscle massage.

The route

The six stages are all extremely rough, as not only are the distances long with huge elevation gain, but the terrain is extremely difficult. One needs to try climbing on the sand in 40°C oven-like weather to understand what desperation means. So, yes, all the stages are demanding, and participants must be in a top physical and mental condition to handle them.

Škoda Titan Desert Race
The riders will have to face all stages unsupported while braving steep climbs, rocky descents, and massive sand dunes, as well as temperatures exceeding 40°C during the day.

Stage 1

The start will be given on 30th April at 8:00 a.m. in the small town of Boumalne Dades. The ride will take the participants through the rigid Atlas Mountains, and after 89 kilometres and 2,131 meters of elevation, they will finish right back in the town.

Stage 2

The second stage will be on 1st May and will once again start from Boumalne Dades, this time finishing in Nkob. The ride itself is not too hard, and while the participants will have to cover a distance of 106 km with 1,830 m of elevation, there are no major climbs along the way. However, this would be the first part of the marathon stage, so you will have to carry everything you need for the night with you. So, don’t forget your toothbrush.

Stage 3

The third stage will commence at 8:00 a.m. from Nkob and will take you 129 km to Fezzou. Though the ride is predominantly flat, it will take you through treacherous terrain. Moreover, you won’t be able to count on any mechanical or personal assistance at the end of the stage.

Stage 4

The fourth stage is the longest of this year’s Škoda Titan Desert Morocco. The riders will take the long and hard 133,5 km journey from Fezzou to Merzouga. Finally, the ride will take the participants through one mesmerizing viewpoint in the middle of a large plain. This is where the navigation section will begin. During this stage of the race, riders won’t have any directions on how to get to the next checkpoint except for their GPS and navigational skills. The toughest part, however, is that almost the entire navigation stage will be crossing dunes, meaning a lot of sand and a lot of pushing.

Stage 5

The fifth stage will offer some well-deserved rest. Well, not entirely, as the loop stage at Merzouga is still 98 km long, and although the riders will climb fewer than 1,000 meters, they will have to push through some obscure tracks, sandy dunes, and truly breathtaking canyons.

Stage 6

The last stage is where everything will be decided. This is where those who ride for the win will give their all. The Škoda Titan Desert Morocco finish is always a thrilling event, and this year, the host will be Maadid. The small town is 71 km away from the start at Merzouga. The route is predominantly flat. The Titans will have to conquer only 575 m of elevation, but the difficulty once again comes from the terrain – from sandy dunes at the start to a rocky track towards the end.

Of course, these stages will be nothing without the colourful peloton that makes the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco the grand event that it is.

The peloton

As always, the peloton will be filled with top-class riders ready to prove their worth at the grandest of all MTB stages. This event typically gathers professional and amateur riders, but regardless of their status, they all must be prepared for the rugged terrain and conditions on the track.

The star of the show this year will be Miguel Indurain. If you don’t know who that is, shame on you. Still, just to jog your memory, Indurain is a living legend of Spanish cycling. He has 5 Tour de France General Classification wins in a row and 12 stage victories. Moreover, he has four individual stage wins in Giro d’Italia and two general classification triumphs. During the early 90s, he was the best cyclist in the world and an inspiration for many upcoming cyclists worldwide.

Indurain will conquer the Moroccan deserts for the second time as a member of the Kosner – Saltoki Home. This team will, without a doubt, be under the spotlight as the reigning champion of the race. Swiss rider Konny Looser will also join Indurain in his quest to become a Titan for the second year in a row.

Unfortunately for them, they will have to share the spotlight with some unlikely upcoming stars.

This year, the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco will wholeheartedly welcome its first Moroccan women to join this arduous challenge. Raja Chakir and Chaima Elhamri will make history by becoming the first Moroccan women to complete the race. The 19-year-old Chakir and 21-year-old Elhamir will compete in the elite women’s individual classification, trying to conquer the throne left by Anna Ramirez, who decided to skip the event this year. They will be joined by Mohamed Zarhoun, Moussa Outtaleb, Ayoub Ifkiren, and Youssef Issmaili in wearing the red and green jersey, distinguishing the host riders from the rest.

With a peloton like this, the Škoda Titan Desert Morocco promises to be one truly spectacular race.

See you there

That’s it. If you missed your chance to be part of this year’s event, you could follow the race live from the event’s official website. If you did manage to enter this extraordinary race, we hope to see you in the camp.