Stage 5: Sylvain Chavanel wins the queen stage of the Garmin Titan Desert

May 2 nd 2019 - 15:30 [GMT + 1]

  • The French record-holder for the most Tour de France participations took stage 5 from a breakaway.
  • "Iron Lady" Anna Ramírez has claimed all four stages so far.
  • Josep Betalú all set to become the first four-time winner of the race.

Jorf, 2 May 2019. Even though Monsieur Tour, Sylvain Chavanel, is the rider with the most Tour de France starts, he is but a rookie in the Garmin Titan Desert. The unfamiliar terrain, navigation and heat all took their toll on the French champion, but he managed to bounce back. After getting stronger with every passing day, today he outsprinted Julen Zubero at the end of a breakaway —a familiar scenario— to win the stage and write a beautiful chapter in the history of the Titan Desert Race.

The two protagonists of the sprint had earlier used a shortcut to break away with 10 kilometres to go. Zubero pushed hard to hold off the chasing group, but there was a misunderstanding at the finish. According to a furious Julen Zubero, "We'd agreed he'd let me win. He tricked me. I spent the whole stage pulling while he just stayed on my wheel, so I asked him to let me win. Winning a stage means much more to me than to him. Chavanel doesn't need to win, while it would've almost made my whole season. At first, he said he wouldn't let me win, but then he said it was fine. In the end, he did sprint for the win and you saw what happened."

Sylvain Chavanel: "I'm delighted to discover the Garmin Titan Desert, it's an amazing experience. I discovered the dunes in the first few stages and suffered like so many other competitors. I wasn't able to train properly due to two wounds I sustained in the weeks before the Titan, and I came here to gain experience with no thoughts of winning a stage. I'm feeling stronger every day, and today I managed to take the stage by navigating better in the closing kilometres, skirting a mountain on the left while the Betalú group went right. I didn't want to miss out on the victory and I prevailed in the sprint."

Anna Ramírez is also stealing the show. She has been in a league of her own so far and, barring any surprises, she will take her third Titan Desert Race, always in odd-numbered years: 2015, 2017 and 2019. "Winning all the stages so far doesn't mean I've had an easy ride. The pace was very high today. I moved to the front from the beginning because all the starts have been very messy, and then I saw Ramona had been dropped. I stayed near the front and had to keep up with the infernal pace. Abraham Olano, Dani Reyes, Francesc Freixer and other riders all did their bit to help me."

One of the changes in the sporting stakes of the 2019 edition is the Škoda Challenge, a timed climb with gradients of up to 14%, with the winners bagging a 30-second time bonus and a day in the Škoda helicopter in the Vuelta a España. Óscar Pujol was the fastest male rider with a time of 35′08″, four seconds ahead of Filip Adel and five ahead of Josep Betalú. There were no surprises in the female classification, with Anna Ramírez posting a time of 42′34″, well clear of Sílvia Roura (45′00″) and Ramona Gabriel (46′01″).

The closing stage, a 64 km trek from Jorf to Maadid, will take place tomorrow. It begins with a neutralised start before reaching a large wadi. A section of soft, sandy terrain will take the riders to a vast plateau with stony tracks and short crossings of dry riverbeds. The tracks get better and faster as the race moves closer to the legendary finish line opposite the Xaluca Hotel in Maadid, where this thrilling mountain biking race will come to an end.

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