Sparks fly in 2020 Titan Desert Almería opener
November 2 nd 2020 - 13:53 [GMT + 1]
• Coast of Almería and Cabo de Gata set backdrop for beautiful stage with spectacular landscapes
• Jesús del Nero outsprints Julen Zubero, Sergio Mantecón and Jose Betalú to take fiercely contested stage
• Entire COVID camp undergoes strict anti-COVID protocol to enter Titan bubble
El Toyo, Almería. 02/11/2020. The 2020 Titan Desert Almería is under way. After fulfilling the requirements of a strict anti-COVID-19 safety protocol, close to 400 mountain bikers rolled out from El Toyo for a 100 km loop stage with a total altitude gain of 1,500 metres.
The Titan's first ever venue change did not disappoint, as the spectacular landscapes of Almería kept the riders in awe from the get-go. The Coast of Almería and Cabo de Gata set the backdrop for the opening stage, which ventured into the Cabo de Gata Natural Park and took the riders along the coast and Las Salinas area in the first part of the race, including the jaw-dropping ascent to Vela Blanca.
In the second part of the stage, the riders turned on the afterburners on ultra-fast, wide and dusty tracks before tackling a wide stream bed in the closing kilometres. Jesús del Nero (Gobik) came out on top at the finish, posting a time of 3 h 48′16″ and an average speed of 26.8 km/h to beat Julen Zubero by half a wheel. Meanwhile, world championship competitor Sergio Mantecón and the winner of the last four editions of the Titan, Josep Betalú (KH7-Logifrio), conceded two seconds. These four men had formed the leading group in the closing kilometres after dropping Haimar Zubeldia, David Arroyo and Roberto Bou, who had been with them until the last checkpoint and finished a minute back.
Meanwhile, Clàudia Galicia showed exactly why she is the big favourite to win the women's race. The Megamo rider crossed the line with a time of 4 h 21′50″ after dominating the race from beginning to end. The surprise winner of the Titan Desert in 2013, when she made her mountain biking debut after winning a contest, has since had a meteoric rise that took her to the Worlds. In 2020, she wants to bring the success story she started in Morocco full circle with another victory in Almería. Galicia put five minutes into her main opponent, Ramona Habriel, while the Titan Series Saudi Arabia winner, Sílvia Roura, finished third.
Jesús del Nero: "It's spectacular. The safety protocol, the organisation and everything else is up to par with the best races in the world. It feels great to be able to race after so long and to take my first stage win to boot."
Josep Betalú: "I must say I'm half satisfied. My team is very strong and they're all doing a great job for me. We took the reins at the start of the race and everything went well, but then I made a technical mistake: I failed to realise that the finish line had been brought forward and, by the time I saw it, they'd already launched the sprint from behind. It looked like a classic Titan stage to me, I didn't see many differences in terms of the circuit. The main difference was the temperature, as we were racing below 10 degrees here."
Clàudia Galicia: "We're all in a bubble. We all had to undergo antigen testing. We use gloves at meals, wear masks until a minute before the start… I'm very pleased to see the organisers leaving nothing to chance when it comes to protecting our health. As for the race, it was a beautiful but gruelling stage, with two short but tough climbs at the beginning, a fast central section and a brutal 20 km section at the end with plenty of sand. I like this terrain because you have to keep pushing the pedals. I had a blast. I loved riding along the cliff and the sea. The more desert-like area reminded me of Morocco a bit more, but the first section was amazing."