Hailstorm turns up the heat in the Titan Desert
November 5 th 2020 - 14:16 [GMT + 1]
- 106 km stage shortened to 56 km due to hail, rain, cold and strong winds
- Sergio Mantecón vaults into the lead by 44 seconds over Josep Betalú after taking the stage win and Škoda Challenge bonus
- Clàudia Galicia finishes over ten minutes ahead of Sílvia Roura to make it four in a row
05/11/2020. Stage 4 of the race, which had the Alto de Velefique as its centrepiece and was unanimously seen as the queen stage, has been stopped by the organisers as a result of the severe weather on the mountain pass.
The rain, hail, strong winds and chilling temperatures left the organisers with no choice but to bring the race to a halt at the second hydration station to guarantee the health and safety of the riders. As a result, the stage ended at km 56 out of 106, right at the finish of the ŠKODA Challenge, a timed section awarding a one-minute time bonus to the fastest competitor.
According to the sports director of the race, Manuel Tajada, "we decided to stop the race on the Alto de Velefique after reviewing our weather information and looking at the reports from our checkpoint on the climb and the two race opening bicycles that had left the camp an hour and a half earlier. The participants made their own way back to the camp following the evacuation route and the track from refreshment station 3, with the requirement to reach the camp by bicycle."
Sergio Mantecón was the first rider under the arch, posting a time of 2 h 15′31″ to beat José Quillo Márquez by 13 seconds, David Arroyo by 27 and the man who started today's stage in the lead, Josep Betalú, by 56. Mantecón was also the fastest competitor on the 16 km section with an elevation gain of 840 m that made up the ŠKODA Challenge, on which his time of 56′35″ put him 50 seconds clear of runner-up David Arroyo.
It was enough to catapult Mantecón into the overall lead by 44 seconds over Josep Betalú. The stakes are higher than ever in the 15th-anniversary edition of the Titan Desert, as the title remains up for grabs going into the final stage. The KH7-Logifrio outfit, whose star roster includes Miguel Indurain, Melcior Mauri, Iván Díaz, Sergi Escobar, Oriol Colomé and Sylvain Chavanel, will be seeking to ambush Mantecón to dislodge him from the overall lead and propel team leader Josep Betalú to his fifth Titan Desert in a row.
No changes in the women's classification
Four out of four. Clàudia Galicia continued to crush the competition in this year's Titan Desert as she racked up another stage win in the women's classification. Galicia finished 27th overall with a time of 2 h 35′51″, including a one-minute time bonus for winning the ŠKODA Challenge, and expanded her lead in the general classification to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, Sílvia Roura dealt another blow to her main rival in her fight for the runner-up's place, Ramona Gabriel, increasing her margin by almost four minutes and virtually wrapping up the second step of the podium next to world championship competitor Galicia.
SERGIO MANTECÓN: "It was a gruelling stage in extreme conditions. The tough climb and, especially, the high pace in the battle for the special ŠKODA Challenge bonus, only made matters worse. For me, it was crucial to get this bonus, so I took no prisoners. Everything fell into place in the end, so I'm very pleased. My goal was to seize the leader's jersey. Now, I'll have to defend it. Betalú is just like me, a very dynamic rider, and he'll take the fight to me like I did to him, so now it's up to me to defend the lead.
I'm having a lot of fun in my first Titan Desert. I didn't start the race with a specific result in mind, although I was naturally in good shape and ready to fight for the win if I was good enough, but it's a new experience to me. I come from an Olympic genre where we race in delimited and marked circuits, whereas here you have to interpret the instructions of the GPS. The stages require much more tactical acumen and are much faster. I'm learning a lot of new things every day, but mainly enjoying this great experience. The Titan is unlike any other race I've entered. I've been racing for 20 years and it's something new to me. I have a blast and learn new things every day. Both the sporting aspects and sharing the camps with everyone else are great experiences. I hope to come back."
"Seeing how extreme the weather conditions had become, I think the organisers were absolutely right to stop the stage to protect the riders' health. The conditions were extreme and really hard. The tough climb and, especially, the high pace in the battle for the special ŠKODA Challenge bonus, only made matters worse. For me, it was crucial to get this bonus, so I took no prisoners. Everything fell into place in the end, so I'm very pleased. My goal was to seize the leader's jersey. Now, I'll have to defend it. Betalú is just like me, a very dynamic rider, and he'll take the fight to me like I did to him, so now it's up to me to defend the lead."
CLÀUDIA GALICIA: "The queen stage turned out to be the epic stage, but I think neutralising the remainder of the stage was the right call. We knew this was going to be tough, so I was carrying Gore-Tex, gloves, a thermal shirt and a tubular in my rucksack, so I was able to wrap myself up once I got to the summit. It was a gruelling and very beautiful climb, and I think the weather deprived us of what could have been some very nice views. Today proved that nothing is over in the Titan until you go cross the finish line. It's not just a race, it's also an adventure. Anything can happen, it's sheer, unadulterated adventure. I'm delighted to have win today's stage, but there's another tough one coming up tomorrow, so let's take it day by day."