The 15th edition of the Titan Desert goes down in history

Garmin Titan Desert 2021 | Stage 5 | Tabernas > El Toyo
November 6 th 2020 - 12:40 [GMT + 1]

  • The COVID-19 protocol and a camp worthy of Hollywood mark a successful edition in Almería, a permanent addition to the race
  • Sergio Mantecón ends Josep Betalú's streak of four consecutive victories
  • Clàudia Galicia bursts into tears after crossing the line in what she reveals was her last race as a pro
  • Sergio Mantecón: "I would like to congratulate the organisers for their strict enforcement of the protocol and safety measures in such difficult times. I hope many other organisers of other types of events take note. We need to go back to normal"

El Toyo, Almería. 06/11/2020. There are many reasons why the edition of the Titan Desert that has just wrapped up in Almería will go down in history. Ever since COVID-19 came into our lives at the beginning of the year, it has influenced our behaviour to the point that we no longer live and interact like we used to. In March, we were left with no choice but to move the adventure, which was still supposed to take place in Morocco, to November. Last summer, the pandemic resulted in a switch of venue to Almería. Far from being a one-off, the Spanish region will be a permanent addition to the race, albeit possibly in a different format.

The strict COVID-19 protocol marked the 2020 edition for the nearly 1,000 people who make up the Titan caravan, but the race will also be remembered for the presence of the greatest Spanish cyclist of all time, the five-time Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain, as well as a camp steeped in cinematic history, the struggle between the phenomenal Sergio Mantecón and Josep Betalú, and the undisputed dominance of one of the best mountain bikers in Spain, Clàudia Galicia.

The world champion competitor's love story with this sport goes all the way back to 2013, when she won a ticket to the race in Morocco in a raffle and went on to take the spoils. After another win in 2014, she returned to the event this year to "bring it full circle". Tears rolled down her cheeks as she crossed the finish line of the Titan, her final race as a pro rider.

Sergio Mantecón ends Josep Betalú's reign

In what was one of the most competitive editions in the history of the race, if not the most competitive one altogether, the men's classification was decided in a remorseless battle between the two favourites. Josep Betalú, the winner of the last four editions, was out to defend his crown as king of the desert against a peloton determined to topple him from the throne.

One man, Sergio Mantecón, lived up to his reputation as the most prominent of the pretenders. The challenger was in stellar form after coming in ninth in the recent XCM Worlds, leading to a spectacular showdown between the two contenders in every stage. Locked in a relentless succession of attacks and counter-attacks, they proved to be one step above the rest of the pack in terms of physical shape and tactical acumen, with the man racing for the Polish Kross Racing Team emerging victorious in the end.

Although it was for a different reason, Miguel Indurain also spent the entire week in the limelight, earning unanimous praise from the camp and the peloton for eagerly mingling and interacting with the rest and showing he remains an exemplary sportsman. The rider from Navarre had his fair share of fun and suffering racing alongside his son and his brother-in-law. "Fat wheels and me just don't mix", he said at the finish. "The Titan is a very special race in which the camps are at the heart of the competition and which has proved that sports events can be organised safely again."

SERGIO MANTECÓN: "I really came here to have fun. The race format is different from what I'm used to in Olympic cross-country cycling, a sport in which you race for an hour and twenty minutes on a delimited circuit where it's impossible to get lost. This is a completely different race where you constantly have to navigate and follow the GPS. You need a great deal of experience to avoid going off-track. It's also a very tactical race where you're always racing in a big group and you need to read the race very well. I've been learning day after day and I had a blast in the last two stages. It's been a great experience. Betalú is a very experienced rider, a physical prodigy and a tough opponent all around. I've really enjoyed our battle and how he's made it difficult for me. I'm taking home great memories of the race, so I don't know when, but I'll be coming back sooner or later. I hope to meet Betalú in top shape and do battle with him again. I would like to congratulate the organisers for their strict enforcement of the protocol and safety measures in such difficult times. I hope many other organisers of other types of events take note. We need to go back to normal."

JOSEP BETALÚ: "I had to lose sooner or later, and it finally happened because I came up against a rider of the stature of Sergio Mantecón. However, I'm not sure yesterday's stage would've ended up the same way if it hadn't been neutralised. Today, I attacked on the ascents, on the descents, everywhere, but he stayed in control of the race. Sergio said it's been a pleasure to compete against me and it makes his victory extra sweet. I want a rematch if Sergio comes to the next Titan Desert. He's a different kind of rider from me, although he excels in marathon races. If he were to switch to marathon racing, I have no doubt he'd be a very tough rival. I hope to come back and claim my fifth Titan Desert, even if not consecutively. No-one has done it before. For now, it's time to relax, reflect and move on."

CLÀUDIA GALICIA: "A Titan is always an adventure. This one was new for everyone and I experienced it as such. I was racing all alone, without a team, and we had to follow the tracks, which I never do. I suffered quite a lot in the first two stages because I was often alone, but then I found the right group for me, people I knew, and I was able to ride in a group, so it was a gruelling Titan for me. I felt well, really strong and consistent, but it wasn't easy. Racing without a team and having to fend for yourself all the time can be hard. I also suffered in the final 10 kilometres of today's stage, because we had an annoying headwind and I found myself alone on the stream beds, but I was still smiling because I knew I had it in the bag. It was a tough yet epic and beautiful Titan, and I'm delighted I came here. I started competing in mountain biking in 2013 and, as you have probably figured out, I came to the 2020 Titan Desert to bring my career full circle."

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