A STAGE FOR TITAN DESERT HISTORY THAT ENDS WITH BOTH STAGE WINNERS WEEPING
Garmin Titan Desert 2021 |
Stage 4 |
> Erg Chebbi
October 13 th 2021 - 16:05
- Breakouts, navigation shortcuts and an amazing team work in 130 extremely tough kilometers boost Titan Desert rookie Miguel Muñoz to the stage win ahead of all Titan Desert big names .
- German cyclist Anna Jordens takes her first stage win in Titan Desert as the name of the women’s class race leader changes. Ariadna Rodenas is the new race leader as a result of a nightmare of a stage for Ramona Gabriel, with big mechanical issues.
Erg Chebbi, October 13, 2021. With no doubt, today’s stage has been one of the most spectacular stages in Titan Desert history. The route took the cyclists from Tafraoute to the golden dunes in the Erg Chebbi , one of the most representative areas in the Kingdom of Morocco. The 150 meter-high beautiful dunes welcomed the titans. The Erg Chebbi is a chain of dunes 28 km long from north to south and 5 km wide.
Several factors have come together and have determined a really hard stage: it was the second leg of the marathon stage, it was the longest stage in the 2021 Titan Desert (130 kilometers), the accumulated fatigue is also a factor and terrain has turned into soft and sandy, making much more difficult for riders to move forward. In addition, cyclists had many opportunity to navigate and therefore take some cutaways along the whole stage. Race strategies played their role as well.
Almost everything happened in the second half of the stage. At checkpoint 2 (km 49),the leading group was Swiss Konny Looser, the race leader, Guillem Muñoz, second in the overall and Josep Betalú -4-time Titan Desert winner-. Two and a half minutes behind rode a second group hosting big contenders such as Julen Zubero, Haimar Zubeldia, Sylvain Chavanel and Pablo Guerrero . Zubeldia and Zubero started pushing in order to catch up with the leading group and so they did at km 100. Then Zubero broke away and decided to navigate. Good choice, as the Basque rider made it through a shortcut cutaway that led him to a 90-second gain. With 20 kilometers to go, Zubero placed third behind Miguel Muñoz and Sylvain Chavanel.
Pursuers caught an exhausted Zubero and then a very strong Miguel Muñoz managed to change his pace to broke away and reach the finish line all alone. Miguel Muñoz, a 2021 Titan Desert newcomer, has shown as one of the best-shaped riders in the peloton. He is Betalu’s disciple in this race and the fact of becoming a stage winner in the most spectacular MTB desert stage race in the world made him burst into tears.
“Maybe it is not possible to feel happier than I feel right at this moment” said Muñoz. “I didn’t expect to clinch the stage win today at all, as I saw Betalu, Looser and Guillem Muñoz leaving the pack. I decided to stay in and keep going. But when we made contact with them, I decided to attack and it worked out. I am truly happy, this win is very important and special for me. Nothing to do with whatever other stage win in whatever other race. Some feelings can only be experienced in Titan Desert” said Muñoz, right after bursting into tears.
Women’s class: stage win for Jordens and new race leader
At Titan Desert no one can claim victory before crossing the finish line of the last stage. Situations may experience a 180-degree turn, and this happened today in the women’s class. Ramona Gabriel had won stages #1 and #3 and looked like a very solid race leader ready to win her third Titan Desert. However, breakage of the shift pin of her bike has left her out of the fight.
German cyclist Anna Jordens won the stage, following a brilliant sprint against new race leader Ariadna Rodenas and Luisa Cuenco, the latter member of the Mixed Duo team Andalucía Región Europea del Deporte 2021. Anna Jordens was overwhelmed by emotion and burst into tears: “I am very happy to win my first stage in Titan Desert. I have ridden the whole stage within a big group of riders, and we all enjoyed a very friendly atmosphere. If one of us stopped to drink, no attacks were allowed! Thanks to Raul Hernández, my partner, we managed to take some shortcuts and thus shorten a bit the stage length. I rushed when I saw the finish line and, fortunately, it worked out.”
Ariadna Rodenas, new race leader, said: “This is total surprise for me. I never considered that clinching the leader jersey in my first appearance in this best-in-the-world MTB race could happen. I feel absolutely happy now.”
The dunes greet the titans
Today the Titan Camp is located at the foot of the majestic Erg Chebbi and tomorrow’s stage will be a Titan Desert classic: the loop stage with a dune crossing, even though dune entry and exit points wil be different. The first part of the stage will be fast and then cyclist will face the 4-km dune crossing and the navigation sector of the stage will follow. A mountainous area with ridges, canyons and stony sections with no oficial track published. Titans will have to find all checkpoints and hydration stations only by themselves. Once the navigation sector is left behind, cyclists will ride a long track northbound by the dune cord and will return to the start point. A hard stage that will include the navigation sector…and the accumulated fatigue, of course.