I've got a few things to tell but first the Cannondale Good Fighters team. They were super nice guys and the trip was so much better than I thought it could be because these guys were really great. It was fun to hang out and ride together in the middle of nowhere! What a surreal experience. I just have a few photos below and this video showing the Nissan trucks along the route but it also shows a good bit of the terrain and what we saw during the race - camels, black and white sheep, and everything. It was weird - you would be riding along on a long empty desert and see a single person so far away from anything just walking along. And then the towns were so empty mostly. Maybe the sun keeps them in and maybe keeps those robes on, but it was real different. The buildings were made of mud bricks even with some grass coming out. I can't imagine plucking your house. So different there - my first time.
The best part was how great the Spaniards took care of me. They knew I don't speak Spanish, but I still felt right at home and didn't miss much. There is such a history of cycling in Spain and it was like we knew each other for many years. I can't remember as much as they did from the year and the event and even the finish. It is so impressive how much they know about cycling and it was a real pleasure to be there with them. Awesome.
So, this mountain bike race went for 5 days in the Moroccan desert. But after the first day it was not really technical - real good for a person with lots of road experience. But it was incredibly difficult because of how fast the race went on. There weren't many hills to slow it up - just miles and miles of desert and fast hard pace. You needed to stay with a fast group and get the group working together - on your own is not the way to win and I ended up on my own a couple of time.
The competition was INCREDIBLE. There were lots of famous Spanish road cyclists toughing it out. The winner, Roberto Heras was there, he has won it before, and he knew exactly what he needed to do to win this one. I ended up first in the Master class overall and who would have known I could have done what I did, but Laurent Jalabert finished seconded. If I had skinny tires on my bike and it was a real road race he would have made me a real fool. It was such an honor to race with these guys and I can't even say enough what a great experience it was. I remember years ago I went to Spain for an event - can't remember which one but I do have a 2nd place cup somewhere around here from the win - maybe Conserjeria de Cultura y Deporte. Anyway, Abraham Olano Manzano was at that event and he had just retired. I clearly remember all the people in line to get his autograph - I've never seen that before and it was awesome. And that is exactly how it felt to be racing in the desert with them.
This is after stage 4 - the longest stage (130km) with the hardest climbs. I had two flats in this stage. The first one I fixed and after I flatted the second time I realized my bag was opened. All I had was a partial Innovation quickfill and no pump. I panicked - I had no air. The next rider stopped and let me use his pump and saved the race. He even stayed and helped me - I just want to say how thankful I was for being there.
This is our group on our way home after the race. I don't have all the guys in one photo that were in our group but the Good Fighters were there in full force!
The Cannondale Good Fighters at the Nissan Titan Desert Race:
David Juarez (me)
Oscar Castro Requena
Overall Master Winners: Me, Laurent Jalabert, and Javier Salamero Subias