For a decade, the GAES TITAN DESERT by GARMIN has given thousands of riders the opportunity to discover their limits, struggle with themselves and overcome them. Elite riders like Ibon Zugasti, from the “Unstoppables”, or amateurs like Mar Hernández and Dani Nafría. These last two are used to facing other difficulties that life presents and overcoming them. Born fighters, this time they've faced this enormous challenge on their Orbea Oiz bikes.
The GAES TITAN DESERT by GARMIN is introduced “above all” as “a race of personal triumph, of individual challenges. It's a race, a competition. But above all, and for most, it's a challenge. The challenge of achieving what few in the world have. Facing the desert, the heat, the distance, in the worst imaginable conditions.”
A race that lasts 24 hours
“This is a different trial, there is no other like it in the world, because of the conditions of the terrain, the asphyxiating heat, having to sleep on the ground, etc.,” reflects Ibon Zugasti, an experienced competitor from the “Unstoppables” team, who has competed in such difficult trials as those of the Non-Stop Series and the BC Bike Race. The Basque cyclist has participated in several editions of the Titan Desert, this year earning tenth place in the overall classification. “You have to be very self-sufficient. For two days, you have to carry all your belongings with you: your sleeping bag, tools, lubricant for the bike, food. You can't shower for more than two minutes because otherwise you'll run out of water. It's a race that lasts 24 hours.”
A race that has seen a second amputee complete it in this edition. His name is Dani Nafría, and after having had his left leg amputated when he was 11 years old, he has lived by his motto “strength is in your head and in your heart.” He is also the first amputee to finish the “La Rioja Bike Race” and the first amputee to take part in the Barcelona Ultra Trail.
“I discovered the Titan in 2013 or 2014 and I wanted to participate in 2015, but I wasn't able to do so. When I became the image of Slastik, I didn't hesitate to propose certain projects, and I mentioned the Titan Desert, which the brand was happy to accept. I think that just imagining being on the starting line with the Slastik Orbea Campus and preparing for this challenge already encourages you to get out of your comfort zone,” he observes. “And even more so in my case, when you have to combine a full-time job and a newborn, and you really don't know what will happen to the stump or the artificial leg under pressure like that,” he adds.
Dani managed to complete this trial on an Orbea Oiz. “I am very happy and surprised at the performance and how easily I got used to it. It seemed like a light-weight bike, in spite of the double suspension and with very good performance. It was the first time that I used a bike with double suspension and I ended up loving it,” he assured.
Mar Hernández beat cancer twice. Her spiritual strength is only comparable to her physical strength. She repeated her experience in the desert this year, also on an Orbea Oiz, a bike that is “simply brutal, light and super comfortable for these long stages.” Her experience in 2015 left a lasting impression on her. “I participated in the event last year, and what struck me the most was the great adventure it was and the experience of living together with people you know and with whom you share your suffering. For me, the Titan is primarily a challenge of overcoming obstacles, but attending this trial meant much more after having had cancer. It puts you to the test, at the limits of your physical and mental abilities. It is also a way of proving to yourself and to others that after an illness like this, you can continue to carry on.”
It's a race in which you have to face all kinds of problems, starting with some very extreme conditions, a long distance to cover and without creature comforts of any type. “The stages are very long, unpredictable and tricky, because in spite of being flat, you never know if you're going to go at 30 km/h on solid ground or 6 km/h over a sandbank for several kilometers. There's no way to calculate how long it will take you to reach the finish line. And that's they way it is, day after day. Also, in the Titan there are lines at the medical station for chafing and saddle sores. I have never had that problem until this year!” said Ibon.
These are problems that some approach by mentally preparing themselves long beforehand for the demands of this race. “I prepared myself to suffer, maybe not so soon, but I knew that I was going to have to be very strong mentally in order to hold out,” claims Dani, who also alludes to the difficulty of such long stages. “As the days go by, I noticed that I no longer recovered. After the third stage, I was already running on fumes, I couldn't feel anything. I suppose that's normal, but for me it was something new…”
These were combined with other tough times, especially when you had to leave fellow adventurers behind. “The fourth and fifth stage, the longest and the one where you had to navigate sand dunes, were the toughest for me. Although, in all reality, I had the most difficult time every day when I found out that someone had left the race or wasn't going to continue. I don't like for people to give up and I just hoped that they did not leave for serious reasons,” indicates the Slastik-Orbea team member. Being forced to quit was one of Mar's greatest fears. “The toughest times were those when you didn't feel well and you realized that you might be out of the race,” she confesses.
Small things add up
However, those difficult moments are forgotten when you cross the last finish line of the GAES TITAN DESERT by GARMIN, and you realize what you've accomplished: surpassing yourself. “When you cross the finish line for each stage, when you reach the refreshment stand for a short break to drink and then continue on, the call home every night, knowing that they have been paying close attention to how you were doing all day long, strengthening friendships, meeting new people…these have been the happiest moments,” Dani remembers.
Mar, in turn, has one of her greatest sources of happiness in “the gift that pedaling represents at certain times, all alone in those locations,” along with the people she has met during these past two years and the times she has shared with them.
The GAES TITAN DESERT by GARMIN is, in short, a story of overcoming obstacles, built around little stories full of grandeur. And, as Dani puts it at the end, “You have to value and take care of the little things, they're what add up to something big!”