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E-Bike Desert Challenge: Crossing the desert with a bicycle

Four days. 350 kilometers. Our HybRide SLAMR on Morroco’s dusty trails

Are your read for an incredible e-MTB experience? Than you should check out the E-Bike Desert Challenge. The multi-day event through the desert features the e-bike as a new mode of sporty mobility, a mixture between bicycle and motorcycle. It offers mountain bikers from all over the world the opportunity to test their skills (and their e-MTBs). From December 27th through January 1st, 2019, the stage race covered more than 350 kilometers through the desert in Morocco. Competing for GHOST was Günter Kast. Here is his thrilling report about his incredible experience.

E-Bike Desert Challenge

 

 

 

350 kilometers through Morocco

4 days desert stages

27th December 2018 to 1st January 2019

Three classes: e-bike 25, e-bike 45 and open

Fiveteen participants from four countries

www.desert-challenge.com

 

Day 1 – Technical downhill and labyrinths

So. Here I am. At the E-Bike Desert Challenge 2018. A new event in the desert of Africa featuring competition and adventure. The first day begins with 50 kilometers of oasis stages. But what sounds simple is actually much more difficult. Right after the start, the legendary track "Tim’s Downhill" has to be conquered – a real challenge with regards to your technical riding skills. Only five bikers, among them only one woman, master the route in a riding manner. The rest of the challengers have to get off the bike and push.

The route then leads through the 100 km2 large oasis of Tafilatet. A labyrinth of narrow paths is the new challenge. Which path is the right one? Caution, a new danger awaits us: small mean thorns. Those who planned ahead with tire sealant are the lucky ones.

Smiling and in a good mood, we reach the first checkpoint. Batteries are changed and bikes repaired. The combination of desert and jungle is not only an adventure, but also a real challenge for the equipment. Three manufacturers - GHOST, Haibike and Exess - have provided test bikes to gain experience.

Through the desert on your bike.

 

„You don't feel the pain anymore when you ride.“

 

Day 2 – Through old desert towns and high dunes

After a restful night in the luxurious Hotel Cherguie we start the Challenge’s longest stage of 90 kilometers. A narrow path leads to an entrance in the wall of a 1000-year old desert town. Located in the middle of an oasis, these walls used to protect the inhabitants from enemies for hundreds of years. Since this is no longer necessary, there are now numerous openings in the wall making it easier for the farmers to reach their fields. We enter the interior of the desert fortress through one of these entrances and our challenge is to carefully navigate through the narrow streets in search for the opposite exit.

After this adventurous but relaxing stage, the Challenge becomes tougher again. A table mountain or mesa has to be climbed. A narrow, barely visible donkey path leads through massive rocks to the plateau. But we are rewarded for our efforts with a gorgeous view and a beautiful freeride descent before we can change our batteries at the battery exchange station.

The second section. The first dunes have to be crossed. What many have thought to be impossible is possible with an e-mountain bike. Fun in the sand! Higher and higher sand mountains rise on the horizon. They can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers. Over a plain with varied terrain, we come closer and closer to the dunes of the Erg Chebi, where the finish of today's stage is.

Peter and Heike Schmid (DE), who had to get used to navigation in the confusion of single trails in the oasis yesterday begin to catch up. George Adams (UK) is also well represented in the starting field and reaches the intermediate stop in fifth place. In the first section, his son Robert Adams (UK) took home another start-to-finish victory. But in the thrilling second section, Lutz von Steynitz (DE), a professional bicycle guide, is in the lead for a long time. A head-to-head race ensues on the last kilometers which Robert is able to win. Heike Schmid as the best woman takes third place today and takes the lead in the women's class.

In the Bike Open class, yesterday's winner Benedikt Baum (DE) has to cope with a sprain. The injury, however, does not prevent him from winning another stage in record time. “When you ride, you don't feel the pain anymore.” He smiles and hobbles as he pushes his bike for maintenance.

 

 

After spending some days together, the riders were feeling quite familiar.

 

 

 

Day 3 – From the back of camels to river deltas

A new day with new highlights. On the back of camels, we set off into the desert. Start is on a high dune, and from there it goes downhill along the dune ridges into the legendary labyrinth of the river Qued Riris, a river delta of over 200 km2. Since it has not rained for a long time, there is only a dry, white hill garden left. A highlight is the gorge where the river has dug its way deep into the earth. The difficulty is not riding into it, but getting out again.

Day 4 – Endless fun on the endless half-pipe

The temperatures in the desert hotel have cooled down to freezing overnight. The first rays of sunshine provide warmth. The highlight of today is the Uzina Canyon, a dry riverbed that has buried itself deep in the gypsum plain. Its steep walls make it almost impossible to leave the canyon again. The canyon is embedded in a wide plain of small hills, like an endless halfpipe. An absolute eldorado for mountain bikers. Thanks to the electric assistance, you can ride the 40 km long descent with free choice of routes. The enthusiasm is written all over our faces.

On the first stage, there is a neck-and-neck race between the leader Robert Adams and the two pursuers Lutz von Steynitz and Moritz Peter. Only a few seconds separate the three as they reach the battery change station.

In the second section Lutz von Steynitz is able to take the lead. After a thrilling competition he has an 8-minute lead over Moritz Peter, two minutes ahead of Robert Adams. But this doesn't change the overall standings. Robert Adams takes first place overall, leading by half an hour ahead of Lutz von Steynitz. With his time, the Haibike pilot is even faster than the winners of the two open classes.

In the 45 class, Arnaud Jacquart (FR/RUS) is able to win the day's victory again and thus the overall standings. A double success for Arnaud who wins this class on the e-bike of his startup company. In the Open class, Benedikt Baum (DE) wins the first stage with a large lead again. He convincingly wins the race overall, significantly ahead of the Russian Michael Sivak whose bike clearly has much more power but was inferior especially in difficult sections and in the sand.

At the finish, everyone is in agreement. The E-Bike Desert Challenge is an ingenious event that will become a highlight in the next few years in the newly emerging e-mountain bike sport. Arnaud Jacquart already announced that he would start with a factory team next year. With the intention of winning not only his, but all classes. For my part, I was absolutely satisfied with the performance of my HybRide SLAMR X. 160mm travel on a lightweight carbon frame - perfect for this kind of race, especially when you had to carry your bike over water ditches from time to time.

At the end of the stage, one last highlight awaits: the “Bob Track” - a bicycle lane that the locals use to get from village to village. The track is round and curvy – and nothing but fun.

If you want to know more about the E-Bike Desert Challenge, check out their website.

www.desert-challenge.com

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