Today’s agenda includes the administrative checks, bicycle mounting and a short prologue. Acclimatisation is also of utter importance today. Average temperatures in Morocco are about 30C, quite the contrast with Western Europe this time of year! During the administrative checks, riders will collect their chipped contest numbers and GPS trackers, load the GPS tracks and collect local SIM cards. All riders will mount their bikes and the bicycle boxes go back into the trucks.
After lunch, we kick off the prologue. Not to determine starting positions - tomorrow’s start will be a mass start - but rather to test the equiment. Riders will perform checks on their bikes, GPS, trackers and chips and the organizers will test measuring and timing equipment. The prologue’s results are not included in the final tally, and is therefore a great opportunity for the riders to fully enjoy Morocco’s stunning scenery.
The prologue takes us in a 36km loop around Ouarzazate and features the ‘Fint Oasis’ as one of the highlights. This rock and the impressive rock formations in the vincinity were the setting for the “Ten Commandments” movie, in which Moses descends Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments (the stairs are still there). Halfway the prologue, riders will encounter the steepest climb of the Roc du Maroc 2019, let’s see who makes it to the top without getting off their bikes!
The impressive “Kingdom of Heaven” castle is the ultimate starting point of the Roc du Maroc 2019. During a “Le Mans” start, all 180 bikers kick off the rally in one linear formation. It’s one of those goosebump moments for all involved. Through Nevada-like scenery, the challenge takes the riders to the world-famous Aït-Ben-Hadou Kasbah, setting for movie classics such as Lawrence of Arabia, Jerusalem and Gladiator. Cycling through the narrow lanes of this centuries old fortress will be a guaranteed unforgettable experience.
With a 102km and 2350 meter cumulative elevation gain, the second stage of Roc du Maroc is by all means one of the two most epic challenges of the rally. The first 30 kilometers take us through a rolling moon-like landscape with a rocky 3 km riverbed, the perfect warm-up for what’s to come: the steepest climb of Roc du Maroc 2019. Only 25 km separate checkpoints 1 and 2, but they include no less than 1150m in elebation gain. Calling it “Feisty” would be an understatement! Centuries old villages and kashba’s, almond orchards and friendly mountain dwellers offer some necessary distraction.
But! “What goes up, must go down”. The descent onwards from checkpoint 2 is a true delight: again some fascinating scenery, this time with elongated curves and a good terrain. Over some 25 kilometers, our participants get a chance to catch their breath. The last 30km they will pass through a long valley with typical Moroccan gravel and lots of cracks caused by the heavy rains that occasionally occur in this area. Be on your guard!
A fresh beer in bivouac 2 will taste heavenly. Those who made it here have deserved it!
The three kilometer long canyon flanked by steep rock formations on both side could be taken straight from an Indiana Jones scene. The terrain may be littered with stones and rocks, noone will want to miss these views or the route along the river that followsdotted with ancient villages, a truly magical journey back in time.
The second part of today’s challenge features another climb that will knock our riders off their socks, crossing rivers in the valley and mountain passes that offer priceless views. It hasn’t rained for a long time in this area and the tracks are lukily in good shape. In Boumaine Dades we say goodbye to the Atlas Mountains.
The contrast with the past days and the last 25 kilometers of stage 3 couldn’t be greater. This is where Roc du Maroc meets the Togo Jungle Challenge: winding tracks through an oasis of green. We will pass over little bridges, canals and cycle through fields with fig trees, straight through the “Vallée des roses”. This is so different and so beautiful. A hotel with a decent shower, airco and so much more await our exhausted participants in Kelaa m’ Gouna.
Crossing an entire mountain range in one single day, that’s the task at hand today! The Sahro is an older mountain range that structure wise very much resembles the Pyrenees. Up to checkpoint 1 at about 40km, the track feels like false flat, but after the riders end up in real mountains with constant climbs and descents all day long.
From checkpount 3 onwards at about km90, everyone will be aamazed. The views are absolutely stunning and for the competitive riders it will be hard to resist not to stop to take a picture. From that very checkpoint 3, we start the descent. We leave the heights behind us and now it’s all the way downhill over gravel. 200% fun for the daring and experienced biker!
The bivouac at about 20km north of Alnif is located one a beautiful plain, with views of the Sahro.
Stage 5 is love it or hate it! On today’s menu there are 151 long kilometers through endless desert plains. It’s the last long test. Those who manage to finnish this stage will most certainly also finnish the Roc du Maroc!
Today’s challenge starts with a quite some variety: 25 km winding tracks through hilly landscapes, dotted with some oasis and rocky oueds. As soon as the riders cross the asfalt, the scenery dramatically change and becomes immensely monotonous.
Once past checkpoint 1, the desert looks like an African savannah, with lots of acacia trees and many gorges. This goes on for about 35 kilometers straight, after which suddenly any form of vegetation simply dissapears and there is nothing but plains and 360 degrees of nothingness. After another hour of pedaling, the mountain where we find checkpoint 2, seems to keep stay in the far away distance. It’s a unique experience. A batlle between man, woman, their bike and themselves.
But when the evening comes, regardless of the arrival time, before or after the sun sets, a warm welcome is awaiting you at the “Mummy” bivouac. (yes, the one from the movie!). We will be camping and celebrating today’s accomplishment in the heart of a crater.
A mere 65 kilometers stand between our paticipants and eternal fame and the Roc du Maroc 2019 trophy. But as always, the sting is in the tail. We are approaching the dunes, the temperature rises and the scenery becomes much more sandy than in previous days. The race takes us through a datepalm plantation and a white hot plain.
And then, at just 20 kilometers before the finnish line, they suddenly emerge out of nothing: the red dunes of Erg Chebbi in Merzouga. The last 3 kilometers before the finnish, it will be one last time dying for those who didnt deflate their tires at the beginning of this sea of sand. But then, after that last set of dunes, there he is: the Roc du Maroc finnishing arch. We can’t wait to see how many bikers will make it for this ultimate MTB goal this year!
Congratulations to all those who made it: you are men and women made out of steel! Respect!