On May 12th – 14th, 170 riders from 26 different nationalities rode their bikes, partied, and met loads of new people in the Gorafe desert as part of the Guadix Gravel Festival. Scenic routes, amazing food, and overall good vibes were the dominant theme of the event, which succeeded in making the most of a perfect region for gravel.
The nowadays well-known desert
Even if many events include alternative activities as part of their program, the location of this one made it truly special. While the Gorafe desert is unknown to most people, many gravel cyclists are aware of the beauty of the region given that multiple renowned events take place or pass by that particular location. It is located in Andalusia, south of Spain, and it is reminiscent of the American Far West. The rock formations are simply stunning and the changing light throughout the day accentuates their different color layers, turning a bike ride in the area into a unique experience.
Aware of the potential of Guadix and the Gorafe desert for gravel riding with his past participation in Badlands, Janosch Wintermantel and his team set their eyes on this location, and their hard work culminated with the inaugural edition of the event. Janosch is also the organizer of Octopus Gravel, one of the races included in the Gravel Earth Series.
Three days well spent
The weekend started with a couple of social rides, one at 11 AM by Pedaled and another one organized by Komoot in the afternoon for those that, because of work constraints or extended travel time, arrived at the base camp later in the day. The participants got to know each other and shared the different reasons that motivated them to attend the event.
In the afternoon, with live music and a beer in hand, participants took over the Parque Antonio Pedro de Alarcón in Guadix. That same place was the start line on Saturday of the Schwalbe Gorafe Epic, the main challenge of the weekend.
The registered riders could choose between a 170 km loop or a 120 km one, with 2.630 meters and 1.580 meters of elevation gain, respectively. 90% of the route was gravel, which is obvious knowing the remote location the event was taking place. Nonetheless, all the paths were well preserved and the participants rode through truly gravel highways.
If during long, mass participation races, one usually finds oneself riding alone, imagine what was it like to ride through the Gorafe desert with no civilization in sight and barely any fellow riders around. Riders had the chance to fully immerse themselves in the vastness of the desert and its gravel paths, spending the day riding through conditions that few had ever experienced before.
It was not summer but, as expected, the temperatures were high. Luckily, both distances had feed stations every 30 km or so, which allowed even those riding at a slower pace to be well-fed and hydrated throughout the day.
Those who were not slow at all were Morgan Aguirre from the USA and Ewan Wangai from Kenya, because they were the first ones to return to Guadix after completing the 170-kilometer loop. Regarding the 120 km distance, Alba Xandri and Ricard Calmet claimed the first spot in the female and male categories, respectively.
Most participants stayed for Sunday’s Hill Climb Challenge, which took place at the end of a somewhat 50 km recovery ride. There, riders had to tackle the Mirador del Fin del Mundo, which translates to the viewpoint of the end of the world. With that name, everyone knew that they would suffer but that the reward at the top would be worth it. Additionally, the cheering of everyone not riding at that time made them push through.
Both Morgan and Ricard doubled-down their wins of the day before with the fastest time up the hill, and they stepped into the highest spot on the podium during a final ceremony that took place in the viewpoint itself.