This one was a bit of a tough race for me. Badlands is a 750-kilometre (466-mile) gravel race taking in three of the deserts in Spain: the Sierra Navada, Gorafe and Tabernas. These are considered officially to be the only desert in Europe.
The race is mainly off-road on gravel, beaches and singletrack, with rocky climbs and descents. Temperatures in this area range from 25-50 degrees Celsius and extreme weather conditions do occur from the odd rare flash floods to extreme heat. This year some of the best racers internationally lined up such as Christian Meyer, two times Olympic Gold Medalist Alistair Brownlee and former pro (and eventual winner) Mattia De Marchi to name a few.
Badlands is a race that would suit either a gravel bike or a MTB, with racers battling needing to race self supported, finding their own food, water and also repairing everything themselves if they have any issues.
For me, the goal of this race was about finishing it and enjoying the experience. It certainly became type 2 fun, with temperatures hitting the high 40s and low 50s! I went into this race struggling to recover from an injury so I was under no expectation that it was going to be tough but, I maybe was not quite sure just how tough it would be. Like I mentioned before, the heat became a huge factor on this race.
When I reached the end I was, to be frank incredibly emotional, exhausted and relieved. I went into this race with no expectations and I was so pleased to have finished.
The first day was one heck of a long one, and my target was pretty simple: to hit over 200 kilometres.
I was heading into the Gorafe Desert, for some of the most stunning trails I’ve ever been on. The route leaving Granda was a long climb on road and slowly changing onto gravel. It very quickly broke…
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So I stopped for the night but I had found a bad place to camp. Ants started appearing on the ground so I continued on to find a better stop around 2am.
This meant heading up a pretty long climb and then descending a little bit to find a better spot. I stopped as I got to a point where the descent was…
I rode all day, stopping just before the next manic desert section, the Tabernas Desert. I knew what was coming was going to be TOUGH. This day was a lumpy one hitting the highest point in the race, up at the observatory.
Quite early on I completely run out of water. You can see on the route I ride off…
Living on 20 minutes of rest and some hike-a-bike over some of the ridges in the desert, this was a tough day but also satisfying as I had booked a little hotel for the evening to freshen up.
I spent the morning on some pretty technical hike-a-bike bits as the sun started to creep up, crossing train…
I started the day feeling somewhat refreshed. The flat sections in theory looked simple. In reality these were along the sandy coastline for much of it which incorporated plenty of drag-a-bike and shoes filling up with as much sand as they could hold. I must have emptied them out two or three times before…
The final day! A great sleep under the stars looking down on a valley with a cool breeze greatly helped.
The morning started with a little climb and then a descent to a reservoir. The first major climb averaged well over 10% for the whole thing, and was on washboard concrete slabs where you just have…
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