The first edition of the PEdALED Atlas Mountain Race, which kicks off on 15th February, will follow a 1145 kilometre route through Morocco, with roughly 20,000 meters of climbing. It will take riders from Marrakech to Sidi Rabat, a village south of Agadir on the Atlantic coast.
The route winds its way through the remote mountain landscapes of the Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains. Riders will need to get a stamp in their brevet cards at each of the three staffed checkpoints at Telouet, Aguinane and Ait Mansour before reaching the finish line.
The race takes place essentially entirely on unpaved roads where possible. It's rough, remote and beautiful, with every kilometre well earned. There will sometimes be great distances between resupply points and some walking will be required.
Experiencing the incredible landscapes of the Moroccan Atlas as well as the warmth and hospitality of its people will surely be an experience that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who takes part.
Find out more at atlasmountainrace.cc.
The race will begin in Marrakech, we have yet to finalise the exact location for the start of the race, but the aim is for registration and the start to take place at the same hotel to the southeast of the city centre. This will allow a swift departure from Marrakech. We will have volunteers and/or local police in place to calm traffic for the first few kilometres as required.The route will then head straight into the mountains for a number of solid climbs on the way to an all-piste crossing of the High Atlas. The road up to the summit of the pass is all drive-able, albeit rough at times (barring any recent water damage...). The last few kilometres to the summit have actually just been completed and a road down to Telouet is planned. At the time of writing, however, the descent will follow an old mule track. It’ll be about 4km with a fair bit of hike a bike depending on your mountain bike skill levels.After the mule track, riders will reach Telouet, which is significant for the presence of the old Glaoui family Kasbah, once the main residence of this influential family under colonial rule. Having backed the french colonisers, they suffered a rapid fall from grace after independence. It is now much diminished but some small signs of its previous splendour remain for those willing to take the time to visit its interior.
After leaving CP1 behind, riders will head east on a short section of tarmac before going off road again as they make their way through red earth villages near Anmiter. They’ll then head into the foothills of the Atlas and past Ouarzazate’s impressive solar power station. A man-made beacon that can be seen from miles around. Once they reach the main road near Imassine, they'll be able to restock on supplies and maybe have a hot meal at one of the restaurants at the crossroads.
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This next section is wild and remote, and stunningly beautiful. For SRMR veterans, there is even a river crossing! There is likely to be some pushing to make it up to the summit of the plateau but once up there, it's well worth the effort. This old colonial piste, built atop a network of canyons is sure to be one of the highlights of the race.
Past Afra, the going gets a bit easier in terms of elevation, with the route finding its way through a network of disjointed tracks among the hills. It's sandy at times but generally rideable. Eventually, riders will reach the waterfall at Tizgui and its permanent resident, Omar. He’ll certainly invite everyone for tea in this little oasis, lost in the Moroccan hills. If you call ahead, he can actually have some food prepared too.The route then briefly rejoins the main road (the other option was around 20km of hike-a-bike…), riders will be able to resupply at Ait Saoun before heading back into the mountains for the next remote stretch to Tazknakht. It’s all dusty pistes and endless mountain vistas during this section of the race.
Taznakht is one of the bigger towns en route, there are guest houses and restaurants and shops; everything you’ll need to refresh before heading back out onto the piste. Riders will then continue west, taking detours to avoid the main road and find more unspoilt back country gravel tracks.They will then head south, eventually reaching Aguinane, a palmery hidden in an enclosed valley. The road down into the village is another highlight of the route. You’ll certainly be happy that you’re heading down rather than up, this vertiginous path. It’s technically a paved road in places, although the rough concrete surface may have you wishing you were back on gravel. The Checkpoint will be hosted by the ‘Auberge Le Paradis D’Aguinane’. It makes for an extremely scenic spot for a brevet card stamp.
On their way out of Aguinane valley, riders will be treated to a short stretch of tarmac before heading off-road once more. The piste gets rough here and there will likely be some pushing required. Resupply is scarce, so be careful that you have enough to get through this section. It’s beautiful, but you’ll have to earn every kilometre. These old colonial roads haven’t been maintained and the surface has been badly eroded.The next section between Tagmout and Issafen may be our personal favourite. It’s an old piste that cars can no longer take because of two broken sections of road. That won’t stop us though, a short walk down and around the wash out, and you’ll be back on the road. The sheer enormity of the effort required to build this road, by hand, up in the Moroccan hills is staggering. It’s a truly stunning section of gravel.This section of the route ends at Issafn, another resupply point in an otherwise remote section of the race.
After Issafen, riders head into another remote section, likely one of the most difficult and frustrating. We took a long time looking for alternatives, but in the end could find nothing smoother to get us where we wanted to go, than a piste that follows a dry river bed. The stones are large and loose and it will likely be a hike for several kilometres. There is also very little resupply in this whole area. Do treat this section with caution and make sure you don’t get caught short with supplies. It will take longer than expected.When you do finally make it through, you’ll come out in the Ait Mansour palmery, another green oasis in a land of arid rock and stone. You’ll be able to try the famous Berber Omelette cooked up by our Checkpoint 3 hosts at the ‘Auberge Ait Mansour’. For a more substantial resupply, you’ll have to wait until Tafraoute.
After Tafraoute, riders will have some relatively long sections of tarmac that will speed things up, before being sent off on some pistes that have been paved with concrete. Again, the views are incredible and the roads you’ll follow themselves are as well. The landscape changes again and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re on the other side of the Mediterranean. There will be one last major challenge, involving a short hike-a-bike to get onto one final, remote piste before you finally head out of the Anti-Atlas and ride down towards the ocean and the finish line for a well deserved beer or two.The finish itself will be hosted at the ‘Auberge La Dune’, right out on the coast, south of Agadir. This cosy hotel will make for the ideal spot to relax and have a few beers. As always, there will be an afterparty on the last day of the race with the opportunity for a few small prizes and to tell tales from the road.