Hail, Saudi Arabia, January 30, 2020. “One of the toughest and more beautiful stages in Titan history since 2006”, as all riders agreed once back in the camp after finishing the second stage of the 2020 Titan Series Saudi Arabia race.

Both riders and fans had highlighted this stage prior to the beginning of the race. Today the whole field was to be put to the test and predictions were absolutely right. A 4-kilometre dune crossing and a very technical pass in a canyon with both rocky and soft sand sections made the stage really hard.

Spaniard Julen Zubero was the best today. The Basque country-born rider had a punctured tyre at the first part of the stage but managed to catch up with Josep Betalu, who led the stage all alone once the field reached the dune section.

At kilometer 90 –with 20 klometres remaining-, Zubero increased his pace and rode all alone to victory. The gap between Zubero and Betalú was two and a half minutes.

Zubero leads now the overall classification by 1 minute and 24 seconds. The race has witnessed two stages, two different winners and two different race leaders so far.

The 4-time Titan Desert race winner, Josep Betalú, was very upset when crossing the finish line. He is “king of the desert” and rode perfectly the dune section, leaving the whole field well behind. However, Julen Zubero managed to catch up with him at kilometer 70 and both riders then focused on increasing the distance and the time gap with current race leader Oscar Pujol.  But another wrong decision by Betalú when taking a wrong track ruined his expectations. Nevertheless, the Spanish ace feels that the race is not definitely gone. “I feel like if I were the race leader, I feel in good shape and I will be back in the battle tomorrow. Just a single mistake prevented me from winning the stage today. Tomorrow, elevation gain will be an issue and the stage victory will be my goal again, of course”, Betalú said.

Third and fourth place went to Oriol Colomé and Oscar Pujol. Pujol, yesterday’s stage winner, took a wrong decision on strategy. Not deflating tyres when riding on the dunes resulted in increased walking time and losing the overall lead. Pujol is third now, more tan 13 minutes behind Zubero, the new race leader.

“I did not collapse nor had any mechanical issues. I simply took a wrong decision when on the dunes: I had the intention of deflating the tyres, as usual, but I did not. Then it was impossible for me to ride on the dunes, so I had to get off the bike and run. In addition, I’ve not been able to stay calm -maybe because of the pressure the leader jersey brings with- and I paid the price. When I decided to deflate the tyres it was too late…  It was a super-hard stage and I’m sure that everybody will pay today’s effort in the days to come. It was a hard but also a spectacular stage. We rode from canyons to open areas and, then, the desert came up… The last ten kilometres today will be among the top-10 hardest ten kiometres I have ever ridden!”, Oscar Pujol said.

Second stage win for Silvia Roura

She is the strongest rider in the ladies’ class and Silvia Roura has made it again. Despite having to ride alone for over half of the stage (from kilometre 56 on), the Spaniard won the stage. Second place went to Marta Ballús, and Mónica Minguet was third.

Silvia was very tired but happy at the finish line: “The stage was really hard. Even harder tan the stage yesterday…and yesterday I reached the camp absolutely exhausted! Long stage, soft terrain, the canyon… it was a true desert stage. I am really happy to win again. Now I will have to fight against the danger of an own over-confidence”, she warned.

Time to rest now and prepare for the third stage. The most important stage of this 2020 Titan Series Saudi Arabia race and rated 5 (top) in difficulty. More dune crossings and spectacular canyons including water flows will make up the most technical kilometers of the whole race course.