Discovering Badlands by David Rovira (text) and Juan Antonio Flecha. Pictures by @tacticsports
The Badlands bikepacking race owes its name to the geological formations that adorn much of the landscape in this area of
This arid territory modeled by the little rain and the wind for millions of years has resulted in capricious forms of clay. Vegetation is very sparse and temperatures at this time of year are still very high. It is without a doubt a space considered as a
The Badlands route was born in 2020 and in just 2 years it has become one of the ultra-distance races with the most international impact.
The first edition was won by Lachlan Morton and the 2021 edition by Matia de Marchi. These two icons of gravel have catapulted this journey, which runs through the Andalusian provinces of Granada and Almería. In this latest edition, held the 1st week of September, registrations (about 300 participants) sold out in just 10 minutes and more than 80% of those registered are from outside Spain.
The Badlands track engulfs 780 km and 16,000 meters of ascent and runs through various terrains. From the perfect slopes of the Sierra de Hué
tor, to the dusty slopes of the Gorafe Desert. From the sand of the Tabernas Desert to the extreme hardness of the slopes of La Alpujarra or from the panoramic and Mediterranean roads of Cabo de Gata to the broken and rocky slopes of the Los Pedrolos pass.
Most participants choose to use a gravel bike and very few use a mountain bike. It is a demanding course and it is advisable to use 700x42 or larger wheels. In some sections it is difficult to get water or food and you have to be very far-sighted so as not to compromise your performance and safety.
This is my second participation in Badlands. In 2020 I won in the team category, together with Ricard Calmet and we managed to finish in the top 3 overall. In this latest edition, my teammate has been Juan Antonio Flecha, AKA Flecha. He has been a road professional in teams such as Fassa Bortolo, Rabobank, Sky, Vacansoleil... Among his most outstanding results are the stage victory in the Tour de France, 3 podiums in the Paris Roubaix and the victory in the Omloop Het Nieusblad.
For Flecha it was the first time that he faced more than two days of cycling in self-sufficiency mode. Overcoming lack of sleep is a difficult task and goes beyond performance on the bike. Knowing how to negotiate bad times, when the body is below its normal level, is also a complicated job. His great engine had to adapt to the demands of ultracycling.
We have been almost 10 months preparing Badlands. It's been about 300 days of deciding what material to use, how to train, what to eat... but without breaking our family dynamics. Few have been long outings and we have focused our training more on intensity. For some it may seem strange but for us the background was the least worrying part. Flecha accumulates a lot of km on his legs and although he has been retired for a long time, his engine is of a great displacement. In my case, I have run adventure racing at an international and almost professional level for many years and I know how to manage the pace, lack of sleep or bad moments in such a long competition.
Our gravel bikes were the Open WIDE, equipped with a mechanical Shimano GRX (we prefer to avoid the electronic one in long races), a 38 chainring and an 11-speed 11-46 cassette. HED
Emporia GC3 Pro wheels & HED Emporia GA Pro wheels
and Tailfin Aero Pack Carbon rear rack.
Our total time was 55 hours and we managed to win the team category and get into the top 10 overall. The level is getting higher. Runners are capable of maintaining high paces for a long time and stopping very little.
With Flecha we started in the leading group but soon found our own rhythm and traveled without the company of other riders. This is how we wanted to live our badlands.
We slept 30 minutes in total. We were not just looking for a result, we were looking for emotions, sensations, an experience in short.
Each one must live the race as they feel, the clock is secondary. Each one must know how to value this brutal experience for what it has demanded of them.
Badlands is a huge emotional source.
Badlands 2022: La cuarta dimensión
from Juan Antonio Flecha