Ready To Race in the Atlas Mountains
Boasting what may be the most exciting women’s field in the race’s history, the 2024 edition of the Atlas Mountain Race looks sure to be an early season thrill ride for both racers and dotwatchers. Testing the limits of riders’ endurance, determination and kit on the rocky, sandy tracks between Marrakesh and Essaouira, preparation is key. We spoke to Cynthia Carson, Molly Weaver and Marion Dziwnik about their setup choices for this year’s race.
The community and the experience with other riders is one of my favourite things about racing ultras. The finishers party will be one to remember!
“Changes this time from when I raced in Italy for Memory Bike Adventure include the use of a downtube pack to carry tools and a smaller frame pack. I wanted to be able to use a regular bike water bottle for drink mix. I am also rolling with aerobars, which I’ve never done before in an ultra-cycling event! The length of Atlas Mountain Race is new to me and I wanted to make sure I have plenty of comfortable hand positions.”
“I am the most concerned about resupply and the local cuisine. I’ve spoken to many and they have guaranteed me that I will be ok, but I won’t feel that way until I arrive in Morocco and look at the local shops and small restaurants. I don’t like eggs and I hear there will be a lot of omelettes. I think I will survive though!
“I am looking forward to pushing my body past a limit I haven’t reached yet. I am also excited to see the landscape and experience being in the desert of the High Atlas Mountains. The community and the experience with other riders is one of my favourite things about racing ultras. The finishers party will be one to remember!”
Having a strong women’s field this year is going to be amazing, both for the competitive side and also just the feeling of community out there.
“I’ll be riding the Orbea Oiz M-Team XTR with Oquo wheels with a dynamo hub built into the front. The only other things I’ve changed on the bike compared to last year are swapping out the dropper post for a normal alloy one, changing to alloy handlebars, and adding some lightweight TT bars on the front.
“I’ve stuck with riding a full sus (120mm travel) as I did last year. You compromise a bit on weight and potential mechanical fallibility points, but for me the payoff in comfort and performance on the rougher stuff is worth it.
“I don’t follow a structured training plan, but I’ve tried to strike a good balance between packing the miles in and not getting too tired. It’s a long season of racing, and there’s always a risk of peaking way too soon and then burning out when the big targets come.”
“Having an awareness of societal and cultural norms and working with them as much as possible while on the race is important. I know what to expect having raced here before and understanding that discomfort doesn’t always mean danger is a big thing! There are a lot of eyes on you as a woman everywhere you go which can be intimidating, but for the most part people are good and want to help.
“I’m most excited about heading into the race with more confidence than I had last year. Travelling to Morocco and being out there on the bike alone was way outside my comfort zone and this overshadowed a lot of the experiences the first time around. I feel a lot more relaxed going into this edition so I’ll be able to enjoy the adventure more!
“I would also say that having a strong women’s field this year is going to be amazing, both for the competitive side and also just the feeling of community out there.”
The opportunity to immerse myself in such stunning surroundings while pushing my limits on the bike is truly exhilarating.
“For this year’s Atlas Mountain Race, I’ll essentially be using the same setup as last year’s Transbalkan Race, which shares similar characteristics with the AMR. That means I’ll be riding the Cervelo ZHT-5 hardtail MTB equipped with a SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain and Continental Race King (rear) and Cross King (front) 2.2 tires.
“One significant change I’ve made is incorporating aerobars into my setup. After experiencing numb hands for three months following the Transbalkan Race, I’m hoping that having the option to change hand positions will help alleviate that issue.
“In terms of packs, I’ll be using a selection from the Apidura Backcountry series and the 9L Expedition Saddle Pack. The long top tube pack and saddle pack are new additions for me, offering a bit more storage space compared to the combination I used during the Transbalkan Race.”
“Since November, I’ve adhered to a structured training plan to prepare specifically for the Atlas Mountain Race. Typically, winter is my off-season, or rather, winter sports season, and I’m not accustomed to being in such good shape so early in the year. Initially, I anticipated feeling stressed about spending so much time on the indoor trainer, but surprisingly, it wasn’t the case at all. I found having a structured training plan surprisingly motivating, and I thoroughly enjoyed the indoor training sessions.
“The cultural challenges, especially as a woman in Morocco, have been on my mind for a long time, honestly, ever since the race was announced. I’ve interviewed women who participated in previous years and gleaned some tips. I’ll opt for discreet clothing, blend in, and brush up on a few French phrases.
“I’m most looking forward to experiencing the breath taking landscape of Morocco. The opportunity to immerse myself in such stunning surroundings while pushing my limits on the bike is truly exhilarating. I’m especially excited about the descent to Aguinane (CP2) with its stunning view of the hidden palmery, navigating the old piste between Tagmout and Issafen, and the final stage along the coast. Additionally, I’m excited to reconnect with the ultra-cycling community, especially the many inspiring and strong women who are participating this year.”