Video: Riding the Atlas Mountain Race as an ultra-endurance bikepacking newbie

What it's like to throw yourself into the deepest of deep ends.

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It was the start of 2020, before the word “COVID-19” was on anyone’s mind, that I first heard about the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco. At the time, ultra cycling wasn’t my thing; as a dedicated roadie, long days off-road had never really appealed. Especially not 18-hour-long days.

That was until my friend (and at the time, boss), Christian Meier raced the inaugural edition in February 2020. Christian spent weeks in the lead-up to AMR2020 organising gear, training for long days on gravel, and speaking about the event with absolute excitement to anyone who would listen. Although Christian had to scratch from the race that year, the scenes he described and the experience he re-lived on his return were enough to light a fire in me.

I wanted to race the next one. And thus began a long, long journey into a category of cycling I knew nothing about.

Ultra cycling is a different form of riding a bike. Less cycling, more survival. It’s not about how well you pedal but how well you pack. I don’t like being a beginner at anything, but I do love a learning curve. And there’s no steeper learning curve than going from thinking you’re a good road cyclist, to attempting to ride 1,200 kilometres through the desert of Morocco, carrying everything you need, sleeping where you can, and telling yourself that no matter what trouble you get yourself into, it’s up to you to get yourself out of it.

See the video above for the story of my 2022 Atlas Mountain Race.

Tristan Cardew is an Australian cyclist and professional photographer based in Girona, Spain.

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