Catching up with Team Domenica’s Ari Cambronero before the Titan Desert 2018

There’s no one to hear you cry if you crash or puncture out here. No bike shop or mechanic just around the corner. No takeaway coffee kiosk or subway to take you to your destination. Out here, your only audience is rocks, sand, and the beating sun. The desert is unlike anywhere else: it’s nature at its most raw and a truly challenging environment for riding a bike.

Titan Desert by Garmin is not your average mountain bike race. Over six stages, it pits 600 riders and bikes against one of the harshest, hottest, and driest environments in the world, challenging them to complete 600km with more than 7,500 meters of climbing, including a non-marked, navigational stage and two completely self-sufficient stages. Held in Morocco since its launch in 2006, it’s interesting to see that the 2018 edition of the Titan Desert has strayed from convention a little by including two early mountain stages into the desert lineup, which crank up the event’s total amount of climbing. Even more unconventional is Team Domenica at Titan Desert, a 30-strong group of women riders brought together by Barcelona’s inspirational women’s-cycling store Domenica, who were resolute in their conviction to increase female participation at this event.

Leading the project is Marta Garciapons, responsible for marketing at Domenica, who’s had a busy winter ensuring that the team and their equipment are up for the task. They’ve staged rides and monthly workshops, covering vital topics like mountain bike-specific servicing, multi-day nutrition, riding technique, team building, navigation, and survival over a stage race. “The bikes have already been sent out there, so now it’s time for us to taper and get ready for the challenge,” she explains with a broad smile when we called earlier this morning. While their 30-strong team of female riders will be split into individuals, with each riding as Team Domenica, other participants in Titan Desert can ride solo, in pairs, or in teams of three.

We took the chance to catch up with Barcelona-based photographer and former lawyer Ari Cambronero, who’s flying out to the event this coming Saturday. “The first time I heard of Domenica’s Titan Desert project was at the end of last summer when Marta told me that she was thinking about it. I’ve been a client of Domenica from the very beginning, and I have a very close relationship with Marta and the Domenica team. I love cycling, traveling, and challenges, but what attracted me more to this project was the idea of a women’s team working together over a period of months with the aim of achieving one goal: crossing the finish line after six days of hard riding in the Sahara desert.”

“I’ve been training for the past five months with the help of a cycling coach, who also helped me in the past when I was training for other races. I’ve been doing an average of around 18 hours and 420km per week (MTB and also road bike). On top of that, I’ve also been working in the gym for around three hours per week.”

“Each stage has three drink stations with water and sport drinks. There’ s a drink station roughly every 30km. Each rider must begin every stage with three liters of fluid. I will use a hydration backpack (1.5 liters) and two water bottles (0.75 liters). To keep hydrated in such hot temperatures, it is advisable to drink an average of 0.75 liters per hour, in small sips every 15 minutes,” recounts Cambronero, ready for the race.

“I’m going to Titan Desert with the idea of doing my best. I will fight hard to achieve a good result. However, it would not be a tragedy for me if finally I can’t keep it with the best. I’m conscious that I will probably have to face unexpected circumstances and situations, and while I feel that I have the necessary knowledge and mental strength to face these circumstances, you just never know with a race like this….”

“I first started mountain biking in the early ’90s, so I’ve been riding for more than 20 years. After approximately five years, I discovered road riding too. I also love endurance running and trekking (I’ve been across the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas) but my main passion has always been cycling.”

“Photography has always been one of my other passions. I studied law and worked as a lawyer for more than 20 years before quitting in 2012 to focus on photography. Since then, I’ve mainly been shooting sports but always from a ‘social’ perspective—I’m interested in the stories behind the sports. My last work, Makkina, tells the story of an Olympic paracyclist and his team in Barcelona.”

For Cambronero and the rest of the riders sporting the Domenica jerseys, the #desertisfemale moniker has become something of a liberation, a mindset that instills a confidence within them that will go way beyond those six days in the desert.

Follow the team’s progress and last-minute preparations with the hashtag #desertisfemale.