Adventure – Marathon des Sables

Untouchable year after year among men in the heat of the Sahara desert, the Moroccan runners, led by the El Morabity brothers, once again seem unbeatable in this 36th edition of the Marathon des Sables which begins this Sunday in Morocco. But how is this domination explained? At the end of the 250 km race in the Sahara that the 985 participants in the 2022 Marathon des Sables are about to face, a man is aiming for his 9th victory in the most famous race in the desert. And if it is indeed a new individual success that Rachid El Morabity is seeking, it is a team race that his clan should, once again, deliver to get rid of the competition. “In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons that explains his unchallenged domination, explained, last October at the end of the 35th edition, Mathieu Blanchard, 3rd in the UTMB in 2021 and contender for the podium last year at the MDS. They behave like a cycling team, working together to make their leader win and split the race bonuses at the end. » Never putting yourself at the head of the peloton in the dunes so as not to direct their opponents, giving a “false rhythm” on the rolling parts to tire the competition (even if it means exhausting one of their own) are all techniques used by the locals. “They also have a formidable ability to accelerate at the end of the race. They manage the whole event as a group, preserving Rachid so that he can explode the peloton at the end of the stage”, testifies Mérile Robert, the only Frenchman to have been on the podium twice in recent years (2019 and 2021). Mérile Robert “As long as the Western runners do not agree to run as a team, I do not see how they can compete with the Moroccans” The Frenchman also affirmed at the end of the 35th edition: “As long as Western runners don’t agree to run as a team, I don’t see how they can compete with Moroccans. The Marathon des Sables is a race where experience is paramount. It would be necessary to assemble a small group of strong runners with already one or two editions of the MDS on the clock and there, we could compete. » And that shouldn’t happen this year, despite the presence of very good riders, especially French. Julien Chorier, among the very best trail runners in the world a few years ago and already present on the MDS on several occasions, arrived in the desert several days early in order to acclimatise, when Cédric Fleureton, among the best French runners currently , is not in Morocco to do extras. Mérile Robert should not be on the podium As for Mérile Robert, this year he will play the team card by running with a team set up by his employer, which will certainly keep him away from the podium. We also note the presence of two Spanish athletes who could also “play” with the head of the race, Miguel Heras Hernandez (47 years old) former top athlete in trail and Alejandro Fraguela, 7th in 2018. “But for this year, again, I think we can expect a Moroccan victory,” concludes Merile Robert. It remains to be seen whether the Rachid El Morabity dynasty will continue to beat Lahcen Ahansal’s record of 10 victories or whether his brother Mohamed, 2nd in the last four editions, will take up the torch this year. But we will also have to watch another Moroccan, the young Aziz Yachou, who heckled the El Morabity clan well last year by finishing at the foot of the podium, in particular because of a material penalty, “having seen him in the race, I think Yachou has the potential to compete with the El Morabity”, assures Merile Robert. The favorite Moroccan Raji, Spanish and French in ambush Among the women, the race has always been more competitive than among the men. Out of 36 editions, only three victories were Moroccan, when 13 were taken by French women. But last year, Aziza Raji easily dominated the race and seems determined to start a winning streak. She will face several top athletes including the French Sylvaine Cussot, the Spaniards Anna Comet Pascua and Manuela Vilaseca and a three-time tricolor winner, Laurence Klein. Patrick Bauer, founder of the Marathon des Sables “We hope that the dropout rate will return to its usual percentage of 3 or 4%” On the menu for these elite runners, a less daunting race than the 2021 edition of the month of October, marked by nearly 50% of riders abandoning the race due to exceptional heat and a virus circulating in the bivouac. Less than 24 hours from the start, the temperature does not exceed 25° degrees when it was close to 40° degrees last October (with feelings above 50° C in the sun) and the course is in line with the editions previous ones without a passage as complicated as crossing the dunes of Merzouga which had done damage in 2021. “We hope the dropout rate will return to its usual percentage of 3 or 4%,” does not hide Patrick Bauer, iconic founder of the MDS, who has always worked to make his adventure as accessible as possible.



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