With nearly 265 riders and several recognizable figures participating, the second edition of the BADLANDS race in southern Spain should be a good one to watch. Find out about the route, the sections, and who all is involved here…

Photography by Juanan Barros (@juananfotografia)

The second edition of the BADLANDS race/ride kicks off in a couple hours with roughly 265 participants. There are 183 solo riders (men’s and women’s) and 68 in the pairs category (34 teams). Apparently, the race sold out extremely quickly this year and the numbers are double what they were in 2020. There are a lot of interesting names in the mix, so it should be a good one to watch. We’ll be offering up some coverage of the event as it unfolds. Stay tuned and read on for details about the route and who to watch…

  • 2021 Badlands

The BADLANDS is non-stop, one-stage ride. And as with other Transibérica events, it follows the rules of self-supported conduct as conceived by the late Mike Hall for the Transcontinental race. There’s no support crew or base-camps, and drafting is prohibited. Riders must follow the official track provided from the start to the finish, although it can can be temporarily abandoned to look for meals, water, or a place to rest. Riders are obliged to carry a location tracker to determine their location, which will be tracked here.

Wheels roll at 8AM on Sunday the 5th, and to complete the challenge and receive a finisher’s medal, riders must cross the finish line by Sunday September 10th at 8PM, leaving them six and a half days to ride the course.

2021 Badlands, Spain
Badlands route illustration by Alex Hotchin

2021 Badlands Route

The 2021 BADLANDS route is about 749 kilometers (465 miles) with over 15,000 meters (~52,000′) of climbing. It’s comprised of about 65% unpaved surfaces that vary from chunky doubletrack to gravel, with a little bit of singeltrack thrown in for good measure. It crosses a diverse array of terrain that ranges from alpine environs in the Sierra Nevada to arid plains on the coast, to water-parched desert in the badlands, which the race organizers claim is the most challenging terrain in Europe. Some of the highlights include the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Gorafe and Tabernas Deserts, and Cabo de Gata Natural Park. The route is comprised of seven sections, although there are no official rest stops or stages.

Section 1: Granada and the Sierra Nevada

The event starts at the main gate of the Palacio de Congresos de Granada, on Sunday September 5th at 08:00. After a hard and technical beginning through the Dehesa del Generalife, the route ascends into the amazing Sierra Nevada, including the Cols of La Argumosa (1290m) and Collado Alguacil (1891m) on Pico Veleta, the highest paved in road in Europe that promises views of Mulhacén (3483m), the highest mountain on the Iberian Peninsula. 1800 meters of elevation gain in the first 40 kilometers will definitely break up the riders.

  • 2021 Badlands
  • 2021 Badlands

Section 2: Hoya de Guadix and Gorafe Desert

After descending Collado Alguacil and climbing again to Collado Bermeja (1576m), the route heads straight into the Hoya de Guadix, a natural plain in the northern part of the province of Granada, with a landscape defined by weather-formed gullies and badlands. After the village of Gorafe (km.142) the route takes a 100 kilometer loop that includes the Gorafe Desert, one the most popular areas of Badlands.

Section 3: Sierra de los Filabres

After leaving the village of Gor (km.274) the route heads into the Sierra de los Filabres mountain range, one of the most remote parts of the entire course. This long climb reaches the highest point at the Calar Alto Observatory (km.349, 2168m).

Section 4: Tabernas Desert and Sierra Alhamilla

From the village of Gérgal (km.390), the route goes into the Tabernas Desert, officially considered the only real desert on the whole European continent, with a semiarid Mediterranean climate, a rainfall less than 250mm per year, and an average temperature over 17°C (high temps in September can reach over 35°C). The omnipresent sand covered gullies and semiarid landscape are widely used as a set for well known films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Conan the Barbarian, and Game of Thrones (Dothraki camps). Just after the village of Tabernas (km.424) the track climbs again across the mountain range Sierra de Alhamilla, reaching the top at Collado Colativí (1306m) before descending to the village of Níjar (km.466).

2021 Badlands

Section 5: Cabo de Gata Natural Park and Almeria

The Cabo de Gata Natural Park is located in the southeast Mediterranean coast and is one of Europe’s most unusual landscapes. The area is characterised by volcanic rock formations, fossil beaches, abandoned villages, and a windswept, barren landscape. From San José the route takes the popular 10-kilometer gravel road ALP-822 along the coast, which includes the Mónsul Beach, popularized by films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Just past the watchtower Torre de la Vela Blanca, the route surrounds the saltwork Las Salinas, and reaches the bustling town of Almería.

  • 2021 Badlands
  • 2021 Badlands

Section 6: Sierra de Gador and the Sea of Plastic

Leaving Almería, the route heads into Sierra de Gádor, a mountain range that lies between the Mediterranean Sea and Sierra Nevada, reaching the highest point at La Lagunilla (1498m). After the village of Felix (km.609), the track goes into one of the most enjoyable parts of the route, with a hilly roads in a steep valley. Far away from the beauty of some of the wild landscapes of the badlands, the “Sea of Plastic” comes into view. This is the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world, covering almost 30,000 hectares, and is considered one of the few man-made structures visible from space.

  • 2021 Badlands
  • 2021 Badlands

Section 7: La Alpujarra

La Alpujarra is a historical region in Andalusia, on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada with an average elevation of 1,200 meters above sea level. This is one of the toughest sections of the route, with an elevation gain of 2,000 meters in just 50 kilometers from the Pantano de Benínar (km.674) until Trevélez (km.725), on a mixture of paved roads and rideable but steep paths. The finish line in is in Capileira

Who To Watch

While many riders are just out to finish the course in a group start format, there are a few big names to follow that will likely be competing for a win, which will make dot-watching the event all the more fun over the next few days. With pro athlete Lachlan Morton in the spotlight last year, BADLANDS has definitely caught the attention of a lot of competitors. Even so, there’s no course record to be broken. It’s only the second running of the event and the route changed since Lachlan won it last year. Still, his time of 43 hours and 30 minutes on the ~700km Badlands 2020 is likely to be on the minds of faster racers this time around.

Names to watch include 40-year-old Sofiane Sehili from Paris, whose legs have probably just now recovered from a big win at the 2021 Silk Road Mountain Race. Sofiane’s having a great year and his ability to pedal for long periods with little to no sleep could put him on the podium of this relatively short event. Ulrich Bartholmös from Germany is also coming off a couple big wins, including the 2021 Transibérica and the 2021 Transpyrenees races. Another name that stands out is 33-year-old Alistair Brownlee from Dewsbury, UK; it will be interesting to see how the triathlete and two-time Olympic gold medal winner handles a challenging multi-day race. Christian Meier, the ex-pro Canadian road cyclist and founder of The Service Course in Girona is another one to watch. Christian scratched during the innagural BADLANDS, so he should be back with a vengeance. Ex-pro road cyclists Paul Voss and Janosch Wintermantel—who both happen to be from Germany—are two more riders who were mentioned. Additionally, Kenyan cyclist Sule Kangangi is in it, who you can find in our recent coverage of the Migration Gravel Race.

There are only 12 solo riders in the “F” (or women’s) category on the race roster, however, making it about 7% of the field. Philippa Battye is in the mix. Just coming off a strong 2nd place women’s finish in a very wet and mucky GBduro, it will be fun to see how Philippa does in the arid Badlands of Spain. Olivia Dillon, the Irish ex-pro three-time national tour winner, should be one to watch, too.

TrackerWe’re planning several updates during this year’s BADLANDS event, so stay tuned. Check out the event Tracker page to follow along on the live tracking map and watch for updates. Find it here.



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