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Conquering the sand dunes with e-bikes

Riders took on the desert sands and river oases of southern Morocco for the E-Bike Desert Challenge. Electrical bikes are a game changer for the sport.

Posted: Jan. 14, 2019 6:46 PM
Updated: Jan. 14, 2019 6:46 PM

Biking on the sand is hard enough but imagine doing it for five days across the desert.

This was the challenge for competitors in the inaugural E-Bike Desert Challenge, where riders cycle across southern Morocco, using electrically driven motors to power them through the golden sand and river oases.

In baking temperatures, participants must find the best line on the sand dunes in order to scale the course efficiently, using the extra power when needed.

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So take a bow Robert Adams, who at the age of just 15 was recently crowned champion of the E-Bike 25 class, which permits 250W bikes that can reach 25 km/h.

"The navigation is a skill in itself, I think that's what makes this event so unique," Briton Adams told CNN Sport as he reflected on his win.

"You could be the fastest rider there but if your navigation isn't up to scratch you're not going to do well."

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Adams' passion for cycling started in a conventional manner -- enjoying riding a classic mountain bike with friends and family -- but his desert experience has unlocked a passion for the electric life.

"It just adds a whole other level to this, as it allows you to go faster, further and with much more fun than if you were on a conventional bike," the teenager said, who competed in the event alongside his dad.

Alone for much of the race, Adams lent on his father's advice and GPS tracking to plot his winning route -- the teenager finished 30 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.

"Just traveling through Morocco is an experience in itself. At first, it seems very different to home and very busy," Adams said.

"The further you go from the big cities the friendlier and more interesting the people seemed to become."

The race also incorporates two other categories -- the 450W-class and the open-class, which allows bikes of up to 2000W.

Organizers hope the event will continue to grow and they expect more than 300 riders to take part in the coming years.

READ: D'Ambrosio wins thrilling Marrakesh ePrix

Morroco has been embracing electric power. The country is home to the world's largest concentrated solar power farm -- the Noor Complex shimmers on the edge of the Sahara Desert -- and expects to provide electricity to more than one million people.

On Saturday there was another display of electric power in Morroco at the Marrakesh ePrix -- the second race of the new Formula E season.

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