If you've ever tried riding a bike through a small patch of sand you'll know it's not the most agreeable of surfaces to pedal over. Now imagine racing across not only hundreds of miles of desert terrain, but up thousands of feet in elevation at the same time. That's the harsh reality for the battle-hardened cyclists taking part in the Gaes Titan Desert race, where the Moroccan desert provides a spectacular backdrop to an incredible off-road adventure.

Now in its 13th instalment, the Gaes Titan Desert race sends riders on a 620-km (385-mile) journey up and down (but mostly up) the ravines of the Atlas Mountain range in northern Morocco. The elevation gain totals 7,500 m (25,000 ft) in all, but is thankfully spread out over six days.

The route takes riders up along high-mountain peaks, through spectacular gorges, and across seemingly endless sand dunes. The adventure includes nights spent sleeping in the desert, with riders needing to carry the equipment required to perform maintenance on their bikes.

While sections take place along rocky tracks, others see riders contend with very sandy surfaces through the dunes, including the final leg coming into the finish line in the town of Maadid.

Claiming first place in the 2018 event out of 612 riders was Spain's Josep Betalú, who earned his third straight title with a finish time of 24 hours, two minutes and 21 seconds. Taking out the women's event was fellow Spaniard Ramona Gabriel, with a finish time of 28 hours,33 minutes and two seconds.

Of course, all this craziness makes for some magnificent imagery. Jump on into the gallery for a look at all the action.

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