The 4th and final day of the Arabian Cycle Epic- Jordan was judging by the smiles crossing the finish line, the highlight stage of the whole tour. Riders began this morning at the Shoubak castle which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century. This sits in a strategic position for defensive purposes which also means stunning scenery abounds. The night previous we all stayed in a hotel next door to the castle after the bus transfer from the Dead Sea. Breakfast in a bedouin tent overlooking the surrounding valleys really aded to the already stunning experience factor in this tour.
On the cards was no easy stroll for the riders whom were pretty exhausted from yesterdays Queen Stage. 56km and 1500m of climbing finishing at the ancient city of Petra would lead us to the finale of this phenomenal stage race. But before getting there we first had to ascend to the highest point in Jordan over 1800m asl, which today was still covered in banks of snow. From here the course could only head in one direction- down! A stunning, fast and well cambered road descent took riders into the village of Wadi Musa which serves the now famous tourist destination of Petra, from here we continued on sealed road to the finish line nestled in a cavern of rocks and caves situated at a back entrance to Petra. Petra was in ancient times home to over 60 000 people as it sat on a key point on a trade route during the time of the Nabatean kingdom around the time of 300BC. One of the big assets of this race is the opportunity to explore and learn about such incredibly interesting places. After todays final stage the race organisation have organised a guided tour of Petra for all the riders of which is worthy of an entire report in itself. Some video highlights courtesy of Mike Blewitt’s handlebars below :
Alas, as well as these bonus experiences there was also a race to be won today! With Belgian rider Jan De Henau having the overall more or less wrapped up after the big climbing in stage 2 there was still racing between those duking it out for the overall minor podium positions. Also stage honours were also on the line. The selection was made early including marathonmtb.com team riders Mike Blewitt and Justin Morris whom were of course joined by the race leader Jan, 3rd place GC Christoph Cords along with 2 riders from the Jordanian national team. As has became standard for this tour De Henau put the hammer down on a climb approximately 10km in and this time was joined by Jordanian rider Ameen Saed. These two put in a gallant effort working together for the remainder of the stage. Sayid would take the win followed by Henau and your author (Justin Morris). Team rider Mike Blewitt took the sprint for fourth ahead of Cords who rounded out the top 5 in the stage. This leaves Jan De Henau with a convincing victory in the overall followed by myself and Cords rounding out the overall podium. The lone female competitor Lindsey Burst from South Africa took the spoils as the best female rider on the course.
Results aside the course today was one of the best rides many competitors had ever done! The scenery was completely unique to anything I have ridden before and really emphasises this race’s deserved spot as a ‘bucket list’ event for your stage race calendar!