The Titan events are put on by a Spanish company that specializes in endurance races all over the world. The Titan Tropic Cuba is the Second Titan MTB stage race that finishes on a Cuban beach. After the long continued success of Titan Desert in Morocco, Organizer Felix Dot (an ex Dakar racer) and company decided to begin anew in the Caribbean. This five-day stage race took participants through the west part of the island from Havana through the countryside, rainforest, farmland, and beaches. Racers camped together by night, with full SAG, food, water, and transportation support during the day. The sections varied from long pot-holed highways to short single-track and rutty dirt roads.
My unexpected journey to Cuba began at Interbike 2016. Representatives of Titan Tropic were there recruiting American industry and media to help trail-blaze Cuba for cyclists worldwide. Indeed, trail creation is a very important role of the Titan Tropic. As a nation in transition by global influence, it is no surprise that Cuba has a tiny cycling community and an almost nonexistent MTB community. Trails throughout the country have a variety of uses, but Mountain Bikes are not even considered when allocating usage. For my first trip to the Caribbean, I was beyond lucky for the opportunity to see a country like Cuba fully supported by Titan Tropic.
Fast forward to December 2, 2016, and I find myself up before sunrise waiting for my LAX shuttle on a windy winter night. That morning, I met my traveling companions, Roy from the LA Times, Lynette from Bicycle Retailer, and Hall-of-Famer Tinker Juarez, who all turned out to be awesome, but easily made me feel like the small fish in the big pond. A number of journalists were invited to cover the MTB endurance stage race, with this writer opting out to capture Cuba’s largest MTB event from the BICYCLIST perspective. After overcoming a small visa obstacle in Mexico City, our place flew to La Habana (Havana) where we landed late at the José Martí International Airport.
Our first nights in Cuba were in La Habana. Racers enjoyed hotel rooms for the next four nights because they would be sharing an open field with 150 other cyclists in nicely-lined rows of minimal tents. This is the Titan Tropic. Almost 500 km of total mileage for the week, and the famous gray tents to sleep in. Three meals a day were provided by the event, consisting of mostly traditional Cuban cuisine. As a plant-based-eater, I relied on rice, pasta, bread, fruit, beans, yucca, and potatoes for meals, and I brought along some Clif bars and trail mix for snacks. Each stage had multiple rest stops with food and drinking water, which turned out to be nearly a commodity in Cuba.Those in the MTB nirvana that is the US West would be hard-pressed to call the Titan Tropic and MTB race. The first few stages were nearly all pot-holed roads and dirt country roads – a gravel grinder by SoCal standards – but the stages finished with some steep single track, making a mountain bike necessary for the whole race. Many participants used hardtails (ubiquitous in Europe) with many full suspension riders as well. The event even featured a Fat Bike category for the handful that were passionate enough to bring them.
Although not a traditionally technical route, this style of bike tour is actually very common for international events through Central and South America and offers a one-of-a-kind tour of the isolated Cuban culture. Each year Titan Tropic continues to work with local communities to build new trail infrastructure to incorporate into the race, helping to create a recreational bicycle community and improving the event routes over the years. Many racers brought their families, who followed the race via bus, all organized by Titan Tropic.