Tailwind heaven: Moroccan one-day race tops 56km/h average speed

Strong Saharan winds propel riders at Grand Prix Sakia El Hamra

UAE rider leads the pack in the 2018 Dubai Tour
Ahmed Al Mansoori leads the breakaway in the 2018 Dubai Tour.
(Image credit: Getty)

Moroccan 1.2 race Grand Prix Sakia El Hamra was ridden at full tilt on Thursday, with the winner recording an astonishing average speed in excess of 56km/h. 

UAE-born Ahmed Al Mansoori claimed the honours on the day, completing the 140km course at 56.187km/h (34.91mph) and finishing in under two and a half hours.

The race, held on one road between the cities of Laayoune and Boujdour, counted just over 300m of elevation gain. It was also characterised by strong winds as the peloton hurtled south along the Western Sahara coastline.

“Crosswind made it a fast and hectical race,” wrote German team Embrace The World in an Instagram story. 

Dutch rider Jarri Stravers, who finished eleventh, titled his Strava file “fastest race ever”, adding “sun, sea, sand and wiiiiinds” in his race description.

Despite the breakneck speed of the Moroccan GP, it is still only the second fastest race so far this season. That title is held by stage eight of July’s Vuelta Ciclista a Venezuela, in which Team Corratec’s Stefano Gandin averaged 56.799km/h over 105km.

The current record for the fastest race longer than 200km, also known as the Ruban Jaune, is held by former world champion Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian became the first person to beat the 50km/h benchmark in 2019, benefitting from a strong tailwind on stage 17 of the Vuelta a España to clock an average speed of 50.63km/h. 

Speaking after the race, Gilbert said: “I think it’s a stage that will stay in the history books because of the way we rode.

"At some point we were doing 75km/h on the flat," he added. "I had a 54x11 and I was spinning all the time. In 17 years as a pro, I don’t think I’ve ever done that. It was really, really crazy."

The Ruban Jaune has been won more often than not at Paris-Tours thanks to the French one-day race's direction and helpful October winds blowing the race along.

Although there is no official record for the fastest road race, Tom Boonen once bettered all of the above mentioned speeds at the Tour of Qatar, travelling at 56.816km/h on the fourth stage of the race’s 2014 edition. “I have never seen a stage this fast,” Trek Factory Racing DS Dirk Demol said at the time. 

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