Registration for the race takes place at the Mogador Kasbah Hotel and Spa. That's 5km's from our accommodation. Practically speaking it would have been easier to have stayed at the Mogador but it was only identified as the race start venue after we had booked at Riad Bousskri. Roger tried changing it. He sent an email asking the Riad if they would waive the cancellation fee. Their response was immediate and emphatic—They deducted the full amount for our stay from his credit card. Later he got a message to the effect, "It's low season we need the money".
As it turns out staying close to the Medina proved to be more of an authentic experience than staying at the hotel. The hotel would have been the same as staying in any 3 star hotel or Holiday Inn anywhere in the world. There is nothing uniquely Moroccan about it.
The logistics with registration are challenging. Firstly, we need to get our bike boxes and bags to the Mogador on Friday afternoon. These will then be transferred to the finish venue. The truck doing that transfer, so we are told, will be leaving at 6pm on Friday. The race starts at 9am the following day. We are 5km's away so we can't simply tote our kit over to the the hotel. We can take a taxi but then we need to taxi back as our bikes will be back at the Riad.
We come up with another plan. We organise a taxi. When it arrives we load our baggage and one bike. Another rider, James Dennis, is staying at the same Riad. He goes with the taxi. Roger and I scamper over to the Mogador on our bikes where James is waiting with our stuff.
The ride over goes a lot smoother than our first attempt 2 days ago. It's hair raising riding on the wrong side (for us) trying to merge with the other cars, motorcycles and bicycles. We are getting used to the chaos and have mostly figured out which side we need to yield to when roads merge and how to assert ourselves in the traffic without the risk of getting pancaked.
Registration isn't the slick organisation that we have become accustomed to with our 1000+ entrant races back home. There are only around 190 of us and it's a little slower than we are accustomed to but it's personal and everyone is chilled. The "race office" personnel consist of Nelson Trees the chief instigator, his mum and dad, his girlfriend and a handful of his buddies. I'm starting to develop a feel for this cabal of cyclists who go by the name bike-packers. They are really chilled.
My first assessment of a bike-packer, in this race at least, is someone who rides a gravel bike loaded up with the full range of Apidura bike bags. They probably have at least one tattoo. There's a good chance that the guys have facial hair and a head of hair that is substantially longer than would be acceptable in a Wall Street boardroom.
We move from station to station, registering, getting our individually numbered caps, pick up spot trackers, get our bikes inspected, pick up a brevet card and hand in our bags. That done we only have our bikes and the clothes we are wearing as we have handed in all our other belongings. We need to get back to our accommodation in this kit and return in it the next morning. I don't understand why we couldn't simply hand in our bags before the race start in the morning. Anyway, it is what it is.
Registration done we are milling around waiting for Nelson to give the race briefing. While we wait I can't help noticing how athletic all the other riders look. I'm feeling rather intimidated. There's a guy in front of us who has a muscle that's drooping over his knee cap — I think the muscle is called the Vastis Medialis. I ask Roger if it looks normal. We can't decide. The guy moves his leg and the muscle snaps back into place. Darn, that's one gnarly set of legs. And there are a good number of legs like that scattered about the room. It turns out that droopy muscle guy is an ex pro-cyclist. My puny legs are getting a complex.
Nelson is both eloquent and laidback. He gives us an overview of the race and explains that the cutoff for CP1 has been extended from 7am on Sunday to midday. The reason, he explains, is the route off the mountain is "a bit challenging, even in daylight. So if you decide to sleep short of the last 5 kilometre descent you'll have ample time to make your way down in the morning."
Hmm. That's worth thinking about. CP1 is at 126 km. The race starts at 9am. It'll be dark at 8 pm. That's... 11 hours to do 126 km before dark... 11.5 km/h average. Otherwise sleep over and make it down in the morning. That gives you 27 hours to beat the cutoff. That's an average speed of 4.7km/h. Okay. It seems it's going to be an interesting first day of riding.
Briefing done we pedal back to the Riad. It's going to be an early night. It's not that we need to bank any sleep. It's just that in our part of town it seems the best option for 3 guys dressed in spandex.