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Centurions brave the heat in Ronda

Cyclists set off from the starting point in the Ronda athletics stadium.
Cyclists set off from the starting point in the Ronda athletics stadium. / V. MELGAR
  • The high temperatures saw a drop-out rate of 30.2% for the 24-hour challenge over the weekend

The heat is always the biggest worry for those who wish to compete in the famous 101-kilometre 24-hour challenge organised by the Spanish Legion in Ronda every year.

In this year's edition, the 22nd in the event's history, those fears were justified. With blazing heat and sunshine bathing the town and its surroundings, 30.2 per cent of runners (3,694 in total) who started the course on Saturday 11 May didn't reach the finishing line.

The number was lower, but still significant, among those aiming to complete the circuit by bike - seven per cent (of 3,239) didn't make it to the ribbon on the Alameda del Tajo. In fact, the majority of those taken to the Serranía hospital had been suffering from some form of dehydration.

The race, which takes in many of the emblematic sites of the area, including the town's bullring, also winds through the scenic towns of the Serranía de Ronda, namely Arriate, Montejaque and Benaoján, and towns in Cadiz province such as Setenil de las Bodegas and Alcalá del Valle.

After the cyclists completed the route, led by José Márquez (3h 50:52) and Rocío Rojas (5h 50:24) in the men's and women's categories, respectively, it was the turn of the runners. Joan Marc Falcó added to his victories in 2017 and 2018, edging out José Antonio Urbaneja by more than seven minutes, with a time of 9h 05:08. Ana María Cerván won the women's category with a time of 10h 53:21.

The last to cross the line on Sunday, just before the 24 hours was up, were Juan Pablo Yusto and Coronel Vicente León Zafra who were presented with medals of their own by winner Falcó.

The event, which brought together 8,500 athletes (including veteran 'Super Paco' dressed, as always, in his traditional Andalusian farmer clothes), continues to grow in popularity with a total of almost 30,000 applicants for this year's challenge.