“In a hard-fought race over an extremely tough, muddy, slippery course, and run off in near-constant rain, Urs Huber has claimed the title of Marathon World Champion 2012. An unfortunate Christoph Sauser took second after an untimely mechanical left Huber alone in front. Alban Lakata rounded out the podium in third place.
In the women’s race, it was Sabine Spitz who showed the rest of the field a mud-splattered pair of shoes to take the rainbow stripes. Esther Suss capped a fantastic year for her with a fine silver medal, whilst Sally Bigham surmounted the conditions to grab the final podium spot.”
This was the imagined report I wrote late yesterday evening, trying to gaze into my crystal ball to imagine how the race would pan out. I couldn’t have been more wrong! An initially surprising new men’s marathon world champion was crowned, in the form of Periklis Ilias, one of only two Greek men in the race. I say initially surprising, because with hindsight, it was Ilias who also triumphed in similar, although less outrageous, conditions in the other marathon world series race held on French soil, the Roc Laissagais back in April. Clearly, the physically and technically demanding nature of races held in France suits the 27 year old recent convert from pure XC. The gargantuan German team failed to turn their numerical advantage into a gold medal, and had to settle for a silver delivered by XC racer Moritz Milatz. The final podium spot was taken by Christian Hynek (CZE), the only person on the podium I even mentioned in more than passing in my pre-race preview. Defending champion Christoph Sauser (SWI) did indeed have mechanical problems, though, so I deserve a point for that, and had to settle for fourth place on the day, having fallen as low as 12th during the race. Team GB’s Ben Thomas was unlucky to crash out when chasing a top-50 finish, whilst Tim Dunford managed to keep on rolling to arrive 61st at the finish.
Australian XCM Champion Andy Blair finished in 72nd on the demanding course, just ahead of Dana Weber from the USA. Full results can be viewed on the UCI Website
In the women’s race, Annika Langvad managed the (almost) unprecedented, and defended her title from last year, pushing the only other woman to defend a world marathon title into second place. Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa was heard to comment to other riders on the start line that she had organised the weather just for her, and like Langvad had to come from the back of the grid with no marathon points to her name this year. Esther Suss capped off a fantastic year mixing marathons, XC races and even the Cape Epic with a bronze medal on the day. Other pre-race favourites had issues that ruled them out of overall contention, in particular Sabine Spitz who was brought down in a crash during the opening skirmishes of the women’s race on the fire road to Haute Pierre. The team GB girls did an amazing job, finishing 5th (Sally Bigham), 7th (Jane Nuessli), 13th (Catherine Williamson) and 33rd (Rachel Fenton).
The conditions were nothing short of horrendous. If we play the game of cycling “I have never”, I have a lot of new things to add from today. I have never seen riders stopping every 2km to remove huge gobbets of mud from their bikes. I have never before considered it a good idea to get down a series of switchbacks by pointing my carbon-soled race shoes down the fall line, picking up my bike, and mud-skiing. I have never, never seen jet-washes at every feed station being used by every rider. It was insane. Anyone who finished the race is a hero in my view, and I usually hate people who say things like that.
Here’s hoping it’s dry in Austria in June next year… 29th June – it should be better!