The XCM Worlds changes location every year, and is attached to another successful marathon. This creates variety – but except for a running in Norway, all the other years have been pretty close to one another! As was suggested in Part one though, most top Marathon racers are around the European alpine regions. And so, the 2013 edition takes place at the KitzAlpBike Festival, which features other events besides the Marathon. There is a hill climb time trial, a Bike Fashion show (yes, really), kids races, and a cross country race.
The Marathon is the key event, and more so because of the World Champs this year. 141 men and 66 women are in Brixental, Tirol to represent their country on the world stage. The other races at the KitzAlpBike also run, bit with staggered start times. This is done to prevent a ‘hobby’ rider from influencing the result by being traffic on the course. More on that later. The KitzAlpBike is a ‘typical’ Austrian marathon with seemingly endless climbing, and sharp descents to bring you back down. The men will complete all those loops below, the women don’t do the black one.
The distance and climbing are different for the men’s and women’s fields – and this is the norm. The UCI have set standard lengths that they expect a Marathon (XCM) race to fall in for men and women. In this case, men will race 94km with 4400m of vertical ascent, and the women will race 85km and 3700m of vertical ascent.
Starting in Kirchberg, it’s a flat run out of town. The men start at 8:00am, and women at 8:30am – so there should be little overlap except perhaps at the end when the routes converge.
Once through Brixen im Thale, the course points up, and continues to do so until the Choralpe ski station. The first tech/feed is just after this point. The climb is on good gravel roads the whole way up, except the last section that goes straight up a ski slope. It’s rideable, but if someone dabs in front of you it is likely that you will too.
And now the descent starts, just mildly though. Once you ride past the Kreuzjoch and the small ‘see’ there, the descent proper starts. The single track begins, and in typical Alpine fashion sometimes the best line is on the trail, other times it is out of the rut and next to it.
With some more gravel roads, the descent moves back to single track with a hard right hand corner, and some steeper grades. Double and triple down arrows are out, but even in the wet it was easy to clear. The last piece of single track at the bottom is the muddiest, but has held up well despite incessant rain.
Back in the valley, it’s farm roads and road down to Kirchberg, before the long climb to Ehrenbach. If you follow the course map, the men’s and women’s course diverge, as men do the black loop as well.
The descent has some slippery sections, not surprisingly given the amount of water running down them, as shown in the next two photos taken by Ben Thomas (GBR) from the Black loop.
From here, it’s onto the Pink loop which climbs again, then drops into the valley, before a switch back good quality climb for the last descent. As Ariane Kleinhans said “keep something in reserve” as the last descent is probably the most technical one.
And this is where it could get interesting. The start time of the “extreme” distance KitzAlpBike marathon is at 11am. With 56km and 2700m climbing, the winning time could be about 2:45, so a finish about 1:45pm for the winner. The “Medium Plus” also starts at the same time of 11am, and both these races use the same final descent. There is a good chance that traffic from these races may overlap with the championship event. Relative speeds will dictate whether this actually happens, and whether it’s the front of the field or the back, but courtesy from the hobby riders needs to be paramount. If we were to predict a winning race time of 4:30 hours for the women, that has them descending just before 1pm. So ahead of the “Extreme” distance race, but perhaps not the “medium plus” race.
With persistent rain at the start of the week, the course is still in brilliant shape – but the water on some descents could catch out tired riders. So far the weather forecast is predicting clearer weather on Thursday, some more rain on Friday, and clear weather on Saturday with a maximum of 14 degrees. In reality, it should be perfect for racing, and the course will certainly create a deserving winner.
For more information on the race and the course, see the KitzAlpBike website.