This weekend, the eyes of the Marathon MTB racing world will be on Cascades MTB Park in Pietermartizberg. With the men’s and women’s Marathon World Champion titles being decided on 29th June, it’s worth looking at who, from the 167 starters, will take home the stripey jersey. Earlier this week, we looked over the 136 men on the men’s start list and outlined the main protagonists who could ride away with the win, have a stand out performance, or influence the result.
The women’s race is a smaller field, with just 31 women entered. But it is likely to be a more exciting race, as the outright favourite for the men’s title is Christophe Sauser – there’s not one women you could solidly bet on to win. It’s been said by one competitor that the Swiss women’s team could fill the entire podium. And it’s not that far fetched, with Esther Suss, current Swiss XCM Champ Ariane Kleinhans and Milena Landtwing all accomplished racers, with Suss a previous title holder. Kleinhans is a Stellenbosch local, so knows the conditions, and has more experience on the style of terrain that a marathon course in South Africa covers.
Annika Langvad (Denmark) and Sabine Spitz (Germany) are such talents that they can come in and score the title, even on the back of mostly XCO events. Langvad has done just that twice previously. And of course Teresa Hurikova showed the form she has this month with an outstanding performance at the European XCM Championships, where she won just a fortnight ago. Sally Bigham was 2nd in 2013 and is a marathon and stage race specialist. Few race, train and prepare with such a considered approach as Sally. The Topeak-Ergon rider is a favourite for the race, but naming her an outright favourite from such a compact and strong field would be foolhardy.
Australia knows Jenny Fay (Ireland) very well, from leading the majority of Australian Marathon races, mostly while wearing her Irish National XCM Champions clothing. Fay ventured back to Europe last summer and rode aggressively at the Grand Raid before winning the Val di Fassa Bike. With a 7th at Euro XCM Champs, Jenny will be out to make a difference.
The Val di Fassa Bike (Jenny Fay is at 3:55 in – but the soundtrack is awesome the whole time)
Jenny has been in South Africa long enough to get acquainted with the course, and said “I rode a lot of the middle section of the course. Its style is similar to Australian XCM’s with a lot of dusty fire roads and long climbs but more open sections through plantations and some scenery similar to the rolling European hills.”
“Its got everything for every rider to capitalize their strengths on. I think the women’s race will be more open than the men’s, and I think there are about ten women that can win this race – it is very competitive and there are a lot of women that have similar capabilities to win. It will be close!”
Mel Anset will be racing for Australia, and although it is her first Marathon World Champs, she was racing at the Cyclocross World Champs already this year. Anset is the current Australian XCM Champion. Jennie Stenerhag from Sweden could also factor in the race, but will be there alone. This does make a difference, and the Swiss women’s team, like the men’s, could work well towards achieving the win if they race as a team. Notably, Italy have no women attending the race, which says more about the level of women’s sponsorship than the quality of their riders. South Africa have flooded the event with women, like men, but it seems unlikely any of them will stand on the podium, but they will all race strongly in front of a home crowd. Spectators eager to catch all the action live can access Cascades MTB Park for free on Sunday 29 June while all the action will be streamed live via the event website, www.mtbworldchamps.co.za