June 29, 2014 – and the Marathon World Championships finally leave Europe! What better place to land than in South Africa, a nation with plenty of mountain bike made ex-Euro’s, and a place with a history of successful premium event management with the ABSA Cape Epic, and specifically World Cups and a previous World Championship in Cascades MTB Park, Pietermaritzberg,
The course was designed by Nick Floros, and given the thumbs up by UCI Technical delegate, Simon Burney.
“Nick has done another great job and produced something really unique. To be honest I think that the area is more suited to marathon riding than it is to cross country and we were confident in Nick’s ability and we were sure that he was going to put it together well.”
A cross country course and a marathon course are laid out differently and Burney explains that when setting a marathon course out there is less room for personal style.
“A marathon course takes shape according to the surroundings as opposed to a cross country course that is built. You can easily see Nick’s style in his cross country layout but he has done well in laying this marathon course out.”
After rain on Saturday, the course was clear and tacky for the elite races on Sunday. Earlier in the week we profiled the men and women to watch for the race. However there were some changes, notably with Sally Bigham (silver in 2013) pulling out with a virus.
Like any XCM Worlds race it was a fast start, and by the time the men’s race reached the first feedzone of their 95km race, it was 2012 Champion Periklis Ilias leading the front group of race favourites including Jaroslav Kulhavy and Urs Huber, plus Kristian Hynek and Christophe Sauser.
By the 3rd checkpoint it was Kulhavy and Huber setting the pace, with the others trailing. This included Paulissen, Lakata, Wawak, Mennen, Vastaranta, Ferreira and those mentioned above. Karl Platt was already out with illness. Samuele Porro out with a broken handlebar! Tim Bohme was out soon after. The women’s race started 45 minutes later, and soon Milena Landtwing was out. The race was taking a heavy toll.
By the portage section, a select group of five had formed: Huber, Kulhavy, Paulissen, Sauser and Ilias. Three of them previous XCM World Champions.
By check point five, it was clear Sauser had a problem with his bike. he had lost 3.5minutes, but his team support said his bike was running smoothly when he came through the next tech/feed zone – although he dumped all his spares in a bid to drop weight for the chase back on. Notably, Sauser was racing a Specialized S-works hardtail, while his Specialized team mate Kulhavy rode the Epic. And at about the 50km point – Kulhavy was in front. He had a minute lead.
After the race, Kulhavy admitted he didn’t know Sauser was behind, but pushed on. His lead grew, and it was Ilias in 2nd and Paulissen in third coming into the 2nd half of the race. But something was happening behind. Alban Lakata had sorted out his mechanical mishap and was riding ‘stress free’. He moved into 4th. And Sauser was chasing. He was 9th. By the time they crossed through the event centre for the final 21km loop, Lakata was 2nd, and Sauser 4th, with about 1:30 between them. Could they catch Kulhavy?
Annika Langvad had created a lead in the women’s race – and like Kulhavy it was growing. Sabine Spitz and Tereza Hurikova were both chasing, but it was Spitz who was stronger. Both races now had riders alone, not in small groups at the front. Later on, Ralph Naef was out, and then Kristian Hynek.
Kulhavy just kept on pushing. No bottle on his bike, in a skinsuit – just charging. It was like he was attacking himself.
And coming into the finish, he had a clear lead, finishing in 4:15:58, over 3 minutes ahead of a hard charging Alban Lakata.
Alban rode a brilliant race, explaining that he had to stop for quite some time to untwist his chain after a mechanical. Although he found the course marking ‘average’ he’d loved the track, and promised he was 100% intent on coming back to South Africa for the 2015 Cape Epic.
Sauser crossed for 3rd, and said he was able to see an Austrian skinsuit ahead, and figured it was Alban.
Urs Huber finished 4th, after flatting and repairing the tyre. Jukka Vastaranta was 5th. The aggressive Bartlomiej Wawak of Poland was 6th – a well deserved finish. Full results can be read here.
Annika Langvad finished in 3:50:53, with about 5:30 over Sabine Spitz in second place. As in the men’s race, the first two women were riding full suspension bikes. Tereza Hurikova was 3rd, Esther Suss 4th, and Ariane Kleinhans 5th. The full women’s results can be found here.
Langvad spoke of her race, and her preparation – and what happened in 2013. She now has 3 XCM titles to her name, clearly hunting down the 4 of Gunn-Rita? She also spoke of her ‘Project Black’ Specialized she was riding. Having raced on an Epic at the Cape Epic, it seems to be a women’s specific S-Works Epic model. But no doubt we will find out more later this year. Wheel size looked to be 29″.
Langvad also won a team entry to ‘The Munga’ a 1000km+ non-stop MTB race taking place in South Africa in early December. With $1000000 of prize money on offer, but no categories, it’s an odd incentive. The chances of a women’s team winning are very low.
Check back this week for further reports on the riders and racing of the 2014 XCM World Championships.