In Europe, the snow is slowly melting on the high passes, and some of the big guns of international marathon racing have been able to flex their muscles on home soil. Summer is coming! While Australia has a strong marathon racing scene, America has an impressive array of 100 miler races, and South Africa has a well publicised and highly competitive marathon series – Europe is the spiritual home of marathon mountain biking, and really, the Alps and Dolomites are at the heart of it.
With the presentation of the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships 2015 at the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee CONI in Rome this week, the countdown to the biggest race on 27th June truly began – we are now less than 50 days to the Sellaronda Hero which hosts the XCM World Championships.
The World Championships in Val Gardena will host 4,015 racers, who will compete over one of the world’s toughest mountain bike routes. You just have to look at the climbing that the 87km and 60km route involve to understand how hard they are, plus remember that you will rarely be riding below 1500m altitude. The elevation difference in the 87 kilometre route is of 4700 metres and in the 60 kilometre route of 3400 metres. If you need to put this into context, imagine each climb in the Highland Fling was twice as steep, and the race was based out of Perisher Village and only went up from there.
The HERO 2015 will see the UCI World Championship titles assigned over the marathon distance, but in a different race start to the main event. Racers from over 50 countries will be in town for the big event.
The first man to pass the 87 kilometre finishing line and the first woman to cross the 60 kilometre line will have the honour of wearing the rainbow jersey presented by the UCI, the World Cycling Federation.
The race taking place on Saturday 27 June in Selva Gardena will be the third World Championship Marathon which Italy has hosted, after those of 2008 in Villabassa, in the province of Bolzano, and the one held in Montebelluna (Treviso) in 2011. However, the 2013 World Championships were very close by at Kirchberg in Austria.
Great champions to line up.
The cream of the world’s long distance mountain bike elite will be at the starting line of the HERO with just one thing in mind: to win the 2015 world title.
One name which stands out is Jaroslav Kulhavy, Olympic champion in London in 2012 and Marathon World Champion in Pietermaritzburg (RSA) 2014. One who might battle it out with the Czech rider is the Swiss racer Christoph Sauser who has four world titles to his name (cross-country in 2008 and marathon in 2007, 2011, 2013) and an Olympic bronze in Sydney in 2000. Also a contender will be Leonardo Paez, the Colombian rider having won the last three Hero races and who makes no secret of his intention to win the 2015 race as well. He was 3rd in 2013 on similar terrain in Kirchberg.
As for the ladies all eyes are pointed on Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle, as she has most titles anyway, including Olympic gold from Athens in 2004 and as many as 5 marathon world titles. Another to watch out for is another Olympic champion, German Sabine Spitz, who won gold in Peking in 2008. These two Olympians will have to fend off the challenge of Danish biker Annika Langvad, the reigning World Champion, and the British rider Sally Bigham,who won the Hero in 2013, and is riding at full strength after blood flow problems in 2014.
For further information please visit the event website.