Photos by Wisthaler/Freddy Planinkschek/SellarondaHero
On a crisp summer’s day in the beautiful Val Gardena, the world’s elite assembled. Cool air was puntuated by the whir of tyres on rollers, the smell of pine and alpine flowers was punctuated by the aroma of embrocation. June 27th was the day for the 2015 Marathon MTB World Championship. But also the day for about 5ooo riders to contest the Sellaronda Hero, in a sea of bumbags, bandanas and discarded banana peels.
With women starting at 7:10am for their 60km course (with over 3000m climbing) and men starting 10 minutes later for their 87km and 4700m of climbing. The marathon masses would start behind them.
XCO Stars push the pace
The women’s field was notable for many strong XCO racers in it. Sure, not a big percentage. But some of the riders in the front of the first two XCO rounds were also favourites for this race: namely 2014 champ Annika Langvad, and champion of everything Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja.
The first climb of Dantercepies is incredibly steep, and set much of the order for the front of the race. Dahle-Flesja crossed first, and never had someones wheel to follow from there. Similarly, Langvad crossed in 2nd, and was never really out of that position. Sabine Spitz – the same story in 3rd. There was still little change behind, as Ariane Kleinhans crossed in 4th and was secure in that position.
Sally Bigham was a little further back in 7th, but started to work her way through the field in the next 50+km. Yana Belomoina was overtaken by Bigham and finished 6th.
Lea Davison had a stand out performance for someone I thought was purely XCO, finishing 9th, and Swiss XCM Champ Esther Suess was 7th. The women’s field had 62 riders, which is possibly one of the biggest XCM Championship fields ever, a great sign.
Full results are on Datasport.
Posted by Sellaronda Hero on Saturday, 27 June 2015
Big guns out to play
The men’s race was always going to be massive. Sauser was racking it after the race, Lakata was hungry for another title after so many medals since 2010. Paez had won on the route, so was a favourite. Paulissen was ‘on form’, and in general the start lists were stacked!
Again, the climb up Dantercepies was decisive. While Howard Grotts crested first, Lakata was on his wheel and forced a gap. Behind, a huge group (of sorts) formed, with many other previous XCM champs in it. Sauser, Kulhavy, Paulissen… but also Kaufmann, Paez, Longo and more. It was always a threat.
Lakata stayed on the gas, and out of trouble. At one point Paez reduced the gap a little, and along with Christoph Sauser they were shutting the gap down. But Lakata pushed on, and was clear for the descent from the Duron.
“One of my best race ever!” – Alban LakataOf course we won’t forget our riders who has also shown a good performance. Sally Bigham is a bit disappointed and finished on 5th place, Kristian Hynek and Robert Mennen had a flat and came in on 10th and 26th position. It was a hard fight out there!#ErgonBike #Topeak
Posted by Team Topeak-Ergon on Saturday, 27 June 2015
Sauser pipped Paez for second place, and 2012 champ Periklis Ilias was 4th with Damiano Ferraro riding to a brilliant 5th. Seeing the timing updates of Sauser riding up through the field show what a professional he is, and his presence in elite marathon racing will be missed.
Full results are on Datasport.
The curtain is closing on the XCM Worlds for this year, and we can now look to the race at Laissac for 2016. A remarkably different course. It’s not at altitude, has many climbs instead of 4 huge ones, and may well make for a more open race.
Stay tuned for further stories from the epic battle that was the 2015 XCM Champs.