After the flat out and fast race in Singen in 2017, the 2018 cross-country marathon (XCM) World Championships head back to the hills. And not just any hills, but to the Italian Dolomites where the race is attached to the 3Epic. The Dolomites have mountains that rise steeply from alpine meadows, towns nestle in the valleys and mountain refuges are in the high passes. Serpentine roads trace a line up the passes and the trails take over to the higher regions and steeper slopes. The Dolomites really are mountains you think could only exist in your imagination.
The Dolomites last had a UCI XCM World Championship in 2015, when the Sellaronda Hero hosted the event. With long, steep climbs both the men’s and women’s races were decided early on. This is a stark difference to the race in Singen which favoured riders staying in groups and some road tactics, or Laissac which was a varied course of great trails, plus hard climbs and technical descents.
In the 2017 3Epic race, many contenders for the 2018 XCM World Championships attended, and it was clear that like in 2015 – the race would be decided on the climbs.
The race goes from ‘the lake to the sky’, and this is clear in the course profile. Starting at about 860m in Auronzo, the courses top out at close to 2300m.
Analysing the 3Epic course for XCM World Championships
With 110km for men and 97km for women, the races tackle 3600m and 4500m of climbing respectively. Some might take offence that the women’s race is shorter than the men’s. But this has become standard for the UCI XCM World Championships, as it creates a more even event between genders, with a similar winning time. In this case, it might be about 4:15-4:30 in 2018. For the elite women who are faster over a longer distance and time it might be a disadvantage, but it’s clear that the UCI want races to be contained to less than 5 hours.
About half the route is forest roads, with 22% paths, 17% singletrack and 10% asphalt. But what does that look like in the Dolomites?
Typically, it means time lower in the valleys will be on gravel roads or sealed road, with improved paths (like a cycleway, but gravel) on the way out and connecting valleys, with singletrack descents off the top of passes and sometimes over the top.
It means we are likely to see riders on lightweight hardtails, with wide-range 1x gearing. The climbing will likely decide the race, but Dolomiti trails are never easy, so it can’t be assumed that only the best climber can win.
Race options at the 3Epic for non-World Championship riders
Thankfully there are race options for non-elite racers as well, which helps make the 3 days of 14-16 September a big festival. On Sunday there is an 87km race with 3100m of climbing and a 75km race with 1950m of climbing. You can get full details on the race website.
Who can win the 2018 XCM World Championships?
Who knows at this point. There are riders who feature again and again on the podium. Riders like 2017 champions Annika Langvad and Alban Lakata. it could also be the year that Leonardo Paez wins gold. We really need to see how people’s seasons are looking in 2018 before making such predictions. But riders like Samuele Porro, Ariane Luthi, Sally Bigham and more will be worth watching.