Annika Langvad won her 5th Marathon World Title today, as Brazilian Henrique Avancini won his first Marathon World Title. Both riders would no doubt have thought the victory in the XCM World Championships was even sweeter after the XCO World Championships in Lenzerheide.
With the courses set as 89km for women and 102km for men, the amount of climbing is where the challenge would lie with 3400m and 4200m of climbing respectively.
The men’s start took off at 9am, and save for a couple of small bingles the real action started on the first steep climb. Waiting at the first feed zone, it was Howard Grotts of the USA who came through first, with Matthias Fluckiger, Henrique Avancini and Daniel Geismayr chasing.
Sure, Grotts did pretty well at the Cape Epic this year… but could he lead XCM Champs from the start? It’s been done before, as recently as 2015 when both the men’s and women’s winners got their leads on the first climb.
The gaps were small though, and there was a steady stream of riders coming into the first feed zone. Australian Dan McConnell had moved up well from his near the back gridding, possibly into the 50s or 60s. Sebastian Jayne was also moving up. Our European Editor Ben Thomas was on a good ride but needed to pull in for air. Ben May was trailing a little, and it’s later been revealed he was sick.
After a bit of a lull, a fresh round of lead motorbikes came, and then it was Annika Langvad – on a hardtail, which she doesn’t ride very often.
Christina Kollman-Forstner followed, then it was a string of who’s who in women’s marathon racing. Dahle-Flesja, Lüthi, Süss, Spitz… but also Włoszczowska.
Kate Courtney was well into the mix as well, keeping the fields deep with XCM and XCO talent.
Holly Harris came through in the top 30, with Imogen Smith not far behind, and Anna Beck just behind Smith.
The only trouble with seeing races from the feedzones is you really don’t see what happens. I moved briefly to feedzone two where there wasn’t a whole lot of change going on. A French rider had pulled out of the women’s race, and a Brazilian was cheerfully riding in what looked like last place. And a German lady was in a light full face – and she could climb. If you’ve done major dental damage in the past… you might opt for a full face too I guess?
The feedzone race was about to get interesting, and I headed up the road to Misurina. Finding a park, grabbing wheels, bottles, spares, and food and running to where we thought the feed would be.
It wasn’t there. It was at the other end of the lake. So I grabbed the wheels, bottles, spares and food and ran back to the car – and took my jacket off, doused in sweat in the horrible (but bright!) national team casual shirt.
The true feed zone was around the corner, and it was a nightmare. A road block to get in, carpark that was a roadblock, then another roadblock where the racers crossed the road into the steep road to the next two feed zones. I tried to park in the crammed lot, got back out and parked near the first road block, grabbing wheels, bottles, spares and food and running in. In the end, it worked out better with our Italian friends managing this feedzone I drove up the hill full gas, after grabbing wheels, bottles, spares and food and running back to the car.
The course was taking a toll and gaps were growing. I saw Karl Platt riding up the road – having pulled out. The next dual feeds was not one feed as suspected, but two. Close enough to be easy to get from one to the other, but not so close you could feed between them.
Still, I settled in to see where the race was at. Langvad was just through, and the top men were gone, about to start the climb to the Tre Cime Lavaredo. It was close at the front of the race, with Avancini, Geismayr and others all in contention. But Langvad had 7 minutes on Kollman-Forstner.
Riders were looking ok, fuelling up in the lumpy feed zone, and getting on with it. The big climb was looming!
Moving to the feed over the road, Dan McConnell went through in a group of three, having moved even further up. Langvad was through and it was Kollman-Forstner and Włoszczowska behind.
Ben Thomas came in pretty cooked, and needed some gels and a banana thrown at him to get moving again. Ryan Standish of the USA (but really, he’s Australian) came in picking up some fresh fluids, and had mvoed about halfway through the field from his start right at the back. Seb Jayne was riding strong and looking really consistent.
Hally Harris came in full of smiles, with Smith in about 12 minutes later, then Beck with a handful of Allen’s lollies and a bottle of coke to fuel up for the run back.
This pretty stayed the same for the finale, and it came to a sprint for the men with Avancini taking the win ahead of Geismayr and Paez, who collected another bronze medal.
Langvad crossed solo after a slip on the final corner, with Austrian Kollman-Forstner in 2nd and Poland’s Maja Włoszczowska in 3rd.
Dan McConnell finished a super strong 23rd, with Seb Jayne in 88th. Ryan Standish was 81st. Ben May pulled out before the Tre Cime climb.
Holly Harris finished in 29th, with Imogen Smith in 37th and Anna Beck in 41st. All epic rides considering this race is NOTHING like any event in Australia.
The 3Epic really delivered on the race, but you’re probably thinking, “Did XCO Short Track winners just win the XCM World Championship?” And yes, they did. But as many people have said, fast is fast. Just about any XCO racer has a good marathon in them, which is reflected in the men’s results, and the riders who make up the women’s top tier. Geismayr is a marathon specialist, so is Kollman. But riders like Langvad and Avancini are some of the handful of the best in the world – fast is fast!