A MARATHON TEST PIECE

Australian Mountain Bike - - World Champs -

In Aus­tralia we are slowly los­ing true marathon cour­ses, and in­stead we have lap-based cour­ses that don’t re­ally go any­where or of­fer a true ex­pe­ri­ence, save for a few ex­cep­tions. In Europe, the ter­rain and cul­ture al­lows for a marathon moun­tain bike race that tra­verses land­scapes. Routes aren’t con­fined to bike parks, and take in just about any type of sur­face you might imag­ine.

The route for the 2018 UCI Cross-Coun­try Marathon (XCM) World Cham­pi­onships was called the hard­est ever by some – not that any­one thought that was a bad thing. Start­ing in Auronzo di Cadore, in the Dolomites, the route took in steep climbs and loose sin­gle­track des­cents be­fore climb­ing to­wards the WWI fort of Monte Pi­ano, travers­ing alpine mead­ows and trails, then tack­ling the road climb to Tre Cime Lavaredo, pass­ing right be­low the for­ti­fied moun­tains that were the bor­der be­tween Italy and Aus­tria prior to the first World War.

Rid­ers then took on the fa­mous 101 trail, de­scend­ing on old sin­gle­track down the val­ley, with some short climbs and twisty trails once back in the trees. There were slight changes for men and women, and men would race 102km with 4200m of climb­ing, while women were faced with 89km and 3600m of climb­ing.

The fields were stacked with XCO racers and marathon spe­cial­ists, mak­ing for one of the largest XCM World Cham­pi­onship fields ever, with over 180 men and al­most 80 women. Aus­tralia had 3 rid­ers in each race, in­clud­ing 2018 XCM Na­tional Cham­pion Anna Beck. Dan McCon­nell, Seb Jayne, Holly Har­ris and Imo­gen Smith were all back­ing up from Len­z­er­heide, just one week ear­lier.

In the men’s race the front group was lit, with Howard Grotts, Matthias Flueck­iger, Hen­rique Avancini, Daniel Geis­mayr, Kris­tian Hynek, Sa­muele Porro and more all forc­ing the pace. In the women’s race, An­nika Lang­vad rode away on the first climb – and never looked back.

The course took it’s toll, with Aus­tralian Ben May one of many who suc­cumbed to the pace which didn’t treat him kindly as he bat­tled a lin­ger­ing in­fec­tion. Jayne and McCon­nell rode up the field from their start po­si­tions near the back, as did Amer­i­can Ryan Stan­dish (who calls Alice Springs home).

A small group came to the line in the men’s race, with Avancini sprint­ing to vic­tory ahead of marathon spe­cial­ist Daniel Geis­mayr of Aus­tria, with Hec­tor Leonardo Paez from Colom­bia col­lect­ing an­other Bronze.

“I knew I was in good shape but also aware I was an out­sider,” said Avancini. “In or­der to best play my cards, I tried to break the pace of the marathon rid­ers and I think I made it. I don’t have a favourite dis­ci­pline: I feel a biker first of all, and dur­ing this sea­son I’ve tried to show it. By all means, I didn’t ex­pect to close the year with a world ti­tle”. Dan McCon­nell fin­ished 23rd while Seb Jayne was 88th.

Lan­gavd con­tin­ued to lead, even af­ter the long de­scent off Tre Cime. Aus­trian Christina Koll­man-Forset­ner lead the chase, with Kate Court­ney, Ar­i­ane Luethi, Es­ther Suess, Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja, Maja Wloszc­zowska and more right be­hind. But they couldn’t catch the Dane, who won solo nearly 5 min­utes ahead of Koll­man-Forstener and Wloszc­zowska.

“It was re­ally tough, for sure the most se­lec­tive race I’ve ever took part in. I tried to be ag­gres­sive since the very first climb and I was sur­prised I was al­ready with no ri­vals since the be­gin­ning,” said Lang­vad.

The Aus­tralians fared very well in the bru­tal race, with Holly Har­ris com­ing 29th, Imo­gen Smith 37th, and Anna Beck 41st.

Smith, who placed 20th in Lais­sac 2 years ago said “That race made Lais­sac look like a pool party,” and with race times 25% longer than in Lais­sac, and al­most 50% longer than last year in Sin­gen, it’s clear that the va­ri­ety of marathon rac­ing is part of the chal­lenge – and the ap­peal. Next year the race heads to Graechen, Switzer­land, where the course will run for ap­prox­i­mately 90km and take in well over 4000m of climb­ing.

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