UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships: symbolic race for Sauser
At 38 years old, Christoph Sauser has one of the most impressive track records in the history of mountain bike. The Swiss rider started off as a downhill specialist, notably participating in the 1993 UCI World Championships in Métabief. But his career really took off on the cross-country circuits. Bronze medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, double UCI World Cup winner (2004 and 2005) including 12 race victories, then 2008 World Champion, he moved away from cross-country at the end of the 2012 season to concentrate on long distance. Today he is triple World Champion in the specialty (2007, 2011, 2013), something which no rider before him has achieved.
The man from Sigriswil, a village in the Berne region, faces a very special challenge: for the Swiss athlete spends part of the year in South Africa, next to Stellenbosch and over the years has developed close ties with this country. He is even at the origin of a charitable association, Songo.info, which uses cycling to improve the sort of children living in townships. To win the Worlds in his country of adoption would be a poignant symbol: “I am in the shape of my life. The Worlds are the main goal of my season. There is
nothing more amazing that that moment you are on the podium and you receive the jersey. This race is as if I was riding at home,” confides Sauser.
After BMX (2010) and mountain bike (2013), Pietermaritzburg welcomes its third UCI World Championships. The city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal has also been a UCI World Cup venue since 2009.
Several former World Champions will also take the start, such as Switzerland’s Ralph Näf (2006), the Belgian Roel Paulissen (2008, 2009) and the Greek Ilias Periklis (2012). Who will be the winner at the end of the 95km course?
Women: Who will succeed Dahle?
Gunn-Rita Dahle has chosen not to defend her marathon world title. The Norwegian star is currently in Livigno, Italy, training for the second part of the season. Eight years after her victory in Rotorua, New Zealand, she dreams of reclaiming the Olympic cross-country rainbow jersey in front of her home crowd in Hafjell in September.
In her absence, the race in Pietermaritzburg will be more open than ever. Denmark’s Annika Langvad, winner in 2011 and 2012 would appear to be the best placed for victory. Winner of the mythical Cape Epic at the beginning of the season, Langvad will be up against the new European Champion Tereza Hurikova (CZE). Then there is England’s Sally Bigham, silver medallist last year, who could just ride the race of her life to become the first British winner of a UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships.
Others to look out for in the list of favourites include Switzerland’s Ester Süss and Germany’s Sabine Spitz, who won the title in 2009 and 2010.
Racing will be streamed live on the organiser’s official website from 7.55am (CET and local time) Sunday.