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Sun and heat at the mountain bike marathon world championships in Italy didn’t keep racers from setting a fast pace on Sunday.
For the second time in his career Christoph Sauser of Switzerland won the rainbow jersey in the MTB marathon, clocking a time of 4hrs 24mins 48secs on the 115.7km (72mi) course with 2,860m (9,300ft) of elevation gain. The men set down an average speed of 26.22km/h (16.2mph).
It was a surprise winner in the women’s contest, with Denmark’s Annika Langvad taking the win in 4:20:33 on the female course that measured 98.3km (61mi) and had some 2,290m (7,500ft) of climbing. The average pace for the women’s field was 22.64km/h (14mph).
In the beginning of the 100-strong men’s race, the Italian National Team controlled the pace. At the 40km mark the peloton split and a group of 30 riders was left. The decisive moment came at km 70 with four riders attacking: Christoph Sauser (Switzerland, Julien Absalon (France), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Repbulic) and Tim Böhme (Germany).
Sauser and Kulhavy, who are teammates on the Specialized trade team, survived the break, while Mirko Celestino of Italy closed up on Böhme and Absalon. A little while later Sauser made his solo run towards the rainbow jersey.
“I am impressed by the huge crowds. I think this is one of the biggest worlds I’ve ever seen,” said Sauser, who won the marathon rainbow jersey in 2007.
He said the crucial moment came when there were four riders in front.
“I felt good all the time and I have to thank my teammates,” Sauser said.
The silver medal went to Kulhavy and bronze to Celestino.
Early on defending MTB marathon champ Esther Süss of Switzerland made the pace, with Italian Serena Calvetti and England’s Sally Bigham on her back.
Nearing the final third of the race at km 71 Ariane Luethi of Switzerland was chased down by four women: Sabine Spitz and Elisabeth Brandau of Germany, Süss and Annika Langvad of Denmark. At that point, veteran Dahle Flesjaa of Norway was dropped. Langvad attacked but Spitz and Süss sat on her wheel. But the two veterans didn’t have the legs to catch the new world champion, Langvad, as she crossed the line.
“I know to be a little bit of a surprise for some people,” Langvad said, “but I just felt good and strong throughout the whole race, so that I really believed I could make this.”
The silver medal went to German Sabine Spitz and bronze to Swiss Esther Süss.
The top American woman was Pua Mata, who finished in the top-10 in eighth. Mata finished seventh at the 2009 MTB marathon worlds, which was the highest placement of any American at that distance.
Women’s Brief Results
1. LANGVAD Annika DEN19840322 DENMARK 04:20:33
2. SPITZ Sabine GERMANY +01:56
3. SÜSS Esther SWITZERLAND +03:23
4. SUNDSTEDT Pia FINLAND +05:32
5. BRANDAU Elisabeth GERMANY +05:34
6. BIGHAM Sally GREAT BRITAIN +08:53
7. DAHLE FLESJAA Gunn-Rita NORWAY +11:15
8. MATA Monique Pua USA+11:51
9. SÖLLNER Birgit GERMANY+13:05
10. GAESSLER Nina GERMANY +16:32
Men’s Brief Results
1. SAUSER Christoph SWITZERLAND 04:24:48
2. KULHAVY Jaroslav CZECH REPUBLIC +03:10
3. CELESTINO Mirko ITALY +05:42
4. BOHME Tim GERMANY +07:06
5. KASS Jochen GERMANY +10:32
6. LAKATA Alban AUSTRIA +10:43
7. DE BERTOLIS Massimo ITALY +11:15
8. VASTARANTA Jukka FINLAND +12:18
9. MENNEN Robert GERMANY +12:30
10. TRAYTER ALEMANY Marc SPAIN +13:03
19. BISHOP Jeremiah USA +18:08
59. MCCALLA Michael USA +53:03
71. HARLAN Blake USA +1:10:13