The best long-distance mountain bike riders in the world will be on the start line in Ornans in eastern France for Sunday's races to decide the wearers of the rainbow jerseys. Swiss rider Christoph Sauser and Annika Langvad from Denmark will be defending their titles.
The town of Doubs and its 4,000 residents welcomed a round of the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Cup in 2008. The town also hosts the exceptionally popular ExtrÃªme sur Loue event every year, attracting some 2,500 mountain bikers.
The 2012 edition of the Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships will be hotly disputed by 203 riders from 35 nations.
The racing starts at 8:45 in the morning, when the riders set off on an 84 km course for the Men Elite category and 63 km for the Women Elite. The battles for the rainbow jersey will be fiercely disputed as the Championships will bring the long-distance Mountain Bike specialists, who have raced in the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon Series this year, into competition with several Olympic Cross-Country (XCO) riders looking to end their season on a high.
The outgoing World Champion, Christoph Sauser has a foot in both camps. He currently prefers to concentrate on the Cross-Country circuit, but has already won two Marathon world titles, in 2007 and 2011. The Swiss rider has very strong team support in the shape of Alexander Moos, Andreas Kulger and Huber Urs. Switzerland also has further strength in depth with Ralph Naef, recently crowned Cross-Country Eliminator World Champion, as well as Mathias Fluckiger who came third in the XCO event at the Mountain Bike World Championships.Â Â Â
Other contenders in the Men's event include the German riders Steffen Thum, Simon Gegenheimer and Tim Bohme. Alban Lakata from Austria, the 2010 UCI World Champion, his compatriot David SchÃ¶lggl and French rider Thomas Dietsch will also fancy their chances.
In the Women's event, the reigning World Champion Annika Langvad (Denmark) will have to fight off the challenge of leading XCO riders such as Sabine Spitz (Germany). Spitz won the Marathon rainbow jersey in 2009 and has finished with the silver medal on four occasions. Gunn-Rita Dahle FlesjÃ¥ (Norway), who has already won the title an exceptional four times, is another major contender, as is Esther SÃ¼ss (Switzerland) who took the honours in the 2010 Marathon World Championships.