Nine months after the event in Ornans, which took place in extreme conditions, the marathon specialists will battle it out in Kirchberg (Austria) on Saturday. The course will not allow for any weaknesses.
Will Ilias Perikilis repeat his win in the menâs competition? Last year, the Greek athlete conquered the conditions and defied the prognostics to win in France! Nobody was ready for him at this level.
Since then? After starting the season on the island of Cyprus, the athlete with the Protek team took a win in the Ornans round of the Marathon World Series. His third place in the recent Val Gardena marathon suggests that he will not surrender without fighting to the bitter end.
A man who impressed in Italy and who could dream of the rainbow is the Colombian Hector Leonardo Paez, World Vice-champion in 2006. Perhaps the Bianchi rider could become the first South American to claim the rainbow jersey over this distance? There are a great many who are in with a chance. Christoph Sauser, World Champion in 2007 and 2011, has made this one of his seasonâs goals. If he is the one to raise his arms in victory tomorrow, he will be the first athlete ever to win three times in the marathon. The Swiss rider will be able to count on the support of Jaroslav Kulhavy in his quest for excellence. But Alban Lakata is also in with a chance and could write the next chapter in the sportâs history. The Austrian, winner in 2010, remains a strong contender on the long distance scene...
Women: the Dahle legend?
Quadruple World Champion in Olympic cross-country (2002 then 2004-2006), 2004 Olympic Champion, 28 victories in XCO rounds of the UCI World Cup, Gunn-Rita Dahle already possesses an incredible list of achievements since the mid-nineties. This includes four marathon crowns (2004 to 2006 and 2008). The Norwegian mother in her forties could well continue her legend. Although she could have had reall hops of winning a medal at the XCO European Championships in Bern last week, she chose to concentrate on her preparation for Kirchberg. On the evening of the World Cup in Val di Sole, Dahle was already on her way to Austria. And she is full of praise for the 85km course that includes 3700 metres of climbing.
âI have ridden in quite a number of places in the world. But honestly, nothing compares with what I have seen here...â
Before dreaming of a fifth victory, the Merida athlete will have to watch out for Denmarkâs Annika Langvad, winner on two occasions, and also Esther SÃ¼ss. The Swiss, who won in 2010, has proved that she is more than capable of switching between Olympic cross-country and marathon. At 39 years old, she is again one of the favourites.
Menâs start at 8am. Womenâs start at 8.30am.
Photo: Greeceâs Ilias Perikilis created the surprise last year in Ornans, France