UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships: Quest for rainbow in the Dolomites
One year after South Africa, the world’s best marathon specialists will meet in the magnificent Dolomites, in Val Gardena, in their quest for the UCI World Champion title. For three-time World Champion Christoph Sauser, winner in 2007, 2011 and 2013, it will be his last attempt to claim the rainbow jersey. The 39-year-old athlete, the most titled in the discipline and third last year, is capable of taking a fourth crown. But the Swiss will have serious competition, even among his fellow countrymen. Retired from the professional road peloton, Johan Tschopp has now begun a second career on forest tracks. His recent national title demonstrates that the former Giro d’Italia stage-winner hasn’t taken long to settle into the rhythm of the best long distance riders. The longue Italian climbs could suit him well.
But the big favourite of the 13th UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships is the reigning champion Jaroslav Kulhavy. Last year, the Czech had the luxury of claiming the only victory that had escaped him until then. Today he is the only rider to have won all the major mountain bike races. Winner of the first XCO round of the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano “at home” in Nove Mesto, Kulhavy could well take his second consecutive win in Italy, as did the Belgian Roel Paulissen in 2008 and 2009.
Women: A Scandinavian battle
The competition promises to be fierce between Denmark’s Annika Langvad and the Norwegian Gunn Rita Dahle. Three-time winner Langvad (2011, 2012 and 2014) had a good start to the season with victory in the Cape Epic and a podium in the first XCO round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Nove Mesto.
At 42 years of age, Dahle has had a perfect start to the Olympic cross-country season. But the former Olympic Champion is also more than capable of taking her sixth marathon world title after 2004-2006, 2008 and 2013. It would be her 10th rainbow jersey across all disciplines. Great Britain’s Sally Bigham could also play a significant role in the battle for victory in Val Gardena.