Gunn-Rita & Sauser Take XCM World Championship

UCI MTB Marathon World Championships: Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa and Christoph Sauser Crowned

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The first of the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships took place on Saturday with the Marathon, in Brixental, Austria, and some familiar faces took the top step of the podium.  Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) won her fifth Marathon world title in the women’s race, while Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) took his third in the men’s competition. 

Held in the mountainous Tirol region near Kitzbuhel, during the KitzAlpBike Festival, the course took the riders on a series of loops radiating out from Kirchberg, with the men covering 95 kilometres and the women 85 kilometres.

Dahle Flesjaa had a battle with second place finisher Sally Bigham (Great Britain) for the first third of the race, actually trailing her rival at the second time split before pulling away in the second half.  Dahle Flesjaa had a two minute lead at the halfway mark and increased that to nearly four minutes by the finish.  Esther Suss (Switzerland) and Annika Langvad (Denmark) fought for the bronze medal early in the race before Suss pulled away in the second half to take the final podium spot.

“Some years ago, I set the goal to be the first lady to win a gold medal at the worlds being 40 years old. When I saw [that] I have number plate 40, I said, that’s probably a good sign…” revealed Dahle Flesjaa.  “To realize that is unbelievable”, she added. “The course is so extreme, I have never ridden a course like this and we didn’t prepare for it. My tactic, with the help of the Norwegian girls, was to go fast into the first uphill, like in a cross country race. That tactic worked out perfectly, but the whole race was a cliff hanger. I can’t tell you how many times I died out there, but I always hoped that the other girls do the same. I tried to prepare myself for these ups and downs and I knew that I have to eat as much as possible.  It was one of two goals this year.  Five world titles, that sounds scary to me. I still have great passion.”

Men’s race: Sauser overcomes the pressure

The men’s race was a battle through its entire length between two former world champions – Sauser and Alban Lakata (Austria).  Ten riders rode within 30 seconds of each other for the first hour, before the group began to shrink under the pace set by Sauser and Lakata.  With nearly two hours under their wheels the race was down to two, and it remained that way until the end, with Sauser beating the home favourite by a mere 4.8 seconds after four and a half hours of racing.  Hector Paez (Colombia), the 2006 silver medalist in the world championship was third, at three minutes and 12 seconds.

Sauser, who retired from UCI World Cup cross-country competition at the end of last year, has dominated endurance racing this season. “I am very happy now, because the last 20 minutes downhill was an extremely pressure on me”, he said. “One mistake and I could lose the gold medal. I wanted to be the first to go in this downhill and finally it worked. At the last climb, I felt, that I am the strongest of us three and I pushed hard. But it’s not easy to drop Alban, when the climb is steady. There were only some seconds I got before the downhill.  I thought, ‘now I can make some time’, but always when I took it a bit easier, Alban came back close to me.”

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