5 years ago Malevil Cup hosted European Marathon Championships and every year since has hosted a round of the UCI World Marathon Series attracting racers from all over Europe. It's a championship worthy event with some amazing trails, kilometres upon kilometres of rooty singletrack and wider faster rocky tracks winding their way through the big rock formations of the Lusatian Mountains. After racing the European Champs here as my first international marathon I have fond memories of the event and area.
The event was based at the Malevil Ranch hotel, it was the perfect base. Good access to different points on course for training. Excellent facilities including pool and spa which were great for relaxing after hard days on the bike. The restaurant served up good healthy but yummy food. The start of the race was a few kilometres away and the finish line was at the hotel along with the event expo.
Race day quickly approached and the town of Jablonne v Podjestedi was taken over by adrenaline filled lycra clad cyclists! A short lead out of town from the lead motorbikes took us towards the trails. There was 3 distances available; 100km, 65km, 45km and 25km. At the front of the elite men's race a group of 10 formed before 3 got a gap. I was hoping this would end the viscous accelerations on the climbs but the chase group were a determined bunch and upped the pace charging back up to the leaders. We did regroup but shortly after as 4 people were dropped from that lead group including myself and Team Bulls rider Tim Bohme. If you watch the TV broadcasts of the UCI Cross Country World Cup events and think the start looks fast, well guess what, UCI World Series marathon starts aren't that different, but you then race for 4 to 6 hours!
A kilometre after the group split I heard that noise all racers fear, a punctured tyre, oh my luck this year! I slowed to see if the tubeless sealant would do its job. A minute later it was almost sealing but only at 10 psi. How far to the tech zone? 3 or so kilometres, ok we can slowly nurse it there, riders streaming past me, maybe I should have stopped to fit a tubeless plug? OK I'm at the tech zone, front wheel I shout to my supporter Adam. A quick change and I'm on my way again. Maybe 5 minutes lost, not too bad. Back at the front of the race Willier Force rider Johnny Cattaneo had broken away alone.
At 50km’s we get to Oybin and the going gets tough, bigger climbs, bigger descents, more technical trails, but lots of fun. I'm joined by 2 people from the Willier Force and Centurion Vaude team, I was surprised to be caught by anyone and this knocked my confidence. With 20 kilometres to go I realised the pace is too easy and I can go a lot quicker, time to put the hammer down. Charge! Power! The last 20km I was the 5th fastest person. Sadly those minutes I'd lost earlier in the race with that puncture were too much to make up. 10th place, finally a result to write home about, happy but wondering what could have been possible. Next stop for me is World Marathon Championships.
Johnny Cattaneo held onto his lead to take a fine victory in front of the strong Swiss rider Nicola Rohrback and the Czech Marek Rauchfuss. In the women’s Johana Kolasinova took the victory ahead of Verena Huber and Kristina Konvisarova.
Malevil Cup is another race to add to your bucket list. Me and I'm sure thousands of others will be back to enjoy the delights of this race next year. The whole area has a huge tourist pull so why not bring the whole family and have a few extra days fun exploring Czech Republic. This is proper mountain bike racing with trails that’ll put a smile on your face kilometre after kilometre.