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Experiencing World Marathon Championship

It’s always an experience racing World Championships and this year was no exception. On Thursday British Airways cancelled our flight, we were so close to not making it to the start line but flights rescheduled for Friday we were on route to my 5th Worlds. Over the years I’ve moved up from a starting position on the back rows where you can barely see the start line it’s so far in front to now being gridded on the second row with race number 18. Over the years we’ve visited the mountains of Val Gardena and Kitzbuhel, the mud bath of Ornans, the trails of Laissac and now the unlimited autobahn of Singen! Never before have I seen so many skinsuits, road pedals, aero helmets, rigid forks, and semi slick tyres at a mountain bike race! I knew what to expect though having raced European Champs here 3 years ago. I prepared my Simplon Razorblade hardtail with a Schwalbe Liteskin Racing Ralph front tyre and Snakeskin Thunder Burt rear and kept the weight light by having just 1 bottle cage and limited spares, just my carbon Lezyne multitool and co2 tool.

Each year the entry list gets stronger, 180 men lined up with the world’s best marathon racers, quite a few top cross country riders and some cyclocross rider called Mathieu van der Poel. From the second row I was mingling with the race favourites, how long could I hang onto the rocket ship? Just enough time before the start to wish my friend, the legend, Alban Lakata good luck and happy birthday! The crowd starts clapping, the music gets louder, the tension rises, the biggest race this year is about to begin, bang goes the start gun!

Out of Singen on the main road and I’m holding position at the front, it’s all getting a bit nervous behind with loads of skidding, swearing, crashing just as predicted. We turn left and join the race route proper just before the first climb, I stay at the front all the way to the top with 2012 Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kuhlavy next to me. The pace remained high, riders chopped and charged as gaps began to open. By feed zone 1 the favourites are at the front, I find myself in a group going for about 30th place with Fumic, Hermida, Fluckiger, Claes, Carabin, and Hochenwarter for company. Between feed 1 and 2 there are some really tough climbs, on the tarmac and gravel I’m fine but on the grass climbs I’m having to work really hard. After feed 2 the pace is a bit more comfortable to the end of the lap 1 and the 49km mark.

It was really warm so hydration was important, nearly the whole course was out in the open but the heat really hit you on the slow grass climbs. I’m struggling to drink though, my stomach has been a bundle of nerves that morning and I’m now getting cramps by the end of lap 1. Start of lap 2 Fumic and Claes up the pace on the first climb, the group splits and I’m dropped. I loose time quick on my own but am picked up by a small group by the next feed and we begin to speed round the rest of the lap. Having eased up the effort between being dropped and then caught by the next group my stomach recovers and I can starting taking on nutrition again, a USN caffeine gel and I’m quickly feeling much better. My 38 tooth Absolute Black chainring is probably one of the biggest being used at the race, it’s on the limit on the grass climbs but really helps on the faster stuff to close little gaps or make an effort at the front of the group.

I hold on through the horrible bumpy slow grassy fields and reach the final feed zone. The legs are good but there’s limited opportunities to escape the group and make a break. Hold your nerve I say to myself, save the energy for the sprint. We are making good speed and catch some more riders before reaching town. We speed into Singen and can hear the commentator and the crowds cheering. I go for the long sprint, hold that power, all in, this is World Championships, max heart rate for the race hit in the finish line sprint, I win the sprint, 42nd place! After the flight cancellation Thursday we decided to just smile and enjoy the weekend. It was worth the wet cold days on the bike, the painful intervals, the sacrifices because my 1 person support crew and I achieved the best World’s performance to date, against the strongest entry list to date. I beat many top professional full time riders who have teams, support, budgets and many opportunities. I returned to work the next day after a long journey home exhausted but smiling and excited for the next race.

It was great to see the marathon specialists fill the podium after all the hype about other riders. Huge congratulations to Alban Lakata on his third World title, an inspiration to us all, you can never discount the Albanator! Next year the race heads to the Dolomites where 3Epics Marathon will play host, the terrain is vastly different but the prize will be the same, a World Championship title.

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