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The Steep Way - World Marathon Championships 2018

September 18, 2018

 

World Championships (nearly) always delivers a challenging circuit but the Dolomites stretches competitors limits more than anywhere else. The stats only tell a small part of the story: 4200m ascent over 102km. 35km are relatively flat which leaves 77kms of very steep ups or downs.

                                                                                                                

The first ever World Marathon Championship took place in 2003 in Lugana. This years edition would be the fourth hosted in Italy.The Worlds course is the same as the 3Epic one, except for a few parts including the additional climbs used on the men’s Worlds course. There is military history in the area with the High Fork Monte Piana climb which is now partly paved and partly dirt being an old military road used during the First World War for troop movement and supplies. The Auronzo Hut – Three Peaks of Lavaredo climb takes you to the highest point in the race at over 2320 metres altitude, the fatigue on arrival is rewarded by the incredible mountain scenery.

 

I arrived at the event without the fitness of previous years, I was feeling pretty unprepared but planned to be safe and to enjoy the race and the opportunity to wear the GB jersey once again.

 

The start line was buzzing with the arena and grandstands packed with excited fans that went crazy whenever the commentators mentioned any Italian competitor. The start music rattled eardrums until moments before the start time, then silence until a huge bang from the start gun. The crowd goes wild! Time seems to slow down for a few moments before 180 adrenaline filled men charge out of the arena onto the main road sprinting downhill towards the inevitable carnage at the 90 degree turn on a wooden bridge. Surprisingly everyone squeezes on fairly politely but on the gravel track that followed numerous big crashes happened including one that took down defending champion Alban Lakata, he spent the rest of the day chasing. I was happy with my start feeling comfortable and not pushing too hard knowing what lay ahead.

 

Photo MarathonMTB.com

 

The first climb was insane, 4.5 kilometres at 12.5% average but with many pitches much steeper on loose gravel. Engage granny gear and try to turn those pedals. I was climbing really well going from my start position of 72 up into the top 40. My Simplon Razorblade climbing like the mountain goat it is! The climb just went on and on, you'd turn a corner and there would be another steep ramp up the ski slope we were scaling. Nearing the top my chain jumped off the big sprocket into the spokes, I was left fishing out the chain whilst all the hard work on the climb was undone. Finally at the top of the first crazy climb we slid and bumped back down the trails until a rear puncture slowed me, not sure if I burped some air or if the tyre resealed but I'm at 10 psi and need gas. Fortunately we aren't far from the feed zone so I ride on and find a track pump there to re-inflate but am losing more time. Oh well it's a long race.

 

Two smaller hills follow before beginning the longer more gradual ascent up to the beautiful lake at Misurina. A good group formed early on on this 45 minute climb including me and fellow Brit Nick Corlett. The pace was good but as we got closer to the top me and a German rider drop everyone else and started work chasing down the Italian and French rider ahead.

 

Photo MarathonMTB.com

 

The next climb scales another crazy ski slope before the course descends into some slippery rocky trails. I was pretty nervous about the descents having not got my confidence back from my crash in July and this was impacting my flow on the trails massively, I was riding the bike all wrong and it was only a matter of time till I crashed. I clipped a root and fell off the side of the hill, barrel rolling a few times fearing the worst until I grabbed hold of a tree. Few! Thought I was gone then! I abseiled back up the slope to find my bike and the trail. 

 

I pulled myself together and began the task of making back the places I'd lost and mo