World Marathon Championships, Graz, Austria
The seventh World Marathon Championships took place yesterday in the Austrian city of Graz. Luckily for me I have a good friend, Silvio, who lives 2hrs away and who was once again happy to accommodate me and help me out for the event. We had travelled to Graz the previous weekend to check the course with the Austrian team, and this would prove vital for having a good race.
The course was extremely physical, made up of lots of rocky and wet rooty singletrack sections, rough gravel roads and a little bit of tar. But for the most part, you were either going up or down. The total distance was 104km, with 3820m of vertical climbing.
I once again had a bad seeding, but with a 3km tar road to start with before the first climb, I rode aggressively to make sure I was near the front when we went up the first climb. I had a really good climb here, going over the top with Roel Paulison in 4th position. I had to tell myself to slow down but the feeling was amazing and I quickly realised I was going to have good legs today.
Then we went into the first of many technical sections, and with the two days of heavy rain, it was extremely difficult. I was also over cautious here as it was the same place I crashed in training. Soon the front group had swelled to around 15 riders, and I managed to come through the technical bits just hanging on the back.
The next big climb saw the race split up, well at least for me. I rode my own tempo and had good company, Bart Brentjens, Alban Lakata, Mirko Celestino and Urs Huber. I was content to stay at this tempo, knowing how hard the final 40km would be. Unfortunately I lost this group through another technical section as I rode into a tree, coming to a forced stop. But it didn´t take me long and I was back with them, around 13th position.
The race went by fairly quickly, and before I knew it, we were at the base of the last climb and the final forty kilometers. This was where I had saved my energy for and knew it would be important to move up as many places as possible before the last 10km descent, which was the most technical. I caught De Bertolis and Paez near the top and was close to my top ten goal. Silvio was standing at this crucial point, giving me valuable time splits and positions, and this was all the motivation I needed to really push hard.
By the top I was in ninth place but had some good technical riders behind me. My confidence was high by now, and the technical sections seemed easier with more speed. Of course the full suspension here was incredible and helped so much. Three kilometres to the finish I passed Dietch who had a flat wheel and was chasing Dario Cioni, who finished in 7th place, only 12seconds in front of me.
So 8th place in the end, a solid top ten result on what they said was the hardest marathon worlds course to date. Now I have more valuable expeirence and will set my goals for a top five next year!
Thanks to all who have given me support to achieve this, you know who you are!