The 2011 Marathon World Championships was held this past weekend in the Montello region of Italy, in the small town of Montebulluno. The race would ‘piggy-back’ off the well-established and tough Gunn-Rita-Marathon. The beautiful course would wind its way around the vineyards and forests that surround Montello, and there would be no shortage of great tracks to race on. The route unlike last years course, had just over 30km of singletrack, which would make the race tactically quite interesting and tough. Along with the 17catagorized climbs ranging from 5km to only 200m, the course and the pace would be really hard.
The Italian national team, fielding a huge contingency of riders, took the racing from the start and forced the pace as we sped out of the narrow town streets and up into the forests. They were clearly on a mission with their advantage they had in numbers and with the first singletrack fast approaching; it was a sprint just to try getting in and holding your position.
Dave and I were well prepared for this, and we were racing through the first couple pieces of fast track always in the first 30riders. It was turning out to have a ‘road race’ like effect and if you were badly positioned, your day could be over early on. Then unfortunately for Dave, on a fast loose gravel corner coming out of the forest, his front wheel washed out and he took a nasty looking crash just in front of me. At first I didn’t think he had hurt himself and expected to see him rejoin us shortly.
John was meanwhile doing a fantastic job making sure he was at all the feed zones, and with the temperatures reaching mid thirties, the cold bottles were very necessary. I was starting to settle into the pattern of the race, just doing enough to stay with the front group of around 30-40riders. Unfortunately, at around 30km, a sharp rock cut my rear tire, and despite trying to repair it, the cut was too big. Looked like day was over for me as I walked a short distance up to the tarmac where I was going to try decide what to do. If I could make it to John at 40km, he had our spare wheels waiting. Just then Dave came around the corner, and immediately stopped and took out his rear wheel for me to continue. He assured me to carry on and as he had hurt his hip, and was happy to see me off and back into a small chase group. The problem on a fast course like this one, was that once you had lost maybe only 2minutes, you’d lost the momentum of the front group and from there on you were always going to be loosing time.
It took a fairly big effort to keep myself mentally together and push on through the tough course just to finish. But at the end of the day, despite my position and time difference, I was really happy that I was able to finish, and I was really grateful for a team mate like Dave who unselfishly gave me the opportunity to at least be able to complete the race. Although I must confess, the last 10km were so long that I was starting to regret him giving me his wheel!
At that level of racing, you only really have one chance, and perhaps if you have a mechanical problem close enough to a tech zone or with a teammate to assist you immediately, your race for the podium is over.
It was a disappointing end to a fantastic month of racing, and the support we had from Nedbank and Team360life was overwhelming. We definitely learnt a few things along the way, all of which will only help us in going forward and pushing ourselves to achieve the goals we dream of in the future. Thanks again to our sponsors, of course our families, and everyone for all your support, its much appreciated.
1st Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 4hrs25min
2nd Jaraslov Khulavy (Czech Republic)
3rd Mirko Celestino (Italy)
38th Kevin Evans (RSA)
45th Mannie Heyman (Namibia)
69th Erik Kleinhans (RSA)
Next race, my personal favorite and home town special, the Knysna Oyster Festival. Can I try not finish 2nd for a seventh time?
Till then, cheers.