Former UCI World Champions Langvad and Lakata victorious at UCI Marathon Worlds
Two former UCI World Champions donned rainbow jerseys at the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships on Sunday, in Singen, Germany. Annika Langvad (Specialized) of Denmark won the women's title, while Alban Lakata of Austria became the men's champion. It is the fourth title (after 2011, 2012 and 2014) for Langvad and the third for Lakata after 2010 and 2015.
Singen, an industrial city in southern Germany and just north of the German-Swiss border, has a long history of hosting Marathon races, including the 2015 European Championships and the annual Hegau Bike Marathon. The courses featured short, steep climbs rather than long ones, making it difficult for solo attacks to succeed: both races saw the winners coming from small lead groups.
The women's 80km race consisted of two loops - a 31km opening circuit followed by a 49km final lap. By the three-quarter mark, the race was down to four riders, all former title holders: defending Champion Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing), Annika Langvad, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Merida Gunn-Rita) and German favourite Sabine Spitz (Wiawis Bikes). A crash by Langvad in a technical section proved to be a decisive moment, with Neff and Spitz slipping by the Dane but Dahle Flesjaa getting held up. Langvad would rejoin the front but not Dahle Flesjaa. On the final climb with six kilometres to go, Langvad and Spitz dropped Neff, with Langvad winning the sprint for the title. Dahle Flesjaa managed to catch Neff to take third.
"I knew it would be a tactical race, and after my crash I had to push really hard to get back," explained Langvad, who had just finished her final exams at dental school earlier in the week. "I am really happy with this win. It's a huge bonus after I finished my studies a short time ago. I enjoy everything so much, it's unbelievable."
The men's 98km race consisted of two 49km laps, with the race down to nine riders by the 60 kilometre mark. The lead group included Lakata, defending Champion Tiago Ferreira of Portugal, Daniel Geismayr (Austria), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) of the Czech Republic and Dutch cyclo-cross star Mathieu van der Poel. The group split when Lakata and Ferreira accelerated on a climb, with only Geismayr and van der Poel able to follow. Van der Poel was dropped by the other three on a long climb, leaving three to sprint for the title. Lakata outkicked Ferreira for the win, with Geismayr taking third.
"Three times World Champion, that's a dream," said Lakata, who was also celebrating his 38th birthday. "Today I will celebrate hard, that's for sure. I knew, when I am racing completely focused, I can take it."