It has been four years since Swiss marathon stalwart Esther Süss last tasted UCI Marathon World Championships glory but the 40-year-old believes that 2014 could be the year she ends her victory drought as she returns to a familiar stomping ground at the Cascades MTB Park for the women's 74km race on Sunday, June 29.
The Wheeler iXS Pro Team star is no stranger to the southernmost tip of Africa as she is regular visitor to South African shores and has been riding in the country since Cascades hosted its inaugural UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in 2009.
Süss explained that she is a big fan of the Rainbow Nation and makes it a stop on her calendar every year. "I spend a lot of time in South Africa. I have been back every year since 2009 and have done six Cape Epics as well as the Cape Pioneer once, so I am no stranger to South Africa and the conditions."
"I really love coming back to South Africa; it is one of my favourite countries to visit and Pietermaritzburg is not unfamiliar to me. I have competed there a number of times at the cross country World Cups and I won the bronze medal at the World Champs there last year," she said.
Süss has been involved primarily in cross country racing so far in 2014 however, although her focus has been away from marathon riding, the former world champion is confident about her chances heading into the showpiece event.
"I think the marathon Worlds is going to be really tough this year with some stiff competition but I am hoping to go home with the gold medal this year!
"My form is good coming into the world champs and I feel really strong so I am positive about my chances in Pietermaritzburg," Süss said.
Having competed in the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at the same venue in 2013, Süss has an idea of what to expect albeit under slightly different circumstances to those of her World Cup visits.
"It is great that I get to go back to South Africa for the world champs but it is far from home and there won't be a lot of support from friends and family like back home when we race so it will be quite different."
The 2010 marathon world champion has a busy build-up to the World Champs but it is geared mainly around the cross country discipline with a number of major events in Europe on the calendar in the coming weeks.
Further clarifying Süss’ cross country preference, the Swiss star has chosen to ride in a race in her home country over taking part in the European Marathon Championships in Ireland that were also happening this weekend.
"Before Worlds, I had the European Cross Country Champs in St. Wendel and then an HC race in Gränichen Switzerland which was also my home race! There might be a marathon in there somewhere but I am not too sure," she said.
Repeating her feat of 2010 is the main focus for Süss coming into the world champs later this month but she is aware of the threat that local riders could pose considering the culture surrounding the longer version of mountain biking in the country.
"Marathon racing is very popular in South Africa so I think that the local riders will be tough to beat and I am going into the race after a lot of cross country, so it will be difficult.
"It would such an achievement if I could win the rainbow striped jersey at the end though, I would be so happy!" a hopeful Süss said.