European Marathon Championship titles will be awarded at the Gonson Albstadt MTB Classic this weekend on June 14-15. More than 1000 racers from 17 nations are registered for the 95km race, top among them World Cup marathon leaders Frenchman Thomas Dietsch (Gewiss Bianchi) and Finn Pia Sundstedt (Rocky Mountain). Both won the first round of the World Cup earlier this season in Manavgat, Turkey.
After two months without competition due to an elbow fracture, Dietsch returned to racing at the Trans Germany last week. The Frenchman won together with former Bianchi team-mate Martin Kraler. He will be racing for his third gold medal at the continental championships.
Others on the start list in Albstadt are Martin Kraler, Alban Lakata (Dolphin-Trek), German Karl Platt (Team Bulls) and Swiss racers Andreas Kugler, current marathon champion Silvio Bundi, Sandro Späth, Thomas Stoll, Roman Peter and Thomas Zahnd. Defending champion Christoph Sauser is preparing for the World Championships (in cross country) and will not be on hand to defend his title.
German Hannes Genze is ambitious to repeat his title win from 2005 and he'll benefit from the support of his ALB Gold team-mates Peter Riis Andersen and German national marathon champion Jochen Käss.
Women's race favorite Sundstedt is also coming off the Trans Germany where she took second place with team-mate Alison Sydor. "It was not too hard for me. So I think I will be well prepared for the Europeans," she said.
Esther Süss, Arielle van Meurs, Fabienne Heinzmann and Dolores Rupp will join in the action in the women's race. German national champ Katrin Schwing is more or less an underdog in this race, while title defender Sabine Spitz will also skip the race to prepare for the worlds.
New for 2008 is the first-ever title of champion in the U23 category, for racers between 19 and 22 years of age. A likely favorite is Switzerland's Thomas Litscher. In 2007 in the junior category, he grabbed the cross country title at the World Championship as well as at the European Championship.
Racers are coming from as far away as New Zealand and Namibia, which is sending Olympic athlete Mannie Heymans and his country mate Marc Bassingthwaighte.
For more information on the event, visit www.albstadt-mtb-classic.de.