Amid perfect conditions, the 2014 European Marathon Mountain Bike championships took place in Ballyhoura, Co.Limerick. Reigning marathon world champion Christoph Sauser of Switzerland added the European title to his collection with a well timed win over teammate and Olympic cross country champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic ahead of Austrian rider Christoph Soukop. In the ladies' race, Tereza Hurikova of the Czech Republic claimed the win from Sally Bigham and Borghild Løvset.
The top 55 male and 20 female riders in Europe took to the course to battle it out for the blue European championships jersey. The day dawned clear as the race village was buzzing with teams and riders preparing for the 93km course for the men and 75km for the ladies. The hum of turbo trainers was only matched by the hum of the spectators milling around as some of the world's best riders warmed up.
First up was the men's field of 55 riders, gridded according to UCI points. Riders were called up in groups of five with spectators afforded a great chance to see the riders before the off. Lining up was world champ Christoph Sauser, defending European Champ Alban Lakata, Olympic cross country champion Jaroslav Kulhavy and a host of big name riders such as Thomas Dietsch, Karl Platt, Bas Peters, Tim Böhme, Christoph Soukop and Kristian Hynek. Irish riders were out in force too with the likes of Roger Aiken, Irish National Marathon champ Ryan Sherlock and Robin Seymour taking their place on the grid.
The pace from the off was hot with Kulhavy in the thick of the action finishing the 6km start loop in second place and quickly taking a commanding place at the front of the race with teammate Sauser worked efficiently together to build a solid lead of as much as four and a half minutes.
Speaking afterwards, Sauser quipped that Kulhavy as the bigger rider offered a big draft to the diminutive Swiss rider who wears an extra small jersey. Sauser actually rode the first 60km blind with his teammate as a guide. Kulhavy had pre-ridden the whole course.
While Kulhavy lead most of the way, as they entered the final 37km Sauser sensed a weakness and attacked. He pulled clear and rode in for a fantastic win raising his hands in triumph as he crossed the line.
Speaking afterwards, Sauser described his disappointment in coming second at the Euros in 2013. "Last year I lost it on the finish line when I dropped the chain and Alban Lakata was five to 10 seconds behind me. It was devastating losing a European title like that. Today was the perfect situation right after the first climb when Jaro and I got away. I knew we gonna have it. We are the best technical riders and maybe after every corner we took the 100th of a second and that adds up over so many corners."
Sauser continued, "We know each other so well after the Cape Epic. I could feel Jaro was struggling on the climbs so I went all in on the second last climb and on the last climb. I kept the pace safe and always sprinting out of the corners. It’s very rough riding here. It’s completely different (to racing in Europe). Here it’s constant; you have to be switched on all the time. There are no lines to choose but you have to be very controlled into the corners and keep the speed to a good flow, that is very important here."
Riding in to complete the Specialized one-two, Kulhavy was content with his day, just back from injury at a cross country World Cup in Germany. "It was a very nice race for me because the course was very hard but I enjoyed because we had the tactic...we were pushing hard and it was a very good situation," said Kulhavy.
"This was not the plan, but after the start we were in a group and continued together and it was a very good situation. Christoph was a little bit stronger on the last gravel climbs and I lost contact with him. This is the perfect preparation for the marathon world championships in South Africa in two weeks."
Christoph Soukop rode a fine race to third. "It was a very good day for me. The start was quite good. I managed to get into the second group and we were together from third to sixth place and it was maybe the maximum I could do today as Christoph (Sauser) and Jaroslav (Kulhavy) were far in front. It was more or less a fight for the last place on the podium and I am very glad I made it."
A decisive break just inside the last loop of 37km saw him pull away from the group on a fireroad climb and he managed to stay clear to the finish. "I tried to stay focused on the singletrack and not go too fast.". With 3km to go, Soukop had a huge crash after catching a pedal but was able to continue.
Third place Borghild Løvset was thrilled with her race and in particular the course. "A lot of great singletrack. You never get the chance to race. I enjoyed the race," she said.
Second place Sally Bigham had a poor start but fought back. "After 1.5 hours, things got better. I got stronger and was able to make up some places," said Bigham. "I really love the course here, I love the singletrack. It’s a nice course, it’s a mix of good things, it’s a good test."
European elite women's winner, Tereza Hurikova, battled hard to open up a huge lead heading out onto the final loop, giving her enough of a cushion to hold off a late hard charging Bigham. "It was a really tough race for me because I pushed from the start right to the end. I had an issue last week after the cross country (World Cup) where I gave too much and I collapsed so I didn’t know if it was a good idea to race here because I was really down after I spend a few days in hospital so I was afraid to race here," said Hurikova.
"I prepared myself well and had better feelings about the race. I rode the full course before and I liked it a lot, especially the singletrack which is very similar to cross country so I was always pushing, you couldn’t have a race."
"In the first climb I lost the first group and then I was stuck in traffic, the first climb we were already together and I had again a crisis at the first half hour," said Hurikova. "It was very hard to get my rhythm." Hurikova had a bad crash on course and headed off to hospital for treatment.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Christoph Sauser (Switzerland)||3:41:16|
|2||Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic)||0:00:43|
|3||Christoph Soukup (Austria)||0:06:17|
|4||Matous Ulman (Czech Republic)||0:08:12|
|5||Tiago Ferreira (Portugal)||0:08:32|
|6||Bartlomiej Wawak (Poland)||0:08:59|
|7||Urs Huber (Switzerland)||0:09:11|
|8||Jeremy Huguenin (Switzerland)||0:09:19|
|9||Adrian Brzozka (Poland)||0:09:34|
|10||Alban Lakata (Austria)||0:09:39|
|11||Karl Platt (Germany)||0:10:07|
|12||Tim Boehme (Germany)||0:11:04|
|13||Carl Fredrik Hagen (Norway)||0:15:59|
|14||Matthias Leisling (Germany)||0:16:25|
|15||Frans Claes (Belgium)||0:16:39|
|16||Periklis Ilias (Greece)||0:17:43|
|17||Bas Peters (Netherlands)||0:17:43|
|18||Piotr Brzozka (Poland)||0:17:44|
|19||Henrik Kippernes (Norway)||0:17:44|
|20||Jiri Novak (Czech Republic)||0:17:47|
|21||Giacomo Antonello (Italy)||0:19:54|
|22||Torsten Marx (Germany)||0:20:04|
|23||Hynek Kristian (Czech Republic)||0:23:36|
|24||Thomas Dietsch (France)||0:24:17|
|25||Juan Pedro Trujillo Hernandez (Spain)||0:25:08|
|26||Gijs Dohmen (Netherlands)||0:25:45|
|27||Roger Aiken (Ireland)||0:26:02|
|28||Frantisek Rabon (Czech Republic)||0:31:13|
|29||Mikael Flockhart (Sweden)||0:31:57|
|30||Aleksander Dorozate (Poland)||0:32:35|
|31||Ryan Sherlock (Ireland)||0:36:39|
|32||Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spain)||0:37:31|
|33||Dariusz Miroslaw (Poland)||0:37:48|
|34||Robert Friel (United Kingdom)||0:47:37|
|35||Joep Dohmen (Netherlands)||0:48:15|
|36||Gareth Mckee (Ireland)||0:51:42|
|37||Valtteri Repo (Finland)||0:56:34|
|38||Tomasz Michalski (Poland)||0:59:21|
|39||Sabatier Thibault (United Kingdom)||1:00:59|
|40||Evan Ryan (Ireland)||1:04:17|
|42||Glenn Kinning (Ireland)||1:10:25|
|43||Maciej Staroniewicz (Ireland)||1:11:01|
|44||Gary Sheehan (Ireland)||1:21:36|
|45||Michael McCutcheon (Ireland)||1:23:27|
|46||Christopher Campbell (Ireland)||1:27:03|
|47||Daniel Morrogh (Ireland)||1:38:02|
|48||Andrew Mc Cullough (Ireland)||1:48:50|
|49||Mark O'Shea (Ireland)||2:09:13|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tereza Hurikova (Czech Republic)||3:31:53|
|2||Sally Bigham (United Kingdom)||0:00:30|
|3||Borghild Løvset (Norway)||0:02:37|
|4||Christina Kollmann (Austria)||0:04:00|
|5||Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden)||0:06:00|
|6||Emmy Thelberg (Sweden)||0:09:38|
|7||Jennifer Fay (Ireland)||0:10:09|
|8||Michalina Ziolkowska (Poland)||0:13:28|
|9||Eszter Dosa (Hungary)||0:16:31|
|10||Hildegunn Gjertrud Hovdenak (Norway)||0:18:09|
|11||Melanie Spath (Ireland)||0:22:09|
|12||Sofia Pezzatti (Switzerland)||0:24:06|
|13||Ciara Macmanus (Ireland)||0:28:13|
|14||Jasmin Kansikas (Finland)||0:35:39|
|15||Anna Cipullo (United Kingdom)||1:07:49|
|16||Agata Tamulewicz-Downey (Poland)||1:16:31|