Annika Langvad (Denmark) won the elite women's marathon world championship on a wet, muddy course on Sunday in Ornan, France. It was a dour fight for victory. Right from the first climb of the course, the defending champion Langvad managed to break away from the Norwegian rider Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa. The latter then remained alone in front, but lacking in confidence and turning to look back on many occasions, allowed her rival to catch up and then overtake her for a time.
The 28-year-old Langvad was injured several times this season and had to sit out the Olympic Games. She might reasonably have thought her chances of winning were fading when she had a puncture six kilometres from the end, and then crashed during the last downhill stretch. However, in spite of these incidents, the Danish rider retained her lead and her world championship title.
"I arrived her under no pressure, and in a totally relaxed condition," said Langvad. "I remained concentrated over the whole length of the course. It's just incredible to finish the season in this way. Everything went perfectly for me today."
Langvald beat Dahle Flesjaa by 44 seconds, with the Switzerland's Esther Süss completing the podium at 1:40.
"I wasn't at my best, because I don't like these weather conditions at all," she said.
Dahle Flesjaa, who was trying to earn what would have been her fifth marathon title, said, "Due to the rain, the descents were even trickier and the climbs were even more power-sapping - we had seen this when we checked the course on Wednesday before the race. I wanted to use both elements to my advantage and intended to attack hard on the first climb to weed out the competition and get a decisive advantage."
But her plan did not work out entirely, even though she ad managed to build a one-minute lead at one point. "Annika Langvad was stronger than me on the first climb already, so all I could do was to try and get an advantage on the descents. I clearly lost the gold medal on the climbs today. Of course winning a silver medal at the worlds is a nice consolation, but being an ambitious athlete this will take some days to come over. Even more so as the gap to Annika was pretty small in the end."
Former marathon world champion Sabine Spitz abandoned the race after 40km. Spitz crashed early, in the first 3km, and damaged her wheel. She got one from a teammate and subsequently chased in the pouring rain and awful conditions, four minutes behind the leaders. "It's not my way of giving up a race. But it seemed to me in these conditions a pointless endeavor. The fall in the beginning and especially the endless running sections later were difficult for me to digest and hardly had anything to do with mountain biking," she said.
Spitz went on to criticize the race organization and UCI. She noted the lack of a bad weather contingency plan and said the course was unsafe as she encountered oncoming traffic while racing, as the men were out on the course overlapping the women. "From then on, a fair race for the ladies was no longer guaranteed. It is hoped that the UCI will follow its responsibilities more effectively in the future."
|1||Annika Langvad (Denmark)||3:52:23|
|2||Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway)||0:00:44|
|3||Esther Süss (Switzerland)||0:01:40|
|4||Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation)||0:12:49|
|5||Sally Bigham (Great Britain)||0:13:56|
|6||Elisabeth Brandau (Germany)||0:16:38|
|7||Jane Nussli (Great Britain)||0:20:38|
|8||Sabrina Enaux (France)||0:20:58|
|9||Borghild Løvset (Norway)||0:22:26|
|10||Helene Marcouyre (France)||0:25:45|
|11||Vera Andreeva (Russian Federation)||0:27:45|
|12||Heidi Rosasen Sandsto (Norway)||0:28:19|
|13||Catherine Hare Willianson (Great Britain)||0:30:20|
|14||Yolande Speedy (South Africa)||0:30:56|
|15||Fanny Bourdon (France)||0:37:32|
|16||Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland)||0:39:30|
|17||Rikke Kornvig (Denmark)||0:43:35|
|18||Janka Stevkova (Slovakia)||0:53:22|
|19||Katrin Schwing (Germany)||0:55:03|
|20||Coralie Redelsperger (France)||0:57:48|
|21||Sofia Pezzatti (Switzerland)||0:00:02|
|22||Inne Gantois (Belgium)||0:00:55|
|23||Annika Bergman (Sweden)||0:00:56|
|24||Alexandra Clement (Switzerland)||0:01:56|
|25||Helle Qvortrup Bachmann (Denmark)||0:05:13|
|26||Verena Krenslehner (Austria)||0:05:22|
|27||Silke Keinath (Germany)||0:08:03|
|28||Samantha Sanders (South Africa)||0:11:31|
|29||Isabelle Klein (Luxembourg)||0:14:18|
|30||Daniele Troesch (France)||0:14:25|
|31||Sandrine Ponsard (France)|
|32||Virginie Pointet (Switzerland)||0:22:45|
|33||Rachel Fenton (Great Britain)||0:24:32|
|34||Agnieszka Zych (Poland)||0:28:17|
|35||Tina Urnau (Germany)||0:41:12|
|36||Maria Teresa Abumohor (Chile)||0:51:35|
|37||Liliana Alejandra Uzcategui Vasquez (Venezuela)||0:57:28|
|38||Kristien Nelen (Belgium)||0:00:55|
|39||Flavie Montusclat (France)||0:05:40|
|40||Celine Riviere (France)|
|DNF||Aleksandra Dubiel (Poland)|
|DNF||Kim Saenen (Belgium)|
|DNF||Theresa Ralph (South Africa)|
|DNF||Caroline Duc (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Céline Kluska (France)|
|DNF||Sophie Borderes (France)|
|DNF||Hanne Trønnes (Norway)|
|DNF||Manuela Werkle (Germany)|
|DNF||Sabine Spitz (Germany)|
|DNF||Adelheid Morath (Germany)|
|DNF||Antonia Wipfli (Switzerland)|