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Both Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and Annika Langvad (Denmark) will be aiming to defend their UCI Marathon World Championship titles in Ornans, France, this Sunday. The two have enjoyed an extra long tenure in the rainbow stripes since the 2011 Worlds were held in June.
The competition should be tough for both of last year's winners. Former marathon world champions Alban Lakata (Austria) and current eliminator world champion Ralph Naef (Switzerland) are also racing the men's race along with a host of cross country regulars including Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spain), Stéphane Tempier (France), Maxime Marotte (France), Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland), Moritz Milatz (Germany) and Wolfram Kurschat (Germany).
Plenty of marathon and stage race specialists will also be on hand, including Steffen Thum (Germany), Alexandre Moos (Switzerland), Andreas Kugler (Switzerland), Simon Gegenheimer (Germany), Urs Huber (Switzerland), Tim Bohme (Germany), Thomas Dietsch (France), Karl Platt (Germany), Periklis Ilias (Greece), Alexey Medvedev (Russian Federation), Stefan Sahm (Germany), Robert Mennen (Germany), Mirko Celestino (Italy), Hannes Genze (Germany), Jochen Kass (Germany), Kevin Evans (South Africa), Max Knox (South Africa), David George (South Africa) and Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Colombia).
The US is sending one representative, Dana Weber, while Timothy Carleton and Kris Sneddon will do the honors for Canada.
In the women's race, Langvad will battle former marathon world champions Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway), Esther Süss (Switzerland) and Sabine Spitz (Germany). All have been racing fast over short and long distances this year with Spitz podiuming at the Olympics and Dahle Flesjaa doing the same at cross country Worlds. However, Langvad had to sit out the Olympic Games after crashing and breaking some ribs.
The other cross country women making an appearance are Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation), Jolanda Neff (Switzerland), Adelheid Morath (Germany), Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) and Sabrina Enaux (France). Sally Bigham (Great Britain), Pia Sundstedt (Finland) and Yolande Speedy (South Africa) are among the other favorites to watch.
With marathon Worlds coming so late in this year's season, it is hard to tell who is on form. Both the elite men and women will race on Sunday morning in France. The elite men start at 8:45 am for 84km, and the elite women take off 15 minutes later for 63km.
The world championship event has been known over the years as the Extreme sur Loue marathon. The 84km course was entirely redesigned in 2010 and will now be ridden in the opposite direction. Further improvements were made in 2011 to make the course more fluid. The 63km course follows a significant portion of the longer course.