The 2011 edition of the UCI Marathon World Championships will happen in Montebelluno, Italy, on Sunday. The popular, annual Gunn-Rita Marathon will double as the Worlds this year.
Alban Lakata (Austria) and Esther Süss (Switzerland) will return to defend their 2010 world championships titles, but they won't be the only past world champions on the start line.
Former marathon world titleholders Italian Massimo de Bertolis (2004) and Swiss racers Ralph Näf (2006) and Christoph Sauser (2007) are also expected on the men's start line while German Sabine Spitz (2009) and Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) will mix it up in the women's race.
Näf has been suffering back problems lately, however, and his participation and his form are not confirmed.
Perhaps the biggest wild card is two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon (France), who will race his first marathon Worlds. Absalon is fresh off a win at the Offenburg World Cup and a win in Italy would add to his four cross country world titles.
Dalby World Cup winner Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech) is expected to contest the marathon Worlds although he was hit by a car during training a few days ago and sustained serious facial injuries.
Some others to watch in the men's race are Mirko Celestino (Italy), Crocodile Trophy winner Urs Huber (Switzerland), stage race ace Karl Platt (Germany), French marathoner Thomas Dietsch (France), newly crowned European marathon champion Alexey Medvedev (Russian Federation), La Ruta winner Ben Sonntag (Germany), Kevin Evans (South Africa), David George (South Africa) and former national marathon champion Jeremiah Bishop (United States).
Past Worlds medallist Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia), Sally Bigham (Great Britain) and Annika Langvad (Denmark) are some other favorites in the women's race.
Last year, the Gunn-Rita Marathon hosted the European marathon championships, won by Näf and Süss.
The forecast for Sunday is 26 degrees Celsius and partly cloudy skies.
The men will race 115.7km while the women will race 98.3km.
Organizers have provided Cyclingnews with the following UCI Marathon Worlds race trailer. Watch carefully and you may see some familiar faces. In case you miss them, the identities of those famous stars are revealed at the end of the video.