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Sauser & Paulissen crash in controversial marathon worlds sprint finish

Dahle-Flesjå reclaims marathon World champion title

Belgian Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) and Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå (Multivan Merida) were crowned World Marathon Champions in Villabassa, Italy, last weekend. While Dahle-Flesjå's win came after a straightforward, dominant solo performance in the elite women's race, Paulissen's win in the elite men's race was more controversial.

Christoph Sauser (Specialized) and Paulissen were clearly the two fastest men for the day. The high pace continuously forced riders to drop off until just Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Columbia) remained with the duo. Eventually, in between feed zones four (at 80km) and five (at 110km), Paez dropped, too.

"Roel and I were so evenly matched today," said Sauser on his website Sauser also said he took risks on the final descent to make up some ground on Paulissen, but the Belgian was back on his wheel with 800m to go.

The sprint started, and with about 70m to go, the pair came together, made contact with their handlebars and arms near the barrier and both crashed. The ensuing debate was about whether Sauser had strayed from a straight line in the sprint as Paulissen tried to come around him.

Paulissen was the first man up after both hit the tarmac hard, but he was delayed by bike problems and had to carry his broken bike toward the finish. Sauser remounted and went on to cross the finish line first.

Sauser was later relegated by the UCI officials for riding "dangerously" in the sprint and Paulissen was declared winner with a time of 4'46"56.

"I am very happy with this success," said Paulissen after his win. "Unfortunately this great race in the area where I live ended this way, but I think the jury was right." Paulissen's win came after previous bronze and silver medals at the marathon worlds. "It is a little bit strange to win in this way, of course I have mixed feelings," said Paulissen on, "but it is fair, I was the strongest rider and I felt I was passing Christophe in the sprint, I knew I would win."

A statement from Specialized on Sauser's website after the race read, "Upon detailed reflection and analysis of specific video evidence, it was very obvious to us that Christoph sprinted fairly... . As a result, we submitted a written appeal to the UCI after the race, based on their decision. We are awaiting news of this appeal and therefore do not want to comment further."

At the time of this writing, the verdict of Sauser's appeal was still pending.

Read full reports of the men's and women's Marathon World Championships.

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