Stellar field ready to compete at marathon worlds

This year's UCI Marathon World Championships is attracting a stellar field including three winners of the Olympics, four former or current World Champions and a two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia. On Sunday, August 23, almost 200 participants from 33 countries will race 104km from Stattegg, Austria, where the start and finish are located.

The men's race is set to be a battle between defending marathon world champion Roel Paulissen (Belgium), 2007 marathon world champion and current cross country world champion Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and 1996 Olympic champion Bart Brentjens (Netherlands). Two-time (2001 and 2003) Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni (Italy) will also mix it up with the favorites along with Alban Lakata (Austria) and 2004 marathon world champion Massimo de Bertolis.

"I can not do better, just the same or worse," said Paulissen. "I'm hoping for the best, because I am in top form. We'll need to watch the Swiss this year. They are marathon specialists."

"The course can be compared to the World Cup in Verviers and that of the Dolomiti Superbike," said Paulissen. "The first 25km will be important, and four hours in the mountains is not to be underestimated."

"The competition will be fierce," said another hopeful Leonardo Paez. "Paulissen, Sauser and De Bertolis have the experience and the ability to decide the race. For my part, I am confident and feeling good thanks to my preparation."

In the women's race, last year's Olympic Champion Sabine Spitz (Germany) will take on defending marathon champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) and 2007 marathon world champion Petra Henzi (Switzerland). It will be Flesjaa's first world championship race after having a baby this spring.

The European Masters Marathon Championship is also being run this weekend for marathoners 30 and over. With distances of 66km or 35km, racers can compete on the same track as the elites. Juniors will also get the chance to race on Sunday.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.