Swiss riders collect both marathon world titles

Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) takes a five and a half minute victory

Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) takes a five and a half minute victory (Image credit: AFP)

Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) and Petra Henzi brought home two World Marathon Championship titles to Switzerland last weekend from Verviers in Belgium.

For Sauser, the marathon championship was his first world title, in any discipline. It was "one of the best days in my racing life! Just unforgettable! I can not describe the excitement on the last kilometre, finishing the line or getting dressed in the rainbow jersey," said an excited Sauser on his web blog,

"The feeling of being World Champion is indescribable. There were tears in my eyes when I crossed the line," said Sauser, who already has an impressive cross country resume. He's won 11 world cup titles, including two overalls in 2004 and 2005, and he won silver at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

It had rained heavily in the days prior to the event, but racers were greeted with clear skies and decently dry conditions for Sunday's race on a rolling 105km course through the Ardennes forest.

Defending marathon champion Ralf Naf started the race hard, and he and Sauser soon separated themselves from the rest of the field. Only Belgian Roel Paulissen could mix it up near the front. However, Naf eventually suffered mechanical problems with his chain and a flat tire, which left Sauser alone at the front. Sauser ramped up the pressure, eventually winning in 4:23:06 by 5'23" ahead of Paulissen. Frenchman Thomas Dietsch was third, 7'26" back.

Compatriot and last year's silver medallist Petra Henzi won the women's event in 5:12:11. The 38 year-old overcame back injuries that plagued her earlier in the season and won by just 2'07" ahead of European cross country champion, German Sabine Spitz. Pia Sundstedt (Finland) finished third, almost 12 minutes off the winning pace.

Absent from the race was defending champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, champion in 2006. She has been forced to take off much of the 2007 season to recover from an intestinal virus.

Thomas Frischknecht was the last Swiss marathon champion. He won in 2003 and 2005.

For full results and photos from the world marathon championships, click here.

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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.