Monday, July 1, 2013

Specialized Racing's Christoph Sauser won the third marathon world championship title of his career on Saturday afternoon in Kirchberg, Austria. He previously was marathon world champion in 2007 and 2011.

Racing in the colors of Switzerland and on his S-Works Stumpjumper 29er Hardtail, Sauser crossed the line in 4:30:13, just five seconds ahead of main rival Alban Lakata of Austria.

"Leading up to a race like this, it's hard training, and there is a lot of pressure. You always think too much and you're in your head," said Sauser. "I think I found a nice balance for this race. I wasn't too nervous going into it, and I let the other guys make the pace while I stayed out of trouble. You have to relax early on - in a 4.5-hour race, you can't be too tense too early. Then I put myself into high adrenaline mode in the last half hour, which helps me win these marathon races."

"It was hard mentally. For me, I always knew that the last climb and the last downhill would be the main goal."

Shortly after the start, all of the favorites were near the front, including Sauser and Specialized Racing teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic. The 95km course featured four major climbs. The first two climbs whittled down the field. The penultimate climb further worked over the lead group, then consisting of six men, and left only Sauser, Alban Lakata and Hector Leonardo Paez together at the front.

"After that, the three of us rode quite steadily until the showdown on the on the last climb which went from 800m to 1800m," said Sauser. "Paez attacked right away going into the climb after the last feed zone. Alban and I kept it steady and caught him. Alban knew he had to push the pace because a few weeks ago at the Bike Four Peaks [which Sauser won - Ed.], when we finished with this same downhill, I put lots of time into him there."

"The last 10 minutes before the downhill, I gave it all. I knew I had to go into the downhill first," said Sauser, who was riding Specialized S-Works Renegade 1.95 tires. "I made up a good 10 seconds and went into it first. Then the big pressure was on - not to make any mistakes on all the slippery, wet roots and deep, sticky mud. There were some dry parts - it was always changing, and it was impossible to pass."

"I could see him behind me the whole time, and whenever I'd ride more safely, he'd come closer. Then I let go of my brakes. It was such a relief to come out of the downhill into the four cross track and ride the four berms to the finish. It was like all the pressure was off."

This title adds to Christoph's already long list of achievements:

- 3 x World Marathon Champion
- 1 x World Cross-Country Champion
- 2 x World Cup Overall Champion
- 14 x World Cup Victories
- Olympic Bronze Medallist
- 4 x Cape Epic Champion

Kulhavy, the Olympic cross country champion and a regular favorite on the World Cup circuit, was surprised at the speed at which Sauser and some of the others were able to climb the first major ascent of the day. At the top of that climb, Kulhavy was six minutes down and realistic about his chances. After descending the first mountain, Kulhavy made the call to pull out at the tech zone.

"I decided I would not keep going until the next climb. The course is not so good for me - I'm not a marathon specialist. It's better for me to do some training and concentrate on my next races instead. My next races will be cross country races only. I would like to try to win some of them. I have a lot of time now for good training and preparation. I'm looking forward. I felt really good in Val di Sole at the World Cup, but now I'm feeling even better."

Two other Specialized racers - Kohei Yamamoto of Japan and Max Knox of South Africa - both racing Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper hardtail 29ers, were making up time on the downhills, but they struggled on the steep climbs, especially Knox. The two pushed themselves to the limit on the final climb of the day and were rewarded with an awesome 7km long downhill toward the finish where Yamamoto was 25th and Knox was 31st.

In Women's Anika Langvad finsihed 4th, while Tereza Huříková earns top 10 in her first marathon Worlds. Both on a S-Works Fate 29er.

Christoph and the whole Team, on behalf of everyone at Specialized, congratulations, we're proud of you - enjoy the celebrations!

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