Two days prior to the World Marathon Champs I was starting to feel really strong, which was a huge relief after feeling so tired for so long after the European Marathon Champs. The day before the race I went out for an hour spin and did a few short intervals, my legs felt amazing and my bike seemed to be floating up the climbs. I was ready to give it my all.
As predicted, the start of the race was slow. Ideally I would have liked it to be a fast consistent pace from the start, just as it was at the Euros, but it soon became apparent that the pace would be moderate until the last 30kms.
Everything was going perfectly to plan until I punctured my rear tyre on a fast rocky descent after approximately 20kms. Fortunately, there was a technical zone in a few kms and the pace was low. I was able to ride smoothly and keep my position near the front until I got another rear wheel. I lost about a minute, but I made up the time quickly and soon regained my position in the front group.
After approximately 30kms we were told that the leading girl was 1 minute ahead. Huh?!! That simply wasn’t possible I thought! I was certain that we were the leading group and that we would’ve seen if another rider had made a break. Esther Suss, Sabine Spitz and Gunn-Rita all looked as puzzled as I did for a while. At 40kms we were told that the anonymous Swiss rider had a pulled out another minute on us! Gunn-Rita joked with me that perhaps it was Esther in disguise!
As I passed through the feedzone at 40kms I was relieved to get some cold water to pour over my head! I was still riding at or near the front and I was feeling strong and getting ready for the attacks to begin. Not long after passing through the feedzone I noticed that I was losing air in my front tyre. This was bad, very bad! The attacks started and as I stood out of the saddle to climb I could hear and feel my tyre starting to roll. I had to take the singletrail descents carefully and the corners even more carefully to stop my tyre rolling off the wheel.
At the next tech zone at 60kms, I was 20 seconds behind Esther, Annika Langvad, Sabine, and Elisabeth Brandau, and 10 seconds behind Pia Sundstedt. I stopped to get a new wheel, loosing 2 minutes and three places – Gunn-Rita, Blaza Klemencic and Pua Mata passed through ahead of me. I now had to fight hard to make up time and places. I was able to pass Pua and Blaza on the next climb and not too long later I passed Gunn-Rita. At the 80km mark I was 3 minutes down on the lead group and 2 minutes down on Pia. Over the last 20kms I was riding alone and tried to make up some time but it wasn’t possible.
I had mixed emotions at the finish line: I was surprised to finish in 6th position despite all of the problems, but at the same time I felt frustrated. I’m trying to rid my mind of the ‘what ifs’ and to focus on the many positives.
It transpired that the mystery Swiss rider who led the race for 65kms had taken a wrong turn early in the race and unwittingly found herself leading the race! Whoops!
A beautiful ride today in Kirchberg, Austria, has helped me to clear my head and I’m now looking forward to the Kitzalp marathon on Sunday, this is the first race in the new 2011/2012 UCI Marathon Series.
1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 4:20:33
2 Sabine Spitz (Germany) +0:01:56
3 Esther Süss (Switzerland) +0:03:23
4 Pia Sundstedt (Finland) +0:05:32
5 Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) +0:05:34
6 Sally Bigham (Great Britain) +0:08:53
7 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) +0:11:15
8 Monique Pua Mata (United States Of America) +0:11:51
9 Birgit Söllner (Germany) +0:13:05
10 Nina Gaessler (Germany) +0:16:32