84km, 3300m of climbing, 13212423kg of mud, 4.21hrs
4th place, 3min down to winner Periklis
On one side I loved to have marathon world championship tension and nervousness again, on the other side I hated it! I knew from the past this is very good for me and it makes me fast. The feeling I missed out after my non selection for the Olympics. Also going into the race as defending champ adds some extra pressure, plus the course in Ornans was not simple. Probably the most technical marathon I have ever seen. We are talking dry conditions, not wet. And boy it was wet and muddy on race day… There was hardly no uphill section you could ride out of the saddle. It was always a fine line finding the right power and gear for to get grip and not doing wheel spins into the air. Most effective was running anyway once the speed dropped.
The start was flat for the first 5 or 7km. There were so many mud puddles that I felt like a submarine in a swamp. It was surreal… “highway to hell”
By the way my start position was 49th and the other top cross country racers above 100. The UCI decided to do the seeding according the Marathon World Series. France 3 TV station wanted to do a quick interview at the start line with the French Olympian Tempier and me as defending champion. They obviously did not make it to row 6 and 12 to see us. Luckily I made my way up until the first climb, but not the pure cross country guys from row 12.
Despite the circumstances I felt good and tried to race against the competitors and not weather and mud. My biggest problem was the visibility and while I am writing this my eyes are still inflamed. No excuses now because I have seen Periklis riding away… I was more and less on his rear wheel. It was on the top of the first climb. We still caught him in the following downhill, but after feed number one he took off for real and nobody seen him again.
After a good hour and a half my rear down shifting did not work any more. I just did not get the the chain down into the big gears. I stopped a few times for checking derailleur, cable and everything but could not solve the problem. Often I was ether pushing a too hard gear or spinning in “blender” cadence. The most frustrating was during the fast sections where I ran out of gears, or could not take the speed into the climbs. After the third last tech zone I was back in 13th place and almost ready to quit and say good bye. Suddenly by coincidence I found out, when I tap on the down shifter plus slightly on the up shifter the trigger spring released and the chain dropped down. What a relief to find out and I was ready to race again. The moral was back! It was probably still 30km to go and with every rider I passed the podium hope raised. At the finish I was 30seconds too slow for second place, but far from first.
A season without happy ending. Hopefully I can make it up at Roc d’Azur this weekend. After that I am ready for holidays!