The men have 87km to duel it out, the women 60km. Not too far then. Well it is when it's all at altitude, with some savage climbing. The women's race packs in 3400m of climbing in those 60km, and the men's 4700m. Ouchy.
Kulhavy is in form in XC and won the recent European marathon champs in Germany, but can he get over the mountains ahead of some of the lighter riders? His Specialized teammate Christoph Sauser (Sui) seems perfect for this race and will be right up there. Colombian Paez (the 2014 winner) finds it easier than most grovelling up the gravel at altitude.
Paez giving it some beans
Expect Urs Huber (Sui), Hynek (Cze) and the Topeak Ergon guys of Lakata (Aut) & Mennem (Ger) to be there or thereabouts. On home ground Italians will also figure, Tony Longo & Samuele Porro their top ranking riders.
In the ladies race our own Sally Bigham will be pushing hard at the front. The course suits her tempo climbing abilities and she won the race in 2013. She seems right back on form and fired up after her leg/arteryoperation (for iliac endofibrosis) the end of 2014. Evergreen legend Gunn Rita-Dahle (Nor) and current World Marathon Champ Annika Langvad (Den) are absolutely flying and will be tough to beat ... between them they have won 8 of the last 12 World Marathon Champs!
Sabine Spitz (Ger), won on the non technical flatter European champs course, but will need all her guile in this one. Sabine Somer (Aut), Esther Suss (Sui), Ariane Klienhans (Sui) & Lea Davidson (USA) are also ones to watch.
There's a healthy contingent of other Brits, including men’s British Marathon champ Ben Thomas.
It’s a BIG even here in Val Gardena. Most hotels are festooned with race banners. Riders are arriving and getting ready to give their stems sweet butterfly kisses.The air of excitement is building, augmented by the tonight’s Lederhosen party. We’ll let you know how it pans out, the race that is.
In the local bike shop the 22t inner rings are sold out.