The unexpected Perikilis Ilias (Greece) created a surprise this Sunday, becoming UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Champion after having led the Men’s race right from the beginning. Meanwhile, Annika Langvad from Denmark retained her women’s title.
The muddy and very dangerous course at Ornans, in eastern France, played a key role in the distribution of the medals. Saturday’s summery weather was replaced by rain and fog, which had a considerable effect on the ground. To obtain the rainbow jersey, one had to be both physically and psychologically strong, and to avoid having any significant mechanical problems.
Ilias certainly fulfilled these criteria. At the head of the Elite Men’s race from the start, he maintained that position throughout the whole 84 kilometres. “I didn’t want to breakaway just then, but when I saw that the other weren’t following, I didn’t hesitate, and kept up my effort.”
In spite of two punctures, Ilias kept his lead right up to the line. He was 2’27’’ in front of the German Moritz Milatz who, struggling from the half-way mark had “thought of giving up”, before getting it back together over the final kilometres. German Kristian, who crossed the line 2’36’’ later, took the bronze medal. As for the Swiss rider Christoph Sauser (+2’57”), considered as one of the favourites before the race, he failed to make the podium.
At only 26, Ilias therefore won the greatest victory of his career. Usually concentrating on Cross country (XCO) trials, he has now finished national champion of his country seven times, and 33rd in the Olympic Games this Summer.
“I trained very hard, and had a very good feeling during the last few days,” he explained. “Although I lost my concentration rather during the last ten kilometres, I held on. It’s my first international win, and I’m very happy.”
Langvald keeps her title in spite of falling in the final
It was a dour fight for victory in the Elite Women’s race. Right from the first climb of the course, Annika Langvad, the title holder, managed to break away from the Norwegian rider Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa. The latter then remained alone in front, but lacking in confidence and turning around on many occasions, allowed her rival to catch up and then overtake her.
Langvald, 28 ans – injured several times this season – could have thought that once more her chances of winnign were fading, when she had a puncture six kilometres from the end, and then fell during the last downhill stretch. However, in spite of these incidents, the Danish rider retained her lead and her title of World Champion.
“I arrived her under no pressure, and in a totally relaxed condition,” explained the winner. “I remained concentrated over the whole length of the course. It’s just incredible to finish the season in this way. Everything went perfectly for me today.”
Langvald beat Dahle Flesjaa by 44 seconds, with the Swiss Esther Süss completing the podium at 1’40’’. “I wasn’t at my best, because I don’t like these weather conditions at all,” she declared.
The UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships will take place in Austria, in Kirchberg, in the region of the Kitzbüheler Alps.
Photo: Perikilis Ilias, a brave 2012 UCI World Champion! Credit: aiRPur / Extreme sur Loue