World Champion XCM 2014 (photo: Michal Cerveny)
Lean back and take the Grand Tour below
In 2011 I won my first Marathon World Title. My strongest impressions of that race was the last 15km, where I broke way and rode solo to the finish line. At that exact moment I put it all out there, putting all faith in my power and rode on instincts. On my handlebar I had a small sketch of the altitude profile of the course. I hadn’t ridden the entire course forehand, so I didn’t know exactly how hard the last climbs were. Just by the look on my profile, the climbs didn’t look that tough, so I pushed hard, constantly thinking, that the summit was always just around the corner. Crossing that finish line was indescribable!
In 2012 I had an injury plagued season. This year the Marathon Worlds was at the very end of the season (in early october) and by that time I was worn out mentally and physically. This season was tough, very tough! Whenever I started to train to try to get back to the level, I knew my potential could lead me to, I soon got struck by another injury. But honestly, I wouldn’t be without this season, since it taught my a lot, especially to really appreciate the good times and the successes that come with hard work. At the race I didn’t see myself as a contender for the victory or a medal at all. Since I was quite absent from the front of the races this year, I don’t think anybody else thought of me as medal contender either. Truth is, that I didn’t do much training in the month leading up to the race, since the season was more or less over, and I really needed a break to get going again. Still I went to the race to honor the rainbow jersey as the defending wearer of it. On race day it was pouring down and the course was a chaos of mud! A lot of riders anxiously talked about what a shame it was, that the otherwise very cool course, now was a completely different scenario. I think, that played into the mind of many riders. When the start gun went off, I stayed out of trouble the best I could. Many riders had crashes due to the fast flat start and very poor conditions for a clear view. Once we hit the first climb, I could easily move up to the front, and soon it was Gunn-Rita and me with a gap on the rest. I remember Kenneth, her husband, running alongside us, yelling to Gunn-Rita that I was the only one with her. I remember, that I found I quite funny, since I probably wasn’t as strong as her anyway. But then slowly it sunk in, that maybe I actually was one to count on for the win. Gunn-Rita got away a few times. But every time, I somehow just be keeping my speed, caught up with her again. Midway in the race, I was in the lead, I rode strongly and I had the decisive gap. Even a puncture with 7km to go couldn’t stop me from winning. I was in my race mode at its best and only when I crossed the finish line I allowed myself to let emotions in and I was literally crying crossing that line. Not only because of the victory itself, but more because of a glimpse of hope in a season filled with endless pain and despair.
In 2013 I for sure wanted to defend the title, but I caught a severe cold a couple of weeks before the race and I was powerless on the day of the race.
This year I had a great training schedule planned. After the world cup in Albstadt (Germany), I took time off from racing and put in some solid training. I felt very prepared for the Marathon World Champs, so not only my surrounding but also I, myself, felt I was favorite for the title. This scenario was different from my previous Marathon Worlds, were I didn’t see myself as the clear favorite. The biggest challenge for me was to cope with my own expectations. I had no idea how strong everybody else were, so my tactics for the race were just to stay with the bunch, not being the one setting the pace. The course started with a long climb, and as we got going, I soon realized that I was feeling awesome. I couldn’t resist accelerating a couple of times on the rolling hills, to see who could follow. Well, actually only Sabine Spitz just hung on, but I could see, that she wasn’t able to ride that pace for very long, or attack. I trusted my instincts, that told me to keep on going, not looking back. So I did. I emptied my head, and focused on riding every part of the course as efficiently as possible, constantly pacing myself and counting down the kilometers to the next feed zone. Going into the last long downhill to the finish line, I knew I had a good gap. At this time, I had pretty much used all my power, so it was an amazing feeling to finish the race with a long downhill and not a climb. This victory was amazing and kind of an end to the first part of this season, that have been full of great experiences.
I have learned a lot this season. It is the most wonderful feeling to have reached a level, where I know what works for me. First of all, I have found out, what kind of training, that works for me. I’ve put in more hours of base training, and it gives me a great endurance and also an all-important base to build speed on. What we actually did in the lead up to Marathon Worlds, was to copy the training I did in the winter.
Secondly, I have an amazing setup at Specialized. Being with professional and passionated people is super motivating and has taught me a lot about life as a professional athlete. Also I feel privileged to have the best equipment at my availability.
A huge thank you to all of your greetings. It means the World!