In the Austrian town of Graz this past weekend saw the World’s Elite Endurance Mountain Bike racers take part in the World Championship, where the prestigious title was fought out.  The Topeak Ergon Racing Team was there with four riders who battled it out on the difficult, demanding and dramatic course – a course truly worthy of a champion.

The men’s team was lead by the reigning European Marathon Champion, Alban Lakata – who was riding in front of a home crowd.  He was joined by Wolfram Kurschat, who was looking forward to a slightly longer race than he usually rides.  The final man in the green and black was Robert Mennen.  In the women’s race British National Marathon Champion Sally Bigham was facing and not shying away from international rivals.

On Sunday morning the races were started, 15minutes apart.  The battle taking place for the men over 104km with 3800 meters of climbing, and for the women over 83km.  Warm ups, however, should have taken place prior to the start, and the first climb, with inclines of up to 28% began after just a few hundred meters.

The newly crowned XC German National Champion got off to a brilliant start, and set off forming a group at the front.  For Lakata it was a different story with a mechanical seeing him drop to 6th place from second by the time he got to the pits and into the hands of Team Mechanic Lars Hartwich.  Once there it was a hasty swap of the front brake, with Lakata also on the spanners, he then faced a two minute gap back to the front.  Pulling out all of the stops, he took back position after position.  With two thirds of the race behind him, he was in 6th place, and he still wasn’t finished.


At the foot of the key climb of the day, the climb to the top of the Schöckl cable car, Lakata passed team mate Kurschat, and as he reached the highest point of the race at 1495m, Lakata did what few would have expected after his mechanical. Alban moved into a medal position.

It looked at one point as if it was going to be a fight within the team itself, as at this point, Kurschat – the stronger climber – was still on Lakata’s wheel.  It was all to be decided on the 20km long descent, and timing showed Lakata as 56seconds down on the Belgian Roel Paulissen riding in second place.  He was in turn 30 seconds down on the Russian Medvedev.  It made for exciting viewing for the hundreds of spectator watching a large video screen in the finishing arena as the commentator questioned “Will Lakata be able to manage to close up on Paulissen?” In the meantime, it seems that Medvedev had suffered a problem, and was no longer in contention.


What seemed like forever passed, as the ride to the finish line continued.  Finally, the lead out motorbike came into the arena, followed by the new and defending World Champion Roel Paulissen…..  after 30 seconds, Lakata rolled in to take second place.

“It is unbelievable. Today, my legs were great. A silver medal at home is awesome!”  It seems that the mechanical was the only thing holding him back on the day, and even that appeared to have little effect.

In fifth place over the line, Wolfram Kurschat arrived, completely exhausted.  “The last climb really took it out of me. That I managed to reach the top at all is a surprise even to me – then to make it back down – well I have my Rotwild RR.2 full suspension bike to thank for that”


In the third group crossing the line, Robert Mennen arrived.  His place in the top 20 having dropped to 28th following another mechanical.


For the womens race, it was a similar story of jubilation.  Sally Bigham, a relative new comer to Mountain Biking and a new face on the international scene, has caused quite a stir. With her performance earlier in the year at the Lake Garda marathon, and at the Willingen Festival Marathon, the Briton has shown that she is a force to be reckoned with.  High hopes of a good race and a good finish for the winner of the Rocky Mountain 2009 Marathon Season were realised, as she made her way up from 20th to 10th position to cross the line.  A world-class effort from all riders, proving that Team Topeak Ergon is the World Elite.


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