Merida 100 goes international
A brand new Merida Mountain Bike Marathon was held over the weekend of 10/11 July in Bad Goisern, Austria. The new event was a very successful addition to the existing four events in the UK series, giving UK riders an inspiring flavour of the enormous continental MTB Marathon scene.
The new event was held alongside the Salzkammergut Trophy and the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships. Bad Goisern, a small town roughly 40 miles from Salzburg, was rocked when more than 2,000 mountain bikers temporarily turned it into the mountain bike marathon capital of Europe. And where Marathon riding is the order of the day Merida 100 riders are never far away. Around 90 Marathon die-hards travelled from the UK to enjoy themselves on the 47km, 101km and even the 203km marathon routes.
While the British riders found the Austrian event slightly less technical than the familiar UK Merida 100 courses, the sizable 1,829m of climbing in the 47km loop, enormous 3,648m in the 101km and preposterous 7,296m in the 203km route (almost double the climbing of any marathon course in the UK) meant there was challenge enough for everyone who took part. And if the courses themselves weren’t challenge enough the Alpine weather showed its hand on the Saturday wuith a mixture of rain, sunshine and extreme cold.
The weekend’s events were all based near the Bad Goisern market square, creating a fantastic atmosphere. People travelled from all over the region to the town to see of the start of the three distances – although spectator turnout for the 5am start of the 203km race was a little bit thin. Later on Saturday morning the 47km and 101km course riders made their way out of town, starting one of the innumerable climbs of the day. Shortly afterwards the mountain rain started to kick in, making some of the downhill sections unrideable. And this is where the super-encouraging spectators who lined the route made the ride so much more enjoyable by cheering all the riders on. Some local residents along the course even got their power-washers out, helping the competitors to get their bikes back into a rideable condition. Rumour has it the same residents made donations to the feeding stations where entrants found pretty much everything from water, via energy drink, Red Bull all the way u’ to beer, bananas, energy bars, cakes and cheese and ham sandwiches.
After quite a few hours of hard work up and down the muddy hills everybody made it back into the town, tired but happy, to collect their T-shirt to prove that they managed their course. It was a great day and we can only suggest for anybody who has not made it over there yet to give it a go next year or simply book a few days in the Salkzkammergut region and ride your bike around the mountains – well worth a trip, we reckon.
Sunday saw the UCI World Championships which were held on 101km Marathon course, the only difference a little extra loop through the centre of Bad Ischl. Unfortunately the conditions hadn’t really changed from Saturday and all the riders knew what was coming their way. I managed to have a quick talk to Jürgen Kottula, rider of the Merida Multivan Team and winner of the Kona 100 in 2002. He expected the winners of the men’s race to be not below five hours but when female Merida rider Gunn Rita Dahle came over the line to take the Marathon World Championship for the Merida team just after five hours and 28 minutes it became clear that the leading men would complete the gruelling course in under five hours! Minutes after Gunn Rita crossed the line the winning man, Massimo de Bertolis from Italy, came through to take his first World Championship.
After the race, Gunn Rita Dahle told us that she wants to come to the UK next year to take part in one or more of the Merida 100 events as training for the Marathon World Championships which will be held in Norway. There’s no time to lose for anybody who’s thinking of giving her a run for her money next year and what better place can there be than the next round of the Merida 100 Mountain Bike Marathon Series in Selkirk on the weekend of the 31st July – 1st August 2004.
The last UK event in Builth had more than 1,200 riders. Chances are that the Selkirk round won’t be quite that packed, but to be on the safe side, make sure you get your entry in as soon as possible. The easiest way to enter is to go onto the website entry page and submit your entry. Please don’t forget to send your cheque straight away as your entry will only be complete once we have received both. If you prefer the paper way then just send an SAE to: Merida 100 MTB Marathon Enduro Series, Attn: John Lloyd, Builth Wells Cycles, Smithfield Road, Builth Wells, Powys, LD2 3AN.
And for everybody who cannot make the round up north there is always the final event in Ruthin on the weekend of the 18-19 September.
For further information on the events please go to www.mtb-marathon.co.uk or request a Marathon magazine via the site.