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2018 UCI XCM World Championships - SA's leading ladies are ready to take on the world.

The 2018 UCI Mtb Marathon World Championships will take place on Saturday 15th September in Auronzo di Cadore and is reserved for the Elite athletes called in by their respective national teams.

Photo courtesy of

After the flat out and fast race in Singen in 2017, the 2018 cross-country marathon (XCM) World Championships head back to the hills. And not just any hills, but to the Italian Dolomites where the race is attached to the 3Epic. The Dolomites have mountains that rise steeply from alpine meadows, towns nestle in the valleys and mountain refuges are in the high passes. Serpentine roads trace a line up the passes and the trails take over to the higher regions and steeper slopes.

The Dolomites last had a UCI XCM World Championship in 2015. With long, steep climbs both the men’s and women’s races were decided early on. This is a stark difference to the race in Singen which favoured riders staying in groups and some road tactics, or Laissac which was a varied course of great trails, plus hard climbs and technical descents.

The race goes from ‘the lake to the sky’, and this is clear in the course profile. Starting at about 860m in Auronzo, the courses top out at close to 2300m.

With 89km for women, the race tackles 3400m of climbing. Some might take offence that the women’s race is shorter than the men’s. But this has become standard for the UCI XCM World Championships, as it creates a more even event between genders, with a similar winning time. In this case, it might be about 4:15-4:30 in 2018. For the elite women who are faster over a longer distance and time it might be a disadvantage, but it’s clear that the UCI want races to be contained to less than 5 hours.

About half the route is forest roads, with 64% paths, 8% singletrack and 7% asphalt. But what does that look like in the Dolomites? Typically, it means time lower in the valleys will be on gravel roads or sealed road, with improved paths (like a cycleway, but gravel) on the way out and connecting valleys, with singletrack descents off the top of passes and sometimes over the top.

A strong field lines up on Saturday and South Africa have a strong female contingent which will line up on the start line. Unfortunately Amy McDougall and Samantha Sanders are unable to attend but the four riders taking on the 2018 championships will do us proud.

Robyn de Groot

Photo Courtesy of Facbook\Trailseeker

The current South African marathon champion with her 6th National Marathon title, Robyn will be looking to improve on her 10th place at the 2017 UCI World Marathon Championships in Germany last year. Having spent two months in Europe racing and training she has settled into the European rhythm and will look to show off her form at the moment.

“My preparations have been good – I am fit and in good form but need to mention we are in for a MONSTER of a ride. I have just come off the course.... It is an incredibly tough course - really tough climbs and a couple of very tricky descents. I will definitely give my all out there. It is always an honour to represent SA, and I’ll always give my best shot. Special thanks to sponsors, and event organizers who have also been generous to make my EU racing trip including worlds a possibility.” says Robyn.

Candice Lill

Photo: Milan de Beer Photography

Candice has had a great season so far with some great form in the XCO races locally and abroad alongside some great marathon wins. Candice raced the UCI XCO World Champs last weekend in Lenzerheide and is ready to tackle the demanding marathon course in Italy. She has been riding consistently and feels happy to race the world’s best come Saturday.

Mariske Strauss

Photo by Anna Buick/Silverback, OMX Pro Team

Mariska is our XCO specialist and has shown great results with a top 20 finish at the UCI XCO world championships last weekend in Lenzerheide. She is also an incredible marathon racer and her performance at this year’s ABSA Cape Epic and other top marathon results shows her abilities in the longer distance.

Mariske commented, “Well to be honest I am not sure how the body will respond after Saturday’s XCO World Champs. The nice thing with XCO is that the intensity will definitely be there. Fitness wise I’ve put in a couple of long rides and of course have experience with marathon. I know it is going to be a challenging race and to be honest my focus has definitely been XCO, so I am going in very open minded. My head and heart is in the right place so ready to take on the world, a kilometre at a time ;)”

Yolande de Villiers

Photo: Jacques Marais

Yolande has been a front runner in the marathon and long distance events in South Africa for many years. Her experience will definitely count in her favour and she should be able to show some strong form following a win at the 230km Trans Baviaans race last month. She expects top class racing and a challenging course but will be giving her all over the 89km.

We wish them all the greatest success and we look forward to watching our SA riders take on the mighty Dolomites this Saturday.

For a preview of the race and the beautiful Italian town of Auronzo di Cadore, take a look at this.

To follow the action visit the official website:

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