Marathon bronze for Burry | SASCOC - SASCOC

Marathon bronze for Burry

By Mark Etheridge

Our Beijing 2008 Olympic mountain bike rider Burry Stander got his season back on track with a bang when he placed third in the elite men’s marathon world championship at St-Wendel, Germany at the weekend.

Stander’s South African teammates Kevin Evans and David George finished 25th and 35th respectively.

The race was fought out over two laps for a total of 107 kilometres and Stander once again came up with the goods to earn a medal in this gruelling sporting discipline. It’s the first marathon world championship medal yet won by a South African.

Winner was Austria’s Alban Lakata who clocked 3hr 49min 55sec and a sign of the close finish can be seen by runner-up Mirko Celestino of Italy ending just five seconds adrift and Stander a scant second further back.

“Second biggest result of my career. Thanks to everyone for their suport especially Cherise and my awsum family!,” said Stander on his Twitter feed shortly after the race.

The men started fast, with the first 52km ridden at an average speed of 30.4km/h.

On Monday Stander took time out to elaborate on his race. “I was very nervous and excited going into my first marathon world championships. There was a strong field lining up and I hadn’t raced a 107km MTB race since the Cape Epic. My legs were good leading into the event and the ‘stumpjumper 29er’ was super light at 8.4kg so I knew I’d have the speed. The course was really fast so there was a big group for most of the first lap of 52km before the many attacks that followed. The pace never really relaxed for the entire race.

“On the second lap of two we starting really driving the pace hard. Suzi (Christoph Sauser) attacked numerous times but to no avail. We headed into the last 10km with a 10-man group. Lakata had re-joined the group and with 3km to go he attacked with huge momentum. I tried going across the move but cramped halfway across, didn’t make it and decided to hang onto the now down to small six-man group.

“I timed my sprint for the line a little late and didn’t count on the unknown Italian in the group being an ex road sprinter! I still got third and was very happy — after a mediocre middle part of my season this made up for it!”

Stander is now heading home for his final preparation before XC World Cup finals and World Championships.

“I am without words. This was my dream. I really don’t know what to say,” said Lakata after his victory. “In the first two thirds of the race, my legs didn’t feel good, and I was struggling to stay on the back of the lead group,” said Lakata. “I was one whole minute down, and had almost given up hope of a good result.”

“Today was brutal. It was one attack after another, as it if was a cross country race,” said Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain), who finished sixth, after the race. “It was a group of around 20 in the first part of the competition, but it was clear that not all were going to hang at that pace.”

Evans, who won the national road time trial event in Klerksdorp earlier this year, ended 8:44 down the field while George was 13:35 back.

There’s no doubting Stander is an amazing athlete. In two weeks time he races the cross-country world championships in Canada and could medal there as well, providing he recovers quickly enough. A measure of Stander’s strength can be seen by the fact that current XCO world champion Nino Schurter and Olympic champion and World Cup leader Julien Absolon opted to miss the weekend action to stay focused and fresh for the Canadian event.

In the women’s event at St-Wendel, our Yolande Speedy placed 14th, 14:23 behind Swiss winner Esther Suss who clocked 4:33:47.