Rider Report: European Marathon Championships 2012

Ben Thomas reports on the European Marathon Championships 2012 in Prague

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Europe’s very best marathon racers gathered in Czech Republic for the 2012 European Marathon Championships. I arrived by plane flying into Prague on Tuesday, this gave me the opportunity to practise the course and recover from the stresses of travelling. An early flight and a quick exchange of car keys at the car hire meant I was driving north towards our accommodation at a decent enough time to have the chance to ride the first 35 miles of the track Tuesday afternoon.

The course started at Jablonne v Podjestedi town centre, passed over the German border, passed back into Czech Republic further West, before finishing up on a golf course in Hermanice v Podjestedi. There was a real mix of trails including fast open fireroad, grassy farm tracks, super rocky jeep track descents, loose steep rocky uphill climbs, and rooty singletrack. It was great fun to ride and practising the track for a few days before the event was a huge benefit on race day.

You can see my preview of the Euro Champs race course here

Race day dawned following some huge thunderstorms that rolled through the mountains surrounding us the previous night. The trails remained largely dry though thanks to the high temperatures in the previous few days. A fourth row call up gave me the opportunity for a decent start slotting onto the back of the lead group as we entered the first offroad section. The 10 kilometres were very fast, after the lead group split I chased back across to the leaders only for the group to split again on the next climb. Sitting in the second group there was a good tempo and we were quickly progressing through the race.

The real hills started at 45 kilometres after we passed through Oybin in Germany. By this point though the race had split apart and riders were well spaced out. There were limited position changes after this point, only riders who’d started too fast fell back through the field changing the race order.

After Oybin two of the riders from the Team Bulls professional mtb team caught me, they sat on my wheel for a while until I realised there were two of them. I then let them do some work and we rode together until about 15 kilometres to go where I slipped on one of the final steep uphill rocky sections which was damp and slippery after the previous nights rain. I chased but couldn’t get back, these two went on to finish just a few minutes in front of me, if I’d stayed with them a top 25 finish would have been in sight.

Although I wasn’t strong enough to catch those Team Bulls riders I did catch a couple of others who were now struggling. I still felt really strong at the end setting a strong pace all the way to the finish line to take 31st place.

31st best marathon racer in Europe in my first year of racing marathons, not too bad! I think I’m still learning the best pacing strategy for these marathon events and with more race experience I’ll improve and my race results will improve. I hoping that with a decent result at European Marathon Champs I’ll be selected by British Cycling to race World Marathon Champs, we’ll find out at the end of July.

You can see my post race video thoughts here

Results for the other Brits competing:
Sally Bigham 2nd Silver Medal Elite Female
Catherine Williamson 8th Elite Female
Tim Dunford 50th Elite Male
Simon Willets 1st 40+ Male


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