20 June 2014
Defending champion Christoph Sauser of Switzerland will have his sights set firmly on a fourth title at the 2014 UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Sunday, 29 June.
Fresh off winning the 2014 European MTB Marathon Championships in Ireland, the Specialized Racing rider, who has strong South African ties, has enjoyed a string of victories in Europe in recent months and is eager to make this count when “the big one” rolls into town in KwaZulu-Natal’s capital next weekend.
‘Nothing bigger or better’
“Worlds are definitely my focus for the year and I really want to defend my title in Pietermaritzburg,” Sauser said in a statement on Thursday. “There is nothing bigger or better than the moment you are on the podium and the jersey is presented to you.
“I have dreamt about winning the title again this year and if it happens then it would be very special. Firstly, because it will almost be a home race for me and, secondly, if I can win again this year it would be the first time I’ve ever successfully defended a World Champs title,” he added.
Outstanding physical and mental condition
The 38-year-old MTB marathon legend will use the last few days in his native Switzerland before he jets off to sunny South Africa as a final touch-up opportunity but believes he is already in outstanding physical and mental condition.
“Physically I am in the shape of my life,” Sauser reckoned. “I will still look to get into even a bit better shape, but I won’t go crazy with my training from now up until Worlds though. I’ll take this weekend off from racing and just train in Switzerland.”
“Quality rather than quantity is the key and I’ll just look to work on my last few weaknesses instead.
“It is a mental game too, though, and I’ve built up a lot of confidence lately, having won pretty much all of my races in the last two months,” he said with confidence.
A large part of the Swiss star’s preparations have involved dealing with the significant pressure on the defending champion’s shoulders.
“I definitely feel the tension and pressure at this stage, especially being defending champ. Basically, being at the top already means I can only lose,” he smiled. “I see the pressure as a very good thing for me though. It motivates me.
“Since school already, I’ve needed pressure to perform at my best, so the pressure doesn’t bother me. I enjoy it.”
Cascades MTB Park
Pietermaritzburg has a strong history of successfully hosting international cycling events and the city’s leg of the UCI MTB World Cup has helped Sauser develop a good understanding of the Cascades MTB Park, the start and finish venue for this year’s Marathon World Champs.
“In a sense heading back to Cascades is a homecoming for me and I know the start/finish area and the sections in and around Cascades MTB Park very well,” Sauser said.
“As far as the rest of the course goes, I only know it from having looked at the maps and course descriptions on the event website, so when I arrive on the Tuesday before Worlds I’m really looking forward to checking out the rest of the course.
“Most importantly is that I am in good shape and ready in my head, though,” he concluded.