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Swiss mountain bikers strike gold

Petra Henzi (left) and Christoph Sauser after their victories in the mountain bike marathon world championships Keystone

Swiss athletes Christoph Sauser and Petra Henzi have won gold medals at the 5th UCI World Championships Mountain Bike Marathon in Verviers, Belgium.

Although the “Walloon Capital of Water” is located in a country that barely has any hills let alone mountains, the world-class field had to negotiate the valley of the Vesdre and the Hoëgne rivers as part of the 105km course.

Verviers played host to the marathon on Sunday after previous world championships in Lugano in Switzerland, Bad Goisern in Austria, Lillehammer in Norway and Oisans in France.

Sauser, from Bern, was neck and neck with defending Swiss champion Ralph Näf with 25km to go, but a couple of technical problems dashed Näf’s hopes.

Sauser, who won bronze at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, kept up the pace and crossed the line in four hours and 23 minutes, more than five minutes ahead of second-placed local rider Roel Paulissen and Thomas Dietsch from France.

Sauser was also the overall winner of the UCI World Cup in 2004 and 2005, coming second in 2002 and 2003, and third in 2001.

Switzerland has an enviable history at mountain bike marathons: Thomas Frischknecht was champion in 2003 and 2005.

In the women’s marathon competition, Petra Henzi from canton Thurgau achieved the biggest win of her career when she held off Sabine Spitz, the European cross country champion from Germany.

Of the 137 men who started the race, 12 were Swiss, as were eight of the 52 female competitors.

swissinfo with agencies

1. Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) – 4h23:14
2. Roel Paulissen (Belgium) – +5:15
3. Thomas Dietsch (France) – +7:18

1. Petra Henzi (Switzerland) – 5h12:11
2. Sabine Spitz (Germany) – +2:07
3. Pia Sundstedt (Finland) – +11:59

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR