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Schumacher wins Expo Gigathlon

A painful exercise in endurance finishes in Biel Keystone

Switzerland's Urban Schumacher has won the gruelling seven-day Expo Gigathlon travelling close to 1,500 kilometres in the last week.

This content was published on July 14, 2002 - 23:40

The 38-year-old from Uster shares the honour with Silvia Pleuler-Frey, the best female competitor.

"It was an unbelievable physical and mental experience. I am happy to have spread my strength around Switzerland," Schumacher said.

"It's the adventure and not the win that counts for me," Pleuler-Frey said of the race, which is estimated to be the equivalent of seven consecutive Ironman competitions.

Switzerland in seven days

The Gigathlon took athletes 1,477 kilometres throughout the hills and valleys of Switzerland in seven days starting in Yverdon and finishing at the Expo site in Biel.

Of the 157 people that started the race, which is divided into five sporting categories (swimming, mountain biking, road cycling, running and either inline skating or wheelchair racing), 88 were still competing on the final day of the event.

Before the Gigathlon doctors expressed concerns for the welfare of race participants, who combust more calories than they can consume during the punishing event.

But the mental toughness of participants meant doctors had less to deal with than they feared with bone fractures from bicycle falls being the most severe injuries reported.

Information technology and massage teacher

Schumacher, an information technology teacher, beat Bennie Lindberg from Finland, who came in second, by about one hour.

"He was perfectly organised and his running speed was amazing," Lindberg, a former professional long distance runner, said of Schumacher.

In the last leg of the race, Schumacher came in fifth, travelling 228 kilometres from Luzern to Biel.

For the 42-year-old Pleuler-Frey, a massage teacher, her victory seemed certain on Saturday, when she took a three-hour lead in the Gigathlon.

Almost 10,000 athletes from 11 nations took part in different stages of the race.

swissinfo with agencies

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