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The current situation is as open as rarely before

On Sunday the world championship titles in the discipline Mountainbike Marathon will be awarded in Grächen. In Valais there will be a comparison between long-distance and cross-country specialists. From a Swiss perspective, Ariane Lüthi, Urs Huber and Mathias Flückiger have the best prospects.

Names say a lot, but not everything. Thus the name Pauline Ferrand-Prévot catches the eye of the viewer of the participant list on the occasion of the Marathon World Championships in Grächen. The French rider, who became Cross Country World Champion at the end of August, will undoubtedly be one of the favourites on Sunday. However, it is uncertain how the 27-year-old will cope with the driving time of four hours at the end of a long season. Normally, her races last 90 minutes. On the other hand Ferrand-Prévot celebrated herself as road world champion in 2014. Five years ago she had been on the road in Spain for three and a half hours.

The starting position is open as seldom before, because of the long-time dominators of the scene only the 47-year-old cross-country Olympic champion Sabine Spitz and the Swiss Esther Süss are at the start. The five- and six-time World Champions Annika Langvad and Gunn-Rita Dahle, respectively, are not there, and last year's third Maja Wloszczowska from Poland is also missing. The long-distance specialists Bettina Janas from Germany and Katazina Sosna from Lithuania have plenty of potential.
Switzerland's national champion Ariane Lüthi has the best chances. Former world champion Süss is still one of the top players, but at the age of 45 she has reached the late autumn of her career. In the narrower sense, Florence Darbellay benefits from her home advantage. The Valaisan, number 3 in the world rankings, needs to be kept in mind.

Geismayr - and two Swiss For men, the statistics speak for Daniel Geismayr. In 2017, the Austrian finished third in German singing near the Swiss border. In 2018, he only had to give way to the Brazilian Henrique Avancini in the Dolomites, who did not compete in Grächen. Geismayr is 30 years old, almost a youngster in the long distance scene, and he recently presented himself in excellent shape. Hector Leonardo Paez from Colombia, who finished third last year, is probably one of last year's strongest competitors.

Anyone looking for the male counterpart to Ferrand-Prévot in the starting list will end up with a Swiss. Certainly, there are several established cross-country specialists registered, namely Ondrej Cink, David Valero Serrano and Jordan Sarrou. Mathias Flückiger, silver medallist at the World Championships in Mont Sainte-Anne despite a defect, bears the most famous name. In his case, this name says a bit more than Ferrand-Prévot's, because the man from Berne is preparing specifically for the marathon World Championships and has therefore missed the last World Cup race in the USA. A year ago, the 30-year-old had finished fourth in Auronzo, but without any specific preparation.

Urs Huber is less well known in Germany than Flückiger, but he is a fixed star in the marathon scene. The 34-year-old from Zurich has only just won the national championship title for the fifth time, in the world ranking he even ranks first. The prospects for the host country could also be worse.