Héctor Leonardo Páez León won the men's 2019 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championship ©Getty Images

Héctor Leonardo Páez León will be hoping for better conditions in Turkish province Sakarya tomorrow when he launches the defence of his International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships title.

The vastly experienced Colombian rider gained his first world title last year in Grächen in Switzerland.

It was the fifth time he had finished on the podium, having won silver in 2006 and bronzes in 2013, 2015 and 2018, and is expected to be in the mix for a medal again.

The 38-year-old has been acclimatising in Turkey having competed in the UCI MTB Marathon Series last Sunday (October 18) in Sakarya as well.

But Páez found life difficult that day as he was forced to stop on several occasions to remove mud from his bike on his way to finishing seventh.

"I got to a point where I just wanted to finish the race, the 'how' didn't matter to me, I just wanted to get to the finish line safely and I did it," Páez said.

Peeter Pruus of Estonia overcame the tricky conditions to win in Sakarya and will hope to find the winning formula again.

Austrian Alban Lakata, a three-time world champion, is also in a field which features fellow former winners Tiago Ferreira of Portugal, Jaroslav Kulhavý of the Czech Republic and Periklis Ilias of Greece.

Seventeen years after winning the world title, Maja Wloszczowska will be gunning for glory in Turkey ©Getty Images
Seventeen years after winning the world title, Maja Wloszczowska will be gunning for glory in Turkey ©Getty Images

In the absence of defending world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot of France, the women’s race would appear to be open as well.

Slovenian Blaža Pintarič and South African Robyn de Groot who finished second and third respectively behind Ferrand-Prévot last time will be looking to seize their opportunity.

But they are expected to face stiff competition from Britain’s Isla Short and Ukrainian Yana Belomoina, while Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska - who won the title in 2003 - will look to draw upon all her experience when she lines up tomorrow.

De Groot struggled in the mud in Sakarya last week but is expecting better weather this time around.

"Fortunately the weather is clearing and the sun is out, so hopefully that dries out the course," the 37-year-old told cycling website In The Bunch.

"I’m happy that we came to Turkey well in advance of the race.

"I am focused on doing the best I can and it is just a matter of applying yourself well and adapting to the situation."

More than 100 athletes representing 29 nations are set to take part in the competition, with the women racing 80.9 kilometres and the men tackling 110km.