Zegama – Aizkorri needs no introduction to those who follow Skyrunning. It is a course that has created many a story over the years.
Located in a natural park, Aizkorri-Aratz, it brings respect and excitement to every mountain runner that toes the line.
In July 2002, the Village Council decided to revitalise and bring life to the local area, in order to achieve these objectives the Zegama-Aizkorri Mountain Marathon Association was created. Today, the AIA-renovated Alpine Marathon has a reputation in the world as one of the world’s most prestigious mountain marathons.
Part of the Skyrunner World Series it is the ultimate mountain marathon test. In 2008 the European Championships were hold on this very course. When Kilian Jornet was asked about Zegama, he quite simply said:
“Zegama? It’s Zegama!”
In other words, nothing more needs to be said. It has a reputation that demands respect from the higher echelons of the mountain running world.
Zegama followed just 7 days after Transvulcania La Palma in 2012 and therefore we almost had a re run of the La Palma race. Of course, conditions were a little different. The dry heat of La Palma was replaced by torrential rain, mud, cold and the occasional snow blizzard.
The American contingent who had raced well on La Isla Bonita transferred en-mass to mainland Spain with a couple of additions. Nick Clark representing Pearl Izumi and the ‘hot tip’, Max King. Max had everything in is his favour; speed and a mountain pedigree.
As it happened, the American contingent had a lesson on European mountain running and never got in contention. For many of them they could hardly stand up in the tough conditions and as Nick Clark crossed the line he exclaimed
“Now THAT is a mountain race!”.
It was a shock to the system. Dakota Jones victorious just a week earlier had taken the race easy, a pre-race plan as he had nothing to prove after topping the podium at Transvulcania. In comparison, Kilian Jornet had something to prove and now had some running in his legs… midway through the race he applied the pressure and once again proved that he is the king of the mountains.
In the ladies race Oihana Kortazar showed her dominance over this Sky distance and we started to get a glimpse of a star in the making, Emelie Forsberg. Nuria Picas also set her stall out for a year-long process of podium places over all distances, from marathon to ultra. Anna Frost tired after a dominating Transvulcania performance decided not to race at Zegama and keep some powder dry for another day.
* PLEASE LOOK FOR UPDATES posted 26th April marked in BLUE
The 2013 race is going to see some great representation from top ranking teams: Salomon, New Balance, Adidas, La Sportiva, Arc’teryx, Valetudo Skyrunning, Inov-8 and Scott.
Zegama this year is two weeks after Transvulcania and although that would work well for additional recovery, it doesn’t necessarily work well for travel budgets, so, we wont have Sage Canaday, Timothy Olson, Anton Krupicka, Joe Grant and the ‘other names’ joining the Zegama party.
The Mens Race
Kilian Jornet will be a dominating force at Transvulcania La Palma and I see him on top of the podium, two weeks recovery is a life-time for Kilian and after his dominating performance in 2013 I see him replicating the win at Zegama. He has just flown around the Transvulcania La Palma course and set a new course record. Respect!
His sparing partner, Marco De Gasperi, a legend in mountain and Skyrunning unfortunately has now pulled out of the race with a knee problem. This is a great shame, we all love to see Kilian and Marco go head-to-head.
This almost certainly means that we will have a re run of the 2012 Zegama race and also the 2013 Transvulcania… Kilian’s main competition will now come from Luis Alberto Hernando. Luis was second behind Kilian at Zegama last year and is almost certainly in some of the best form of his life at the moment. He pushed hard at Transvulcania just over a week ago and was leading the race at the final summit, ultimately loosing his lead to Kilian on the descent. His race on the island of La Palma is even more impressive considering it was his first ultra.
Missing from Transvulcania and deciding to run the ‘Sky’ distance in 2013 is Andy Symonds. Andy comes from a traditional fell/ mountain running background and just like Tom Owens, he will love the conditions here. Both Andy and Tom have withdrawn from Zegama I am afraid. In an email from Andy Symonds, he says, “We’re both injured!! can you believe it.. Tom’s got some pretty bad tendon rumpture in his foot and I’m limping with a duffed iliopsoas… neither of us have run for several weeks (much more for Tom). And so, no Zegama this year.. booo.. :-(” A real shame not to have these two top performers at the race. Speedy recovery guys.
Miguel Heras missed Transvulcania due to injury so we currently have a question mark if he will run at Zegama. In form he is one of the best runners in the world, so, he will most definitely mix it up at the front. Tofol Castanyer recently raced the Three Peaks in the UK and had a good race but was not used to the ‘navigation’ element of UK fell running, he too has the potential to win, particularly when running on Spanish soil.
Michel Lanne from France had a great race over the tough and technical trail at Trofeo Kima in 2012 and has been racing regularly in the build up to this Spanish race. He will arriving in form and ready to take on the front of the race. Just this week he has been on the trails with Kilian.
Inov-8 have Alex Nichols and Ben Bardsley taking part and they may very well be two dark horses. Ben is well versed in fell and mountain running and will almost certainly come into the race a little under the radar… one person who knows and respects Ben’s ability is Andy Symonds. Expect a surprise! Also watch out for South African fast man, AJ Calitz, he may well struggle a little with the terrain, technicality and temperatures at Zegama. But a surprise can come from anywhere…
Other contenders are Michel Rabat, Nicholas Pianet, Dai Matsumoto, Toru Miyahara, Dawa Sherpa, Dave James and Daniele Capelletti.
The Ladies Race
The ladies race will be a battle royal and although the men’s field has a top quality field I can’t help but think that some real excitement and a nail biting finish will come from this select group of women. Of course, Oihana Kortazar is returning to hopefully repeat her 2012 victory. She will be fresh as she will have not raced at Transvulcania. However, I am going to go out on a limb and predict a podium place, if not a win for Stevie Kremer. Stevie (from the US and now living in Italy) may not be a name too familiar to many but believe me, she has all the class and ability to create some waves over the ‘Sky’ distance in 2013. She has just recently placed on the podium in a very tough race in Italy (overall podium, not the ladies) and after seeing her perform at Sierre Zinal and other races, I think Stevie will be the surprise package of Zegama.
Nuria Picas once again had a great race at Transvulcania 2013 and will come to Zegama ready to push hard and go full speed for the win. She had an incredible 2012 season and performed over all distances always making the podium and in most cases, she stood on top of the podium. She is a true champion and a great ambassador for the sport.
Emelie Forsberg had a superb race in 2012 and she will be back fighting for the podium. She can go downhill like no other and as she showed last year, she took the final descent at break neck speed and got on the podium. She is wiser, stronger and more experienced now. She is going to be fired up after her incredible run at Transvulcania and just missing Frosty’s CR by a couple of minutes. I think back 12 months when I first met Emelie, Zegama really was her first big race… boy she has come such a long way in twelve months. What does the future hold for her?
Silvia Serafini is also another great potential for a podium place. I don’t see her on top of the podium… she is still very much a lady who likes speed and good running terrain BUT she is learning fast and has heaps of talent and ability. Just this last weekend, the 18th May, she set a new CR in The Great Wall run in China.
Anna Frost gets a notable mention. She won’t be racing this year. She missed Transvulcania due to injury but just this last week has had some good news and she is now back on the trails, albeit slowly and one step at a time. She will be back!
Emanuela Brizio will lead the rest of the ladies gunning for one of those coveted podium slots. Maud Gobert, Stephanie Jimenez, Debora Cardone, Sarah Ridgeway and Anna Lupton make up the main contenders for the 2013 edition.
1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42k, Zegama – May 26
2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon – 42k, Chamonix – June 30
3. USA: Pikes Peak Marathon – 42k, Manitou Springs, Colorado – August 18
4. SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks - 46k, Zermatt – August 24
5. ITALY: Skyrunning Xtreme – 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13