What a race the 2013 and 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal proved to be. It was an exciting nail biter in the men’s race with a new star and the old guard shining. For the ladies, we had a new lady on top of the podium, a repeat performance for second and third and the UK showing how to be consistent and perform at the highest level.
Marc Lauenstein (Suisse) 2:32:14 took home the win from Juan Carlos Cardona (Colombia) who was Kilian Jornet’s pre race prediction by just 16 seconds in what proved to be a fitting climax to an incredible race. Cardona looked as though he had the race won but Lauenstein pulled something special out of the bag in the closing stages. Very little is known about Marc, however, he is a Swiss orienteering competitor and he won silver at the 2005 and 2006 World long distance orienteering championships.
Mountain running legend and Sierre-Zinal course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) proved that experience and pure class can outwit the competition for a 3rd place in a time of 2:33:44.
Although entered in the race for some time, Kilian Jornet decided to run only in the days before the race. He was already at the Matterhorn and preparing for his next ‘Summit’. The temptation to drive from Italy to Switzerland was too great, and although he may very well have raced for ‘fun’ he placed fourth in 2:33:59. After the race he tweeted, “Super, super, happy today with Sierre-Zinal. I was here to enjoy the race and I feel super good. Finished in an unexpected 4th with my best crono!”
Robbie Simpson from the UK proved what an incredible talent he is, running for inov-8 he placed 5th in 2:35:32. It’s a world-class performance in a world-class field. A star of the future!
As you will see from my pre race summary, the 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal was such a tough race to call. Stars like Tofol Castanyer (7th), Rickey Gates (9th), Sage Canaday (17th); all proved that predictions are a fickle area to delve into, particularly in a relatively short and tough mountain race like Sierre-Zinal.
Sage Canaday runs a 2:16 marathon and has had repeated victories in 2012 and 2013. Many of those victories have come with course records. Just recently he won Speedgoat 50k ahead of runners like Anton Krupicka, Max king and Timothy Olson. Now of course here at Sierre-Zinal he may well have been running on ‘jaded’ legs. It is a distinct possibility. Post race he said, “Total muscle failure. Mountain racing in Europe is totally different from the US ultra-trail scene.” It does beg a question, are some of the top guys racing too much or do they need to be more specific in training? Certainly Rickey Gates has proven here that US male runners can perform in Europe, as did Anton Krupicka at Cavalls del Vent in the latter part of 2012. What are your thoughts?
On a final note, Cesar Costa (Martigny) has placed second at Sierre-Zinal three times before. For sure, many of us thought that 2013 may well have been his opportunity, however, he finished in thirteenth with a time 2:42:11.
Placing 2nd at Sierre-Zinal in 2012, her first European race, I firmly placed my prediction on Stevie Kremer taking out the win after a stunning twelve months racing. At the finish line, Stevie didn’t disappoint, however, the top spot was not hers. In a repeat of 2012, Stevie placed second, 3:03:12 and Maud Mathys placed third, 3:04:13. It was like déjà vu.
One thing that did change though was the top slot on the podium. Unnoticed by me on the start sheet, Elisa Desco produced a career enhancing performance and she once again proved that after some time away from the sport that good things come to those who wait. Marc De Gasperi (2012 Sierre-Zinal winner) summed it up when he tweeted, “No words enough to say how much YOU deserve this victory! Brava, brava, brava!!!”
Kenyan, Hellen Musyoka set the early pace but in the end placed 4th with a time of 3:04:47 and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge proved that experience is what really counts when it comes to Sierre-Zinal with a great fifth place in 3:07:21.
Victoria Wilkinson from Bingley Harries in the UK produced a sterling run to place sixth overall and this was ahead of some sterling competition. For example; 2013 Speedgoat 50k winner, Stephanie Howe placed 11th, Lizzy Hawker 14th (admittedly training for UTMB), Zhana Vokueva 15th and Celine Lafaye 18th.
Without doubt, it was an exceptional weekend of racing and of course, from a UK perspective, it is great to see Robbie Simpson, Angela Mudge and Victoria Wilkinson flying the flag at the front of the top European races.
You can actually watch all the action from the 2013 Sierre-Zinal here:
I think the Euro racing scene much is different from the US trail scene in the physical demands. The mountains are steeper here! And the trails usually more technical as well. True, I may have been racing on tired legs (felt this on the initial climb 2 miles into Sierre-Zinal) from Speedgoat..but I did not prepare specifically enough for this race. If i knew the course I would’ve trained much differently. Take a US runner like Ricky Gates who is an uphill specialist and has much more experience on the Euro scene: He did very well here in Sierre-Zinal (as with many Euro mountain races) but then look at how he ran at the Lake Sonoma 50-miler this year (typical US trail running ultra scene). Also, the winner this year has clocked a 3:03 at the Jungfrau marathon…very legit performance for that race!
Sage, you make good points. I do feel though that Sierre-Zinal is a race you can excel at. Look at my pre-race prediction 😉 In real terms, Sierre-Zinal is not really a typical ‘Mountain’ race. Zegama-Aizkorri for example is. Sierre is very fast, particularly after the starting climb and not technical. I personally think, and of course you are in a position to correct me on this, that Speedgoat must have been in your legs and hence the lack of zip. Rickey Gates is a good example, he has been in Europe for a little while now and will be more adapted, however, as you have proved, you both excelled at Speedgoat!
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“Elisa Desco … proved that after some time away from the sport that good things come to those who wait.”
Really? You might want to add that her “time away from the sport” was due to a doping ban until August 2012 following a failed drug test at the 2009 world mountain running championships.
Hendrik, I am well aware of the story and I know the story from a personal level, whereas you do not. Believe me, the doping ban was seriously flawed and some errors were made. Elisa to this day, is still fighting to have that ban cleared. It is very easy to look from the outside in and make a judgement when you only have one side of a story. Of course, this is my opinion and you are entitled to yours. I just feel you should hear some balance and then make a decision.
Ian, I respect your opinion, and it’s true that I do not have any inside knowledge of the case (nor did I claim so). But Elisa’s doping ban is a fact and I believe it should be mentioned in the article. To the average reader your statement gives the impression that she just took a few years off for personal reasons and on her own terms.
True. Very valid point and in retrospect I should have mentioned the ban irrespective of whether I believe the ban to be true or not.
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