It’s here… the long awaited Skyrunner® World Series kicks off with what has become, in just 2-years, the iconic Skyrunning Ultra Race, Transvulcania La Palma. The race has come a long way… now considered to be one of ‘the’ races to do, the 2014 edition of the race will only cement this reputation as runners travel from all over the world to take part.
It goes without saying that a quality line-up is guaranteed for this race, however, 2014 has my appetite whet for what I consider to be arguably the most exciting and competitive race we will have ever seen on the island of La Palma. What a line up!
A simple glance at the ladies race confirms one thing, showdown! 2012 Transvulcania winner, Anna Frost returns to the island she loves after missing the 2013 edition through injury. 2013 winner, Emelie Forsberg will toe the line and the trio would not be complete without the ever present and incredibly talented, Nuria Picas*. Add Silvia Serafini, Cassie Scallon, Uxue Fraile and Jodee Adams-Moore amongst others and we have a female melting pot that is going to boil over and may well explode on the trails of the GR131.
But hold on a minute, have you seen the men’s field…? Dakota Jones, like Anna Frost, returns to the island after a year a way and will be looking to take back that ‘President’ title bestowed on him in 2012. Kilian Jornet, 2013 winner will provide the stimulus to push Dakota to a new level but lets not rule out the incredible talent and line-up that will be chomping at the bit to dislodge the 2-previous winners. Luis Alberto Hernando will have prepared all winter to be in the best possible form come May 10th, Timothy Olson, Sage Canaday, UTMB winner, Xavier Thevenard, Ricky Lightfoot, Philipp Reiter… oh boy, how long have I got?
Take out your diary, block out the weekend of May 9th, 10th and 11th and prepare yourself for what will go down as an epic running of the Transvulcania La Palma.
In addition, 2014 will see the inaugural running of the Transvulcania VK. Weaving up the zigzag path from the port of Tazacorte, an exhilarating and awe inspiring test of leg and lungpower will unfold at 1600hrs Friday, May 8th
Please note: the 2014 edition of the race is now listed as 73km and not 83.3km as on the website. In real terms, runners have said for the last couple of years that they thought that the course was short, so, this may just well be an acknowledgement. Importantly though, the route from Tazacorte Port to the finish in Los Llanos has now changed. Runners will now run along the ravine and not along the road as in previous editions. It’s difficult to say at this stage what impact this will have on the race. My initial reaction would be that a fast road ultra runner could use the previous final section to his advantage (Sage Canaday?) to pull back some time, maybe this advantage will no longer exist!
So, who’s going to win?
The ladies race has real quality at the front but barring a disaster, I don’t think we will see any real surprises. A select group of 4-6 are outright favourites for the win and my outside tip goes to Maite Maiora Elizondo for surprise performance.
Emelie Forsberg was unstoppable in 2013. Notable for the diversity of her racing; Emelie started the season with a win at Transvulcania and whilst also racing and winning at VK and SKY distances, Emelie crowned out her year with 2nd pace behind Nathalie Mauclair at the super tough, Raid de la Reunion, Emelie’s first ever 100-mile race. Since then, Emelie like Kilian pretty much hangs up her run shoes and spends her time on ski’s. Other than the occasional 20-30min jog and a week of running at the Salomon athlete retreat in Limone, Emelie will arrive on the start line of Transvulcania thinking to herself, ‘I wonder how this will go?’ Emelie had the same thoughts last year and secured an incredible victory over Nuria Picas. Dare I say that she almost made it look easy? I have no reason to think that 2014 will be any different and therefore Emelie is my no1 tip for the crown and a potential new course record.
Nuria Picas* fresh from another victory (just this last weekend) will join the ladies on the island and will without doubt bring her incredible talent, dedication and entourage to ensure that the best possible performance can be guaranteed. However, and this is a big however, her recent win at Transgrancanaria and more importantly, her win at the 105-mile UTMF in Japan on April 26th must leave the Catalan feeling a little tired and jaded. Anyone else and I would say that the occasion, fatigue and tiredness would take a heavy presence and a potential lackluster or under par performance can be expected. But I just can’t rule Nuria out… Anna and Emelie know only too well what a talent Nuria is and equally, Nuria will understand the challenge ahead. I can’t wait! Nuria has decided to rest and recover after UTMF and will not race at Transvulcania. She will prepare for Australia.
Anna Frost arrived on the island of La Palma weeks before the 2013 edition of the race and the reality struck that she was going to have to miss the race due to ongoing injury. It was a tough decision and what followed was a year fighting with injury that forced Frosty to look within and find out what was really important. Even in February 2014 whilst attending The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, Anna was forced to reassess her objectives and take more rest. However, a recent win at the marathon distance at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia may well mean that our beloved Frosty is on her way back! Already on the island of La Palma, Frosty will be preparing mind and body for the challenge ahead. Can she win? A b s o l u t e l y! You can never rule out an inform Frosty, particularly on this course. However, it’s early days on the comeback trail and I am going to sit on the fence not wishing to add any additional pressure. Finishing healthy and uninjured will be a major victory.
Cassie Scallon has already had 2-victories in 2014. Most recently at the MSIG Sai King 50 in March and the Ray Miller 50 in February. Dating back to 2006, Cassie has been a force to be reckoned with at the 50k to 80km distance. A victory at the 100km Bandera in 2012 shows that endurance is not a problem for the Boulder based athlete. Transvulcania and its trails will suit Cassie and we will without doubt see her at the front of the race. Cassie posted on Facebook ‘I am terrible at recognizing broken bones in myself. This is bone #2 that I decided didn’t hurt enough to be a break, so I continued to run on it. Again I thought it was getting a little better every day, but it was actually getting worse. Not awesome.’
Jodee Adams-Moore, had a great 2013 and has showed form in 2014 at the 50k and 50-mile distances with 6 top-4 places. Jodee won Orca Island 50k in 2013 and 2014 and the Chuckanut 50k. Just recently, Jodee placed 2nd behind Ellie Greenwood at Chuckanut 50k and placed 4th at Lake Sonoma. The trails of La Palma will offer a new challenge and although we can expect to see Jodee pushing towards the front end of the race, I don’t see her making the podium.
Silvia Serafini is an incredible talent and has always been there or thereabouts at many of the big races. A highlight of 2013 would have been placing 2nd behind Emelie Forsberg at Matterhorn Ultraks. Silvia is not without race victories; in actual fact, her consistency has been incredible. Like so many other runners, Silvia just needs a little luck on one of the big occasions and this will elevate her and her confidence to a new level. Silvia has injury issues and tells me that she may actually not race at all in 2014. A real shame… get well soon Silvia!
Uxue Fraile placed 5th at Transvulcania 2012 and 3rd in 2013. Add to this, top performances at Cavalls del Vent, Trans D’Havet and a recent 6th place at Transgrancanaria and you can’t rule out that Uxue will be looking for an opportunity and an opening to dislodge one of the hot favourites should they falter. On paper, Uxue does not have the outright speed to contest the podium (she was 60-min behind Emelie in 2013), however, she does have the patience and endurance for the survival game.
Maite Maiora Elizondo – my rank outsider for a surprise and potential shock in the overall classification and standings. Maite is a pure mountain runner with a reputation for performing at a high level over the SKY distance. Transvulcania at 73km will be a stretch, however, class is permanent and I predict a surprise.
Ones to watch:
- Krissy Moehl – Not sure she is racing?
- Alicia Shay – 3rd at Chuckanut 50k in 2013
- Alessandra Carlini – 2nd at MSIG Sai Kung 50 in 2014
- Natalie White
- Maxime Cazajous
- Hiroko Suzuki
So, if you thought the ladies race was a tough one to call. Look at the quality of the men’s field. It’s a who’s who of mountain runners.
Kilian Jornet like Emelie Forsberg will step off his skis and make the transition to running with the flick of a switch. In 2012, Kilian lost out to Dakota Jones and Andy Symonds at Transvulcania, it was a combination of elements that influenced his performance, not enough running, dehydration and a particularly hot day! In 2013, Kilian corrected these mistakes and secured victory ahead of Luis Alberto Hernando. Post the 2013 race, I asked him what he had done different? ‘I ran for 7-days before the race instead of just 3!’. Need I say more… no matter how stacked the field you can’t rule out victory for the Catalan, however, he won’t have an easy day! Many of the competition see ‘this’ race as the perfect opportunity to beat the master as he makes the transition from snow to trail.
Luis Alberto Hernando is without doubt looking for that opportunity to take the crown away from Kilian. Luis, for me, is one of the greatest mountain runners in the world. Modest, professional and pure class; he is without doubt one of the few runners who can take Kilian to an edge and hold him there. Luis, along with Marco De Gasperi pushed Kilian to better performances in 2013. It was down to the line at Zegama-Aizkorri and a hand-in-hand finish at Trans D’Havet after personal circumstances dictated a truce between the two warriors. At Everest Trail Race in November, Luis picked up an injury that forced him to only walk, he told me then, I have time, I only have one thing I need to be ready for… Transvulcania! Excited is an understatement.
Dakota Jones went ‘AWOL’ in the early part of 2013 seeking new experiences. A red-hot performance at San Juan Solstice 50m was followed with ‘dns’ at TNFUTMB, as he didn’t feel as though he had adequate preparation time. Dakota re-focused and concentrated on UROC. Victory seemed secure in Colorado; however, a charging Rob Krar stole Dakota’s glory in the latter stages of the race. Since then, Dakota has travelled racing at low-key multi day races and a recent quality performance at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia. Dakota’s return to Transvulcania is eagerly anticipated. It’s a re-match of Balboa and Creed proportions…
Sage Canaday I think was still learning last year. Sage had plenty of natural speed and wanted to run every ultra in the same way he would run a marathon… go out hard, hold on and finish in glory. On many occasions this worked; Bandera 100km, Lake Sonoma, Cayuga Trails and Speedgoat 50k, however, it was a tightrope existence. At Tarawera he just about held off a charging Timmy Olson and at Transvulcania, Sage slowed along with Cameron Clayton and opened the door for Kilian and Luis Alberto. One year on with a repeat victory at a shortened Tarawera and 3rd place behind a dominant Zach Miller at Lake Sonoma, I think we will Sage run a more cautious first half of TV and look to be more in the mix in the latter stages. He can win for sure!
Timothy Olson 8th at Ray Miller 50 and 3rd at the recent Transgrancanaria knows all about peaking for a race. A repeat back-to-back victory at Western States in 2013 confirms this. The question for me is Timothy looking for a Transvulcania victory or is he looking for another solid and consistent performance on the road to Hardrock 100? Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning Timothy’s ability, performance or dedication, on the contrary, I am actually saying that his focus can very often be at the sacrifice of other races. Of course, if a podium place or win is up for grabs, Timothy will dig deep and seize the opportunity. I expect top-5 and wouldn’t be surprised with an out and out win. What do you think?
Xavier Thevenard was the surprise winner of the 2013 TNFUTMB, a result, considered by many to be one of the performances of the year! It would be fair to say, that Xavier, to many, was an unknown runner. However, this would be a great injustice. In 2013 alone, Xavier placed 11th at Transvulcania, 3rd at 80km du Mont-Blanc and closed out the year with 2nd at Templiers. His 2013 performance at Transvulcania was 1-hour behind the lead men; one year on one can’t help but think that with renewed confidence the gap will be much less.
Tofol Castaner is a great mountain runner and on his day can push with the best in the world. His record at Cavalls del Vent proves this, 2nd in 2013 and 2011. However, he shot to worldwide ultra fame with his dominant CCC performance at the 2012 edition of the race covering the distance in 8:57:04. He will be in the mix.
Philipp Reiter placed 11th in 2012 and 12th at the 2013 edition of Transvulcania. Always on the verge of a big result, his 2012 season was beginning to look like the big time was just around the corner… victories at the Maxi Race in Annecy, Zugspitze Supertrail and Salomon 4 Trails. Add to this Gore-Tex Transalpine and 5th at a stacked Cavalls del Vent and 2013 was a season to be grasped. However, the season lacked any big victories that many of us had expected, arguably his best performance came at Ice Trail Tarentaise placing 3rd behind Kilian Jornet and Francois D’Haene. 2014 started well with some great running at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. At Transgrancanaria (82kmr race) Philipp placed 8th, a disappointing performance for him. A constant issue whilst racing has been his stomach and getting this to cooperate with the intensity of racing. If Philipp gets this inline, we will see him regularly back in the top-10, more likely the top-5 and every now and again, the top-3.
Ricky Lightfoot for me has the no1 slot to cause a massive upset on May 10th and come away with a surprise top-3 and even victory. I personally think Ricky has all the right combination of abilities to take the rest of the field on and just as Andy Symonds did in 2012, rock them all to the core. His course record at The Otter in South Africa was a sublime run and when you add to that an IAU World Trail title, you have all the necessary elements of speed, technical ability and endurance that will make a difference on La Palma. Just this last weekend, Ricky took the crown at the iconic Three Peaks fell race in the UK. The only negative has been a recent knee injury that may very well take the edge of what may have been possible at Transvulcania.
Tom Owens was missed in the 2013 season. After an inspirational year in 2012 were Tom really did chomp at the heels of Kilian Jornet, 2013 was always going to be, what can Tom do next? It soon transpired to be very little… Tom was plagued with injury and lost a year. Playing the patience game, Tom is back. He has had a couple of good trail marathon wins recently and placed 2nd behind Ricky Lightfoot at Three Peaks. Transvulcania will be a long race for Tom and that for sure will count against him, however, I have seen him race and seen the skill set this guy holds. If he has a good day, don’t be surprised to see him create a shock!
Giuliano Cavallo placed 9th at Transvulcania in 2012 against a top quality field. He had injury issues in 2013 but still managed victories at Alpago Ultratrail and Gran Trail Courmayer. Top-10 once again is a distinct possibility.
Martin Gafurri had a great 2013 Skyrunning season and although he placed just outside the top-20 at Transvulcania, based on his recent top-10 at Tarawera, I think we will see Martin make more impact this year. *running the marathon not the ultra
Jason Schlarb had a break through run at Run Rabbit Run 100-miler taking out the win in 2013. Add to this, top-3 places at Speedgoat 50k, San Juan Solstice and Leona Divide one can conclude that Jason has the required speed and endurance to compete with the best. Ultimately though, Jason’s Transvulcania performance will all come down to how he manages the lava trails, the technical caldera and the 18km descent to Tazacorte. If all those elements fall into place, Jason will be up amongst the top-10.
Vajin Armstrong is an ever present podium hogger in the Southern Hemisphere. Always top-3, the big win has somehow eluded him. For the past 4-years Vajin has raced Tarawera for example and placed, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd and 3rd. He has plenty of speed and on his day will be in the mix at any race. In 2013, Vajin spent a great deal of time in Europe placing 2nd at Zugspitz and the Swiss Alpine Marathon all good preparation for what a Skyrunning race will throw at him. However, at TNFUTMB his race didn’t go too well. Transvulcania and the quality of the field will provide Vajin with a real test and if he’s having a good day he may well be in the mix but I don’t see him on the podium.
Fulvio Dapit placed 4th at Ice Trail Tarentaise in 2013. Transvulcania will be a test for sure but he does have the ability to create a stir up at the front.
Robbie Britton gets the final nod. He has been on La Palma for over a month preparing. He has endurance and speed but lacks the climbing and descending ability to compete with the best Skyrunners. In addition, this will be Robbie’s first Skyrunning race. Without doubt it will be a learning curve but he does have the ability to make waves should all go well.
Ones to watch:
- Jordi Bes Ginesta winner of the CCC in 2013
- Josh Arthur 4th at Run Rabbit Run and 7th at the recent Ray Miller 50
- Luke Nelson 11th at UROC and 6th at Speedgoat
- Stu Air 8th at Tor des Geants and 18th at Ice Trail Tarentaise (*recently injured)
- Johan Lantz 9th at Rocky Raccoon 100-mile in 2014
- Ty Draney 8th at Ronda dels Cims
- David Laney 2nd at Bandera 100km and Chuckanut 50km
- Ryan Ghelfi 4th at Chuckanut 50k and 6th at Lake Sonoma.
- Sylvain Couchaud 23rd at Transvulcania in 2013 and 4th 80km du Mont-Blanc
- Santiago Obaya 5th at Transgrancanaria in 2013
- Stu Air – Top 10 at Ice Trail Tarentaise and Tor des Geants finisher
- Kim Collinson won the Fellsman in the UK recently
- Oscar Casal
- Marc Casal
- Dani Tristany
- David Lopez
- Marcin Swierc
- Valentin Vergilyush
- Isaac Riera
- Nil Gurt
- Xavier Musach
- Adriana Grosu
- Roberto Sancho Martin
- Maxime Cazajous
- Yoann Stuck
One thing is for sure. A great weekend of racing lies ahead on the island of La Palma
I will be on the island reporting, photographing and providing news as it happens.
Transvulcania website HERE
Transvulcania La Palma – A Guide HERE
Transvulcania VK HERE
Transvulcania 2013 Images HERE
Transvulcania 2013 preview HERE