Alex Nichols will lead a powerful nine-man inov-8 team into battle at the opening race of the 2014 Skyrunner World Sky Series on Sunday.
As in 2013, the first race is Zegama, an iconic yet brutally fast and technical 42k (26 miles) event staged in the mountains of northern Spain.
With a total elevation gain of 2736m, Zegama is a beast of a course and takes no prisoners.
Last year, US-based Nichols suffered an injury early in the race and was forced to withdraw. Despite this, the 29-year-old still finished third in the series after recording several outstanding results in the races that followed Zegama.
Alex said: “I am definitely looking forward to some redemption after last year at Zegama.
“I think the competition this year could be the best it has ever been, so I am not going to take anyone in the field lightly.
“The course is so brutal that any weakness is magnified, and on a given day anything can happen to anyone. I will put myself in a spot to be competitive and see how the race unfolds from there
“Having a full skryrunning season now under my belt is certainly going to help me in dealing with the technical terrain that makes Zegama so famous.
“Going into the race this year I have far more confidence in my technical abilities than ever. Everything I have learned in the last 12 months will definitely be put to the test on Sunday.”
In preparation for the 2014 Skyrunner World Sky Series, Alex has been training and racing at altitude in Colorado.
He recently ran 3:13:37 to smash the 50k Greenland Trail Race course record and prior to that smoked the elite competition at the Moab Red Hot 55k.
Alex said: “I have won two fast 50k’s at altitude this year in preparation for the skyrunning season.
“It is difficult to find many races that are comparable to a true sky marathon, so I have instead focused on slightly longer distance races.
“Running 3:13 for 50k just three weeks ago was a very good sign of my fitness. I’m now looking forward to seeing how that will carry over to such a steep, technical race like Zegama.”
Alex will be joined on the start line by inov-8 team-mates Eirik Haugsnes (Norway), Pierre-Laurent Viguier (France), Oli Johnson, Chris Steele, Robbie Britton (all UK) and Aritz Egea, Jokin Lizeaga, Pau Bartolo (all Spain).
The Zegama course record of 3:54:18 is held by inov-8 athlete Rob Jebb, who set the fastest time nine years ago.
2014 Skyrunner World Sky Series races:
SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42km – Zegama – May 25
ITALY: Dolomites SkyRace® – 22km – Canazei – July 20
SWITZERLAND: Course de Sierre-Zinal – 31km – Valais – August 10
SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks – 46km -Zermatt – August 23
ITALY: Limone Extreme SkyRace® – 23km – Limone sul Garda – October 11
Skyrunning at http://www.skyrunning.com