Skyrunning World Championships 2014 – In-Depth Preview

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Worlds collide in the endurance capital of the world this week when 28-nations congregate for the 2014 Skyrunning World championships.

*Please note, this preview will be updated with many potential changes within the coming days as we are made aware of any withdrawals.

The best-of-the-best will assemble to do battle over the classic Skyrunning distances of VK, SKY and ULTRA in the amazing endurance arena that is Chamonix. 

3400 athletes representing 28-nations will toe 3-separate start lines over an incredible weekend of racing starting on June-27th at 0400 with the 80km ULTRA event. The same day at 1600-hours the 4th edition of the Vertical Kilometer will start from the center of Chamonix. At 0700-hours on Sunday 29th, the 12th Mont-Blanc SKY Marathon will take place.

An epic weekend of racing!

The depth of talent travelling from all around the world is quite mind blowing and thus, making a prediction from such high quality fields is an endurance task in its own right. So, I have provided a list, ‘Ones to watch’ and for each race I have made my predictions that we can expect to don the podium for the ladies and the men. It’s no easy task…

No less than eight Skyrunner® World Series Champions will be present.

Some numbers for the record: 

  • 8 Skyrunner® World Series Champions
  • 28 national teams
  • 38 countries participating  
  • 46 top 20 ranked athletes 
  • 3,400 participants in the thee disciplines
  • 25,000 euros cash prizes

Individual world titles are at stake in each discipline as well as a combined title, based on the best results of two out of three races. Countries will be ranked according to the best results of three men and one woman in all three disciplines.

€ 25,000 cash prizes will be awarded and anti-doping controls will be carried out.

******

Chamonix VK The 4th annual Vertical Kilometer

Race start 16:00 Friday June 27th 

A route of pure ‘mountain’ spirit, that takes a straight and direct line from the center of Chamonix to the finish at Planpraz. Climbing 1000 vertical meters in 3.8km it’s a pure test of strength. Similar to a prologue in the Tour de France, runner’s start at timed 30-second intervals, the fastest to the summit is the winner!

The opening sections comprise of runnable trail, however, the last section is comprised of rocks and requires more commitment with notably a few aerial passages equipped with cables and ladders.

Records:

  • Kilian Jornet – 34:07
  • Christel Dewalle – 41:33

MEN

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The Dematteis brothers will without doubt be serious contenders after strong performances at the VK at Transvulcania La Palma. Like the Super Mario Brothers, these guys bring excitement and drama to any race.

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Saul Antonio Padua last years winner will have competition this year, however, his performance in the VK last year was world class. What do you think, another win?

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Kilian Jornet fresh from another Summit of my Life record may well not have much running in his legs but it has never slowed him before and why would it slow him this time?

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Eirik Haugsness placed 3rd last year and very much feels comfortable with the effort level required for a quality performance over the VK distance. He prefers a course that allows him to run and Chamonix provides exactly such a course, at least over the first 700-meters.

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Urban Zemmer is a class act on any VK and a specialist at the discipline. However, the Chamonix VK does not really suit his style. He will be in the mix but not on top of the podium. Zemmer was Skyrunner ® World Series Champion in 2013 and despite my thoughts, would almost certainly like the World title too! He placed 5th last year.

Alexis Sevennec placed 4th last year and comes from a ski mountaineer background, as so many VK specialists do. I don’t see him making the podium but he will be close, very close!

Finally, Marco Facchinelli placed 2nd in the Skyrunner® World Series in 2013 and like Zemmer will be looking to stamp his authority on the VK.

Ones to watch:

  • Kilian Jornet (Esp)
  • Saul Antonio Padua (Col)
  • Oscar Casal Mir (And)
  • Marc Casal Mir (And)
  • Aritz Egea (Esp)
  • Martin Gaffuri (Fra)
  • Alexis Sevennec (Fra)
  • Greg Vollet (Fra)
  • Didier Zago (Fra)
  • Tom Owens (Gbr)
  • Bernard Dematteis (Ita)
  • Martin Dermatteis (Ita)
  • Marco Facchinelli (Ita)
  • Urban Zemmer (Ita)
  • Dai Matsumoto (Jap)
  • Eirik Haugsness (Nor)
  • Thorbjorn Ludvigsen (Nor)
  • Jono Wyatt (Nzl)
  • Joakim Lanz (Swe)
  • Alex Nichols (Usa)
  • Marco Moletto (Ita)

LADIES

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Christel Dewalle set a course record on the VK in 2013 and will be looking for a repeat performance. Her strength and endurance was confirmed in 2013 with a top-quality 2nd place at Ice Trail Tarentaise.

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Laure Orgue Skyrunner® World Series Champion in 2013 is a VK specialist and as shown on many occasions previously will be looking to push as hard as possible for victory in Chamonix.

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Antonella Confortola on her day is one of the best VK specialists on the circuit, particularly when using poles. The Chamonix VK may be too runnable for Antonella but she will without doubt be up at the front as she was in 2013 when she placed 3rd.

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Stevie Kremer like Emelie is not a VK specialist but her mountain ability is quite incredible. How will she perform on the VK, well, it’s a question mark? After a stunning run at Zegama-Aizkorri one can assume that Stevie will be in the mix.

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Kasie Enman flew up the early climbs at Zegama-Aizkorri and led the race early on before Stevie Kremer reeled her in and took the lead. Because the VK is a flat out effort, I can’t help but think we will see Kasie create some fireworks.

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Finally, Brit, Tessa Hill has honed and fine-tuned her VK skills in recent years and without doubt, the Chamonix course suits her running VK style. Tessa was 3rd in the 2013 Skyrunner® World Series and placed on 5th at the 2013 Chamonix VK.

 Ones to watch:

  • Laura Orgue (Esp)
  • Christel Dewalle (Fra)
  • Stephanie Jiminez (Fra)
  • Janine Frost (Gbr)
  • Tessa Hill (Gbr)
  • Antonella Confortola (Ita)
  • Anna Eriksmo (Swe))
  • Landie Grayling (Sa)
  • Kasie Enman (Usa)
  • Stevie Kremer (Usa)
  • Axelle Mollaret (Fra)

  

The 12th annual Mont-Blanc SKY Marathon.

Race start 07:00 Sunday June 29th 

This year yet again athletes from 65 countries will compete in an exceptional and very technical course.

After starting from the center of Chamonix (1035m) it is a climb up the Arve valley by passing through the hamlet of Lavancher before reaching Argentiere (1250m).

In direction of Le Planet the course rejoins the Balcon Nord trail before re-descending in the direction of Montroc. Tré le Champ then it is the Col des Montets (1461m) at the heart of the Aigulles Rouges nature reserve.

By the Diligences route the runners cross the hamlet of Buet before rejoining Vallorcine (1260m) nestled at the end f the valley on the Swiss border. The climb begins toward the Aiguillette des Posettes (2200m). Efforts are rewarded by a sumptuous panorama of the Mont-Blanc range and the Chamonix valley. Facing the Aiguille du Tour and its glacier the trail descends by following the Crete des Fretes.

After several technical passages to the village of Le Tour (1453m) it is a return to tranquility on the path that longs the Bisme stream and then to Montroc (1382m). The runners cross through the hamlet of Frasserands and Tré le Champs before rejoining the historic trail of the Mont-Blanc Cross, at the heart of the Aiguilles Rouges facing the entire massif. The path rises up to La Flegere (1875m). After traversing the beautiful Charlanon combe (1812m) there is a soft little climb inviting everyone to take in the scenery.

Then the slopes intensify before the finish at Planpraz (2050m) the intermediary station of the Brevent that offers one of the most spectacular views of the Mont-Blanc. Race description ©Club Des Sports De Chamonix Mont-Blanc

Records:

  • Kilian Jornet – 3:30:41
  • Stevie Kremer – 4:03:16

 

MEN

Check the list out below… what a line-up. Last year we had a battle royal with Kilian Jornet, Marco De Gasperi and Luis Alberto Hernando. Only Kilian returns! Marco De Gasperi is not available to race and Luis has moved up to the Ultra distance. So, what is going to happen?

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No surprise, Kilian Jornet is odds on favourite. He won last year and why wouldn’t he this year? He certainly has less running in his legs than any other year but he lives and breathes the mountains and his need to run in preparation for a running race is somewhat distorted in the way the rest of us function.

My dark horse and potential apple cart shaker is Vlad Ixel. He is not a name many European runners will know but after some quality runs in the Southern Hemisphere, I firmly believe that Vlad will be the surprise of the whole 2014 Skyrunning World championships.

Michel Lanne

Michel Lanne

Michel Lanne was the joint winner of the 80km event with Francois d’Haene in 2013 and knows the mountains and terrain like the back of his hand. A recent quality performance at Zegama-Aizkorri confirms good form.

I’m pretty excited from a British perspective! We have a return to top flight racing for *Andy Symonds after a horrendous 2013 due to injury. Tom Owens pushed Kilian in 2012 and like Andy Symonds had a 2013 to forget. Oli Johnson placed 10th last year in Chamonix and Martin Cox seals the quartet of top UK talent. *injured

Zaid Ait Malek

Zaid Ait Malek

Zaid Ait Malek will smile is whole way around the marathon route and will potentially take (or just miss) the podium. He is an incredible mountain running talent.

Jono Wyatt – do I need to say anymore? He’s a mountain running legend. Jono has been there and done that for decades. You can NEVER rule him out as way saw at Sierre-Zinal last year.

Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols

USA has fast men *Alex Nichols (7th in 2013) If Alex is in great shape, it would be feasible for him to place in the top-10. However, this is a top quality field and the pressure will be on.  *injured

Didier Zago placed 6th last year but I believe he is taking a more casual approach to running these days. So my final shouts will go to Eirik Haugsness (5th last year) and up and coming star, Thorbjorn Ludvigsen.

Ones to watch:

  • Oscar Casal Mir (And)
  • Marc Casal Mir (And)
  • Vlad Ixel (Aus)
  • Miguel Caballero (Esp)
  • Aritz Egea (Esp)
  • Zigor Iturrieta Ruiz (Esp)
  • Kilian Jornet (Esp)
  • Jokin Lizeaga (Esp)
  • Augusti Roc (Esp)
  • Nicolas Bouvier (Fra)
  • Thibaut Baronian (Fra)
  • Martin Gaffuri (Fra)
  • Michel Lanne (Fra)
  • Didier Zago (Fra)
  • Martin Cox (Gbr)
  • Oli Johnson (Gbr)
  • Tom Owens (Gbr)
  • Andy Symonds (Gbr)
  • Florian Reichert (Ger)
  • Fabio Bazzana (Ita)
  • Dai Matsumoto (Jap)
  • Toru Myahara (Jap)
  • Zaid Ait Malek (Mor)
  • German Silva (Mex)
  • Tineke Van Den Berg (Ned)
  • Eirik Haugsness (Nor)
  • Thorbjorn Ludvigsen (Nor)
  • Jono Wyatt (Nzl)
  • Marcin Swierc (Pol)
  • Andre Castro (Pol)
  • Lucky Miya (Sa)
  • Marc Lauenstein (Sui)
  • Alex Nichols (Usa)

LADIES

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Stevie Kremer won the race last year with a new course record and one has to tip her as the hot favourite, particularly after her strong and dominant performance at Zegama-Aizkorri.

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Maite Mairoa is on a roll at the moment after a stunning Transvulcania and Zegama-Aizkorri performance. Maite has always been a dominant force in mountain running but this last 12-months has seen a change. She is a different runner and one that can push the best-of-the-best.

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Elisa Desco won Sierre-Zinal ahead of Stevie Kremer in 2013 and then placed behind Stevie at Zegama. This can only mean that we are in for a high quality battle in the Chamonix arena.

Kasie Enman looked like she was going to throw race predictions out of the window at Zegama-Aizkorri but faltered in the latter stages when fatigue hit. Long haul travel or mother duties could be to blame but one thing is for sure, several weeks on I think we will see a much stronger and more dominant runner who will mix things up in Chamonix.

Final shout goes to Jo Meek from the UK who will be tipping her toe in the Skyrunning world. Jo was unknown last year bur 2nd place lady at Marathon des Sables, winning The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, a win at the Iznik Ultra and CR and most recently 5th placed lady at the iconic Comrades Marathon shows that Jo has all the speed required to do well! The biggest test for Jo will be the long climbs and technical running. I’m going to be seriously interested to see how this race goes.

 Ones to watch:

  • Jo Brishetto (Aus)
  • Nuria Dominguez (Esp)
  • Maite Maiora (Esp)
  • Aline Camboulive (Fra)
  • Juliette Benedicto (Fra)
  • Stephanie Jiminez (Fra)
  • Jo Meek (Gbr)
  • Antonella Confortola (Ita)
  • Elisa Desco (Ita)
  • Silvia Serafini (Ita)
  • Sharon Broadwell (Nor)
  • Landie Grayling (Sa)
  • Zhana Vokueva (Rus)
  • Kasie Enman (Usa)
  • Stevie Kremer (Usa)

 

The Mont-Blanc ULTRA 80km

Race start 04:00 Friday 27th

In 2013 the first edition left it’s mark in everyone’s minds. The technicality, beautiful scenery and paths delighted all runners. For the first runner and the last runner, the challenge was the same! Among fatigue, visions of gorgeous mountains, capricious weather, heat and snow, all the necessary ingredients for an extraordinary event beyond the norm came together for the birth of a legend…

After an early start (4:00am) from the center of Chamonix Mont-Blanc the runners will rise directly up to the Bellachat Hut (2246m) from where they will see the first rays of sunlight shining on the summit of the Mont-Blanc. After a short rest they will leave Brevent (2525m) to descent to Planpraz (1st refreshment post). At the heart of the Aiguilles rouges, a trail will take them to the Flegere and then to the chalet des Cheseryus before descending to the Col des Montets via la Tete au Vent.

The hamlet of the Buet (1330m) will mark the beginning of a long technical loop starting with the Tré les Eaux valley, then a demanding ascent up to the Col du Corbeau (2602m). Most likely with some snow still on the ground runners will enter into Swiss territory and head up the

Col de la Terrasse (2643m). In this mineral world the descent to the Emosson dam will require keen attentiveness on the final snowfields. Very soon the pastures of the Loriaz will allow the muscles to relax after over 50km of effort. But the rest period will be short-lived because once Vallorcine is crossed (1260m) the ascent of the aiguillette des Posettes will burn the calves and pump the cardio!

Facing the Mont-Blanc the descent along a ridge will require utmost caution to get through the numerous steps and reach the village of Le Tour and then Argentiere (1260m). Runners will then re-descend along the Balcon Nord in the direction of Chamonix and take the Marathon race route in reverse.

The final difficulty will be the climb up to Signal (2200m), running next to one of Chamonix’s most famous tourist sites, the Mer de Glace. A last balcony at the foot of the Aiguilles des Grands Charmoz de Blaitiere and the Fou will take the runners to the Plan d’Aiguille (2200m), which overhangs the Arve valley. 1200m lower the finish line will honor the deserving finishers…. Race description ©Club Des Sports De Chamonix Mont-Blanc

Records 

  • Francois d’Haene and Michel Lanne – 9:45:57 (joint record 2013)
  • Caroline Cheverot 13:10:05

 

MEN 

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Luis Alberto Hernando dominated Transvulcania La Palma this year and has decided to move up from the SKY distance (placed 3rd last year) to the ULTRA distance at Mont-Blanc. On his day he is one of the best in the world and I am sure Luis will be using this race as an opportunity to understand the mountain ready for his first UTMB later in the year.

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Francois d’Haene won the race last year and after consummate performances at Raid de la Reunion and the recent UTMF, one has to say that he is odds on favourite here!

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UTMB 2013 winner Xavier Thevenard has the perfect combination of skills to excel and place on the podium. His recent performance at Transvulcania was disappointing but these things happen in racing… I think Xavier will be a podium contender. In addition, he has just had a warm up on the UTMB route with his Asics team trying to beat the sun!

Ricky Lightfoot’s presence in the race really does excite me and if he shows some of the quality and skill shown at races such as The Otter in South Africa, The World Trail Running Champs and the Three Peaks then we are in for some real excitement. 

Mike Wolfe makes the journey from the USA and loves mountains with technical trail. He has performed at the highest level at UTMB before and will be looking to transfer those experiences to the 80km course.

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter, Adam Campbell, Jason Schlarb, Matt Cooper, Pablo Villa and the list goes on! It’s going to be an epic race.

Ones to watch:

  • Xavier Teixido (And)
  • Matt Cooper (Aus)
  • Pieter Schaaps (Bel)
  • Chico Santos (Bra)
  • Jason Loutit (Can)
  • Jan Bartas (Cez)
  • Martin Saenz (Ecu)
  • Pao Bartolo (Esp)
  • Luis Alberto Hernando (Esp)
  • Pablo Villa ((Esp)
  • Sebastien Buffard (Fra)
  • Sylvain Couchaud (Fra)
  • Yann Curien (Fra)
  • Francois d’Haene (Fra)
  • Benoit Girondel (Fra)
  • David Pasquio (Fra)
  • Xavier Thevenard (Fra)
  • Ricky Lightfoot (Gbr)
  • Philipp Reiter (Ger)
  • Giuliano Cavallo (Ita)
  • Steffan Ruzza (Ita)
  • Yoshito Kondo (Ita)
  • Ronnie Duinkerken (Ned)
  • Phudorjee Lama Sherpa (Nep)
  • Leonardo Diogo (Pol)
  • Johan Lantz (Swe)
  • Jason Schlarb (Usa)
  • Mike Wolfe (Usa)

 

LADIES

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Anna Frost is back and in the space of just over a month has put some really tough times behind her, topped the podium with a new CR at the Transvulcania La Palma and has then followed this up with some quality training. Frosty appears to be in a great place both physically and mentally. Frosty is my hot tip but….

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Nuria Picas is in the race and Nuria has not stopped winning in 2014. She has become an unstoppable force in mountain running and ultra running. The only blip was a recent withdrawal from Zegama-Aizkorri but that shows us nothing. It was basically one race too many and Nuria had the sense to stop. Frosty and Nuria are great friends and it has been sometime since they shared trails together. Expect them to run next to each other for some time chatting and then a head-to-head battle in the latter stages.

Emelie Forsberg’s 2013 has already been extremely interesting, a bad fall wiped out her Transvulcania and this then impacted on Zegama-Aizkorri. Emelie is not used to finishing off the podium and I am 100% convinced we will see an inform and fired up Emelie in Chamonix. Plus she is going to be racing against Frosty and Nuria. Wow!

We will finally get to see Southern Hemisphere talent Ruby Muir trade blows and I for one am excited to see the outcome. Ruby shot to prominence from not only winning Tarawera in 2012, but also doing it in Vibram Five Fingers. I am unsure of the shoe choice for the 80km race, it’s irrelevant. I do know that we are in for a fast race and one that Ruby may well lead?

Fernanda

Fernanda Maciel has been trading blows with Nuria Picas on the UTWT circuit and has had a string of top-3 places to confirm that she will be in the mix in Chamonix. However, despite Fernanda’s obvious ability, I don’t think she will have the speed required for the top slot.

Finally, Brits Claire Price and Lizzie Wraith may well fly the flag for Blighty. Claire lives in Hong Kong and has been a consistent performer at the highest level. Lizzie by contrast is based in the UK and shot to prominence after winning and setting a new course record on the Lakeland 100 course.

Ones to watch:

  • Anna Frost (Nzl)
  • Ruby Muir (Nzl)
  • Fernanda Maciel (Bra)
  • Dong Li (Chn)
  • Anna Strakova (Cze)
  • Uxu Fraile (Esp)
  • Nuria Picas (Esp)
  • Lauren Gaussens (Fra)
  • Maud Gobert (Fra)
  • Claire Price (Gbr)
  • Lizzie Wraith (Gbr)
  • Alessandra Carlini (Ita)
  • Emelie Forsberg (Swe)

The 2014 Skyrunning World Championships will be an incredible showcase for running. Like you, I can’t wait for all the excitement to unfold.

Follow events online:

  • Web – Iancorless.com
  • Twitter – @talkultra
  • Facebook – facebook.com/talkultra

7 thoughts on “Skyrunning World Championships 2014 – In-Depth Preview

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