With 5-summits over 2000m, the Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous) is a great season closer for the UTWT. Now in its 22nd edition, ‘Reunion’ as it is affectionately known has gained legendary status within ultra running circles, not only because of some epic battles that have taken place on the course but also because of the fans, terrain and the tough 164km course and 9000m+ of ascent.
Francois D’Haene, winner of the 2013 edition and recent winner of the TNFUTMB is without doubt the hot favourite. Currently, he is arguably one of the best 100-mile mountain runners in the world.
Lithuanian, Grinius Gediminas who is 2nd in the overall UTWT ranking may well be a surprise package after a solid and impressive 5th at TNFUTMB and 3rd place at Lavaredo. Will Reunion be one race too many? I don’t think so. He seems to have his head screwed on.
The ever-present Antoine Guillon who recently placed 3rd at Tor des Geants lies 3rd in UTWT rankings and is a consistent performer. I don’t see him winning but a top place is a distinct possibility. Reunion is a tough and long race though. As we have seen in past editions, anything can happen.
Xavier Thevenard after winning the 2013 TNFUTMB seemed to go into a little bit of a meltdown with the weight of expectation placed upon him. However, he recently came out of the whole with a win at TDS. In doing so, he became the only runner to win at UTMB, CCC and TDS, quite a result. Xavier may well feel at home on Reunion. I think we will see a good run.
Iker Karrera is a machine on tough courses as his 2013 Tor des Geants confirms. He raced well at Reunion in 2012 but his recent joint 2/3rd with Tofol Castanyer behind Francois D’Haene is a sure sign that he is in form for the 164km adventure. Question is, can he beat Francois?
Pascal Blanc is serious contender and knows the course like the back of his hand. He has a string of top-10 finishes, his highest place being second. In this field his experience will really count.
Julien Chorier impressed me no end at Ronda dels Cims in 2013 and then placed 2nd behind Kilian at Hardrock 100. He is meticulous in planning and if he has no back issues, he may very well be the one who can push his fellow Frenchman, Francois D’Haene to the line.
Jason Schlarb (current interview on Talk Ultra) surprised me with 4th at UTMB. He has certainly honed his European mountain skills in 2014. Reunion however is a little more extreme and may well shock Jason. He seems motivated though and the opportunity to race such a quality field will excite him. Expect him to be out of the mix early on and then work his way through the devastation.
Freddy Thevenin placed second last year behind Francois D’Haene but I don’t see him making the podium this year. He is a top-10 contender for sure.
Christophe Le Saux never stops… I am not sure but I think he has done every race in the 2014 UTWT. That is seriously impressive. He will be in the mix, likely top-10 but not a contender for the podium.
I am going to give a shout out for Stuart Air. He’s a Brit who has had quite a year… he ran Hardrock 100 and now Reunion. Great to see someone local, (a Brit) mixing it up with the best in the world.
Ones to watch:
David Pasquio – 5th in 2013
Sondre Amadahl – 7th at UTMB
On a final note, Ryan Sandes leads the 2014 UTWT rankings but will not race.
Nathalie Mauclair returns as the 2013, defending champion and I wouldn’t want to bet against her. She ran a great race in 2013 ahead of Emelie Forsberg and in 2014 the French lady has had a string of great results, notably 3rd at UTMB and Western States, Nathalie has speed and endurance; a lethal combination. However, the speed can sometimes upset the apple cart by running too hard/ fast too early.
Julia Bottger won the 2014 Ronda dels Cims and knows the Reunion course well. She loves long and technical mountain races and as her results at Tor des Geants show, she will be a definite podium contender here on the island. Julia has had a busy year though. It started in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge and post Reunion she still has the Salomon SkyRun to do.
Nerea Martinez like Julia embraces tough. She placed 2nd at Ronda dels Cims and has had a string of top results ranking top-5 at Transgrancanaria, UTMF, TDS and she placed 6th at Lavaredo.
Uxue Fraille knows how to pace herself and can play the waiting game. As the other ladies falter and fail, expect Uxue to move up and contend the podium. Placing 3rd at Transvulcania was a great result early in 2014 and recently placing 5th at UTMB confirms that a podium place at Reunion is a distinct possibility.
Denise Zimmerman placed 3rd at Tor des Geants and although I am sure the other ladies have acknowledged her presence in the race, she may well be a surprise to watchers and followers. Denise is no one trick pony as she has made the podium at Transgrancanaria and placed highly at UTMB in the past.
Finally, Lisa Borzani may mix things up and although she finished 2nd at the 2014 Tor des Geants, I don’t see her having the gusto to rally once again for another big effort. Particularly when you look at her recent results. Back-to-back podium places at Tor and TDS must leave you jaded.
Alexandra Rousset may pull something out of the bag. She placed 4th in 2012 and has won the race previously (2004).
Notably, UTWT series leader Nuria Picas will not run and in addition, neither will Fernanda Maciel and Francesca Canepa.
2500 runners will toe the line and more information is available HERE