The Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail, offers a series of races that is all encompassing with six races on offer: Da Inclusivo, Kids, Mini-Trail Do Xisto, Trail Do Xisto, TSL and the main event, the UTAX (the largest event in the territories of the Shist Villages) which is 110km’s in length, has 5300m of vertical gain and a 26-hour cut-off time for the participants.
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A breakdown of the events is as follows:
▪UTAX – 110 Km
▪TSL – 50 Km
▪TX – 22 Km
▪MTX – 10 Km
▪Axtrail Kids – For kids with 6 to 16 years old
▪Axtrail Inclusion – For people with reduced mobility.
This year the UTAX race started in Miranda do Corvo, in the Plaza José Falcão, this was also the logistical centre of the race too and due to the inclement weather, it was tested to the maximum. From the ticking of the midnight bell, the rain was already falling and although the occasional dry patch provided a welcome break, it was going to be a race of rain, rain and rain.
Gondramaz, welcomed the front runners after approximately just one hour of running – the runners ‘enjoyed’ a beautiful single-track that was hard and technical; only made more challenging by the falling rain. Lousã followed and it here in that stunning Hotal Palacio da Lousã is located.
Candal is a small typical Schist Village and here the runners winded up narrow streets as the rain continued to pour. It was now 0300 for the front runners and the temperatures were dropping well below 5deg and with the slight wind and constant wt, this will have felt like zero or colder.
Cerdeira offers panoramic views of the mountains and is a place of peace and tranquility but on the night of the UTAX, no views were visible; just darkness and the glow of a head-torch. The Schist Villages are magical places and key feature of the UTAX race, it is what make this race so unique. But don’t be fooled, the villages where time passes more slowly are hidden between rock and lush vegetation, this is what must be navigated to completee the UTAX.
From Pena a climb followed to the highest point of the race, for the front runners, the early signs of dawn were making an appearance, not that anyone would know… a shroud of mist and a cold blowing wind made a deceiving blanket that would fool the runners.
Castanheira de Pera then northwest for Ameal, a fantastic single-track rises up and winds to a farm at the top of Lousã, continuing on in the direction of the House of the Forest Guard the trail then descended to the villages of Catarredor and Vaqueirinho, and follows to the Schist Villages Talasnal and Casal Novo.
Casal Novo’s trails of mud, rock, trees and slippery ground provided one of the last key challenges before the arrival back to the Square José Falcão in Miranda do Corvo for the finish.
The race was full of drama, Jêrome Rodrigues, the pre-race favourite unfortunately had to drop from the race with injury and for the ladies, Ester Alves who recently won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica was forced to retire with fatigue and cold after 4-5 hours. No surprise really, 40-degrees and high humidity to zero degrees and torrential rain would force the most hardy competitor to crumble.
The withdrawal of two hot favourites opened the door for Luis Duarte, a previous winner of the mens race and Sofia Lopes Roquette finished the race as she started, from the front!
Nuno Silva ran to a strong and consistent 2nd place ahead of Bruno Coelho, but it was some way off the dominating performance of Duarte. Duarte finished the race in a sprint and looked extremely fresh on the line; something that many looked on, me included, and failed to understand. The UTAX is a seriously tough, challenging race, only made considerably harder with weather but Duarte dominated it!
Equally, Sofia Lopes Roquette used her skills, strength of mind and her ability to endure the long run and take out victory over Fernanda Verde with Raquel Campos taking the 3rd spot.
More information and interviews will follow.
- Luis Duarte 12:25:36
- Nuno Silva 12:50:24
- Bruno Coelho 12:57:26
- Sofia Roquette 16:20:40
- Fernanda Verde 16:57:42
- Raquel Campos 20:09:36
Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail race coverage would not be possible without the support ofAXtrail® Go Outdoor and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office www.centerofportugal.com. Special thanks to to ADXTUR – Schist Villages.