Ultra running to Spain is like football to the UK, the fans are a passionate motivated bunch of individuals who come together as a whole to create a cohesive army of fanatical supporters. Baga, the home of Ultra Pirineu is located in Catalonia; it may come as no surprise that the Catalans take support to the next level. The final race in the 2016 Skyrunner® World Series, the race was always going to be a competitive one!
110km in length, with 6800m of positive gain, the race takes place in the Cadi-Moixero Natural Park. On paper, the route looks almost like a badly drawn figure of eight laid on its side. The profile, a little like the dental record for a great white shark as it includes several key peaks, the highest coming very early in the race with just 14km covered at Niu, 2500m high. Comprised of primarily trail (75%), the route also includes a small percentage of asphalt and track. It’s a tough and challenging race that has often been made considerably more challenging due to inclement weather.
The Cadi-Moixero Natural Park is the hub for the racing, established in 1983, it stretches more than 30km over the mountain ranges of Serra de Moixero and Serra del Cadi; both part of the Pre-Pyrenees.
From the off, the racing is hard. The narrow streets of Baga, an enclosed medieval square start and the charge of 1000 runners at the toll of 0700 make the opening minutes a heart pounding, adrenaline rushed sprint. Ironic for a race that will take the winner 12+ hours.
Immediately it’s hand-on-knees and straight into the first and highest climb of the day. It’s a dangerous mountain to start a race with. The effort and commitment just to get to the top requires a 100% effort, and this is all coming in the opening hours of a very long day on an exceptionally tough course. Finally breaking the tree line, the rugged terrain reveals itself and the first peak, with refuge, finally will come into sight. On a clear day, the views are incredible. The crowd support phenomenal. It’s a frenzy of noise, cowbells and screaming. In the men’s race, Remigio Huaman dictated the early pace followed by Miguel Heras. Gemma Arenas started the day as she would continue, from the front followed by Hillary Allen. The race was on between the two of them for the SWS 2016 title – if either won the race, they would be the champion for 2016.
What goes up must come down and the first descent is single track, off-camber trails with technical sections in and amongst trees. Sections of via ferratta are present on rock; a clear sign of the severity of the terrain. Rolling terrain provides some respite but it is early days.
Dropping down, a short climb at 28km, ‘Serrat’ leads to another long descent and an aid at ‘Bellver.’ A third of the race completed, a long and relentless series of climbing takes place over the following 25km’s through ‘Cortals’ and ‘Aguilo’ to the 2nd highest point of the race at 2300m, Pass de Gassolans. Miguel Heras had now built up a lead of over 20-minutes. It was a lead he would not relinquish… behind, Remigio, after strong opening km’s had dropped from the race opening the doorway for Jessed Hernandes and Cristofer Clemente was pacing his race well slowly moving up. Gemma Arenas was still leading the ladies race with a gap of approximately 12-minutes, Hillary was 2nd and Anna Comet had moved into third.
Alternating hiking and running, the race is all about economy of effort for those at the front of the race, it’s about effort management to sustain the energy to the line and hopefully victory. For everyone else, it is survival. At 70km covered, the race may well be considered to be downhill to the finish in Baga, but no, the race has a series of false flats with a couple of brutal cardiac moments that arrive at 86km and 96km; the latter a technical ascent of 1000m to Sant Jordi at 1500m altitude. It’s a stunningly scenic canyon and if it was maybe not for uncontrollable fatigue, it would be a highlight of the race.
The final 10km drop to the line is broken up with another 200m climb with 6km or so to go, the rapturous high-five welcome from thousands in Baga providing some compensation for the efforts left on the mountains and trails of the Cadi-Moixero Natural Park.
Miguel Heras arrived first in just over 12-hours (12:05). Finally, some luck for the Spaniard who has had some intense highs and lows over the years. Jesse Hernandes and Cristofer Clemente placed 2nd and 3rd, 12:40 and 12:47 respectively.. Cristofer successful in his bid to be the Skyrunner World Series Champion in 2016.
As darkness came, so did the rain. Torrential rain! Hillary Allen pursued Gemma hard over the final km’s, she could potentially smell the Skrunner crown… However, Gemma held on to win in 15:20. Hillary completed in 15:37 and Anna Comet placed 3rd in 15:49. Gemma was crowned 2016 Skyrunner World Series champion.
Full results HERE
Final Skyrunner World Series Ranking 2016 for the Ultra distance
Gemma Arenas 290 points
Anne-Lise Rousset 276 points
Hillary Allen 272 points
Cristofer Clemente 294 points
Nicolas Martin 188 points
Roger Vinas 180 points
About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.
The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.
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