2017 #UTMB® Ultra Trail Mont Blanc Race Preview

The 2017 UTMB is upon us and yes, it may well be the best line-up ever for this big loop of France, Italy and Switzerland which starts and finishes in the iconic mountain resort of Chamonix shadowed by the impressive and iconic Mont-Blanc.

The race for many has become the race to do and this is reflected in the growth of the main race, the UTMB and the growth of the sister events – TDS, CCC, PTL and the recent addition of OCC.

Image ©UTMB

Departing at 1800 hrs on Sep 1st, the UTMB race goes in a loop via Les Contamines, La Balme, Les Chapieux, Lac Combal, Col Checrouit, Courmayer, Refuge Bertone, Refuge Bonati, Arnouvaz, La Fouly, Champex-Lac, Plan de L’au, Trient, Vallorcine, Col Des Montets, La Flegere and finally Chamonix.

Image ©UTMB

The route is 171km in length with 10.000 mt of vertical gain and a maximum time limit of 46-hours and 30-minutes.

2300 runners will toe the line for the 2017 edition, it is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT).

LADIES

The ladies race will once again be an interesting one with the return of the 2016 champion Caroline Chaverot, 2016 2nd place, Andrea Huser, 5th placed Magdalena Boulet, 8th placed Kaori Niwa and 10th placed Sophie Grant.

However, this only provides a small glimpse of the potential top-10 for the 2017 UTMB.

Nuria Picas, Stephanie Howe (now Violett), Emilie Lecomte, Fernanda Maciel, Kaci Lickteig, Gemma Arenas are without doubt contenders for the top positions and yes, victory.

Also keep an eye on a couple of dark horses, in particular Beth Pascall from the UK.

On 2016 and 2017 performances, Caroline Chaverot is the head and shoulders favourite for 2017 victory. Her recent win at Hardrock 100 was super impressive and although 2017 started with a glitch at Transgrancanaria, Chaverot is now back in winning ways and looks set to match her incredible 2016. For me, she is the best female ultra-runner in the world at the moment.

Andrea Huser just races and races and last year came very close to Chaverot, 25:15:40 to Huser’s 25:22:56. In all honesty and no disrespect to Huser, this closeness was due to Chaverot having problems and not Huser speeding up. In reality, I think Chaverot can (and possibly will) win the UTMB with a clear 1-hour margin. Can Huser place 2nd again? Yes for sure, however, she will have her hands full.

Nuria Picas has all the potential to win the race but I am not convinced that she has 25 hours of running in her at the moment? She just placed 3rd at Tromso SkyRace which was a great training day but UTMB is going to require a completely different strength.

Magdalena Boulet is going to know what she is in for this year and therefore may well have a better race. She placed 2nd at Western States and in the following weeks and months has recovered and prepared for the big dance in France. I think we may well see her on the podium this year!

Kaci Lickteig and Stephanie Howe Violett were hot favourites for Western States and they both had tough days. Lickteig has said in advance of this year’s UTMB that she is not here to race. Howe Violett though will be here to race and for me she is a hot favourite for the podium and should all things align, she is a potential winner. She was 8th in 2015.

The UK’s Beth Pascall may well be the surprise package of the 2017 race taking the American’s by surprise and yes, even the Europeans. She is a great long distance runner and loves mountain terrain. She is also a great 24-hour runner and that is a key feature for the UTMB – running 100-miles at UTMB is not the same as running 100-miles on another course. Jasmin Paris placed 6th last-year and I think Pascall can match this and potentially go top-5.

Emilie Lecomte, Fernanda Maciel, Kaori Niwa, Aliza Lapierre, Gemma Arenas, Yulia Baykova, Sophie Grant, Amanda Basham, Amy Sproston,  and Joelle Vaught are all potential top-10 runners amongst a very competitive and stacked field.

  • CHAVEROT, Caroline
  • PICAS, Núria
  • BOULET, Magdalena
  • HUSER, Andrea
  • LICKTEIG, Kaci
  • ST LAURENT, Alissa
  • HOWE VIOLETT, Stephanie
  • ARENAS ALCAZAR, Gemma
  • MAJER, Ewa
  • EMMERSON, Kellie
  • BES GINESTA, Cristina
  • VAUGHT, Joelle
  • BASHAM, Amanda
  • LECOMTE, Emilie
  • PASCALL, Beth
  • CHOW, Pui Yan
  • MACIEL, Fernanda
  • LAPIERRE, Aliza
  • BLANCHET, Juliette
  • SPROSTON, Amy
  • NIMES PEREZ, Teresa
  • BRUINS, Robyn
  • MEHL, Lisa
  • BERRY, Tara
  • BARD, Christelle
  • BAYKOVA, Yulia
  • DIEZ FONTANET, Laia
  • VILASECA, Manuela
  • ANDREY, Sophie
  • MCRAE, Sally
  • GRANT, Sophie
  • BOS, Melanie
  • ALVES, Ester
  • NIWA, Kaori
  • EDWARDS, Meredith
  • TROUP, Anna
  • CHIALVO, Martina
  • VARGAS, Adriana
  • CAMACHO ORTEGA, Noelia Patricia
  • SANTOS SOUSA, Lucinda
  • FÖRSTER, Basilia
  • VERJEE, Sabrina

MEN

Ludovic Pommeret took victory in 2016 in 22:00:22 and was followed by Gediminas Grinius, Tim Tollefson, David Laney, Javi Dominguez, Zach Miller, Sebastien Camus, Julien Chorier, Giulio Ornati and Juan Maria Jimenez. A stout top-10 of which we see many return.

The 2016 race was interesting one that saw Miller go off at a reckless pace, blow-up, recover and somehow manage to finish 6th. We also saw how pacing and patience is a key element for a successful UTMB, completely reflected in Pommeret’s victory – he was in the lead early on, he dropped to 50th about 25% in the race and then somehow came back!

With such a stacked field one if the biggest questions will be, ‘who will make it beyond Courmayer?’ As in previous years, many hot favourites will fall by the wayside with pressure on a pace that is too fast early on.

I said in the ladies preview that running 100-miles (more actually – 172km) at the UTMB is not the same as running 100-miles say on a typical US course. I think this can be clearly explained when one looks at say Anton Krupicka. He had success and results at 100-miles that took 14-16 hours, UTMB requires a minimum 20-hour effort and in reality a 20-24 hour effort if you are going to be top-10. This makes a huge difference and therefore, I will put my neck on the line now and say that Walmsley, Miller and Canaday will struggle in the final 25% of the race.

I am jumping ahead though.

With a certain Kilian Jornet returning to the race, I do believe that everyone else is running for 2nd. This is not something that I ever like to write but with all due respect to the rest of the competition, if Kilian is on form I just don’t see anyone coming close. I will also say, that if the weather conditions are good, we will see him not only win the race but I do think we have the potential of a 19-hour finish and a new course record. Jornet is coming back to this race for one reason – the race! He wants the competition, he wants to be pushed and he wants to be the best of the best. Victory will be a priority and then a CR if that is feasible and possible.

Jornet does have three teammates toeing the line and they are a formidable quartet of Francois d’Haene, Tofol Castanyer and Miguel Heras. All four of these guys can win the race and in particular, d’Haene is an odds on favourite to push Jornet and should the Catalan falter, he will be there to take over the reigns. In terms of strategy, I see the Salomon quartet running together in the first 50% of the race behind the front but close enough to pounce should they need to. Jornet will be chatting and looking for company before he and d’Haene pull away in pursuit of the front. In the latter 20/25% of the race, Jornet will pull away, catch any front protagonists and take the win. Castanyer and Heras may well be top-10 with d’Haene 2nd. They have all the potential to go 1,2,3 as in 2014.

I make it sound easy don’t I. It’s 100-miles and therefore of course it is not! Anything can happen.

Jim Walmsley and Zach Miller are no doubt going to head up the front of the race, however, if they have learnt from previous exploits it would make sense that they reign themselves in over the first half of the race. Their fans will want them to go hard or go home, but, if either of them want to win the race, patience will be key. I see Miller having the edge over Walmsley. We all know Walmsley can run fast – really fast. He proved this recently at Speedgoat 50k but that race is 50k and not 172k! Miller has been injured and of course this may well impact on his ability to have a good race in 2017?

The strongest potential for US success will come from Tim Tollefson (3rd in 2016), David Laney (4th in 2016), Jason Schlarb, Dylan Bowman, Jeff Browning, Sage Canaday and Western States 2016 champ, Andrew Miller.

That is one serious US line-up and if Jornet wasn’t running, I would have potentially said that 2017 was the year when we could see an American win the men’s race!

Tollefson missed 2nd last year by just 4-minutes and Laney 3rd by 11-minutes.

It is worth noting though that the winning time in 2016 was almost one hour slower than in 2015 when Xavier Thevenard ran 21:09. That is significant especially with Jornet and d’Haene racing!

BUT, think back to 2014 when d’Haene won in 20:11:44, Castanyer 2nd in 20:55:42, Iker Karrera 20:55:42 and Jason Schlarb 4th in 21:39:44. The top-3 (all Salomon) went under Thevenard’s 2015 winning time – that is a wake-up call for everyone racing the 2017 edition!

Remember too that the course has changed over the last few years!

On paper, based on times, Jason Schlarb has the best potential to impact the podium and his potential may well have increased evermore with his early withdrawal from Hardrock 100 with illness. He is going to be fresh!

Tollefson, Laney are the obvious contenders for top-5, they have done it before but Browning is an incredible force over 100-miles – he is patient, loves to climb and he gets the job done. Equally, Bowman is going to be raring to go for this year. We may well see the top-10 full of US runners – it is going to be a great year for them.

Luis Alberto Hernando would have been my tip for the podium but he has decided not to race – a real shame. He would have really had am impact on the front of the race if inform.

Therefore Xavier Thevenard has to be a key favourite. He is the only person to have won UTMB, TDS, CCC and OCC – impressive! He does blow hot and cold sometimes though, particularly if the pressure is on him. If he keeps a low-profile in the build up to the 2017 race I think will see him once again have a great race.

Gediminas Grinius nails the 100-mile distance and was 5th in 2014 and 2nd last year. He will be in the mix for sure but if it is a fast year, I don’t think he has the pace for a 20-hour finish.

Didrik Hermansen does have the pace but may not have the endurance, having said that, he won Transgrancanaria and was 2nd at Western States in 2016.

Pau Capell has been so consistent and is an exciting prospect at the 2017 UTMB, he won Transgrancanaria and placed 2nd at Madeira Island Ultra Trail – both races taking 13-hours. He is going to need to race for 30% (minimum) longer in Chamonix and that will be a huge learning curve.

The UK’s Andy Symonds ran the UTMB in 2016 and detonated, he will be back this year more focused. He has the potential for a great race.

Julien Chorier recently participated in Ironman Nice with a 10-hour 22-minute finish – very solid for a tough (bike) course. It’s interesting prep for UTMB but Chorier is a class act and he has been top-10 at UTMB before. He knows how to run the race. I don’t think he has the speed now to be top-3 but he has the staying power and he can pick of places and move up the ranking in the latter stages of the race.

Javier Dominguez, Vaidas Zlabys, Sebastien Camus, Yeray Duran, Scott Hawker, Carlos Sa, Sebastien Chaigneau, Yoshikazu Hara, are all potential top-10 runners… this distance and this race is so unpredictable and it rarely goes to plan or script.

From a UK perspective, Casey Morgan, Kim Collison, Damian Hall and Danny Kendall will toe the line. Hall in particular having consistently solid races.

What are your thoughts, who are going to be the surprises?

Here is the list of elite men:

  • WALMSLEY, Jim
  • JORNET BURGADA, Kilian
  • D’HAENE, François
  • CANADAY, Sage
  • MILLER, Zach
  • THEVENARD, Xavier
  • HERAS HERNANDEZ, Miguel Angel
  • TOLLEFSON, Tim
  • CASTANYER BERNAT, Tofol
  • BOWMAN, Dylan
  • SCHLARB, Jason
  • GRINIUS, Gediminas
  • SYMONDS, Andrew
  • CAPELL, Pau
  • LANEY, David
  • HERMANSEN, Didrik
  • DOMINGUEZ LEDO, Javier
  • ZLABYS, Vaidas
  • MILLER, Andrew
  • BES, Jordi
  • GAMITO, Jordi
  • PAZOS, Diego
  • HAWKER, Scott
  • SANCHEZ SAEZ, Sebastian
  • CAMUS, Sébastien
  • ORNATI, Giulio
  • CHORIER, Julien
  • GAY, Anthony
  • GHELFI, Ryan
  • PASERO, Mikael
  • DURAN LOPEZ, Yeray
  • ANGUITA BAYO, Manuel
  • ROVERA, René
  • BROWNING, Jeff
  • HARA, Yoshikazu
  • SA, Carlos
  • FERNANDES, Luís
  • CHAIGNEAU, Sebastien
  • HAJNAL, Robert
  • SOLE DUOCASTELLA, Francesc
  • GORCZYCA, Bartosz
  • KRIZ, Zdenek
  • FISTER, Gerald
  • COUCHAUD, Sylvain
  • BERNAD BLASCO, Victor
  • AMAT ASENCIO, Daniel
  • GRASEL, Florian
  • MORGAN, Casey
  • SHERPA, Sangé
  • PFANDLBAUER, Andreas
  • JAQUA, Nate
  • COLLISON, Kim
  • YANG, Jiagen
  • RODRIGUEZ BARREIRO, Alvaro
  • HALL, Damian
  • BROGNIART, Stéphane
  • FREITAS, Francisco
  • DOBERT, Steeve
  • SANCHEZ CASALS, Carles
  • DI GIACOMO, Fabio
  • STEPHAN, Quentin
  • LARROTCHA, Juan Jose
  • DOI, Takashi
  • BACKHAUSEN, Majell
  • SCHJØLBERG, Hallvard
  • DE SALVADOR, Marco
  • VINAGRE CRUZ, Alberto
  • REYES, Gustavo
  • CHAVET, Cedric
  • NOURRY, Yann
  • DIBOUN, Yassine
  • SUGA, Satoru
  • DIOGO, Leonardo
  • PARRA HERNANDEZ, Vicente
  • PARIS, Thomas
  • MENDIZABAL, Adur
  • MALARDE, Christophe
  • VIEUX, Florian
  • DROZ, Gaël
  • OUTTERS, Benoît
  • WAGNER, Thomas
  • EVANGELISTI, Michele
  • TEJERO, Sergio Luís
  • BUFFARD, Sébastien
  • GASC, Mickael
  • VERMILYEA, Andrew
  • COUCHOUD, Fabrice
  • LAYFIELD, Dominick
  • EVARTS, Roman
  • RESTORP, Petter
  • HERRERO, Albert
  • DEPERRAZ, Stephane
  • CATALAN, Iñaki
  • SKURKA, Andrew
  • BUCKLIN, Benjamin
  • NAMKUNG, Evan
  • LEFRANC, Julien
  • VIOLETT, Zachary
  • FUCHS, Sebastian
  • LAVY, Jeremy
  • PIGOIS, Thomas
  • FARIA, Manuel
  • LUJAN MALDONADO, Agustin
  • JUNG, Frédéric
  • CUCCO, Francesco
  • KENDALL, Danny
  • IINO, Wataru
  • BESSARD, Yann
  • BERNINI, Stefano
  • VALENTINE, Rick
  • MOLIN, Ivano
  • CASANOVAS, Ramon
  • DAVID, Benjamin
  • CAUCHON, Jean-Francois
  • MATSUNAGA, Hiroaki
  • CARCANO, Gaetano
  • ESCUDERO, Israel
  • GU, Bing
  • POMMIER, Jean
  • CALMETTES, Guillaume

UTMB Information HERE

 

27 thoughts on “2017 #UTMB® Ultra Trail Mont Blanc Race Preview

  1. Hi Ian, thank you for this awesome sumup. I’m running this year so it’s awesome to be with all those heroes on the same 🙂 I’m wondering how things ended with Kilian – I’ve heard that he haven’t earned enough qualifying points? Was there an exception made for him? Thanks!

  2. Post 2014 times are not really comparable to previous ones as the course got quite a bit more difficult in 2015, with the new climb included. More distance too.

    • As Martin said, the addition of the Col de Pyramids Calcaires not only adds extra elevation, but also on rougher terrain than the rest of the UTMB course. I believe there have been smaller additions around the course too to make it 170km and 10,000m of elevation, which is why there have been slower winning times.

      Best way to compare this, although not perfect, is to look at Xavier’s 21:09 in 2015 and his 20:34 in 2013. This could have been a completely different experience for Xavier in each year, with many variables, but on a very rudimentary level it suggests the additions to the course add 35 minutes at the sharp end, not withstanding personal improvements in the two years for Xavier.

  3. Hi Ian! The race forsikring og the 1st of September, not the 31st of August. Thanks for the nice preview! Best regards!

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  5. Thorough and insightful article with lots of research. Thanks for sharing. Its going to be super exciting to watch the race unfold.

  6. Hey, Ian! Thanks for the write-up. Greatly appreciate the insights.

    While I don’t know that Walmsley can win here with this being his first attempt at UTMB, I think you neglect to consider that he has run 100 miles before at WSER. I know he went off course, but in reality he was very close to the finish, and would have won handily even if he circled back and completed without sitting for a while. The intimation that he doesn’t have “any” experience at this distance just doesn’t hold true. The elevation is, of course, a serious issue for consideration. Regardless, it looks to be a banner year!

    Thanks again for sharing.

    • David, I am well aware of this and yes, Walmsley will one day get it right but IMO he will not be competitive with Kilian, Francois and the other top Europeans. I also don’t think over this distance and on this course he will match Laney, Tollefson, Schlarb and Browning. Of course, Walmsley and Miller would love to prove me wrong – they may just do that! But Western States is not UTMB. Look at this year… Walmsley was shooting for a ’14’ and blew up. He will need to run a 20/21/or 22 at UTMB – not is so much longer than he has run before and look at the vert… Walmsley is runner! Yes, he won Speedgoat but it’s 50k! The reason why Walmsley didn’t turn around and win Western in 2016 was because he had detonated – he was broken and made the same mistakes if not worse this year! I stand by my comments and value your counter response.

      • Thanks, Ian. Not sure whether he detonated physically or mentally in 2016 when he went off course. I know you’ve talked with him, so you have better insight there. It appeared to be more mental due to blowing the CR, but that is just the impression I get from my chair. 🙂

        I also understand that WSER is not UTMB, which is why I wouldn’t expect him to win this year. I do think that he’ll surprise you though. Looking forward to it either way.

        Take care, sir! Thanks again!

      • I think Walmsley needs to get some REALLY GRITTY 100 mile race experience under his belt. But for that to happen, he first has to grind this race out from start to end, without dropping or blowing up. Just finish it – that’s his target. Forget time or position. Indeed, given the stacked field he could even say, “Hey, there’s no pressure on me!” He has youth (and thus many more years) on his side – but he must build that tough mental side which 100 milers demand. I’d say work on that first, and the rest will come later.

      • Well said, Brandon.

        I also agree, Ian. If that type of focus is given, it may not result in a first place, but it will result in a very respectable position in a very tough race amidst an amazing field.

        Should be fun!

  7. Looking at Strava data it looks as though Jim Walmsley is very well prepared for the vert and distance. It will be particularly interesting to see how the different running styles “fast from the gun” Vs (also fast) but patient styles of running plays out. Also Interesting that last years winner is not considered a podium candidate- But I agree the field is that deep!

    • Pfft, Strava? Strava is a great training tool but it’s definitely not an indication of how well someone will do in this (or any other) race. If you look at Walmsley’s history he’s super fast up to 100k and after that he’s a broken mess. I like Jim Walmsley, and I hope he wises up and slows down on a brutal course like UTMB. If he just uses his head and runs smart, he has the fitness to win it, but I’m nor sure he has the mental fitness. Just inexperience? Who knows…

      • To be fair, Walmsley was super fast up to 93 miles at the 2016 Western States race. So not just up to 100k.

      • Jim was fast up to 93 miles but already seriously blowing… he blew up, went off course, crumbled and finish way out of top-10. Even IF (and it is a big if) he had won WSER at a course record pace, it would still be 5-7 hours slower than he will run at UTMB – huge learning curve ahead for the Cowboy.

      • I think training and tapering (together with race results) is a great predictor for race performance- would be strange if training quality did not correlate with performance!? And all I am saying is that he has done his homework from a training standpoint both in terms of distance and climbing. His taper also seems to follow the text-book.
        I will also say that Louis Alberto got a lot more pre-race credit before hist first UTMB (first 100-miler for him?) and Jim more flak because of two bad performances. Killian would be bet for a win but a podium place for jim would not surprise me. I am a bit in doubt about Francois d’Haene’s build up, he was injured before Lavaredo i belive, but I am hoping for a great performance from him. It will be an exciting race!

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  9. Is there live tracking by name or bib number of the utmb? I’m trying to follow Andrew Miller, 2016 Wetern States Champion. Thank you.

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