The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series arrived in Madeira, Portugal for the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira (USM) – a tough and challenging 55km ultra with 4000m of vertical gain. The 2016 edition had a minor change to 2015, an extra section that added more technicality and potentially more time… could the times of Ricky Lightfoot and Stevie Kremer be beaten?
The USM course is a unique one. Weaving up and down mountains, around beaches, through dense undergrowth, up a riverbed and of course plenty of climbing and descending. It’s not your ordinary Skyrunning course!
Departing the start line at 0600 on the dot, the runners disappeared down a darkened lane with only head torches for company, it was going to be a great day – the sky was clear and the stars were sparkling in the sky. Just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m straight up to the highest point of the island – pure Skyrunning.
The runners climbed and a section of via ferreta was the prelude to the new course addition, instead of following the stone steps to the off-path climb to the summit, runners dropped down once again to take in a technical descent and ridge climb. A final push to the summit; It wasn’t easy going. The sky was blue, the sun was beating down but despite the picture postcard, it was hard graft.
Andre Jonsson (Sweden) and Dimitrios Theodorakakos (Greece) were the first to appear. The contrast between the two striking, Andre is tall and with an ultra runner beard. Dimitrios is stocky, well built and all power.
They matched each other step-by-step. A string of runners appeared all looking relatively calm and relaxed considering the severity of the course – it was early days!. At the summit of Pico Ruivo the ladies arrived, first was Anna Frost, closely followed by Gemma Arenas.
Running the ridges and several more climbing sections, the front of the race didn’t change until a decisive phase around the 36km mark. Climbing from the sea and beach, Andre Jonsson continued to lead looking strong. However, Dimitrios looked to be struggling a little and Cristofer Clemente was closing. After 5km of ridge running and a technical descent, a riverbed with boulder hopping awaited. Cristofer made his move and passed Dimitrios and went in pursuit of Andre.
The final long climb needed to be ascended and descended before the finish line and here the podium changed. Andre crumbled after leading the race all day:
“I had felt great, running within myself and in the riverbed I cooled down but then in the early section of the final climb I just had no energy, the heat hit and that was it!
Cristofer took the lead, opened a gap and won the race by a clear margin. Dimitrios held on for 2nd and local runner, Luis Fernandes went past Andre to take 3rd.
Gemma Arenas was almost in another race by the time the riverbed came and the final climb she held that margin to take a convincing victory. Anna Frost who had lead the race for much of the day was relegated to 2nd by Gemma but then faded to 3rd – a strong performance from US based Hillary Allen reeled ‘Frosty’ in and she sealed 2nd. Frosty said post race:
“I really gave it everything today, on the ups and the downs, I just didn’t have that extra oomph but what a great (and tough) course!”
The 3rd edition of the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira has been a great success. Despite a potentially more difficult course, both the men’s and ladies records were broken! The top 2 men and top 5 ladies all broke the previous records. This is extremely significant and reflects the quality of the male and female line-up – world-class runners pushing hard for victory and resulting in fast times. João Canning Clode, USM co-director and PR commented, “We didn’t expect to break the standing records but given the good weather this year and the strong competition, it was a welcome surprise.
Madeira is an amazing island with a tough and challenging course. The future looks bright for this new addition to the Skyrunner® World Series.
Results: (official times to follow)
- Cristofer Clemente 6:00:28
- Dimitrios Theodorakakos 6:09:06
- Luis Fernandes 6:11:34
- Gemma Arenas 6:59:51
- Hillary Allen 7:13:12
- Anna Frost 7:17:00
Cristofer Clemente now takes over the Ultra Series ranking lead for the men and Gemma Arenas for the women. Look out for the next Ultra Series race with the new High Trail Vanoise in the renowned ski resort of Val d’Isère, France on July 10.
Later this month the Skyrunner® World Series will head for North Eastern Italy with the Santa Caterina VK and the Livigno SkyMarathon® on June 24 & 26.
Skyrunner® World Series is supported by Migu Xempower, Alpina Watches, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.
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