Transgrancanaria kicks off the first race of an ever growing European calendar and just as has happened in previous years, a stellar field will assemble on the island for what is always a tough and challenging series of races.
For the men, we have some of the 2014 big hitters missing: Ryan Sandes, Julien Chorier, Timothy Olson and Sebastien Chaigneau. That leaves the podium wide open… you’ll soon see though, Transgrancanaria has no shortage of male talent gunning for the top slot.
For the ladies, 2014 champion Nuria Picas returns along with Fernanda Maciel who placed 3rd. The only significant name not starting is Francesca Canepa.
The third race of the 2015 Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) looks all set for an epic battle.
The competition among male runners will be tough and exciting. Many elite runners already know the race but we need to watch out for several names that are racing for the first time who stand a great chance to contest the podium.
Iker Karrera, Anton Krupicka, Pau Bartoló, Sondre Amdahl, Carlos Sa, Gediminas Grinius, Yeray Durán, Antoine Guillon and Javier Domínguez arguably head up the elite field but there are no guarantees of victory…
Experience always provides an advantage; previous editions of Transgrancanaria have shown that this course offers many surprises due the tough and challenging terrain. Joe Grant, Brendan Davies, Sebastien Buffard, Anthony Gay, Sylvain Couchaud, Cyril Cointre, Christophe Le Saux and Yan Longfei will all ensure that the ‘hot’ contenders will have to fight hard for victory.
Who’s shooting for the podium?
Iker Karrera has all the potential to be an unstoppable force at Transgrancanaria. He has a great combination of strength, speed and endurance; Ail essential ingredients for success at Transgrancanaria. Iker’s 2013 Tor des Geants and Eiger Ultra Trail performances and arguably, he would have been a potential 2014 UTMB winner had an unstoppable Francois d’Haene not turned up.
Anton Krupicka had a couple of low-key successes in 2014 with Jemez 50 and the Dirty 30; both great comeback races that precluded a strong and impressive Lavaredo. This had us all thinking Anton is back! Unfortunately, it all went pear shaped at UTMB when his body shut down. If Anton is ‘on’ then he will push at the front and contesting the win. The distance suits his racing style and the technicality will play into his hands.
Gediminas Grinius had a stunning 2014 with 3rd, 4th and 5th places at Lavaredo, UTMB and Raid de la Reunion. Three tough races! Based on these performances, Gediminas has all the potential to podium once again and should all things align, he may even win.
Carlos Sa is an ever-consistent performer who performs exceptionally well on a multitude of surfaces, distances and temperatures. Think: Badwater, UTMB and Marathon des Sables. Without doubt Carlos will be in the mix, definite top-10 material and if he has a great day, the top-5 is not beyond him.
Sondre Amdahl like Gediminas Grinius had a great 2014. He placed 6th at Transgrancanaria last year and then 7th at UTMB. His recent 2nd at HK100 is a sure sign that he is in form. He has prepared meticulously for Transgrancanaria… he even moved to the island! 2015 may very well provide an opportunity for a breakthrough performance?
Pau Bartoló won the 2014 CCC and a tough and challenging Transgrancanaria course will play into his skill set. He’s going to need a great day to make an impression on the podium but this island has a habit of jawing runners up. A little patience early on may well pay dividends later.
Brendan Davies is a guy who likes to run, a win at TNF100 and top-10 at Western States proves this. However, he always seems less positive on technical courses and as we all know, Transgrancanaria has plenty of this. If Brendan can find his legs and get in a rhythm, he will be a contender.
Javi Dominguez was 7th last year and followed that up with a solid 5th Raid de le Reunion. He’s a shoe in for top-10 but the podium will likely elude him unless several other runners crumble (possible on this course) and he as a great day!
Antoine Guillon is part of the unstoppable WAA team who somehow seems to manage racing almost every race in the UTWT calendar and still come out with great results as his 3rd, 4th and 5th at Tor des Geants, UTMF and Transgrancanaria show. I see no reason why Antoine wouldn’t make top-5 again!
Yeray Duran was 4th last year and is always fired up for what is his ‘home’ race. His form however can be little unpredictable, so, I’m going to sit on the fence; he could very well have a brilliant day or a disappointing day. Let’s go for the former… top-5!
Yan Long Fei won HK100 ahead of Sondre Amdahl arguably to his incredible sub 2:15 marathon speed. Ultimately though, Transgrancanaria is not going to all Yan many opportunities to open the after burners and run… I see Yan having a similar race to Brendan; they could both potentially struggle with the technicality.
Plenty of other great male runners in this race and any of them could shine. For example, Joe Grant will like this course, how he performs very much depends on his recovery from The Coastal Challenge, which he raced in early February.
The female field can often lack depth, but not at Transgrancanaria… 2014 champion Núria Picas heads up the ladies race along with 2014 3rd place, Fernanda Maciel. Nikki Kimball fresh from The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica will also be a major contender.
From Europe, Caroline Chaverot, Emilie Lecomte, Denise Zimmerman, Ildiko Wemescher and Elena Polyakova are the main contenders but they will need to suppress competition from American and Canadian: Aliza Lapierre and Stephanie Case. Manuela Vilaseca, Dong Li, Wyan Chow, Nerea Martínez, Xari Adrián, Silvia Trigueros and last but not least, Claire Walton make this arguably one of the strongest female fields we have seen at Transgrancanaria.
Who’s shooting for the podium?
Nuria Picas was unstoppable last year winning or making the podium in pretty much every race she ran. Kicking off 2015 with a podium place at UTMF was clear sign that Nuria was running herself in to form. I think she will show the ladies a clean pair of heels at Transgrancanaria and take a strong and decisive victory.
Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd last year and arguably gave 2nd place away to Francesca Canepa (who has decided not to race) after having a to-and-fro battle with the Italian. Fernanda had a strong 2015 consistently making the podium in UTWT races. Recently, she has had an extended period at Aconcagua and all that altitude must be advantageous.
Nikki Kimball needs no introduction, she has been there and done it: from Western States to UTMB. Nikki, like Joe Grant raced The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and by contrast to Joe, I don’t think TCC will have fatigued her, on the contrary, it will have provided a great kick-start for a potential podium performance in Gran Canaria.
Aliza Lapierre placed 5th at Templiers in 2014 and has won Bandera 100k. I can’t help but think that a ‘running’ course would play into Aliza’s hands more than this course, however, she has loads of class and we can expect that to shine through for a potential top-5.
Emelie Lecomte lacks outright speed but she is a pure mountain lover and she has endurance in abundance. The tougher the better! Emilie has set records on the GR20, excelled at Tor Des Geants, Raid de la Reunion and Ronda dels Cims.
Nerea Martinez and Emelie are made from the same mold and ironically have very similar race histories. Top-10 for sure and don’t expect Emelie and Nerea to finish next to each other in the results.
Wyan Chow won HK100 and may well upset things a little. I don’t see victory coming Wyan’s way but a podium is a possibility. Similarly, Dong Li who placed 2nd at HK100 and Sai Kung 50 will almost certainly make top-10 but the podium is a long shot.
A surprise may come Caroline Chaverot who placed 5th at Mont Blanc 80K in 2014 and my dark horse is Claire Walton and possibly Elena Polyakova.
Stephanie Case gets a nod as a last minute entry.
Elite runners will not be seen just in the Ultra race but also in the Advanced race of 83 km. The Advanced has been included this year for the first time in the Spain Ultra Cup® Aml Sport HG and will start from Moya town. Furthermore, this race will allow runners score points for the Championship of the Canary Islands. Zaid Ait Malek, from Morocco, Jorge Aubeso, Pau Capell, Judit Franch, Laia Díez, Yolanda Fernández, among a number of local runners from the Canary Islands, are the ones who will keep the level of this race very high.
Additionally, last year winner Nuria Domínguez will participate in the Marathon and the Polish Tomasz Kilsz, winner of Marathon in 2013, will run this year the Starter race. Efrén Segundo, Trail Series, Championship and Cup of the Canary Islands winner, will participate in the Promo race.
What is the UTWT?
The aim of the UTWT is to gather the most important races of the five continents and to offer the runners the opportunity to discover new landscapes while running. These races also show how diverse trail running can be: steep mountains on Gran Canaria, strenuous uphill in the Alps, paths in California, hills and beaches in Hong Kong or the Moroccan desert.
The proposed races are made for runners with high adaptability and each and every of them is unique: The North Face® Transgrancanaria®, Vibram® Hong Kong 100, Tarawera Ultramarathon, Marathon des Sables, The North Face® 100 Australia, The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra-Trail®, Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, Eiger Ultra-Trail®, Ultra-Trail® du Mont-Blanc, Ultra-Trail® Mt.Fuji® and Le Grand Raid de la Réunion. All these races require different skills in order to win or to be one of the finishers.