Dolomites SkyRace 2016 Race Preview – Skyrunner® World Series

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-2169It’s a classic, no doubt about it and as such the Dolomites SkyRace personifies the ethos of the pure and simple act of starting low racing high and returning as quickly as possible – Skyrunning!

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The race is 22km long with 10km uphill and 12km downhill. Depending on the weather, the route may or may not have snow which only adds to the complexity of the terrain. The route changes constantly and on the ascent the runners must fight gravity trying to reach the high point of the course, Piz Boe at 3152m.

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From the summit, runners must defy gravity and drop like a stone with no fear, this race is often won on the descent!

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Piazza Marconi, Canazei is the start and finish point and 4 hours 30 minutes are allocated for participants to complete the course. Course records currently stand with Kilian Jornet and Megan Kimmel. Their times 2:00:11 and 2:25:57 recorded in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

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Added interest can be noted in the record for the ascent and descent, a key feature of this race. Augusti Roc Amador and Laura Orgue have recorded 1:16:47 and 1:29:30 of the ascent and Fabio Bonfanti and Angela Mudge hold the records for the descent, 00:43:35 and 00:58:47.

In 2015 Tadei Pivk (2:02:47) beat Ionut Zinca and Pascal Egli to the top of the podium. In the ladies’ race, Megan Kimmel (2:25:57) beat Laura Orgue and Elisa Desco with a stunning descent and a course record time.

What is in store for 2016?

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As one would expect, the line up in both the men’s and lady’s fields is stunning. Tadei Pivk heads up the men’s field after his victory in 2015 and his SWS 2015 title. He has been racing regularly in Italy and was the winner at Livigno SkyMarathon recently. However, he did play 5th at Zegama-Aizkorri.

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Tadei will definitely not have things his own way. A last minute entry by Remi Bonnet will almost certainly raise the Italians eyebrows. Remi raced the VK in Val D’Isere this past weekend and placed 3rd (28 seconds off the lead), not a position he is used to but he has been nursing an injury and may well not be in full shape in Canazei? That said, he is a formidable competitor over the SKY distance.

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Manuel Merillas, 4th at Zegama-Aizkorri always races consistently well over the SKY distance and almost certainly he will contest the top 5 and more than likely the podium. 

 

Marc Casal Mir, 2nd on the SWS ranking is a consistent performer but has never made the podium in Canazei. For sure he will be in contention but more likely in the top 10.

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Andre Jonsson has been somewhat of a revelation in 2016, he goes out hard, puts it all on the line and races full on. He currently lies 3rd on the SWS 2016 ranking.

Martin Anthamatten will also be one to watch, he had a great result at Matterhorn Ultraks and in the USA at the RUT series of races. The Dolomites will suit him!

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Saul Antonio Padua may well be the first to the top but he always falters on the descent, a key element of the Dolomites race, I wonder, this year can he string the two together?

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Other top names to watch out for are Francois Gonon, Alexis Sevennec, Aritz Egea, Dmityr Mityaev, Jan Magrit Sole, Hassan Ait Chaou, Daniel Garcia Gomez, Jessed Hernandez, Nil Cardona, Hector Haines and many more.

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With Megan Kimmel missing from the race, Laura Orgue heads up the ladies race after a stunning performance in 2015. Laura’s only problem may well come on the descent… over the winter months she picked up an injury and the Dolomites SkyRace will be the first big test.

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Laura though will have some serious competition from her Salomon teammates, Yngvild Kaspersen and Ida Nilsson. These two ladies are currently on fire and based on recent results they could take the top two spots? Yngvild won Zegama-Aizkorri and then went on the place 2nd at Mt Marathon in Alaska – for me, she is the favourite.

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Ida had a stunning Transvulcania Ultramarathon has gone from strength-to-strength. Ironically, Transvulcania was a long way for Ida, the shorter distance will suit her running history. It’s going to be exciting!

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-2244Elisa Desco, 3rd in 2015 is back on form after injury and victory in Livigno. Elisa has the up and down game and without doubt is likely champion on Sunday.

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2015 Zegama-Aizkorri champion, Azara Garcia has been looking for a return to form after prolonged injury and the Dolomites SkyRace may well be the opportunity to for her gain maximum points and challenge for the SWS ranking.
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Maite Maiora has also had injury but if she is fit she will definitely be a contender for the podium. Maite races hard with 100% commitment in 2014 she placed 3rd behind Laura Orgue and Emelie Forsberg.

Marta Molist currently lies 2nd on the SWS ranking and she will be looking to gain valuable points, however, Russian Ekaterina Mityaev will be looking to topple the Spanish runner.

Ragna Debats and Sheila Alves heads up the other likely contenders for the top 5 followed by Aitziber Ibarbia, Eva Maria Moreda Gabaldon, Celia Chiron and of course, we may well have a few last minute entries…

Watch this space!

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Kicking off proceedings on Friday, runners will take on the Dolomites Vertical Kiolmeter®. Starting at 0930 in Cisates just a short walk from the center of Canazei, runners will depart in groups of 20 with a time gap of 4-minutes separating the groups. Groups are categorized with slower runners departing early and elite runners departing last.

At 1100 the top runners as specified by the SWS ranking will depart.

Runners depart at an altitude of 1450m and reach the high point of Spiz 2465m with a total distance of 2.4km in length. The Dolomites VK is considered one of the toughest on the circuit due to the short, steep course and underfoot, much of the terrain is grass. Poles are not essential but recommended.

Course records date back to 2015 and 2014 when Philip Gotsch ran an incredible 32:38 and Laura Orgue ran 38:14.

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Ferran Teixido heads up the men’s race field and he currently leads the SWS ranking however, he did have a below par performance at Face Bellevarde in Val d’Isere. Francois Gonon, Nejc Kuhar, Marco Moletto, Jan Margarit, Dimitry Mityaeva, Mirko Cocco and Oriol Cardona Coll will push the Andorran runner all the way to the line. As is always the case in Italy and on the VK circuit, La Sportiva will send a strong and deep field. Urban Zemmer if confirmed running of course will be a clear favourite along with Remi Bonnet and Saul Antonio Padua.

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Laura Orgue heads up the ladies’ field and is the current course record holder but will have strong competition from Maite Maiora and Yngvild Kaspersen. Ekaterina Mityaeva, Maria Zorroza and Aitziber Ibarbia will provide competition but the ladies start list is definitely impacted by the Skyrunning World Championships that will take place the following weekend.


Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

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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Zegama-Aizkorri 2016 Race Preview – Skyrunner® World Series

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Zegama is Zegama! Ask anyone about Zegama-Aizkorri and the answer will be, ‘Zegama? well, Zegama is Zegama!’

Yes, it is a unique race! The Skyrunner® World Series 2016 roles on from Transvulcania Ultramarathon on the island of La Palma and now transfers to mainland Spain, the Basque country – Zegama!

Due to it’s location, early season date and unpredictable weather, Zegama-Aizkorri has seen many epic battles. Catalan mountain running legend, Kilian Jornet has won the race an incredible six times. The combination of challenging terrain, vertical gain and descent and typically bad weather fall into the Catalans hands perfectly. It’s a race where strength of mind must be matched by the strength of the body.

A quiet and sleepy place, Zegama is transformed on race weekend into a mecca of mountain running. The course is reassuringly predictable, however, as past editions have shown, the weather adds the variety and a glorious sunny warm edition can be followed with a snowy, wet and miserably cold edition.

Taking in a loop over the Arratz massif and the Sierra of Aizkorri. Otzaurte provides an early indication of form on the day but it’s on the legendary climb of Sancti Spiritu where thousands of spectators line the trail where the action starts to unfold.

Taking in the four highest peaks in the Basque Autonomous Region; Arratz, Aizkorri, Akategi and Aitxuri the highest at over 1500m. Zegama-Aizkorri is a classic mountain marathon distance race with 5472m of vertical gain.

A ridge run at altitude leads to the final summit. Scrambling over rocks the final descent arrives which leads to the roads of this sleepy town, now transformed into a hub of colour and noise.

Zegama is Zegama!

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The race is notable for it’s history and one man alone has shone brightly at Zegama – Kilian Jornet. Many thought the Catalan would not run in Zegama in 2016 due to his exploits in mountaineering and his ‘Summits of my Life’ project, not so – Kilian will run!

‘Kilian posted on Twitter on May 17th, ‘Last long training before Zegama done, 13h 6500m in technical terrain 🙈🙈🙈’

Needless to say, Kilian is the favourite!

In all honesty, as one would expect, the quality of the line up at Zegama is exceptional, particularly in the men’s race. The ladies race is without doubt one of the weakest line-ups in recent years – Emelie Forsberg is injured, Laura Orgue is injured, Elisa Desco is injured, and the race is also missing, pocket rocket, Stevie Kremer amongst others.

MEN

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Luis Alberto Hernando just blitzed the Transvulcania course once again and although you can’t rule him out, I can’t help but think he will just miss that extra few percent (due to fatigue) of energy needed and required to top the podium. He will fight all the way to the line though and he will unleash a breakneck descent for potential victory.

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Remi Bonnet has looked for an opportunity to race Kilian for sometime. Yes, he is that keen… he has been tipped by many, me included, that he may well be ‘the next big thing’ in the world of Skyrunning. He is an incredible talent in the VK discipline and as he showed at the Rut in Limone, he is also an incredible talent at the Sky distance. Remi could well push Kilian all the way to the line but I will still give KJ the nod for victory.

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-1920Tadei Pivk was a man on fire in 2015 and was champion of the Skyrunner World Series. He has already started his 2016 well with races in Italy and a recent 2nd place at Yading SkyRun in China. Tadei love Zegama- Aizkorri and he always finds the form to make an impact on the podium.

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Saul Padua is a VK specialist and a very good one! He recently won the Transvulcania VK and in 2015 he dipped his toe in the Sky distance, in particular the Dolomites where he lead the charge to the summit only to loose his lead on the descent. I can’t help but feel that Zegama will be a similar scenario – he will run top-5 early on but potentially will loose places on the long descent to the line. If the weather is bad and it looks as though it may be, I think that will impact on his race even more.

Marc Lauenstein is yet to be confirmed as running but if he does, he could really shake things up. He recently won the Three Peaks in the UK ahead of Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens. The UK fells are actually the perfect training ground for Zegama, so, if Marc runs – watch out!

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Manuel Merillas like Tadei has illuminated the Skyrunner World Series with a string of world-class performances over multiple distances. He was 3rd at Limone behind Remi Bonnet and Tadei and at Lantau 2 Peaks he placed 2nd behind Remi relegating Tadei to 3rd. For sure, Manuel will be in the mix for a podium place.
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Marco De Gasperi needs no introduction to any follower of mountain or Skyrunning. The guy is a legend, he has been there and done it and still manages to pull out great results from the bag. you can never rule the Italian out but younger and faster competition keep coming, making racing at a high level increasingly harder. No longer running

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Tom Owens is yet to be confirmed as participating although he is on the start list. Tom is made for Zegama with a strong background in fell running. The terrain and mountains in this region of the Basque country offer the Scot a unique playground and what that he embraces. His recent podium place at the Three Peaks in the UK shows he is in form.

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Aritz Egea is the ever consistent Skyrunner with a string of victories, podium places and top-10 results. He does have the ability to win Zegama, he just needs a little luck. Expect him to go out hard, potentially lead the race early on with the hope of clinging on to a lead to the finish.

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Ionut Zinca like so many listed above has the potential to win and almost certainly make the podium. An ever-present on the Skyrunning circuit with consistent results at Zegama, the Dolomites, Limone and so many more, if Ionut is on form, we can certainly expect him to push throughout the race for the top slot.

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Zaid Ait Malek raced Transvulcania and therefore may well be a little tired for Zegama. However, he knows how to run this race and has placed well within the top-10, I don’t see him winning but top-5 is possible.

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Jokin Lizeaga and Eirik Haugsness head up the leading runners for a top-10 placing along with Pere Rullan, Pablo Villa (tbc), Hassain Ait Chaou, Jessed Hernandez and Nil Cardona.

LADIES

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Megan Kimmel heads up the ladies race after a recent victory at Yading SkyRun and an impressive 2015 Skyrunner World Series season. To say Megan has been on fire would be an underestimation and it was actually a real surprise that she did not win the 2015 Skyrunner World Series – a below par performance at Limone Extreme ruined her chances. But her string of victories, particularly at the Dolomites SkyRace when she beat Laura Orgue elevated her to ‘hot’ for all the Skyrunning races – watch out!

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Yngvild Kaspersen is the female equivalent of Remi Bonnet. In 2015, her first racing season, she rose through the ranks with a series of impressive runs both in the VK and Sky distance and she was rewarded with victory in Hong Kong at the Lantau 2 Peaks in horrendous conditions. If conditions in Zegama are wet, cold, miserable and slippery underfoot, Yngvild may well shine and take victory!

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Maite Maiora is an ever-present on the Skyrunning circuit and only races one way; hard! Over the winter she took time out for an operation and therefore her training may well have been compromised. On her day, Maite is without doubt podium potential and in and amongst this ladies field, I think she has every chance of a top-3 slot.

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Azara Garcia won Zegama and then had a string on injury issues which leaves many question marks about her form? If she is fit and well, then we can expect Azara to give Megan a race.

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Oihana Kortazar is yet to be confirmed as running but she recently raced the marathon distance in Transvulcania. A lady who knows the mountains and trails of Zegama very well, I would expect a podium place.

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Anna Comet raced Transvulcania and had to pull out with an injury. Although her name is on the start list I question if she will run? My gut feeling though is that this race is maybe too short for her skills; a longer race suits her better.

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The same applies for Portugal’s Ester Alves. A great long distance runner who can handle technical trail, the short sharp shock of Zegama may well be too much of an ask for a podium place. Top-10 is a distinct possibility for both.©iancorless.com-9069Kima2014_

Paula Cabrerizo and Nuria Dominguez head up the charge behind the three ladies above, both have all the ability to make the podium and yes, a victory is possible.

Marta Molist Codina, Aitziber Iberia and Eva Maria Moreda Gabaldon form the next wave of contenders and of course, we have to anticipate surprise performances that we just can’t account for. Alicia Shay placed 4th at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and although on the start list, she will not run.

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The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series is brought to you with a new management company, Geneva based SkyMan SA

SkyMan SA  is pleased to present a new Main Partner, Migu Xempower, a Chinese exercise and health management platform which also counts a rich experience in organising marathons, city and mountain races for millions of runners.

The well-established, SkyUltra and Vertical format is joined by the Extreme Seriespresented by Alpina Watches, which more than ever expresses the true spirit of skyrunning defined not only by distance, but vertical climb and technical difficulty.

Skyrunner® World Series is supported by Migu Xempower, Alpina Watches, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.

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View the Zegama galleries from 2014

Limone Extreme 2015 – Race Preview

 

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Limone Extreme brings to a close the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series and what a year it has been! It only seems like 5-minutes ago that Luis Alberto Hernando and Emelie Forsberg crossed the finish line at Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Of course, these two Skyrunner’s concluded their ‘ultra’ years with Skyrunner® World Series titles at Ultra Pirineu. It was an incredible year for them both, they are the respective World, European and Skyrunner® World Series champions for the distance.

Limone has hosted the Skyrunner® World Series finals for the past 2-years and once again it will provide the arena to conclude the VK and the SKY distances. The VK is spectacular as it is run under the illumination of head torches as the runners climb 1000m under darkness.

The following day is the SKY race and what a race we have in store.

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Megan Kimmel and rising star Remi Bonnet head up a world-class field that is without doubt a who’s who of Skyrunning. It’s all to fight for.

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MEN

Remi Bonnet, although victorious at the RUT and Lantau 2 Peaks will not be able to contend the Skyrunner® World Series title even if he wins at Limone. Unfortunately, he does not have a +1 race as required in the ranking for 2015. On recent form, one has to say that he is the one to beat. Limone represents a perfect challenge for the young Swiss runner and the distance currently falls into his ‘perfect’ distance.

It’s going to be no easy race though!

Francois Gonon, Marco De Gasperi, Ionut Zinca, Manuel Merillas, Tom Owens, Thorbjorn Ludvigsen, Tadei Pivk, Thibault Baronian, Aritz Egea, Martin Anthamatten and a strong contingent from La Sportiva that includes Marco Moletto will all look to topple Bonnet from the top. Add last years’ winner Petro Mamu and Zach Miller from the USA and we have what may well be one of the most exciting races of the year.

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Manuel Merillas was in form in Hong Kong and scored valuable 2nd place points and when the race was over he said, the fight goes on! He is a fierce competitor and the Limone course will suit him.

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Tadei Pivk tops the SWS and he will be looking for a top drawer performance to maintain his foothold at the top of the rankings. He is going to have a tough battle on his hands but as he has proved in the past at Zegama, Dolomites and so on, he can do it!

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Aritz Egea will go out hard, lead from the front and try to hold on for grim life to the end. He has had a great year this year and with a series of top results. He will be in the mix at Limone but he will need a great run to make the podium.

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Marco De Gasperi had a bad day at Lantau 2 Peaks and was frustrated with his run. Here on ‘home-soil’ he will hopefully revel on the terrain and he will look to repeat his victory from 2012.

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Ionut Zinca was returning from injury at Lantau 2 Peaks and lacked that ‘zip’ that comes from racing regularly. With a race in his legs, he may well find that his form is back for a race in which he has performed well at before.

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Petro Mamu beat Kilian last year and that is no easy task, so he can’t be ruled out this year. However, even if he wins it will have no impact on the SWS series as he has not contended any other races. His journey to the shores of Lake Garda are for financial gain should he win the price purse.

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Zach Miller also will not contest the SWS but he is a runner who only knows how to run one way; hard and fast. His hold on for your life approach scares the hell out of me and maybe him sometimes, but it makes for exciting racing. I just wonder if this race is too short for his running style?

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Tom Owens loves running up and down fast and has all the skill sets required to excel on this Limone course. That is fell running for you! He had a good run at the RUT has been back home in Scotland lately doing what he loves most; running in the mountains.

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Martin Anthamatten won Ultraks, recently beat Joe Gray in the USA and is on fire. Could Limone be a great end to the year?

Current SWS rankings have Tadei Pivk topping the podium for the series with 366-points, Manuel Merillas 2nd with 332-points and Tom Owens 3rd with 268-points. The final race of the series has a bonus of 20% so who will come out on top?

LADIES

The SWS Ladies ranking currently is Laura Orgue, Elisa Desco, Maite Maiora and importantly Megan Kimmel in 4th – points are 364, 350, 322, and 300 respectively.

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Megan Kimmel has been on fire this year and is the odds on favourite for victory in Limone and in reality, she is the one to beat for the SWS. Her ability to hold her own uphill and then descend fast is what is setting her apart in 2015. The only glitch came at Matterhorn Ultraks when she ran out of steam while leading the race. The SKY distance though when at 20-25km is perfect for the American.

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Laura Orgue has been a revelation at the SKY distance. Always considered a VK specialist, she has grown into the longer distances and has performed exceptionally well. She is the eternal 2nd after Dolomites, the RUT and Lantau. Can she win in Limone? I anticipate Laura to lead the charge to the first summit, the question will come if she can hold on for the drop back to the lake.

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Elisa Desco may well upset the apple cart. She will need a perfect day and Megan to have a below par day. I don’t see that happening. Although placing 4th in Hong Kong, Elisa had an awful race due to the typhoon conditions.

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Maite Maiora has raced a great deal in 2015 and has always comes up with the results! She recently placed 3rd in Lantau 2 Peaks under tough conditions and she will be coming to Limone looking to make the podium once again. Don’t rule her out, she is a fierce competitor.

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Yngvild Kaspersen like Remi Bonnet is shaking up the SKY distance. It’s so great to see these 20-year olds rise in the sport. Her victories at Tromso and Lantau were quite spectacular, at Limone she will need a little luck on her side to take the top slot. Like Remi, Yngvild does not have a +1 and so therefore cannot qualify for the SWS.

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Stevie Kremer has won in the past here and been crowned SWS champion. 2015 has been a mixed year for the pocket rocket. For example, at Hong Kong she flew in the night before the race after almost 20-hours in the air. I guess it will be a similar story in Limone. The reality is, despite how talented you are, you can’t give those % gains away against this quality of field. Stevie will be in the mix for sure.

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Emelie Forsberg* and Kasie Enman will also race the SKY distance and as we all know, either of them could win. *My gut reaction is that Emelie will enjoy the run and let the ladies battle out the SWS and Kasie will push hard and finish just outside the top-3.

*As I expected, Emelie has decided not to race: “I decided not to! I prefer beeing super fresh before my winter season in both mind and body!”

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Watch out for Azara Garcia (winner at Zegama-Aizkorri) Oihana Kortazar and Martina Valmassoi who podiumed at the RUT ultra.

VK

Could Remi Bonnet and Laura Orgue do the ‘Limone Double?’ It is very possible and what a story that would make.

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Remi for sure has the ability and skill to nail a tough VK and then less than 12-hours later run a SKY race and win. So yes, he is an odds on favourite for the win.

Francois Gonon though will most certainly create a stumbling block for him. Particularly after that impressive VK in Chamonix what seems like lifetime ago. However, the format in Limone is different. It’s not a time trial set off in 30-second intervals, it’s a mass start and therefore early positioning is critical. It may not suit the fast Scott runner?

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Martin Anthamatten and Stian Angermund may well infiltrate the podium places. Particularly Stian, he loves a VK as he showed at Tromso.

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We can’t talk VK without strong mentions for Urban Zemmer, William Bon Mardion, Nijc Kuhar, Nadir Maguet and Marco Moletto. These 5 runners all run for La Sportiva and they VK specialists. Urban has won here in the past. Can he do it again? Expect them all to figure in or around the top-5.

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As mentioned, Laura Orgue like Remi will be the odds on favourite for the victory. I don’t really see anyone beating her! She could save her legs for the following days SKY race but that is not her style, for me, she will go all out.

We can expect a strong challenge to come from Kasie Enman, Yngvild Kaspersen, Victoria Kreuzer, Beatrice Delflorian, Francesca Rossi and Serena Vittori.

All the action starts on Friday with a night time VK and then the SKY race takes place on Saturday.

Limone Extreme’s addition into the Skyrunner® World Series, has seen the race grow by 400% since 2012. 2015 will have 1,000 particpants in the two races (760 and 240 respectively).

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In addition, the official Skyrunning Facebook page (here) and Twitter @skyrunning_com will have regular updates and news.

Lantau 2 Peaks 2015 – Race Summary and Images

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Hong Kong is a cacophony of noise, colour and experiences. Add heat and high humidity and it provides a very unique setting for the 4th race in the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series.

The race run by Action Asia Events starts and finishes in Tung Chung on Lantau Island and as the name suggests, takes in the 2 peaks; Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak. In just 23km’s the races climbs and drops a total of 3975m. ‘Steps’ offer unique terrain that signifies a Hong Kong race and ones’ ability to go up and down is taken to a new level by this demanding terrain.

Two days of great Hong Kong weather unfortunately deteriorated the day before the race and many of the elite runners’ worst fears came true on race day when rain continued to fall accompanied by gale force winds that were rated as a level-3 typhoon. It’s not that elite runners don’t like running in the rain; not all. However, slick stone steps with a layer of water are a potential accident waiting to happen in any scenario, add ‘racing’ to the max and pushing the pace require a leap of faith. The wind was so strong at times you would be lifted of your feet and thrown like a piece of rubbish on the trail.

Yes, the 2015 Lantau 2 Peaks was one to remember!

The race was ultimately about the rising of two stars; Remi Bonnet and Yngvild Kaspersen. Young guns having some fun with a smile and a passion. They really did show the rest of the field a master-class in running in the extremely tough conditions.

Race Report

Runners had arrived in Hong Kong a couple of days before the race to check out the course, adjust to the humidity and explore a little of what Hong Kong has to offer. Two days of excellent weather unfortunately turned sour the day before the race as storms came in from the sea, torrential rain and the possibility of a typhoon!

The island of Lantau provides a very different race experience to what one can expect in Europe. Stairs (stone steps irregularly placed) provide a key element of the course not only going up but coming down. The wet adds an additional element and one that would test each and every runner on race day.

Starting in Tung Chunk at 0730, the runners had a fast and furious start over 2km’s before the climbing would start to the first peak of the day, Sunset Peak. The predicted typhoon hit in a force 3 making conditions ‘off-the-scale’ as rain flooded down the mountain creating impromptu rivers and waterfalls. Add to this gale force winds that would lift you off your feet and the stage was set for an epic battle.

For the men, Remi Bonnet pushed the pace from the gun ahead of Manuel Merillas and Aritz Egea, in pursuit Tadei Pivk, Marco De Gasperi and the remainder of the elite runners were spread out over the mountain. Yngvild Kaspersen like Remi set a blistering pace at the front, behind Laura Orgue pursued and then Elisa Desco and Maite Maiora.

Over Sunset Peak (3rd highest in Hong Kong) steps provided a sharp and sudden drop to CP1 and the 2nd climb to Lantau Peak at 934m. The hard steps, slick conditions and fierce competition made the course extremely challenging.

Pushing upward to Lantau, the trail closed in, opened up and then intersperses steps once again. The course requires a unique style of running (or hiking) as the irregular height and depth of the steps makes finding a rhythm awkward.

Pre race, Laura Orgue had said, “Hong Kong will be an absolutely different race to what we are used to.” She was correct. The combination of mixed terrain and inclement weather on race day all made for a unique challenge.

Remi Bonnet and Yngvild Kaspersen were leading the respective men’s and ladies’ races with two master-class performances, one could even say they made it look easy! At the summit of Lantau Peak, barring an accident they both would be crowned 2015 champions. But with a huge drop from the summit and slick conditions to contend with, the final rankings were still open.

With 23km’s covered and 1987m of vertical gain and more importantly maybe, 1988m of vertical loss, Remi arrived triumphant at Citygate in Tung Chung, a circular trip completed taking in the Lantau 2 Peaks in a time of 02:14:07. Manuel Merillas fought a hard battle for 2nd and Tadei Pivk took 3rd place ahead of a charging Greg Vollet. Artiz Egea who had run in 3rd place earlier dropped to 5th.

Yngvild Kaspersen won the race for the ladies in 02:42:04 and Laura Orgue held on to 2nd. Maite Maiora in the closing stages overhauled Elisa Desco on the descent and placed 3rd. Stevie Kremer placed 5th having struggled with jet lag having only landed in Hong Kong the night before the race after 24-hours of travel.

Results:

  1. Remi Bonnet 2:14:07
  2. Manuel Merillas 2:24:29
  3. Tadei Pivk 2:26:39
  1. Yngvild Kaspersen 2:42:04
  2. Laura Orgue 2:49:58
  3. Maite Maiora 2:51:19

RANKING

Sky Series ranking provisional results (after Lantau 2 Peaks & US Continental Championships)
Men

1. Tadei Pivk (ITA) Crazy Idea – 366 points
2. Manuel Merillas (ESP) Mammut/Compressport – 332 points
3. Tom Owens (GBR) Salomon- 268 points
3. Ionut Zinca (ROU) Valetudo – 268 points
5. Aritz Egea (ESP)E MF  – 252 points

Women
1. Laura Orguè (ESP) Salomon – 364 points
2. Elisa Desco (ITA) SCOTT Sports/Compressport – 350 points
3. Maite Maiora (ESP) La Sportiva – 322 points
4. Megan Kimmel (USA) Asics – 300 points
5. Stevie Kremer (USA) Salomon – 254 points

Full results HERE

Lantau 2 Peaks (Hong Kong) 2015 Race Preview

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-6057

Exciting and vibrant Hong Kong hosts the Lantau 2 Peaks this coming weekend, the 4th race in the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series. Following on from the RUT 25km and just 3 weeks before the series final in Limone, the Lantau 2 Peaks is going to be a very exciting race!

Located at Citygate, Tung Chung the race has a total distance of 23km’s and an elevation gain of 1987m. It’s a very tough course that will involve and require plenty of hands-on-knee action. The race website warns:

Please make sure you do hill training before competing in this category as you will be climbing some of the biggest peaks in Hong Kong.

Estimated winning time for the 23km is 3 hours which puts the course into perspective, especially when one also considers the cut-off time is 8 hours.

Lantau 2 Peaks profile

 

MEN

Ionut Zinca, Remi Bonnet, Marco De Gasperi, Tadei Pivk, Manuel Merillas, Aritz Egea, Hassan Ait Chaou, Iban Letamendi and Greg Vollet head up a world-class field and as one can imagine, it will be a battle royal for top honors.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-5142Remi Bonnet is the new kid on the block and showed everyone a clean pair of heals at the RUT VK and SKY race with 2 stand out performances. The race here in Hong Kong will suit his racing style, particularly coming so close after the challenging USA course.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-0389

Tadei Pivk placed 2nd at the RUT behind Remi Bonnet and just seconds ahead of Marco de Gasperi. Tadei has had a great 2015 with stand out performances at Zegama-Aizkorri and the Dolomites SkyRace. He will be looking to get ahead of the rest of the field and score another 100% points to lead the world series ranking going into Limone Extreme.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-5864

Marco De Gasperi can never be rules out in ‘any’ SKY race. The 20+km distance is Marco’s forte and it’s a distance that he excels at. His recent FKT’s and 3rd place performance at the RUT show that he has plenty of great form.©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-1901

Ionut Zinca adds even more firepower to the front of the race and he is an ever-present on the Skyrunner® World Series and one who consistently places on the podium. The battle here in China is a tough one but Ionut has the race to most certainly take one of the top-3 slots and of course, he can win the race!

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Manuel Merillas was a rising star in 2014 and he has followed that up in 2015 with another string of tope performances. He has been a little quiet lately which will mean that he comes to Lantau with fresh legs. Considering the quality of this field it’s extremely difficult to say who will and who will not make the podium. Manuel for sure is podium material but we already have 4 runners listed above who potentially will take those slots… like I said, it’s going to be quite a battle!

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-1889

Aritz Egea rounds up the hot favourites for the podium. Like Ionut Zinca, Aritz is a strong and consistent performer on the Skyrunner® World Series. Expect him to go out hard and potentially lead the race in the early stages. The question mark will come if he can hold on to that lead?

LADIES

Just like in the men’s race, the ladies race has a plethora of top female talent who in 2015 have excelled in the SKY distance: Laura Orgue, Yngvild Kaspersen, Stevie Kremer, Maite Maiora, Elisa Desco, Azara Garcia, Martina Valmassoi and Hanny Alston.

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-2241

Elisa Desco in many respects heads up the ladies as arguably the most rounded athlete for this course. Her mixed ability to descend as well as she climbs makes her a hot contender to top the podium. Her recent victory at Matterhorn Ultraks confirms this. However, Elisa has had a mixed year?

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-5299

Laura Orgue is a VK specialist who has started to race more often at the SKY distance. Strong performances at the RUT and the Dolomites have elevated Laura as ‘one-to-watch’ and I expect a podium placing here in Hong Kong. Climbing ability has sometimes been let down by descending, however, Laura is improving with every race.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-0840

Stevie Kremer has been racing in Europe less in 2015 and as a result has increased her profile within the USA. No stranger to Hong Kong, Stevie will be without doubt a force at the front of the race. In the early stages we can expect her to be up at the front with Laura as they charge up the climbs. My gut reaction says Laura, Elisa and Stevie may well be 1,2,3 but in what order?

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-2299

 

Yngvild Kaspersen like Remi Bonnet is Salomon’s new secret weapon(s) for the future. Without doubt a star in the making, Yngvild has consistently run strong performances over VK and SKY distance. She won the Tromso SkyRace and placed 2nd in the VK just 1-second behind Emelie Forsberg. One to watch!

©iancorless.com_DolomitesSkyRace2015-2318

Maite Maiora has raced a great deal in 2015 and Lantau 2 Peaks adds to an already impressive list. On her day, Maite can run with the best and win. For me though, this has been a long season and the edge required for victory may well be missing. Don’t get me wrong though, she will be in the mix.

©iancorless.com_ITT2015-8847

Azara Garcia won at Zegama-Aizkorri and looked set for an incredible 2015. Injury hit though. If fully recovered, Azara may well topple the whole race and come out with victory despite my 1, 2, 3 predictions. Without doubt she will be fresh and hungry.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-7650

Martina Valmassoi raced at the RUT and made the podium for the ultra distance; her 1st ultra! She comes to Hong Kong as a potential contender for a top placing. The question will come down to how fast she can turn the legs over? By all accounts, she is a great descender!

Hanny Allston rounds up the top contenders. The Aussie orienteer has turned heads recently and comes to Hong Kong as a potential dark horse who may well create quite a stir.

Needless to say, I have previewed the elite runners who are travelling to China to participate on the Lantau 2 Peaks race. Without doubt, local talent will figure in the overall results. So, if you have an ear to the ground and know of any hot tips for the win, please let us know.

Race website HERE

You can follow the stories through words and images on this website, via Twitter @talkultra, on Instagram @iancorlessphotography and on Facebook at facebook.com/iancorlessphotography.

In addition, the official Skyrunning Facebook page (here) and Twitter @skyrunning_com will have regular updates and news.

Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2015 Pre Race

©iancorless.com_USM2015-2337

It’s the day before the 2015 Ultra Skymarathon Madeira and this morning we had a shake out on a couple of sections of the course with several of the top elite athletes including Stevie Kremer and Ricky Lightfoot.

Renowned for glorious sunshine, Madeira today showed us a very wet day. The rain poured and poured.

It seemed appropriate that the days short run concluded with a run up a riverbed that ultimately will be a very important section of the USM2015 race. Wet rocks that will require boulder hopping is never an easy prospect and this section of the course last 500m. It’s going to be tough.

To be honest, it doesn’t seem as though Madeira posses ant flat. You are either going up or down. Ricky Lightfoot, no stranger to tough and wet conditions said, ‘It’s going to be tough tomorrow. The climbs and descents we have passed over today were quite a challenge while running easy. Taking these sections while racing will be very different.’

Stevie Kremer had a typical beaming smile irrespective of the rain, ‘How did you guys run down that descent so quickly. That is one seriously tough drop!’ Looking at the boulder section, it would be fair to say that Stevie had a mixed look, ‘Oh boy, that section is going to be fun.’

Racing starts tomorrow at 0600 local time. You can read a pre race preview HERE.

Images and race updates will be posted on this website, Twitter @talkulta and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

USM website is here

Sierre-Zinal 2014 In-depth Race Preview

Marco, 11th August 2012 in the mountains above Zinal.

Marco, 11th August 2012 in the mountains above Zinal.

Just one mention of the name: Sierre-Zinal and the emotions stir in even the most experienced mountain runner. For over 40-years, the 31-km point-to-point course from Sierre to Zinal with a total elevation gain of 2200m and just 800m of descent has been the battle ground for some epic battles. In 2014 the tradition will continue and with it a new moment in history… I have a feeling that this year may well be a record year! It’s a bold statement. Jonathan Wyatt set the current male record of 2:29:12 in 2003 and the female record of 2:54:26 was set by the Queen of Sierre-Zinal; Anna Pichtrova (now Strakova) in 2008.

iancorless.orgSierre Zinal 1sirrezinal

Image ©iancorless.com

The Sierre-Zinal course is unique in profile, starting low, the runners immediately go into a tough long climb that is followed by fast running with a slight drop to the line. It suits a rounded athlete; one who can climb with the best, keep pace with the fastest and then descend like a demon. Who’s your pick? On August 10th, 4000 runners will depart Sierre and head to the mountain arena that is Zinal. I for one can’t wait!

Who is going to win? 

Kilian Jornet and the Matterhorn ©iancorless.com

He is on a roll and with current form I am going all out, laying it on the line and predicting Kilian Jornet with not only victory but a new course record (weather permitting.) The Catalan’s current form is arguably the best we have witnessed. His 2014 so far has illuminated the history books and leaves us all wondering… what will Kilian go on to achieve in his lifetime. His natural ability, humility and passion for the sport is endless and I for one feel very content that I am here to witness ‘The Kilian Years!’

Marco De Gasperi ©iancorless.com

Marco De Gasperi has been struggling with injury but when on form, Marco is one of the few runners to push Kilian and push him hard all the way to the line. In many respects, The Sierre-Zinal course may well suit Marco more? We saw this in 2011 when Marco pipped Kilian to the line in the 2nd fastest time ever seen on the course. In 2012, Marco returned and won once again. However, Kilian was not present. The showdown that awaits this year may well prove to be one of the eagerly anticipated editions of this iconic race.

Juan Carlos Cardona placed 2nd in 2013 and along with course record holder, Jono Wyatt one has to assume that the duo will be upfront, pushing the pace and looking to repeat 2013 performances.

Robbie Simpson, Chamonix 2013

Robbie Simpson, Chamonix 2013

Brit, Robbie Simpson had a breakthrough performance in 2014 and I for one sincerely hope that he can at least repeat or better his performance. His current form is very good and the opportunity to race against such a quality field is something that he will embrace.

Tom Owens Trofeo Kima 2012 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens Trofeo Kima 2012 ©iancorless.com

Robbie will not have it all his own way though and I see Tom Owens moving up a level and following up his already impressive 2014 placing at the Transvulcania La Palma, Skyrunning World Championships and Ice Trail Tarentaise with a podium place in Zinal. Currently on a sabbatical from work, the time is right for Tom. Quality training and more importantly, quality rest. One to watch!

©iancorless.comIMG_5850Canazei2014

Ionut Zinca is on form. He showed his class at Limone Extreme in 2013 and once again adorned the podium behind Kilian Jornet at the Dolomites Skyrace. On his day, Ionut is a definite podium contender.

Jo Gray from the USA is an ever present at Sierre-Zinal. His current form appears to be excellent and although he may not make the podium, a top-10 placing is a definite possibility.

Tofol Castanyer on his day needs 100% respect, particularly in a mountain race. His presence here will not only make his competitors make a mental note but also firmly place a target on his back as one to follow should he make a move.

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Aritz Egea goes from strength-to-strength and will be a fierce competitor with a top-10 placing guaranteed should he continue the form shown at Zegama-Aizkorri, Skyrunning World Championships and most recently at the Dolomites Skyrace. Aritz will be top-5 at the summit of the long climb but may slip back as the running becomes faster and flatter.

©iancorless.comIMG_7059Canazei2014

Zaid Ait Malek will be smiling. Guaranteed! Zaid broke onto the circuit in 2013 and like others has progressed into ‘hot’ on the trail, mountain and Skyrunning circuit. Without doubt top-10 potential and should he have a great day, top-5.

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols may very well upset the apple cart for everyone! The Sierre-Zinal course will suit him right down to the ground and will play into his hands; he loves mountain running on faster trails where he can unleash his speed. His recent top result at Speedgoat 50k bodes well!

©iancorless.comIMG_2843Canazei2014

Thorbjorn Ludvigsen goes from strength to strength not only in the VK distance but in the Sky distance. His ability and rounded running style will suit the Sierre-Zinal course and after 2 impressive runs in the Dolomites, we can expect Thor to push at the front of the race.

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David Schneider heads up the competition from Switzerland and Cesar Costa will make them an unstoppable duo. David has recently become a Dad so he may be a little sleep deprived but his recent performance at the Dolomites Skyrace shows he has lost none of his speed.

Florian Reichert will be looking to transfer his fast marathon pace and VK ability to a course that plays into the German’s hands. Of all the Skyrunning courses, Sierre-Zinal on paper appears to be the perfect fit for Florian. His recent performance at the Skyrunning World Championships shows his form is good.

Ones to watch:

  • Fabio Bazzana
  • Dabid Garcia
  • Hector Haines
  • Saul Antonio Padua
  • Robert Krupicka
  • Nicolas Pianet
  • Julien Rancon

The elite line up has great depth. I am sure I have missed some possible top-10 contenders? You can view the list HERE

 

THE LADIES

©iancorless.com_IMG_2071Zegama14

Elisa Desco pipped Stevie Kremer to the top slot in 2013 and will be looking to do the same in 2014. Elisa recently beat Stevie at the Skyrunning World Championships and just this last weekend placed 1st at Fletta Trail. Elisa is going to be the one to beat!

©iancorless.com_IMG_0989Zegama14

Stevie Kremer has raced at Sierre-Zinal a couple of times now and hasn’t made the top slot. 2014 may well be the year that elevates her up a slot and she is crowned champion. In real terms, I wonder if this course has enough climbing? Certainly in the early stages, Stevie will be at the front of the field and may well lead the race. However, as the course flattens off and comes more runnable, Stevie looses some of her advantage. If I were Stevie, I’d run hard from the gun and open up a gap…

©iancorless.com_IMG_8267Zegama14

Kasie Enman is back! I have been continually impressed by the progression and story of Kasie. Now a mother of 2, Kasie is on the comeback trail after her 2nd child and her recent improvements in all her races can only mean that the American will be ‘one-to-watch’ on this course. Placing in the top-3 at Speedgoat 50k must have provided a real boost not only to her confidence but fitness. Now in Europe for an extended period, expect Kasie to create a stir.

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VK specialist Laura Orgue turned the tables upside down at the recent Dolomites Skyrace relegating Emelie Forsberg to 2nd place. For sure, Laura will embrace the opening kilometres of the Sierre-Zinal route, as they are all uphill. However, as the course flattens one has to question will she be able to hold any advantage gained to the line.

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Victoria Wilkinson created a stir at the Dolomites Skyrace and I am 100% convinced that she will make her presence felt here in Zinal. Like so many other Brits before her, Victoria is grounded in fell running and the technical skills and ability that style of running brings. The transition is often seamless as we have seen with Tom Owens, Andy Symonds and so many more… one to watch!

Stephanie Howe along with Kremer and Enman adds more US firepower to what is already a very strong line up! Sierre-Zinal may well be a little short for Steph, however, if she can transfer he ability from longer races to this fast mountain race, we may well see an upset. In 2014 alone, Steph has won Western States, Mesquite Canyon 50k and placed 2nd at Lake Sonoma 50.

Christel Dewalle is an ever present on the podium. Her ability of VK and SKY distance is second to none and the French lady will without doubt be contesting the top-5 and arguably the podium.

Aline Camboulive and Maud Mathys both return. Aline won the race in 2012 in 3:02:58 and Maud placed 3rd in 2012 and 2013. This year the competition is arguably a little stronger and more competitive. Add Celine Lafaye to the mix and if any of this dynamic trio makes the podium, they will have had a great race.

Ones to watch:

  • Tessa Hill
  • Leire Agirrezabala
  • Caroline Chaverot
  • Ana Conde
  • Helen Bonsor
  • Christy Mahon

Female Elite start list HERE

LINKS

Skyrunning HERE

Talk Ultra on Twitter HERE

Talk Ultra on Facebook HERE

Zegama-Aizkorri 2014 In-Depth Race Preview

Kilan and Hernando copyright Ian Corless

Kilan and Hernando copyright Ian Corless

The heat subsides on the island of La Palma, the waves continue to splash on the shoreline and a new week begins. It’s only 10-days since the incredibly successful, dramatic and exciting Skyrunning Transvulcania La Palma. But wait a minute, days away, the iconic mountain race, Zegama-Aizkorri kicks off. Ask anyone about ‘Zegama’ and they say, it’s ZEGAMA! Nothing more needs to be said… it’s a race that excites mountain runners like few other races do.

Zegama Map iancorless.com

It’s a brutally fast and technical race that is not for the feint hearted. Located in a natural park, Aizkorri-Aratz, it brings respect and excitement to every mountain runner that toes the line.

Zegama Profile Zegama this year may very well just be a classic in the making, we had fireworks at Transvulcania, but one look at this line-up and I think we may well have fireworks once again but this time on the proportions of a New Year’s Eve get together…

Kilian Jornet, Luis Alberto Hernando, Marco De Gasperi, Tom Owens and Pablo Villa illuminate a top-quality men’s field.

Emelie Forsberg, Maite Maiora, Stevie Kremer, Kasie Enman, Elisa Desco and Nuria Picas add no element of softness to the race line up, these ladies are as tough as nails and may well take down a few of the top ranked men.

So, what is going to happen on the trails and mountains of the Aizkorri-Aratz?

Tech specs:

A medium mountain route over the Aratz massif and the Sierra of Aizkorri, which includes the four highest peaks in the Basque Autonomous Region (Aratz – Aizkorri –Akategi and Aitxuri). Starting in the town of Zegama (296m) the race climbs up to the high point of Otzaurte (652m) and then follows a mountain pass and a route along paths and mountain tracks of great natural beauty. It combines forests with steep rocky slopes and high grazing land. It is very technical and with a high level of difficulty.

Date: 25th of May, 2014

Start and finish: Zegama ( guipúzcoa ) –09:00 start.

Total length: 42.195 km.

Control points: 14
Refreshment points: 13

Flying sprint: Aizkorri (22.58 km)

Accumulated height gain: 5.472 meters

Maximum altitude: 1.551m Aitxuri

Minimum altitude: 296m Zegama.

Technical percentage of course: 70% approx.

Climate: medium mountain, possibilities of intense heat, strong winds, fog or rain.

Time limit: 8 hours.

Closing time of check points: Click the button to see the control time

 

MEN

Kilian Jornet, Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet, Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

The men’s race is full of talent and like Transvulcania, a winner could come from any direction; are we due a surprise? However, based on the La Palma showdown, one has to conclude that Luis Alberto Hernando and Kilian Jornet are HOT favourites for the win.

Luis Alberto Hernando Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando fulfilled a dream at La Palma and coming to Zegama he will either be immensely satisfied and looking for a victory loop or he will be fired up and ready for more… I’m going with the latter! He’s a fierce competitor and his powers of recovery post Transvulcania will be good. Zegama suits Luis and he only ‘just’ missed out on the win in 2013 by seconds, pushing Kilian Jornet all the way to the line.

Kilian Jornet Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet now has one race under his belt and all the competition will now know that his training is done… I joke, but Kilian usually only needs one race to loosen up and he is back in his stride. If we look at 2012, Kilian placed 3rd at Transvulcania and then just 1-week later dominated Zegama in atrocious conditions. For sure, Kilian doesn’t like heat and he will be hoping for cooler conditions come the weekend of the 24th. If he could choose, he would like rain, some snow and wind. If we get those conditions, Kilian will almost certainly be hot favourite. Should we get sun, heat and calm conditions, I think Kilian is still the hot favourite BUT it will be close, very close.

Marco De Gasperi Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Marco De Gasperi Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

So close that Marco De Gasperi will almost certainly make Kilian and Luis potentially repeat the Zegama finish of 2013 or we may have a ‘replay’ of the Kilian and Marco sprint from the Dolomites Skyrace in 2013. One thing is for sure, the legend that is Marco De Gasperi will be pushing the Spaniard and the Catalan over every meter of this course and if he is not pushing them, he will be leading them. Marco keeps telling me that he is getting old but class is permanent and that class will shine in Zegama.

Tom Owens Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens had a superb Zegama in 2011 and 2012 and then disappeared in 2013 with injuries. However, Tom is back! A recent 2nd behind Ricky Lightfoot at the Three Peaks in the UK and a stunning 6th at Transvulcania, his first ultra, without doubt elevates Tom to hot and he will be looking for a podium place. For Tom to place 6th in an ultra and then drop down to his preferred distance, SKY, can only mean that he has an even greater chance of rocking the cart. His strong fell running background is a perfect fit for this race. Podium potential for sure.

Tadei Pivk Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Tadei Pivk Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Tadei Pivk produced a stunning run in 2013 taking the final podium place ahead of Zaid Ait Malek. Both of these runners will make an impact one again. In particular, Zaid has progressed in the last 12-months with a series of quality results and performances. He’s a small guy with a huge character and personality. They will both be up at the front.

Zaid Ait Malek Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Zaid Ait Malek Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne will be leaving his helicopter at home and once again lacing up his ‘Sense’ to test himself against the best in the world. He will be in the mix, he always is, however, he just needs that touch of extra luck to help him move up to the very front end of a pure mountain race like this. Michel had a string of top-3 performances in 2013, a notable 2nd to Francois d’Haene at Mont-Blanc 80km a highlight. Just recently he placed 2nd at Trail du Ventoux, so, the form is good.

Pablo Villa Transvulcania 2014  ©iancorless.com

Pablo Villa Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Pablo Villa is going to be on a high after top-10 at Transvulcania and like Tom Owens will be looking to carry the momentum on here. It’s going to be a tough call and although I don’t see him contesting the podium, the Scott runner will be in the mix if recovered.

Oli Johnson inov-8 ©iancorless.com

Oli Johnson inov-8 ©iancorless.com

Inov-8, Skyrunning partner are sending a very strong field that can be broken down into several levels. I see the strong performances coming from Eirik Haugsnes, Aritz Egea and Alex Nichols. Anyone of these guys could make the top-10. Oli Johnson placed top-10 at Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2013 and will represent the UK at the up and coming Skyrunning World Champs, he has the run ability and skill set to excel at Zegama, however, I am not sure he is 100% at the moment, so, I think he will have a presence at the front end, his performance will very much depend on his progression in the last 2 to 3 weeks. Pierre Laurent Viguier recently won Trail du Citadelles but like Robbie Britton, this race may well be too short, too technical and too fast for them to excel. I see Zegama, as being a learning curve and Chris Steele will no doubt embrace the opportunity and give it all he has.

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

Alex Nicholls gets a nod in the inov-8 line up but we have other quality overseas competition coming from Cameron Clayton (USA), AJ Calitz (South Africa) and we should have had Vlad Ixel arriving from the Southern Hemisphere, however, recent injury has put a stop to that. A real shame, Vlad is my hot-tip as one of the new ‘surprises’ in the trail and ultra world. No worries, we will get to see him perform in June at the World Champs. AJ Calitz pushed at the front end of the 2013 Zegama and then it all went pear shaped when he tried to follow Kilian on one of the descents, he hit the deck and his race was over… AJ swore he would be back and he is! I still think he is in for a learning curve experience but I do expect to see him in the mix. Cameron has all the speed needed to race at the front but this race is like no other. It’s fast, furious, relentless and technical. The question for Cameron will be can he use all that natural ability and perform on what for him, will be very technical terrain?

Martin Gaffuri Transvulcania Half Marathon ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri Transvulcania Half Marathon ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri raced really well in 2013 earning some very cool Skyrunning stripes. He started 2014 with a warm up in Costa Rica laying a great foundation and at Transvulcania he raced the half-marathon so as not to use up too much energy and gain a confidence boost. However, the race didn’t go well… just a bad day I am sure. However, it may play on Martin’s mind? Martin has the right skill set, speed and downhill ability to do well at Zegama so we will just have to see what happens.

To be honest, Zegama has an elite list that extends well beyond 50 runners, so, here are a few notable mentions that we can almost certainly expect to see in the mix:

  • Cristobal Adell – potential top-10
  • Alfredo Gil – potential top-10
  • Jokin Lizeaga – potential top-10
  • Greg Vollet – Team Manager for Salomon. Don’t be surprised to see Greg beat some of his own athletes and he may well make top-10.
  • Thorbjorn Ludvigesen
  • Fabio Bazzana
  • Florian Reichert still new to Skyrunning and on a learning curve but may make the mix?
  • Stephan Wenk
  • Hassan Ait

Who have I missed? In a field this stacked, it’s impossible to account for everyone, particularly local runners who I may not know too well but who will excel on local terrain.

Check out the men’s elite field at http://www.zegama-aizkorri.com/en

LADIES

Emelie Forsberg copyright Ian Corless

Emelie Forsberg copyright Ian Corless

Rewind to Transvulcania and I think we may well see some similar performances with the exception of Frosty who will not be racing at Zegama. What we have, is a who’s who of female mountain running and it’s wide open.

Nuria Picas Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas is on fire! As I write this, she has just won TNF100 in Australia setting a new course record. Add to this win, two incredible 2013 wins, one at the 105-mile UTMF and the other at Transgrancanaria and Nuria is the female to beat at any distance and on any course. However, she pulled out of Transvulcania (correctly in my opinion) and although Nuria is on the start list for Zegama, I expect a similar withdrawal this coming week? However, should she race, she will be pushing at the front, of this I have no doubt. The question mark will come on how fresh she will be for a short, fast mountain race after racing 100km’s or more in the early part of 2013. Nuria placed 2nd in 2013 behind Emelie Forsberg and finished just seconds ahead of Stevie Kremer. It’s an exciting prospect. Update 21/05/14 : Nuria will not race stating that recovery is paramount after her win in Australia.

Emelie Forsberg Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg is just off skis and other than running half of the Transvulcania VK and a couple of hours in the Transvulcania main event, has little running in her legs. Add to this a bad fall in La Palma, stitches and some recovery time and Emelie may well be going to Zegama the most underprepared ever. She was relatively underprepared in 2012 when she arrived an unknown, however, look what has happened since… She has said to me that Zegama is no longer an ‘A’ race and she will use it to find form, however, Emelie on an off day is still a formidable force and I still see her in the mix. Emelie won Zegama in 2013 and pretty much everything else in her long and demanding season. When knocked off the top slot, particularly in mountain running, it was by Stevie Kremer! Firstly at Mont-Blanc and then at Limone, so, Emelie will be taking Zegama with one eye on the trail and the other on Stevie.

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer is also just off skis but unlike others, Stevie does maintain some running during the winter months. It may not be a great deal of hours or mileage but that connection with trail certainly puts her in a good place for the first race of the season. She showed this last year at Zegama when she flew down the final descent (she says she can’t descend) and nearly caught Nuria for 2nd place. Notorious for being nervous on the start, Stevie turns that energy into exciting running. She can climb with the best and although she thinks that she can’t contest the downhills, she can! Stevie just needs to believe it. My tip for the race victory!

Maite Maiora Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Maite Maiora Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Maite Maiora is a class act when it comes to mountain running. Her recent 2nd place at Transvulcania shows a new side to this slight but extremely strong runner. With added endurance, boosted confidence and great technical ability, Maite will be in the mix at Zegama and testing the other ladies to the limits. I see her on the podium; the question will be at which level? To be honest, if her recovery has gone well post La Palma, I see her going head-to-head with Stevie.

Elisa Desco Transvulcania VK ©iancorless.com

Elisa Desco Transvulcania VK ©iancorless.com

Elisa Desco returned to racing in 2013 and won the highly prestigious Sierre-Zinal. Her recent win at the Transvulcania VK and half marathon confirms that her form is good. Elisa has all the right elements to perform well at Zegama and without doubt she is podium material. The ladies field is so strong, it may well just come down to who makes the least mistakes? Elisa won’t make many!

Uxue Fraile Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Uxue Fraile Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Uxue Fraile once again produced an incredible race in Transvulcania. I said in that preview that she lacks the outright speed of some of her rivals, however, what she does have is staying power and true grit. So, should any lady falter, Uxue will be in the mix to take places. I see this happening again at Zegama. She will definitely be in the top-10, probably in the top-5 and may just sneak the podium.

Kasie Enman is coming over from the USA and will add an interesting dynamic o the race. She’s a fast lady and as Stevie says, she is without doubt one to watch. The trails and technicality of Zegama may not allow Kasie to unleash her natural speed, however, I don’t see her being off the pace. The biggest question will come in her form, as this is a return to racing after having a child.

The ladies race has less depth than the men’s field, however, you can expect to see the ladies listed below in or around the top-10.

  • Oihana Azkorbebeitia last big win in 2012, Puebo de Gran Fondo and has had top ranking at Zegama before. This is her comeback after having a baby. You can’t rule her out…
  • Nerea Ambilibia
  • Aitzibier Ibarbia
  • Stephanie Jiminez strong run at Transvulcania VK and just coming into form.  Will not race, Stephanie says she is not ready for 42k yet.
  • Silvia Miralles
  • Landie Greyling strong South African runner, 5th at Kepler Challenge and 2nd at Addo Elephant.

Who have I missed? It’s impossible to account for everyone, particularly local runners who I may not know too well but who will excel on local terrain.

YOU CAN CHECK THE FULL LIST HERE

Trail Magazin, Germany 2013

 

Middlefell Fell Race #inov8retreat – Wasdale, English Lakes

Day 2 of the inov-8 athlete retreat and after a morning of discussing new products (apparel, shoes and packs) for 2015, the inov-8 team and support staff travelled to Nether Wasdale for Middlefell Fell Race.

Covering 6.6-miles, runners climb to 1,700-feet on an out and back course in the heart of the English Lakes.

Dashing along roads, tracks and fields for approximately 2-miles, after Greendale, runners branched left and and started the ascent following the Wasdale route but after a short sharp and steep climb, the route then branches right at a natural fork and then ascends to the summit of  Middlefell. It’s an out and back route so after turning at the cairn at the summit, runners re trace back to the start.

David Schneider ©iancorless.com

David Schneider ©iancorless.com

Wasdalefell is normally a small fell race, but today, an influx of inov-8 athletes almost doubled the numbers and the pace! With a strong representation from the UK, Norway, Switzerland, Catalonia, France and the Basque country, this small fell race became a truly International affair.

Erik Haugsnes ©iancorless.com

Erik Haugsnes ©iancorless.com

Pre-race discussions had been all about who would take the win and how would ‘Skyrunners‘ from Switzerland, Norway and Catalonia fair against out-and-out fell runner’s?

Aritz Egea ©iancorless.com

Aritz Egea ©iancorless.com

With the flat early 2-miles over, it was great to see, Swiss runner, David Schneider leading Baque, Artiz Eregea in the early stages, This strong European representation was also backed up with Erik Haugsnes from Norway. Tom Addison and Orlando Edwards was leading the ‘local’ attack and were closely followed by Gary Priestley and Morgan Connelly.

Early morning low lying mist had lifted leaving a relatively clear day, with light winds and a bite in the air. The push to the summit was followed with a turn and quad busting descent.

Orlando Edwards ©iancorless.com

Orlando Edwards ©iancorless.com

Orlando was first to appear setting a relentless pace. Looking cool, calm and relaxed; he was giving a masterclass of fell running descending. Erik Haugsnes from Norway followed, closely pursued by Artiz Egea, Tom Addison and David Schneider.

Unfortunately, a wrong turn by Orlando on his way back to the finish messed up his race! Erik followed Orlando but soon realised his error and re-joined the course. With Aritz now in the lead, Erik and Tom followed and with 1km to go, Tom made his move and took out the win ahead of Aritz and Erik.

The ladies race had less runners participating in contrast to the men’s race. Sharon Taylor was a convincing leader from the start and finessed a clear leader ahead of Hazel Robinson and Lyn Thompson.

In true fell running fashion, the race finished at a pub and was followed with a beer and quality plate of local food.

It was a great day! A small quality race unfolded on the fells of Wasdale, and just as we all had appeared from nowhere, within just a few hours, we all disappeared again.

Limone Extreme SKY race report

Kilian Jornet and Stevie Kremer Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

It was always going to be a classic race… the male SKY Skyrunner World Series title was sewn up with a dominant Kilian Jornet securing maximum points form three out of five qualifying races. However, the ladies race was a completely different story. Just ten points separated the leader, Emelie Forsberg from fellow Salomon teammate, Stevie Kremer.

Kilian Jornet Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

At the finish line on the shores of Lake Garda, Kilian Jornet once again proved his supremacy with another stunning victory. For the ladies, Stevie Kremer confirmed her incredible mountain running and descending ability to take not only the victory in Limone but also the Skyrunner World Series title.

Stevie Kremer Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

We have witnessed some incredible performance in the 2013 Skyrunner World Series over three distances; VK, SKY and ULTRA. Limone Extreme provided a stunning close to the 2013 season and we are left with some well-established names confirming that they are true champions but in addition, we have several new names on the Skyrunning scene that will most certainly build anticipation for the 2014 season.

Antonella Confortola leading on the first climb

Antonella Confortola leading on the first climb

Antonella Confortola after taking second place in the VK on Friday night had been unsure if she would start the Sky race on Sunday. Start she did and using her impressive abilities at climbing she led the way on the long steep and technical climb. Stevie Kremer followed closely in second and Emelie Forsberg was third and already loosing some ground. Emelie has had an incredible season and just over one week ago took victory and the overall Skyrunner World Series title for the Ultra distance. UROC in Colorado was Emilie’s first 100k-race and as such, she openly admitted it had taken far more out of her than she anticipated.

Emelie Forsberg Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

Stevie by contrast had raced a couple of shorter races the weekend before and arrived at Limone ready for action. After alternating the lead with Antonella, Stevie finally made her move and although she says that she can’t descend very well, she used every ounce of her ability to hold off Antonella and Emelie to win by over seven minutes. On the line Stevie said, “I was running down that final descent scared, it was twisty and technical but I just didn’t want to look back. I ran as fast as I could. It worked!”

Stevie Kremer with Skyrunning legend and Limone course designer, Fabio Meraldi

Stevie Kremer with Skyrunning legend and Limone course designer, Fabio Meraldi

Kilian Jornet bided his time in the men’s race but when he made his move he just pulled away and secured not only another impressive victory, but also another World Series title. Kilian didn’t have it easy though.

Kilian Jornet Limone Extreme ©iancorless.com

On the first climb, new signing for inov-8, David Schneider led the way followed by Aritz Egea and Ionut Zinca. Salomon team manager, Greg Vollet (finally finished eleventh) was showing some stunning climbing ability holding a top five place along with up and coming star, Zaid Ait Malek from Morocco all the way to the summit.

Greg Vollet leading Zaid Ait Malek

Greg Vollet leading Zaid Ait Malek

One of the pre race favourites and second overall in the Skyrunner World Series, Luis Alberto Hernando was having a tough day protecting an injury, however true to his great sportsmanship he soldiered on knowing full well that I had no possibility to make a top ten position. A true champ!

Luis Alberto Hernando

Luis Alberto Hernando

Kilian made his move and a battle followed for the second and third podium places. Ionut Zinca finally pulled away from Aritz Egea and finished just one minute behind Kilian and thirty seconds ahead of Artiz. Showing great potential for 2014 season, David Schneider turned a few heads with a great fourth place with Zaid Ait Malek fifth.

Ionut Zinca second place

Ionut Zinca second place

The 2013 season has shown some incredibly diverse and consistent performances, Alex Nichols from the US in his first season participating in the Skyrunner World Series placed eighth at Limone Extreme and this elevated him to third overall in the World Series.

Alex Nichols third overall in the Skyrunner world Series

Alex Nichols third overall in the Skyrunner world Series

A similar story for Arc’teryx athlete, Tessa Hill, not only did she have a great VK on Friday but she placed fourth on the day. Anna Lupton (inov-8) from the UK also proved that fell/mountain runners can perform with the best on high and technical mountain courses in Europe.

Tessa Hill with fellow Brit, Anna Lupton

Tessa Hill with fellow Brit, Anna Lupton

The influx of new names such as Thorbjorn Ludvigsen and Leire Aguirezabala and responding great performances show all of us that Skyrunning is not only in a great place for the future but that the participants are eager for true mountain courses that test the mind as well as the body,

Roll on 2014!

IMAGES from the Limone Extreme race are available to view HERE or purchase HERE

Skyrunning website HERE

WIN, Stevie Kremer’s signed race number HERE

Results taken from ISF website:

Limone Extreme race results

Men

1. Kilian Jornet (ESP) Salomon –  2h17’03

2. Ionut Zinca (ROU) Valetudo Skyrunning Italia – 2h18’27”

3. Aritz Egea (EMF) – 2h18’53”

4. David Schneider (AUT) inov-8 – 2h20’40”

5. Zaid Ait Malek –  2h21’09”

Women

1. Stevie Kremer (Salomon Agisko) – 2h46’13”

2. Antonella Confortola (GS Forestale) – 2h53’58”

3. Emelie Forsberg (Salomon) – 2h54’54”

4. Tessa Hill (Arc’teryx) –  2h58’20”

5. Leire Aguirrezabala (EMF) – 2h58’54”

Sky Series Final Ranking (provisional)

Men

1. Kilian Jornet (ESP) – Salomon

2. Luis Hernando (ESP) adidas Trail Running

3. Alex Nichols (USA) invo-8

4. Jokin Lizeaga (ESP) – EMF

5. Aritz Egea (ESP) EMF

Women

1. Stevie Kremer (USA) – Salomon Agisko

2. Emelie Forsberg (SWE) – Salomon

3. Silvia Serafini (ITA) – Salomon Agisko

4. Nuria Dominguez (ESP) – Buff

5. Anna Lupton (GBR) – inov-8

Teams

1. FEEC

2. Salomon

3. EMF

4. inov-8

5. Salomon Agisko