Seminal UTMB 2017 – The Men’s Race

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

The 2017 UTMB was billed as the ‘best ever’ and as the weather finally improves in and around Chamonix, life returns to normal for us all and we have an opportunity to step back and look at how important this years race actually was.

I think it may well be a seminal edition and for many reasons.

Yes, I think this years race may well be a great influencer in the later developments not only of ultra-trail but more importantly the runners who participate.

The men’s race featured a known top-10 and I think it’s fair to say there were few surprises. Unlike in previous editions, the main contenders battled throughout and few dropped or faltered resulting in a super exciting edition of the race.

Read about the Ladies race HERE

THE TOP 10 MEN

 

NO1

Francois D’Haene 19:01:32 – Francois is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world. No question. Coming into the race, it was a coin toss if he or Kilian would win the race. I like everyone else went with Kilian – how can you bet against Kilian? But with reflection, Francois always should have been the hot-favourite for victory. He prepared meticulously for UTMB with victories in ‘warm-up’ races, he ran the UTMB route over 4-days with Salomon teammates and yes, he is the course record holder. He started at the front, closer than I had anticipated and he never relinquished a firm grasp of the race. Experience, fitness and endurance over the final third of the race saw him pull-away from Jim Walmsley and Kilian to confirm that he is the best in the world.

 

NO2

Kilian Jornet 19:16:38 – It’s tough being Kilian, so much pressure. But he shrugs it off on his own way… At the UTMB this year he interviewed runners on the start, filmed the start and continued to film over the opening miles. He surprised me by keeping with the front of the race, an unusual tactic for him. Maybe he thought that if he let Walmsley, D’Haene and the others go, he would never reel them back in. I expected Jornet to win, as did pretty much everyone else but a lack of running in 2017 and the early fast half of the race no doubt took its toll. He finished 2nd and that in itself is incredible, the fact he suffered so much is even more remarkable. He is an incredible ambassador and I know personally that he will be as happy with D’Haene’s victory as if it were his own. Let’s not forget he summited Everest twice in one week, won Hardrock 100 and won a fast Sierre-Zinal in the lead to UTMB.

 

NO3

Tim Tollefson 19:53:00 – Yep, Tollefson signifies why the 2017 UTMB is a seminal edition for US runners. He placed 3rd last-year and backed it up again with third this year. He started steady and let his experience, training and mental strength run a finely paced and well-judged race. It was impressive to follow how he meticulously worked his way through the race. With approximately 50km’s to go, he moved up into third and he remained in that place all the way to the line – impressive!

 

NO4 – Xavier Thevenard 20:03:14 – He’s won all the UTMB races (CCC, TDS, OCC and UTMB multiple times) and yes, of course, he was a favourite for the podium and or victory. Early on he raced with the front but I think he decided the pace was a little hot and he eased off. He knows how to run this loop though and experience counted. His fourth is no disappointment and confirms his ability over the 100-mile distance in the mountains.

 

NO5 – Jim Walmsley 20:11:38 – This was the seminal performance of the whole UTMB and yes, I have been vocal on Walmsley post his 2017 Western States. I have to say, he impressed the hell out of me at this year’s UTMB. He took the front as I and many expected but unlike Western, he understood the task at hand and who was behind him. A naturally fast runner, he obviously struggled to run slower but he restrained himself, often waiting for Jornet, D’Haene and others. I said before the race started that he would find the final 30% tough and he did. He is incredible over the 100km distance or running say 10-14 hours but beyond that is all new ground. From 100km he slowed and struggled dropping to seventh but then rallied to move back to fifth. This was THE learning curve that Walmsley needed and I am convinced that this IS the turning point in his 100-mile running career. He has already proven up to 100km he is incredible, now we will see him harness this learning curve not only in pacing and race management but also how to handle the mind games that this distance brings. I am convinced we will see Walmsley top UTMB and Western States podiums in years to come.

 

NO6 – Pau Capell 20:12:43 – He is a rising star of the sport, he has already had an incredible 2017 with a string of top-10 performances and now sixth at UTMB. He paced well-being a novice at the 100-mile distance but his Transgrancanaria run earlier this year no doubt helped. He was all set for fifth until a flying Walmsley found a late surge to grasp a place from him. A seminal performance.

 

NO7 – Dylan Bowman 20:19:48 – D’Bo nailed his first UTMB finish and confirms that the USA are finally understanding mountain running in Europe and in particular UTMB. I remember a few years back when he finished Transgrancanaria and he was blown away by how difficult and fast that race was. He’s slowly plugged away and learnt the craft.

 

NO8 – Gediminas Grinius 21:24:19 – He nails the 100-mile distance and his eighth place just proves how consistent he is. He will no doubt be disappointed with his placing after placing second last-year, but this year’s race was as stacked as stacked can be and this is a solid performance.

 

NO9 – Zach Miller 21:28:32 – Has been injured in 2017 and I think this no doubt impacted on his race and strategy. Last-year he ran off the front with what was either going to be a blazing victory or an incredible blow-up. It was the latter but he rallied for sixth. This year, he without doubt respected the distance but maybe he also realised he didn’t have the fitness and endurance to blaze a trail at the front. Either way, his 9th is solid, it confirms his ability for the distance and like Walmsley, he may well understand that a little patience will go a long way. A seminal performance.

 

NO10 – Jordi Gamito 21:44:31 – A revelation in 2017 and while I and others thought a solid race was possible, him rounding out the top-10 is a surprise. This will no doubt rally his enthusiasm and commitment for 2018 – a seminal performance.

 

NOTABLES:

The UK’s Damian Hall had an incredible race finishing 12th and top Brit. He only started racing a few years ago and he must be wishing he started earlier! David Laney was the USA’s prime contender for top-5 after two previous solid performances, he finished 14th. Other notable top-10 contenders such as Jeff Browning, Julien Chorier, Jason Schlarb, Tofol Castanyer, Sage Canaday and Miguel Heras all had mixed days. Most finished but Heras and Castanyer dropped. It is important to note that despite the weather and the high-level of competition, I consider the drop-out rate in the men’s race to be low.

Now we just need to wait one year to see how this year’s seminal race impacts on future editions.

It is a great time for the sport!

Dolomites SkyRace Race Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The Migu Run Skyrunner World Series 2017 continued a pace with the 20th edition of the Dolomites SkyRace. It was always going to be a memorable one and the race didn’t disappoint!

Thunderstorms, rain and low cloud resulted in a delayed start by 30-minutes. It was hoped that this delay would allow the weather to clear. The rain did stop but the cloud came lower. Unfortunately, the final section of climb to the summit of Piz Boe at 3252m was pulled from the race for safety reasons. This resulted in less kilometers and less vertical gain and ascent.

Course records of course don’t count in situations like this, the previous bests held by Kilian Jornet and Megan Kimmel. Neither of these stars were running today, however, defending champions Tadei Pivk and Laura Orgue, respective 2016 winners were expected to dictate the race.

Laura Orgue did not disappoint, her 4th from the previous day’s VK soon forgotten, the Spaniard dictated the pace and looked strong throughout. At the new summit of the race her margin of lead was in the minutes and all she needed was a sold descent to Canazei to seal victory once again – she did it! Laura’s time 2:36:29 almost 90-seconds quicker than rising Skyrunning star, Hillary Geraldi from the USA who produced a stunning descent to go past early 2nd placed runner Hilde Alders who held on for 3rd, their times 2:37:55 and 2:39:55.

Silvia Rampazzo placed 4th, Zuzana Krchova 5th, Magdalena Kozielska 6th, Oihana Azkorbebetia 7th, Stephanie Jimenez 8th, Katrine Villumsen 9th and Paola Gelpi rounded out the top-10.

In the men’s race, VK and Sky specialist Remi Bonnet dictated the pace on the climb and has a substantial gab over David Magnani, Martin Anthamatten, Ruy UedaMarco De Gasperi, Jan Margarit and who’s who of Skyrunning talent. Pre-race favourite, Tadei Pivk, was in the latter half of the top-10 and not looking good!

 

At the high-point of the course the wild and rough descent to the line follows. It’s not for the feint hearted and Remi Bonnet was forced to reduce his pace protecting an injury that almost kept him out of the sport in 2016. This opened the doorway for David Magnani and Marco De Gasperi.

However, it was Jan Margarit who seized the bull by the horns and in his own words, “I ran the fastest descent that I could!” Fast it was, he moved from 5th to take the lead. The pressure was now on with a neck-for-neck race to the line, it was so close but Margarit held on by just 22-seconds to beat Magnani to the line, De Gasperi followed in 3rd just 23-seconds later. It was the close! A real race and just 45-seconds separated the top-3 runners – 2:06:20, 2:06:42 and 2:07:05. All credit to Skyrunning legend De Gasperi who is twice the age of the duo ahead of him.

Remi Bonnet held on for 4th, Martin Anthamatten 5th, Pascal Egli 6th, Martin Stofner 7th, Tadei Pivk 8th, Yuy Ueda 9th and Nadir Maguet rounded out the top-10.

It was a day like no other, fast racing, unpredictable weather and the confirmation of Skyrunning legends and the rise of new ones – just how a 20th edition of a race should be.

Attention now turns to this coming weekend and the Comapedrosa SkyRace in Andorra, in addition to a 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series race, the Skyrunning Youth Championships will also take place.

 

Transgrancanaria 125km 2017 Race Preview

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From the heat and humidity of Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge to the the Canary island of Gran Canaria and the Transgrancanaria 125km.

This is my fourth year working on the flagship 125km race and once again it appears in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) calendar. The race starts on Friday evening, 24th February at 2300 hours’ local time. If it was ever in doubt, this race is a tough one! With over 8000m of positive gain, each and everyone of those 125km’s will be felt by the the time the runners reach the finish.

Starting on the north-west coast, the race travels south via the mountainous spine of Gran Canaria and then arrives at the finish, close to the sea in Maspalomas. The route is logical and therefore very appealing from a run aesthetic point of view. 

Over the years, the race has had some stellar performances and 2017 will see the return of the 2016 champions, Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen.

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Male Contenders

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Didrik Hermansen won the race last year with a high quality and well paced performance. He followed Transgrancanaria up with a stunning Western States and world-class 100km races. Didrik can mix running and climbing and therefore goes into the 2017 race as the hot favourite. Fellow Norwegian, Sondre Amdahl, tells me that Didrik is in great shape!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-2824©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0660 The UK’s Andy Symonds ran a stunning race in 2016 and placed 5th – I have a felling he will be on the podium this year! His 2016 season was solid one with UTMB being his only blip. A win at Lavaredo, 2nd at Buff Epic behind Luis Alberto Hernando and 4th at Transvulcania confirms that Andy’s stepping stones to longer racing is working – 2017 will be his year and I also hear he will be racing at Marathon des Sables.

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Diego Pazos finished 3rd last year and what followed was a steady growth in the sport. I predicted he was a ‘one-to-watch’ for 2017 and I stand by that. His victory Mont-Blanc 80km confirmed that he is on the up.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-2663 Antoine Guillon placed on the podium previously and I have no reason to doubt that he can provide a repeat performance. In real terms, the podium may well be decided by those who pace themselves and come strong in the latter stages. Antoine may well be one of these guys – he will be able to bring the ‘long game’ to the race, something he learned when he won Diagonale des Fous (Raid de la Reunion) in 2015. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0072

Yeray Duran is Transgrancanaria regular and is very popular within Spain and the Canary Islands. Arguably, it was Transgrancanaria that elevated his profile. He had a tough race last year but that blip is not indicative of how Yeray runs – I think we will see him up there this year.
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Julien Chorier is always a tip for the podium and victory – he is one seriously classy runner. He was 2nd at Transgrancaria in 2014 and 7th last year. Mixing Hardrock and Western States shows that Julien can mix speed and climbing perfectly – one to watch for the top-5 for sure and maybe the podium!

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Timothy Olson has raced on the island before (2014) and placed 3rd. He arrived in advance of this years race to train and prepare, something he has done on many occasions for multiple races. Normally, I would be pushing Timmy for the win but for the past year or so, the form has been missing. So, it’s difficult to predict the outcome here in the Canaries. Can Timmy win? Absolutely! So, lets cross our fingers and hope that we see a return to 2013 when this guy was on fire! 

Pau Capell won the 85km event previously and last year held hands with Diego Pazoz and crossed the line for an equal 3rd place. He will be up there!

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Fabien Antolinus is a runner I first met at Les Templiers and since then he has continually impressed with his ability to mix speed and climbing to great results. Two years ago he was 5th at UTMB but for me, his performances at Ice Trail Tarentaise were stand out. He’s a top-5 contender for sure.

iancorless-com_etr2016-8828 Casey Morgan will keep UK interest high. He’s been up there at Transgrancanaria in the past and currently he is on a roll with a series of top quality victories. I last saw him race at Everest Trail Race and he was in great shape. He followed that race with another race victory in the Spanish mountains and just recently he raced in Hong Kong with great success.

Fulvio Dapit has come close in the past and is often let down with stomach issues. He won’t make the podium but he will be up in the top-10.

Ones to watch: 

  • Freddy Thevenin
  • Daniel Jung
  • Ben Duffus
  • Gerard Morales
  • Fritjof Fagerlund
  • Nicola Bassi
  • Dimity Mityaev

and many more…

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Female Contenders

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6618This race has Caroline Chaverot’s name written all over it and no disrespect to the other female competitors but I don’t see anyone coming close to this French lady. Caroline was on fire in 2016 and was for me, THE, female ultra-runner of the year. She was unstoppable with a sting of high-profile victories. In summary, anyone who wins UTMB, becomes UTWT champion, becomes Skyrunning World Champion and IAU World Trail Champion all in one-year deserves the upmost respect. I think she will win the race by at least 1-hour!
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I am going to throw a curve ball in and put my neck on the line with a stunning performance expectation from the UK’s Beth Pascall. She will be somewhat of a dark horse over in Gran Canaria but she has all the potential to produce a shock. She has with the UK’s Spine Race and the shorter distance, Challenge Race. She obliterated the ladies’ record at the Lakeland 100 and won the Hoka Highland Fling. One to watch! *Update 21st Feb, Beth will not race due to an injury to her foot.

Andrea Huser never stops. She is like Michael Wardian and each time she runs I am amazed with her ability to recover and race again. She doesn’t have the speed of Caroline and therefore, providing Caroline has no problems. I don’t see the Swiss lady beating her. However, she has a list of results that makes the podium almost guaranteed – victories at Lavaredo, Diagonale des Fous and Swiss Irontrail and let’s not forget 2nd at UTMB behind Caroline!


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Azara Garcia and Gemma Arenas have set their tables out in Skyrunning races and we know that have speed and can climb with the best. However, 125km and 8000m of vertical is a long way and this may well be the downfall for the Spanish duo. Gemma probably has the edge over Azara as she has excelled at Ultra Pirineu with victory. For Gemma, I see 125km possibly being a real learning curve.

Lisa Borzani likes the long and mountainous races such as Tor des Geants and Ronda dels Cims – that will set her up well for this tough and challenging Transgrancanaria course. She may lack the speed but as others fade, she will continue to push strong. 

Manuela Vilaseca was 5th at Transgrancanaria two-years ago and in this line-up, I believe the podium is a possibility – a win would only really come should Andrea and Caroline have bad races.  

Ildiko Wermescher would be a long shot for the podium but a top-5 and certainly a top-10 is a distinct possibility. 2016 seemed to be a below par year but 2014 saw the German lady place 4th at Transgrancanaria.
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Debbie Martin-Consani is my dark horse for a shake up in the ladies’ rankings. Like Beth Pascall, she is a Lakeland 100 winner and she has excelled at other 100-milers and races like Spartathlon, she ha s also raced in a GB vest. Word on the street (or the hills) is that Debbie has been going up and down those Scottish mountains to prepare for this 125km race. 

Ones to watch:

  • Yulia Baykova
  • Jen Benna
  • Laura Barrera
  • Caroline Rohrl
  • Laia Diez

and many more…

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Skyrunning Dolomites SkyRace 2015 – Race Images and Summary

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What an incredible day in the Dolomites as the 18th edition of the Skyrunning Dolomites SkyRace took place. At just 22km, this race has always been fast and furious and although great climbing ability is essential, the race can only be won with a great downhill too.

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Saul Paul Rodriguez and Laura Orgue (2014 champion) were the first 2 runners to reach the high point of the course, the summit of Piz Boe. In many respects, it was no surprise! These 2 athletes are VK specialists and this course without a doubt played into their hands.

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Megan Kimmel was always going to be a dark horse coming into this race, the American has excelled in Skyrunning races before, in particular the Mont-Blanc Marathon. At the summit, Kimmel trailed Orgue by a couple of minutes bet she unleashed an incredible display of downhill running to not only win the race but set a new course record in 2:25:57. Orgue after the race said she felt great, much better than in Friday’s VK and therefore she was happy, ‘I made a slight navigational mistake on the descent and lost time but I am happy!’

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Elisa Desco and Emelie Forsberg both made up ground and time on the descent and finished 3rd and 4th respectively.

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Race revelation, Pascal Egli follows Rodriguez up the climb and behind we had the usual contenders; Aritz Egea, Ionut Zinca and Tadei Pivk. Unfortunately, Rodriguez can’t descend as strongly as he climbs. Slowly but surely he was caught and passed by Egli, Zinca and Pivk.

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At break neck speed, these elite runners descended like stones rolling down a mountain and Pivk closed from 4th to take an impressive victory over Zinca 2nd and Egli 3rd. Rodriguez finally finished 4th.

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The Dolomites SkyRace is a classic Skyrunning race following the ethos and principles created by Giacometti in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Start low, run to the summit and come back down in the most direct and fastest way possible.

Long may the Dolomites SkyRace continue.

Results:

  1. Tadei Pivk 2:02:47
  2. Ionut Zinca 2:03:18
  3. Pascal Egli 2:03:46
  1. Megan Kimmel 2:25:57 – new CR
  2. Laura Orgue 2:26:58
  3. Elisa Desco 2:28:36

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

La Course des Templiers – 2013

Nuria Picas Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Millau, Southern France. The iconic ‘La Course des Templier’ has often been regarded as the Holy Grail of Trail in France. Salomon athlete and Brit, Andy Symonds won the race a couple of years ago and it made him a household name. Of course living in France and speaking the lingo did help.

The Great Race of the Knights Templar was founded in 1995 with a humanitarian purpose. To financially support an orphanage in Chad

Sighting the Leadville Trail 100 miler in the US as an influence, Odile and Gilles Bertrand decided to embark on this adventure in March 1995. The project was launched and a date was selected, the last Sunday of October.

But the format of 100 miles as at the Leadville race was considered too long and Odile and Bertrand decided to offer a more appealing distance of 65 km.

In October 1995 before the fortress of St. Eulalie de Cernon 500 runners assembled and the first edition was undertaken. La Course des Templiers gave birth to trail running in France. This first edition of Templiers was won by Patrick Fox and Corinne Favre.

Race start 2012 ©iancorless.com

Race start 2012 ©iancorless.com

THE GREAT RACE OF THE TEMPLARS

. Distance: 72 km – altitude: 3200 m +
. Departure: 5:15 (note time change), Millau, Millau Plage road (attention, 1h 20 ‘night in the morning) and arrive in Millau, Millau Beach Road 1.2 km from city center
. 4 stations (Peyreleau, St André de Vézines, Pierrefiche, The Cade)
. Registration limited to 2500 runners

A weekend of racing – Festival de l’Endurance

The Templiers race is part of the Festival de l’Endurance. The main event takes place on Sunday, the Grande Course – THE GREAT RACE OF THE TEMPLARS is steep and rocky, so steep that the race organisers place ropes in many areas so that runners can ease their way through rough spots without falling.

To add to that magical ambiance, it helps to know that Nant was one of many points in a network of secret trails built by the Knights Templar, the monastic, international military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. The Knights Templar, known for their architectural skills and fighting alongside Richard I were the first warrior monks and were prevalent in that part of France until their downfall in 1307.

The race route uses the secret paths of the Templars which ncludes two long tunnels that had been used as shortcuts to beat enemies to strategic locations. The region has become a popular tourist attraction primarily due to the success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

2013 RACE

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB

The 2012 edition of the race concluded the Skyrunner World Series but not this year! However, a quality field is assembled. Miguel Heras (Salomon) just missed out on the win last year so he will be looking for the top of the podium. However, he will have a re match with TNFUTMB winner, Xavier Thevenard (Asics). Thomas Lorblanchet, teammate of Xavier will also return, he has won this race several times before and without doubt be at the front of the race. Julien Rancon will be looking to repeat his victory but Michel Lanne may well be the favourite, he had some time way from the sport with a new baby and an injury but he is back.

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

The ladies race has the return of Nuria Picas (Buff) Nuria dominated the race last year ahead of Emelie Forsberg and Lizzy Hawker. Nuria has gone from strength to strength and after placing second at TNFUTMB and then shortly afterwards winning Cavalls delVent once again, she is for me, the outright favourite for the ladies race. Julia Bottger (Salomon) will also participate, however, I can’t help but feel it will be a little too short for her.

Nuria Picas winning Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas winning Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

The main event takes place on Sunday.

You can see images from the 2012 race HERE

RACE IMAGES The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1010566Once again, the races of The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® have gathered at the heart of the valley more than 50 000 people who came from around the world to be a part of this celebration of ultra running. Today early afternoon, the young frenchman, Xavier Thévenard from the Jura région won the TNFUTMB, along with an absolutely incredible performance by TNF athlete, Rory Bosio who not only set a new course record but placed 7th overall.