Ultra Trail Aldeias do Xisto #UTAX 2016 – All for one, one for all!

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The rain continued to fall, day 2 at UTAX was a continuation of day 1 but the sun did break through every now and again and gladly, overt the midday, a continuous sunny dry spell provided the Da Inclusivo race with a clear spell. The last finisher of the 110km had arrived early in the morning and at 0900 it was time for the Children to race. Axtrail Kids allows 6-16 year olds an opportunity to have their own moment in a full weekend of activity. It’s this all encompassing approach of the Aldeias do Xisto that makes it special.

While the kids raced in the centre of the town, the MTX 10km was also underway, an introduction to trail running that used the first 10km of the UTAX race which finishes in the Schist village of Gondramaz. It may only be 10km but it’s a challenging 10km with plenty of technicality, mud, rocks, water, water-crossings and abundant waterfalls. The finishing village of Gondramaz providing a picture postcard ending.

And mid-morning, in the town of Vila Nova, the ‘Da Inclusivo’ race was due to start. Five teams carrying five disabled people on an 8km trail journey to the race finish in the centre of Miranda do Corvo. It’s this race that personifies trail running, the people, the ethos and the sharing of our sport. It’s an inclusive sport, not exclusive. Despite the at times technical trails, the five teams worked together as one. On occasion, from the outside looking in, it almost appeared like a rescue mission but the journey was completed to a welcoming crowd.

It’s this foresight and all encompassing attitude that has seen Portugal rise as a key influencer in the sport of trail and mountain running. Of course, trail running brings tourism and this is an important element in any growing race series. The natural conditions of the region, the stunning Schist villages combined with local hospitality make Aldeias do Xisto and Portugal the perfect destination for a family of trail runners; all are welcome. Mum, dad and children can race and they have a custom events geared to their abilities. Or maybe they can reach out and push a new boundary, move up say from the 22km event and run the 50km, or even take on the UTAX? This area has so much to offer, an extended stay to explore many of the 27 Schist villages makes logical sense for those travelling from overseas.

Fernando Pinto, one of the key organisers at AXtrail sums it up, “The AXtrail®series is an event for everyone, with a comprehensive character. Children, youth, adults, experienced athletes, sports teams or families; everyone is welcome and will find a place!”

Racing is more than racing, it’s a series of experiences! Participating, watching, supporting or cheering, many a runner who ran one of the events over the Aldeias do Xisto weekend gained as much satisfaction on Sunday watching children arrive with beaming smiles or watching the arrival of the five Da Inclusivo teams. AXtrail know how to put on a weekend of racing. I will be back, I am sure.

Many thanks to:
Fernando Pinto, Miguel Pessoa, João Lamas, Aldeias do Xisto, Marli Monteiro, Palacio do Lousa, AXtrail® and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office http://www.centerofportugal.com.

Ultra Trail Aldeias do Xisto #UTAX 2016 – Race Images and Summary

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The Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail, offers a series of races that is all encompassing with six races on offer: Da Inclusivo, Kids, Mini-Trail Do Xisto, Trail Do Xisto, TSL and the main event, the UTAX (the largest event in the territories of the Shist Villages) which is 110km’s in length, has 5300m of vertical gain and a 26-hour cut-off time for the participants.

Go Outdoor are embracing the rise and demand in the sport of trail and the Astral®series reflect this!

A breakdown of the events is as follows:

▪UTAX – 110 Km

▪TSL – 50 Km

▪TX – 22 Km

▪MTX – 10 Km

▪Axtrail Kids – For kids with 6 to 16 years old

▪Axtrail Inclusion – For people with reduced mobility.

This year the UTAX race started in Miranda do Corvo, in the Plaza José Falcão, this was also the logistical centre of the race too and due to the inclement weather, it was tested to the maximum. From the ticking of the midnight bell, the rain was already falling and although the occasional dry patch provided a welcome break, it was going to be a race of rain, rain and rain.

Gondramaz, welcomed the front runners after approximately just one hour of running – the runners ‘enjoyed’ a beautiful single-track that was hard and technical; only made more challenging by the falling rain. Lousã followed and it here in that stunning Hotal Palacio da Lousã is located.

Candal is a small typical Schist Village and here the runners winded up narrow streets as the rain continued to pour. It was now 0300 for the front runners and the temperatures were dropping well below 5deg and with the slight wind and constant wt, this will have felt like zero or colder.

Cerdeira offers panoramic views of the mountains and is a place of peace and tranquility but on the night of the UTAX, no views were visible; just darkness and the glow of a head-torch. The Schist Villages are magical places and key feature of the UTAX race, it is what make this race so unique. But don’t be fooled, the villages where time passes more slowly are hidden between rock and lush vegetation, this is what must be navigated to completee the UTAX.

From Pena a climb followed to the highest point of the race, for the front runners, the early signs of dawn were making an appearance, not that anyone would know… a shroud of mist and a cold blowing wind made a deceiving blanket that would fool the runners.

Castanheira de Pera then northwest for Ameal, a fantastic single-track rises up and winds to a farm at the top of Lousã, continuing on in the direction of the House of the Forest Guard the trail then descended to the villages of Catarredor and Vaqueirinho, and follows to the Schist Villages Talasnal and Casal Novo.

Casal Novo’s trails of mud, rock, trees and slippery ground provided one of the last key challenges before the arrival back to the Square José Falcão in Miranda do Corvo for the finish.

The race was full of drama, Jêrome Rodrigues, the pre-race favourite unfortunately had to drop from the race with injury and for the ladies, Ester Alves who recently won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica was forced to retire with fatigue and cold after 4-5 hours. No surprise really, 40-degrees and high humidity to zero degrees and torrential rain would force the most hardy competitor to crumble.

The withdrawal of two hot favourites opened the door for Luis Duarte, a previous winner of the mens race and Sofia Lopes Roquette finished the race as she started, from the front!

Nuno Silva ran to a strong and consistent 2nd place ahead of Bruno Coelho, but it was some way off the dominating performance of Duarte. Duarte finished the race in a sprint and looked extremely fresh on the line; something that many looked  on, me included, and failed to understand. The UTAX is a seriously tough, challenging race, only made considerably harder with weather but Duarte dominated it!

Equally, Sofia Lopes Roquette used her skills, strength of mind and her ability to endure the long run and take out victory over Fernanda Verde with Raquel Campos taking the 3rd spot.

More information and interviews will follow.

  1. Luis Duarte 12:25:36
  2. Nuno Silva 12:50:24
  3. Bruno Coelho 12:57:26
  1. Sofia Roquette 16:20:40
  2. Fernanda Verde 16:57:42
  3. Raquel Campos 20:09:36

Tourism Portugal

Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail race coverage would not be possible without the support ofAXtrail® Go Outdoor and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office www.centerofportugal.com. Special thanks to to ADXTUR – Schist Villages. 

GoOutdoor

UTAX

Ultra Trail Aldeias do Xisto #UTAX, Portugal – Race Preview

UTAX

Ultra, trail, mountain and Skyrunning is booming in Portugal. In recent years the sport has grown from strength-to-strength and now a plethora of races are available. Most certainly, Carlos Sa paved the way for this new breed of runner and recently, runners like Ester Alves have kept that momentum flowing. Ester in particular has just recently won The Coastal Challenge multi-day race in Costa Rica.

Go Outdoor are embracing the rise and demand in the sport and in March 2016 (18th to 20th) they will host a series of races, the AXtrail®series.

The Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail, offers a series of races that is all encompassing with six races on offer: Da Inclusivo, Kids, Mini-Trail Do Xisto, Trail Do Xisto, TSL and the main event, the UTAX (the largest event in the territories of the Shist Villages) which is 110km’s in length, has 5300m of vertical gain and a 26-hour cut-off time for the participants.

A breakdown of the events is as follows:

  • UTAX – 110 Km
  • TSL – 50 Km
  • TX – 22 Km
  • MTX – 10 Km
  • Axtrail Kids – For kids with 6 to 16 years old
  • Axtrail Inclusion – For people with reduced mobility.

It’s this foresight and ell encompassing attitude that has seen Portugal rise as key influencer in the sport of trail and mountain running. Of course, trail running brings tourism and this is an important element in any growing race series. The natural conditions of the region combined with the hospitality of the local population ensures that visitors to Portugal are extremely happy with their stay, whether participating in one of the six event, or in relation to the destination where an event takes place.

As the event race director says:

 “The AXtrail®series is an event for everyone, with a comprehensive character. Children, youth, adults, experienced athletes, sports teams or families, everyone is welcome and will find a place!”

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The UTAX is the main event of the weekend and first took place in 2013 with shortened course, Salomon Portugal athlete, Armando Teixeira won in a time of 7:44:29. The first lady was Ester Alves, her time of 10:03:48 reflecting the reduced distance. Alves won again in 2014 but this time it took 16:53:49 for victory and in the men’s race, Luis Duarte recorded a time of 13:06:46. Current course records were set in 2015 by Jérôme Rodrigues and Sofia Lopes Roquete, their respective times of 12:49:57 and 16:12:53 set the benchmark for the 2016 edition.

Alves was missing in 2015 but returns in 2016 and no doubt she will be looking not only for victory but maybe setting a new fas time for the UTAX course. Her recent growth in the sport with top results at UTMB, Transvulcania and recent victory in Costa Rica certainly bodes well. A big question mark will come in regard to Alves’s recovery, The Coastal Challenge was only four weeks ago! Sofia Lopes Roquette, 2015 champion will return to defend her crown.

In the men’s race, the battle for the front to f the race may well come down to Jêrome Rodrigues who ran 12:49 in 2015 and Luis Duarte who ran 13:06 in 2014. However, it may not be that simple? Anything can happen in 110km’s and Nuno Silva along with Ricardo Silva will look to mix things up at the front of the race.

Other names to watch and look out for are: Amândio Antunes, Rui Luz, Luis Mota (veteran), Guilherme Lourenço, Rui Seixo, Raquel Campos, André Rodrigues, Cláudio Quelhas, Juan Delgado (veteran), Nádia Pasteleiro, and Júlia Conceição. A full list of all participants in UTAX ( 230) – HERE

UTAX 110 km – 5300 D+

This year the UTAX race will start and finish in Miranda do Corvo, in the Plaza José Falcão, this will be the logistical center of the race. The first village to be visited will be Gondramaz, allowing athletes enjoy a beautiful single-track but the opening limiters are hard and technical. Lousã follows and here the most anticipated moment of the race will come as this local location is known as the “Amazon.”  After Candal runners only travel about 3 km to the village of Cerdeira which offers panoramic views of the mountains and is a place of peace and tranquility. The Schist Villages are magical places where time passes more slowly and the villages are hidden between rock and lush vegetation – Góis, Aigra Nova, Comareira and Pena. From Pena a climb starts to the highest point of the race and then down to Castanheira de Pera. Following a northwest direction for Ameal, a fantastic single-track rises up and winds to a farm at the top of Lousã, the trail continues in the direction of the House of the Forest Guard. It is then that begins the descent to the villages of Catarredor and Vaqueirinho, and follows to the Schist Villages Talasnal and Casal Novo. Following the route for the “Terreiro Halloween”, runners go up to the Vila Nova which is in the Miranda Municipality of Corvo. The end is now getting close, Fluvial Beach Louçainha (Municipality of Penela),  Vila Nova and then heading back to the Square José Falcão in Miranda do Corvo for the finish.

It is a weekend party where everyone without exception can practice and enjoy the wonderful sport to trail and mountain running.

You can follow the race in words and images on this website, iancorless.com and on my other media channels: Facebook HERE, Twitter HERE and Instagram HERE.

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The race website is available HERE

You can download a PDF race information document HERE

Tourism Portugal

Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail race coverage would not be possible without the support of AXtrail® Go Outdoor and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office www.centerofportugal.com.

GoOutdoor