Transgrancanaria 2017 Race Summary and Images

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The island of Gran Canaria once again hosted the Transgrancanaria series of races. Over the years, the races have grown not only in stature and entries but also in quantity. In total, there are now seven races and this year the addition of the TRANS 360 (265km) really has elevated the race portfolio so that TRANSGRANCANARIA now contrasts and compares directly to the UTMB series of races.

Starting with a FAMILY race (17km) you then have PROMO (17km), STARTER (30km), MARATHON (42km), ADVANCED (82km), the TRANS 360 and then the main event of the weekend, TRANSGRANCANARIA at 125km and 8000m of vertical gain.

Over the year’s, TRANSGRANCANARIA has had the world best come to this Canary island and do battle. Ryan Sandes, Sebsatien Chaigneau, Nuria Picas and Caroline Chaverot are amongst the winners and the 2017 edition, like previous years, had a high quality field.

Notably, the 2017 edition is also earlier in the year, in the past, the race has been in March. This is significant, the 125km race is tough at anytime of the year but coming so early means that the end of one season and the beginning of the next becomes increasingly cloudy. If you want to do well here, it’s fair to say that the previous year’s season needs to end in September or October to allow for recovery and then building training once again to be ready in February.

Caroline Chaverot and Didrick Hermansen were 2016 returning champions and without doubt they were pre-race favourites. Didrick most definitely would have a fight on his hands with the final result going anyway. By contrast, Caroline after an incredible 2016 season was almost guaranteed a victory. But this is ultra-running and things don’t always go the way you expect.

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From the off, Pau Capell and Azara Garcia dictated the race from the front and by the time they reached Artenara (approx 30km), the duo had a convincing lead in their respective races. Many had predicted pre-race that 2017 was Pau’s year, however, Azara was stepping up to the 125km distance – she normally races hilly, technical mountain races of marathon distance, so, stepping up to 125km and 8000m of vert was going to be a challenge.

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The Spanish duo most certainly had some highs and lows on an incredible journey to the line but they didn’t falter. Pau looked to be a man on a mission throughout the race and although he went through a bad patch in the last 20km, he rallied and then continued to pull away to take one of the biggest victories of his life.

Azara battled and battled and from Roque Nublio looked tired and maybe a little bit broken. Somehow she managed to find the mental strength to beat and will her body to the line. She finished with a convincing lead over 2nd lady Andrea Huser, but Azara was an empty shell on the line. She was broken and the emotion of the biggest win of her career seemed all too much as she sat lost in her exhaustion. Eventually she was stretchered away to recover.

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Behind two amazing performances were the highs and lows of the ultra world. In the ladies’ race we saw Caroline Chaverot drop from the race at Artenara lacking energy with tired legs. We saw Andrea Huser produce an ever-consistent and well placed performance to place 2nd and gain another high-ranking podium place and Melanie Rousset from France rallied to finish 3rd ahead of Kirstin Berglund. Full ladies’ results HERE.

The men’s race was a cracker, however, everyone was running in the wake of Pau Capell who produced a dominating world-class performance. Vlaidas Zlabys from Lithuania was the revelationn of the race and a name to note for the future. Right from the beginning he was in the mix and he produced a strong, consistent and well paced performance to finish 2nd 14:35 minutes behind Pau. In the final 20km he had closed that gap down to 10-minutes but Pau surged. Didrick Hermansen ran much of the race off the podium but he knows his strength. In the last 3rd of the race he closed hard and moved up through the race to finally finish on the podium in 3rd – a great result!

Behind the top-3 is a story of trials and tribulations, pre-race favourites of Andy Symonds, Diego Pazos and Timothy Olson all finished in the top-10 but it was stories of niggles, sickness, fatigue and fighting a cold and challenging night. Full men’s results HERE.

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The 2017 edition of the race will be remembered for a very cold and windy night that challenged the runners. Even the arrival of daylight did not warm the ambient temperature in the mountains. It was only as the runners descended to the sea in the final 20-30km’s did temperatures rise and of course, this brings it’s own problems. From 4-degrees to 25-degrees is a tough ask. The challenge was clearly seen on each runners face.

Pau Capell and Azara Garcia are the names of 2017, I wonder, who will be the names of 2018?

Men Results

  1. Pau Capell 13:21:03 (Didrick ran 13:41 in 2016)
  2. Vlaidas Zlabys 13:35:38
  3. Didrick Hermansen 13:50:06
  4. Jordi Baus 13:53:53
  5. Maxime Cazajous 13:53:54

Ladies Results

  1. Azara Garcia 16:25:20 (Caroline ran 15:23 in 2016)
  2. Andrea Huser 17:15:45
  3. Melanie Rousset 17:30:40
  4. Kistin Berglund 18:00:04
  5. Ildo Wermescher 18:17:43

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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 World Championships 2016 SKY – Images and Summary

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The Vall de Boí in the Spanish Pyrenees today provided a modern day coliseum where Skyrunning gladiators battled at the BUFF® Epic Trail Aigüestortes SKY event, the 2nd race in the 2016 Skyrunning World Series.

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The rugged BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 42KM is a point-to-point race with 3,200m positive climb in a spectacular natural arena surrounded by 3,000m peaks and 200 mountain lakes. Rich in cultural history, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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It’s a highly challenging and extremely technical race with a nine-hour time limit, the racing field was capped at 500.

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Starting at 0930 under chilly temperatures, the day remained dry but on all the summits temperatures dropped significantly and wind chill was high.

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Tom Owens was a driving force in the men’s race and the Brit reveled in the tough and technical terrain, something he loves. In the early stages he held strong but a charging Stian Argemund had other ideas. With a gold medal already in the bag from the previous day’s VK, Stian ran a calm and relaxed race and moved from 4th to 1st with over half distance covered. Owens, a downhill specialist said post-race, “I thought I would bring him back on the next descent and although I closed on him, as soon as the terrain pointed up, he would pull away. He was so strong on the climbs, no wonder he won the VK!”

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Stian did hold on to the finish (3:56:47) and in the process secured a 2nd gold medal at the 2016 games. Tom Owens took silver in 4:01:59 and Ismail Razga kept the Spanish home crown happy with bronze in 4:05:56.

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The ladies race was an exciting one and Spanish runner Maite Maiora secured one of the biggest victories of her life after also placing 3rd in the previous days VK.

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Azara Garcia, also from Spain, chased hard all day and came off so close in the final stages closing the gap to Maiora by less than 2 minutes, 4:42:15 to 4:44:04. Garcia was happy though, gold and silver to Spain!

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Elisa Desco from Italy seemed to struggle in the early stages of the race but rallied to eventually finish 3rd to receive the Bronze medal with a time of 4:46:43.

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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.


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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

Kilomètre Vertical Face De Bellevarde 2015 – Val d’Isere

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Val d’Isere has a great history with the Vertical Kilometer, way back in ‘96’ the ISF were the first to organize a VK here!

A time lapse of 9-years and Val d’Isere re connected with the ethos of the VK using the Olympic Bellevarde Face in 2014. For many years, Marco De Gasperi held the VK world record here of 34-minutes and 41-seconds until the Italian was dethroned by a fellow countryman and VK specialist; Urban Zemmer.

The Vertical Kilometer has traditionally started at the foot of the Olympic Bellevarde face on “the board” in the heart of the Parc des Sports Charles Diebold in the center Val d’Isere.

The route then takes the greater part of what was the route of the men’s downhill Olympic Winter Games ski route (1992), won by Austrian Patrick Ortlieb.

It’s a tough course; 2.9Km’s in length and reaches an altitude of 2809m. Average gradients over the course are 35%, however, in places it reaches 63% as presented in the first hundred meters.

Including steep passages at 49% and 56% gradient, the sting comes with the famous passage of the Columbine at 55%. Followed by gentle slopes of the Great Wall (51%) a refreshment station is provided before the push to the line passing ‘Catherine Dent’ (50%) and then a finish loop passes the Bellevarde restaurant and the arrival is at a wooden start cabin at an altitude of 2809m.

Previous Records: 

Men: Marco DE GASPERI (ITA) en 34’51” (2003)

Women: Antonella CONFORTOLA (ITA) en 42’48” (2002) 

GONON and ORGUE shine on a sunny day in Val d’Isere

Following on from the Chamonix vertical kilometre, François Gonon today once again showed his competition a clean pair of heels to take victory in the 2015 Kilomètre Vertical Face De Bellevarde. Powering up the climb with hands-on-knees, Gonon was one of the few participants in the race not using poles. A disadvantage many thought but Gonon proved everyone wrong and won the race in true style in a time of 35:09.

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Yoann Sert placed 2nd and 2014 winner Nejc Kuhar placed 3rd but it was a close race, the duo were separated by seconds! 35:53 to 35:58.

VK races often have different start procedures. For example in Chamonix, runners depart every 30-seconds. In the Dolomites (next weekend) a series of small group starts will take place with approximately 25 runners per group. In Val d’Isere it was an individual start. This can prove difficult! Similar to the race of truth in the Tour de France, the runners must pace themselves and judge their effort over 1000m not knowing if they are gaining or loosing time.

In the ladies race, Laura Orgue one again showed supreme climbing ability in winning the ladies race and in doing so set a new course record! Antonella Confortola’s 2002 time of 42:48 has now been reset at 40:57.

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Christel Dewalle has been struggling with injury recently and although on the start list we were under the impression that she would not start. Her decision to race was a good one! Dewalle placed 2nd in 41:16 which also broke the old course record.

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The final ladies podium place went to Vanesa Ortega who completed the distance in 44:05.

Stats: 

  • Finish Elevation: 2 809 m
  • Length: 2 905 m
  • Altitude gain: 1000 m
  • Maximum Gradient: 63 %
  • Minimum Gradient: 15 %
  • Average Gradient: 35 %

The Vertical Kilometer Bellevarde Face is part of the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series and will be followed by the Ice Trail Tarentaise 2-days later (preview for the ITT HERE)

Transvulcania La Palma 2015 #VK Vertical Kilometer

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It’s Transvulcania time and an exciting weekend of racing kicked off with the vertical kilometre in the early evening of Thursday 7th May.

Departing from the beach in Tazacorte under glorious sunshine, runners had to tackle the zig-zag pathways above the sea and then run on upwards for a tough 6.6km re-tracing the final descent of Saturday’s 73km main event.

The race was dominated by Alice Gaggi in 59:48 for the ladies and Jessed Hernandez Gispert won the men’s race in 50:38.

Emelie Forsberg refreshed her ski legs placing 3rd as a loosen up for Saturday’s main event as did Manuel Merillas (2nd in the men’s race) both runners are hot favourites for the Transvulcania La Palma.

Anna Frost, although still battling injury issues, placed 4th overall and smiled her way to the finish.

RESULTS

Ladies

  1. Alice Gaggi 00:59:48
  2. Azara Garcia 1:01:39
  3. Emelie Forsberg 1:02:24
  4. Anna Frost 1:02:42
  5. Stephanie Jiminez 1:03:23

Men

  1. Jessed Hernandez Gispert 00:50:38
  2. Manuel Merillas 00:51:04
  3. James Oucgterlony 00:52:12
  4. Oscar Casal Mir 00:52:15
  5. Diego Manuel Camacho De La Ossa 00:56:29