2017 #UTMB® Ultra Trail Mont Blanc Race Preview

The 2017 UTMB is upon us and yes, it may well be the best line-up ever for this big loop of France, Italy and Switzerland which starts and finishes in the iconic mountain resort of Chamonix shadowed by the impressive and iconic Mont-Blanc.

The race for many has become the race to do and this is reflected in the growth of the main race, the UTMB and the growth of the sister events – TDS, CCC, PTL and the recent addition of OCC.

Image ©UTMB

Departing at 1800 hrs on Sep 1st, the UTMB race goes in a loop via Les Contamines, La Balme, Les Chapieux, Lac Combal, Col Checrouit, Courmayer, Refuge Bertone, Refuge Bonati, Arnouvaz, La Fouly, Champex-Lac, Plan de L’au, Trient, Vallorcine, Col Des Montets, La Flegere and finally Chamonix.

Image ©UTMB

The route is 171km in length with 10.000 mt of vertical gain and a maximum time limit of 46-hours and 30-minutes.

2300 runners will toe the line for the 2017 edition, it is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT).

LADIES

The ladies race will once again be an interesting one with the return of the 2016 champion Caroline Chaverot, 2016 2nd place, Andrea Huser, 5th placed Magdalena Boulet, 8th placed Kaori Niwa and 10th placed Sophie Grant.

However, this only provides a small glimpse of the potential top-10 for the 2017 UTMB.

Nuria Picas, Stephanie Howe (now Violett), Emilie Lecomte, Fernanda Maciel, Kaci Lickteig, Gemma Arenas are without doubt contenders for the top positions and yes, victory.

Also keep an eye on a couple of dark horses, in particular Beth Pascall from the UK.

On 2016 and 2017 performances, Caroline Chaverot is the head and shoulders favourite for 2017 victory. Her recent win at Hardrock 100 was super impressive and although 2017 started with a glitch at Transgrancanaria, Chaverot is now back in winning ways and looks set to match her incredible 2016. For me, she is the best female ultra-runner in the world at the moment.

Andrea Huser just races and races and last year came very close to Chaverot, 25:15:40 to Huser’s 25:22:56. In all honesty and no disrespect to Huser, this closeness was due to Chaverot having problems and not Huser speeding up. In reality, I think Chaverot can (and possibly will) win the UTMB with a clear 1-hour margin. Can Huser place 2nd again? Yes for sure, however, she will have her hands full.

Nuria Picas has all the potential to win the race but I am not convinced that she has 25 hours of running in her at the moment? She just placed 3rd at Tromso SkyRace which was a great training day but UTMB is going to require a completely different strength.

Magdalena Boulet is going to know what she is in for this year and therefore may well have a better race. She placed 2nd at Western States and in the following weeks and months has recovered and prepared for the big dance in France. I think we may well see her on the podium this year!

Kaci Lickteig and Stephanie Howe Violett were hot favourites for Western States and they both had tough days. Lickteig has said in advance of this year’s UTMB that she is not here to race. Howe Violett though will be here to race and for me she is a hot favourite for the podium and should all things align, she is a potential winner. She was 8th in 2015.

The UK’s Beth Pascall may well be the surprise package of the 2017 race taking the American’s by surprise and yes, even the Europeans. She is a great long distance runner and loves mountain terrain. She is also a great 24-hour runner and that is a key feature for the UTMB – running 100-miles at UTMB is not the same as running 100-miles on another course. Jasmin Paris placed 6th last-year and I think Pascall can match this and potentially go top-5.

Emilie Lecomte, Fernanda Maciel, Kaori Niwa, Aliza Lapierre, Gemma Arenas, Yulia Baykova, Sophie Grant, Amanda Basham, Amy Sproston,  and Joelle Vaught are all potential top-10 runners amongst a very competitive and stacked field.

  • CHAVEROT, Caroline
  • PICAS, Núria
  • BOULET, Magdalena
  • HUSER, Andrea
  • LICKTEIG, Kaci
  • ST LAURENT, Alissa
  • HOWE VIOLETT, Stephanie
  • ARENAS ALCAZAR, Gemma
  • MAJER, Ewa
  • EMMERSON, Kellie
  • BES GINESTA, Cristina
  • VAUGHT, Joelle
  • BASHAM, Amanda
  • LECOMTE, Emilie
  • PASCALL, Beth
  • CHOW, Pui Yan
  • MACIEL, Fernanda
  • LAPIERRE, Aliza
  • BLANCHET, Juliette
  • SPROSTON, Amy
  • NIMES PEREZ, Teresa
  • BRUINS, Robyn
  • MEHL, Lisa
  • BERRY, Tara
  • BARD, Christelle
  • BAYKOVA, Yulia
  • DIEZ FONTANET, Laia
  • VILASECA, Manuela
  • ANDREY, Sophie
  • MCRAE, Sally
  • GRANT, Sophie
  • BOS, Melanie
  • ALVES, Ester
  • NIWA, Kaori
  • EDWARDS, Meredith
  • TROUP, Anna
  • CHIALVO, Martina
  • VARGAS, Adriana
  • CAMACHO ORTEGA, Noelia Patricia
  • SANTOS SOUSA, Lucinda
  • FÖRSTER, Basilia
  • VERJEE, Sabrina

MEN

Ludovic Pommeret took victory in 2016 in 22:00:22 and was followed by Gediminas Grinius, Tim Tollefson, David Laney, Javi Dominguez, Zach Miller, Sebastien Camus, Julien Chorier, Giulio Ornati and Juan Maria Jimenez. A stout top-10 of which we see many return.

The 2016 race was interesting one that saw Miller go off at a reckless pace, blow-up, recover and somehow manage to finish 6th. We also saw how pacing and patience is a key element for a successful UTMB, completely reflected in Pommeret’s victory – he was in the lead early on, he dropped to 50th about 25% in the race and then somehow came back!

With such a stacked field one if the biggest questions will be, ‘who will make it beyond Courmayer?’ As in previous years, many hot favourites will fall by the wayside with pressure on a pace that is too fast early on.

I said in the ladies preview that running 100-miles (more actually – 172km) at the UTMB is not the same as running 100-miles say on a typical US course. I think this can be clearly explained when one looks at say Anton Krupicka. He had success and results at 100-miles that took 14-16 hours, UTMB requires a minimum 20-hour effort and in reality a 20-24 hour effort if you are going to be top-10. This makes a huge difference and therefore, I will put my neck on the line now and say that Walmsley, Miller and Canaday will struggle in the final 25% of the race.

I am jumping ahead though.

With a certain Kilian Jornet returning to the race, I do believe that everyone else is running for 2nd. This is not something that I ever like to write but with all due respect to the rest of the competition, if Kilian is on form I just don’t see anyone coming close. I will also say, that if the weather conditions are good, we will see him not only win the race but I do think we have the potential of a 19-hour finish and a new course record. Jornet is coming back to this race for one reason – the race! He wants the competition, he wants to be pushed and he wants to be the best of the best. Victory will be a priority and then a CR if that is feasible and possible.

Jornet does have three teammates toeing the line and they are a formidable quartet of Francois d’Haene, Tofol Castanyer and Miguel Heras. All four of these guys can win the race and in particular, d’Haene is an odds on favourite to push Jornet and should the Catalan falter, he will be there to take over the reigns. In terms of strategy, I see the Salomon quartet running together in the first 50% of the race behind the front but close enough to pounce should they need to. Jornet will be chatting and looking for company before he and d’Haene pull away in pursuit of the front. In the latter 20/25% of the race, Jornet will pull away, catch any front protagonists and take the win. Castanyer and Heras may well be top-10 with d’Haene 2nd. They have all the potential to go 1,2,3 as in 2014.

I make it sound easy don’t I. It’s 100-miles and therefore of course it is not! Anything can happen.

Jim Walmsley and Zach Miller are no doubt going to head up the front of the race, however, if they have learnt from previous exploits it would make sense that they reign themselves in over the first half of the race. Their fans will want them to go hard or go home, but, if either of them want to win the race, patience will be key. I see Miller having the edge over Walmsley. We all know Walmsley can run fast – really fast. He proved this recently at Speedgoat 50k but that race is 50k and not 172k! Miller has been injured and of course this may well impact on his ability to have a good race in 2017?

The strongest potential for US success will come from Tim Tollefson (3rd in 2016), David Laney (4th in 2016), Jason Schlarb, Dylan Bowman, Jeff Browning, Sage Canaday and Western States 2016 champ, Andrew Miller.

That is one serious US line-up and if Jornet wasn’t running, I would have potentially said that 2017 was the year when we could see an American win the men’s race!

Tollefson missed 2nd last year by just 4-minutes and Laney 3rd by 11-minutes.

It is worth noting though that the winning time in 2016 was almost one hour slower than in 2015 when Xavier Thevenard ran 21:09. That is significant especially with Jornet and d’Haene racing!

BUT, think back to 2014 when d’Haene won in 20:11:44, Castanyer 2nd in 20:55:42, Iker Karrera 20:55:42 and Jason Schlarb 4th in 21:39:44. The top-3 (all Salomon) went under Thevenard’s 2015 winning time – that is a wake-up call for everyone racing the 2017 edition!

Remember too that the course has changed over the last few years!

On paper, based on times, Jason Schlarb has the best potential to impact the podium and his potential may well have increased evermore with his early withdrawal from Hardrock 100 with illness. He is going to be fresh!

Tollefson, Laney are the obvious contenders for top-5, they have done it before but Browning is an incredible force over 100-miles – he is patient, loves to climb and he gets the job done. Equally, Bowman is going to be raring to go for this year. We may well see the top-10 full of US runners – it is going to be a great year for them.

Luis Alberto Hernando would have been my tip for the podium but he has decided not to race – a real shame. He would have really had am impact on the front of the race if inform.

Therefore Xavier Thevenard has to be a key favourite. He is the only person to have won UTMB, TDS, CCC and OCC – impressive! He does blow hot and cold sometimes though, particularly if the pressure is on him. If he keeps a low-profile in the build up to the 2017 race I think will see him once again have a great race.

Gediminas Grinius nails the 100-mile distance and was 5th in 2014 and 2nd last year. He will be in the mix for sure but if it is a fast year, I don’t think he has the pace for a 20-hour finish.

Didrik Hermansen does have the pace but may not have the endurance, having said that, he won Transgrancanaria and was 2nd at Western States in 2016.

Pau Capell has been so consistent and is an exciting prospect at the 2017 UTMB, he won Transgrancanaria and placed 2nd at Madeira Island Ultra Trail – both races taking 13-hours. He is going to need to race for 30% (minimum) longer in Chamonix and that will be a huge learning curve.

The UK’s Andy Symonds ran the UTMB in 2016 and detonated, he will be back this year more focused. He has the potential for a great race.

Julien Chorier recently participated in Ironman Nice with a 10-hour 22-minute finish – very solid for a tough (bike) course. It’s interesting prep for UTMB but Chorier is a class act and he has been top-10 at UTMB before. He knows how to run the race. I don’t think he has the speed now to be top-3 but he has the staying power and he can pick of places and move up the ranking in the latter stages of the race.

Javier Dominguez, Vaidas Zlabys, Sebastien Camus, Yeray Duran, Scott Hawker, Carlos Sa, Sebastien Chaigneau, Yoshikazu Hara, are all potential top-10 runners… this distance and this race is so unpredictable and it rarely goes to plan or script.

From a UK perspective, Casey Morgan, Kim Collison, Damian Hall and Danny Kendall will toe the line. Hall in particular having consistently solid races.

What are your thoughts, who are going to be the surprises?

Here is the list of elite men:

  • WALMSLEY, Jim
  • JORNET BURGADA, Kilian
  • D’HAENE, François
  • CANADAY, Sage
  • MILLER, Zach
  • THEVENARD, Xavier
  • HERAS HERNANDEZ, Miguel Angel
  • TOLLEFSON, Tim
  • CASTANYER BERNAT, Tofol
  • BOWMAN, Dylan
  • SCHLARB, Jason
  • GRINIUS, Gediminas
  • SYMONDS, Andrew
  • CAPELL, Pau
  • LANEY, David
  • HERMANSEN, Didrik
  • DOMINGUEZ LEDO, Javier
  • ZLABYS, Vaidas
  • MILLER, Andrew
  • BES, Jordi
  • GAMITO, Jordi
  • PAZOS, Diego
  • HAWKER, Scott
  • SANCHEZ SAEZ, Sebastian
  • CAMUS, Sébastien
  • ORNATI, Giulio
  • CHORIER, Julien
  • GAY, Anthony
  • GHELFI, Ryan
  • PASERO, Mikael
  • DURAN LOPEZ, Yeray
  • ANGUITA BAYO, Manuel
  • ROVERA, René
  • BROWNING, Jeff
  • HARA, Yoshikazu
  • SA, Carlos
  • FERNANDES, Luís
  • CHAIGNEAU, Sebastien
  • HAJNAL, Robert
  • SOLE DUOCASTELLA, Francesc
  • GORCZYCA, Bartosz
  • KRIZ, Zdenek
  • FISTER, Gerald
  • COUCHAUD, Sylvain
  • BERNAD BLASCO, Victor
  • AMAT ASENCIO, Daniel
  • GRASEL, Florian
  • MORGAN, Casey
  • SHERPA, Sangé
  • PFANDLBAUER, Andreas
  • JAQUA, Nate
  • COLLISON, Kim
  • YANG, Jiagen
  • RODRIGUEZ BARREIRO, Alvaro
  • HALL, Damian
  • BROGNIART, Stéphane
  • FREITAS, Francisco
  • DOBERT, Steeve
  • SANCHEZ CASALS, Carles
  • DI GIACOMO, Fabio
  • STEPHAN, Quentin
  • LARROTCHA, Juan Jose
  • DOI, Takashi
  • BACKHAUSEN, Majell
  • SCHJØLBERG, Hallvard
  • DE SALVADOR, Marco
  • VINAGRE CRUZ, Alberto
  • REYES, Gustavo
  • CHAVET, Cedric
  • NOURRY, Yann
  • DIBOUN, Yassine
  • SUGA, Satoru
  • DIOGO, Leonardo
  • PARRA HERNANDEZ, Vicente
  • PARIS, Thomas
  • MENDIZABAL, Adur
  • MALARDE, Christophe
  • VIEUX, Florian
  • DROZ, Gaël
  • OUTTERS, Benoît
  • WAGNER, Thomas
  • EVANGELISTI, Michele
  • TEJERO, Sergio Luís
  • BUFFARD, Sébastien
  • GASC, Mickael
  • VERMILYEA, Andrew
  • COUCHOUD, Fabrice
  • LAYFIELD, Dominick
  • EVARTS, Roman
  • RESTORP, Petter
  • HERRERO, Albert
  • DEPERRAZ, Stephane
  • CATALAN, Iñaki
  • SKURKA, Andrew
  • BUCKLIN, Benjamin
  • NAMKUNG, Evan
  • LEFRANC, Julien
  • VIOLETT, Zachary
  • FUCHS, Sebastian
  • LAVY, Jeremy
  • PIGOIS, Thomas
  • FARIA, Manuel
  • LUJAN MALDONADO, Agustin
  • JUNG, Frédéric
  • CUCCO, Francesco
  • KENDALL, Danny
  • IINO, Wataru
  • BESSARD, Yann
  • BERNINI, Stefano
  • VALENTINE, Rick
  • MOLIN, Ivano
  • CASANOVAS, Ramon
  • DAVID, Benjamin
  • CAUCHON, Jean-Francois
  • MATSUNAGA, Hiroaki
  • CARCANO, Gaetano
  • ESCUDERO, Israel
  • GU, Bing
  • POMMIER, Jean
  • CALMETTES, Guillaume

UTMB Information HERE

 

The North Face Transgrancanaria 2015 – Race Summary

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-4233

Some times you just need to throw the script out of the window… Forget who may and who may not be race favourite and just let things play out like a piece of impromptu art. The 2015 Transgrancanaria certainly threw some curve balls! 

View race images HERE

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-7277

In the ladies race, it was business as usual for the 2014 champion, Nuria Picas. Biding her time in the early stages, Nuria took over the front of the race with approximately 90km to go and never really looked back. Running through the night the Catalan felt good but commented on how hard the trail was. As she ran to Roqué Nublio and to El Garañón she looked tired and weak. Post race Nuria went on to say, ‘I felt weak because of a lack of meal but luckily I could overcome it.’ And overcome it she did but it was no easy victory. With dawn came the heat of the day and a ‘calima’ that dried the throats of each and every runner. Crossing the line, Nuria saluted the crowd with another high quality victory and following on from a podium place at HK100, the stage looks set for another great year in the UTWT series.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6523

Nikki Kimball and Fernanda Maciel were expected to take up the remaining podium places but delayed travel and fatigue ruined Nikki’s race and Fernanda had no power and strength after her extended time (45-days) at Aconcagua. This opened the doorway for Caroline Chaverot who ran a strong race, maybe a little too strong at times as she certainly went through some bad patches, ultimately though she crossed the line in 17:16:48 for a quality second place.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6611

Andrea Huser was all set for the third place on the podium but a revitalized Dong Li closed the gap, passed the Swiss runner and swept up third place; ’I enjoyed the altitude and I enjoyed the technical trails but this race was tough. It is the longest I have run both in time and distance.’

The men’s race had all the makings of a classic and boy-oh-boy it did not disappoint. The race had everything… broken femurs, dehydration, heat exhaustion, stomach issues and basic good old fatigue. At the line it was all about the ‘new’ guard and how, the best in the world had been beaten by supposedly unknown (unknown to those who don’t follow the sport) runners!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6082Sondre Amdahl after a great 2014 and second place at HK100 had relocated to Transgrancanaria so that he could train specifically for the 2015 edition. Looking strong before the race, it was no surprise that he took the front early and pushed hard… maybe too hard? Leading over the first 30km’s, Sondre was executing the perfect race and behind it was wide open.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-5967

Yan Long Fei was certainly the surprise (for me anyway) runner in the early stages. I obviously don’t doubt the ability of the 2:14 marathon runner but from past experiences I felt that the technical terrain wouldn’t suit him. Not so! He has obviously been working hard and it showed. Running in second place over the most technical part of the course he finally cruised past Sondre to take the lead and it was looking like that Yan may follow up victory at HK100 with a back-to-back win with Transgrancanaria. It was not to be. Unfortunately as he pulled out at Garanon whilst still in first place. He was complaining of headaches: a sure sign of severe dehydration.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6040The door was open and pre race favourites Iker Karrera and Anton Krupicka were closing the gaps despite having their own issues. Anton had gone of course a couple of times and Iker was complaining of stomach issues… Iker’s problems persisted and eventually resulted with his withdrawal from the race when a podium place looked likely.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6165 Gediminas Grinius produced the race of his life. After biding his time in the early stages, he slowly moved up the field and then as Yan Long Fei withdrew, the front of the race was his. He covered the last 25km with great from and running into the finish he looked incredibly fresh. It was a breakthrough run that several of us had anticipated… me included! His time of 14:23:37 a new course record beating Ryan Sandes time from 2014. Post race, Gediminas said, ‘at the beginning I only wanted to improve on my 11th place of 2014 but step-by-step I gained positions and I felt really encouraged when I was second after Yan Long Fei. It was after the aid station El Garañón when I realized I could be among the winners because my legs felt great and I had no stomach issues.’

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6747 Johan Lantz and Didrik Hermansen had prepared on Gran Canaria pre race with Amdahl. Amdahl had gone on the record to say that both could cause a stir within the race and he was right! Didrik and Johan had run the early stages together easing themselves into the race and ignoring the faster running at the front. Johan however had been struggling with back pain from early on, it didn’t stop him though and he eventually closed to third place behind Yan Long Fei and Sondre Amdahl. What followed is quite remarkable… without warning while running a section of road his femur broke! Yes, he broke his leg!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6137Didrik Hermansen like Johan was executing a perfectly paced race and after Cruz de Tejeda he moved into second place and he held on to this place to arguably create the biggest surprise of the race crossing the line in 14:30:07. Antoine Guillon from the ever-present WAA Team completed the podium ahead of the early race leader, Sondre Amdahl who had done extremely well to recover from his early efforts.

Anton Krupicka finally crossed the line in sixth place looking a little broken from his efforts. Certainly the heat of the day and the final 25km’s had pushed him to breaking point. On the line the effort showed, ‘It’s been a tough day but the heat really got to me. I was good for 100km but the final 25km was tough!’

The 2015 race has been called the toughest edition of the race because of the wind, cold temperatures during the night, the heat of the following day and the calima. However, I can’t help but think that the 2013 edition with torrential rain was harder? Certainly conditions and the combination of a tough 125km’s of trails took it’s toll; Nikki Kimball, Fernanda Maciel, Iker Karrera, Joe Grant, Pau Bortolo, Yeray Duran and so many more were forced to withdraw.

The 2015 edition will be remembered though for the rise of Gediminas Grinius, Didrik Hermansen and Sondre Amdahl. Lets not forget Dong Li and Yan Long Fei too. It’s a great time for lovers of trail, mountain and ultra running.

View race images HERE

The next race in the UTWT series is Marathon des Sables and I will be working on that race each day providing daily images and reports to keep you all up to date.

 

RESULTS:

  1. Nuria Picas 16:53:27
  2. Carole Chaverot 17:16:48
  3. Dong Li 18:15:55
  4. Andrea Huser 18:37:53
  5. Manu Vilaseca 18:42:59
  6. Ester Alves 19:11:45
  7. Lucinda Souza 19:25:46
  8. Aliza Lapierre 19:58:48
  9. Raquel Delgado 20:24:16
  10. Silvia Trigueros 20:38:18
  1. Gedminas Grinius 14:23:27
  2. Didrik Hermansen 14:30:07
  3. Antoine Guillon 14:39:35
  4. Sondre Amdahl 15:06:37
  5. Cyril Cointr 15:28:22
  6. Anton Krupicka 15:29:49
  7. Remi Queral 15:59:11
  8. Freddy Thevenin 16:07:06
  9. Marco Zanchi 16:25:13
  10. Piotr Hercog 16:30:45