Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM 2018 – Race Preview

The 2018 Skyrunner World Series arrives in Madeira for the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, USMfor short. It’s a 55km race with a whopping 4000m of vertical gain. Anna Frost, a regular on the island sums it up, “The place is incredible, it has diversity of nature, amazing vertical gain and of course, the sea provides stunning backdrop to amazing technical and mountainous terrain.”

 

Created specifically for the Skyrunner World Series, the USM is a serious challenge and includes tough terrain and at times, climbing expertise to grade 2 is required. The race, in many ways, is like no other race on the calendar. The sea provides an aspect rarely found in Skyrunning races as they more often than not, take place in-land, in mountainous areas. Leaving the town of Santana, the race heads into the mountains taking single-track, working a route that takes in the highest point of the island. From here, the route drops to the sea before finally climbing once again and returning to Santana for the finish. However, before the finish, runners must work their way up a river, boulder hopping; it’s a little spice to mix the racing up.

 Last year, Jon Albon won the race in style, “USM is one of if not the hardest race I have ever done. It was relentless terrain of ups and downs; the variety is incredible, and I loved the river bed section. This race is up there with my all-time favourites. I will definitely be back!” 

For the ladies’ it was Hillary Allen who took the top honours, of course, our thoughts and best wishes go out to Hillary as she slowly but surely returns to fitness and racing after a horrific fall at Tromso SkyRace.

So, who are the 2018 contenders for victory?

One could say, that this year, the USM has the most stacked field ever in the history of the race. It’s a who’s who of the world’s best.

LADIES RACE

 Ragna Debats arguably tops the ladies’ field after her stunning victory at the World Trail Championships, add to this, a super solid 2017 season on the Skyrunning calendar, and she will be the one to beat.

Gemma Arenas has raced in Madeira before and has had great success; she won! Gemma knows the course, knows the challenges and will certainly be in the mix.

 Malene Haukoy like technical race, she as placed well in Tromso and Glencoe and the 55km of USM will suit her. One to watch for sure! 

Hillary Gerardi goes from strength-to-strength, she likes technical, she loves vert and therefore USM is made for her. Her recent success over the VK distance and top placing at Yading in China means she is in great shape.


Ekaterina Mityaeva like Hillary seems to get stronger with each race. She has just had atop placing at Transvulcania and I think it’s fair to say that the more challenging terrain of Madeira will suit her skills in contrast to the more runnable and faster, Transvulcania.

Emelie Forsberghas been away from the sport over the winter concentrating on Skimo and just this weekend will race Zegama. Zegama for Emelie, despite great success in the past may well be just a little short and fast for this early in the season, so, USM will suit her far more. She is one of the best in the business and you can never rule her out. 

Martina Valmassoi was missing for much of 2017 with injury, she is now back and recently had a victory! USM will no doubt be a push this early in the season, but Martina knows the course and has done well in the past.

Nuria Picas was always the one to beat in any Skyrunning race. In recent years, Nuria moved to the longer UTWT series and she excelled at the longer distance. In 2017 she raced Tromso and now in 2018, she runs USM for the first time. It’s Nuria Picas, so, expect something special.

Anna Mae Flynn and Brittany Peterson both raced Transvulcania and just missed the podium. It’s fair to say that USM is far more ‘European’ than Transvulcania… the trails more technical, rutted and challenging, therefore it will be interesting to see how the duo handle the change. One thing is for sure, they both know how to run, Transvulcania showed us that! 

Mira Rai would probably prefer a longer course than 55km, however, Mira is always one to watch and USM will be no different. One thing is for sure, she will smile her way around the course. 

MEN’S RACE

Jonathan Albon is the returning champ and based on his 2017 race and his overall SWS championship victory, it’s fair to say that he is the favourite for the 2018 win. His recent 4th at the World Trail Champs confirms good form and we all know he prefers technical and challenging terrain.

Dmitry Mityaev gets stronger and stronger, he did well in 2017 and just recently made the podium at Transvulcania, Dmitry will be in the mix in Madeira, for sure.

Marco De Gasperi was 4th in La Palma recently and admitted post-race that he didn’t take enough risks. This was primarily due to the races distance, he rarely races over 42km and Transvulcania’s 75km was an unknown. With USM being 55km, I think we will see a different Marco and is we all know, he is the Skyrunning master!

Pau Capell is an interesting addition to the race. He is without doubt a master over longer distances and as we saw in 2017, he can do welt Skyrunning after a top run at Transvulcania. He is a savvy and clever runner and I expect him to trade blows with the best in Madeira.

Andre Jonsson races everything and usually very consistently. He once led USM from the front only to be passed in the latter stages. I would anticipate he will have a similar tactic in 2018.

Alex Nichols i

Alex Nichols was a pioneer for American’s running in Europe on the Skyrunning circuit. In recent years he has moved to longer distances, in particular, 100-miles. He is a class act who manages to combine speed and technical ability – he is one to watch!

Cody Lind had a tough race in China with a below par performance. That will have no doubt knocked his confidence, but I think we wills him back at the front in Madeira and looking to impact on the front of the race for atop-5and maybe podium.

Franco Colle, Luis Fernandes, Daniel Jung, Armando Teixeira, Phillip Reiterand Fulvio Dapit make up the other main contenders for the male podium, it is going to be an exciting race!

Action starts on Saturday June 2nd at 0600.

 

Race website HERE

 

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Tromsø SkyRace® 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

Skyrunning goes EXTREME this weekend with the Tromsø SkyRace® the second race of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series in the Extreme category which also includes the Royal Gran Paradiso and the Salomon Glencoe Skyline in the UK which will take place in September.

A weekend of Skyrunning starts with the Blåmann Vertical Kilometer® on Friday and the Tromsø SkyRace® on Saturday – both races are designed by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg.

Tough, challenging, leg hurting, lung busting, the Blåmann Vertical Kilometer® climbs 1000 vertical meters over the short distance of 2.7km. Encompassing the sea-to-sky concept, the race starts on the shores of the sea and concludes at an altitude of 1044m at Store Blåmann.

Saturday’s Tromso SkyRace® is an inspiring course that has plenty of vertical, technical terrain, exposed ridges and demanding descents. It covers 53km and has 4600m of vertical terrain, the race really is a challenge for those taking part.

MEN

The line-up for this year’s race is high quality and will include Skyrunner World Series Extreme 2016 Champion, Jon Albon. Albon was the winner of the race in 2015 ahead of Luis Alberto Hernando. A recent victory and course record at the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira shows that Albon is in form.

Bhim Gurung won the Royal Gran Paradiso recently with a stunning descent in the final kilometers. He did the same earlier in the year at the Yading SkyRace in China. For sure, Gurung is a contender for the podium and the win.

Eirik Haugsness has had a quiet year so far and it’s difficult to know his current form? However, he did win the first edition of the race and knows the course well.

Rolf Einar Jensen is also racing on local ground and made the Tromso podium in 2015. He was also in the mix in 2016 and he will make his presence felt this year I am sure. Like Haugsness he has local knowledge and course experience.

Kiril Nikolov raced at Comapedrosa SkyRace last weekend and damaged his foot. At this stage, I am unsure if he will start the race and if he does, what impact last weekend will have on his performance. If he is fit and healthy, he will be in the mix for the top-10 and if he has a good day, top-5 is a distinct possibility.

Kim Collison had injury issues earlier in the year and withdrew from Scenic 113k. He did toe the line at the Royal Gran Paradiso but just for a finish. With some solid training, Collison will be in the mix here in Tromso. He likes rough and gnarly terrain, he has pace, he can climb and descend and technical exposed ridges cause no problem for him – one to watch!

Hector Haines is having a good year having placed in the top-10 at Transvulcania and the Royal Gran Paradiso. Like Collison, Haines can handle the ‘UK’ like Tromso terrain and he will almost certainly be a contender at the front of the race.

Michel Lanne is a great addition to the race and although he seems to have raced little in recent months, he loves mountain and technical terrain. He will almost certainly be a surprise addition to the elite men and quite rightly, his competitors should keep a keen eye on him – he has all the potential to win the race. In past years he has won Mont-Blanc 80km,Andorra Ultra Trail, 4th at Zegama and 5th at Trofeo Kima.

Pere Aurell is racing strong this year and looked great at the recent Royal Gran Paradiso – he made the podium. He has had some RnR recently and that will bode well for a strong race.

Matt Shyrock from the USA (Alaska) will be a dark horse in this field and to some of the Europeans may well be unknown. I am unsure if he has raced outside the USA and therefore how adapted he will be to the unique terrain Tromso offers. Having said that, Shyrock has excelled at the USA’s Rut (2nd and 3rd) and the climb and descent to Lone Peak does pose some similarities to Tromso. He has also placed 6th at Mt Marathon.

Fabien Antolinos may well throw a few surprises at this year’s race. He is having a good year so far with a solid victory at Lavaredo. From a Skyrunning perspective he has raced well at High Trail Vanoise, this will put him in a great place for Tromso.

Alexis Sevennec always races well on tough and challenging races. Kima, the Dolomites, Glen Coe – the transition and crossover from SkiMo puts him in a great place. He will be up there at the front.

Cody Lind has had a series of top-5 places recently notably at Broken Arrow SkyRace, Flagstaff SkyRace, Power of Four 55km and Moab’d Red Hot 55km – Tromso will test his ability on technical terrain,

Ones to watch:

Leo Viret, Roger Vinas, Martin Gaffuri, Jose Carlos Del Toro, Paul Riera, Alexis Toda Mas, Bjorn Verduijn, Eric Moya, Marc Puig , Marc De Leon and Javier Bodas.

 

LADIES

The ladies race is without doubt going to be an interesting race and we see a return to Skyrunning for Nuria Picas and Emelie Forsberg (?) kicks off her 2017 campaign.

Maite Maiora heads-up the female competition with victories at Zegama-Aizkorri, Livignio SkyRace and the recent Royal Gran Paradiso – she is on fire now and will be the one to beat. 

Megan Kimmel has equally been on fire with a victory in China at Yading SkyRace and victory in France at High Trail Vanoise. Last weekend Kimmel raced at Comapedrosa and had a below par performance not making the podium. She did comment post-race that longer races are suiting her now, so, the Tromso SkyRace should go well. However, the technical terrain may well interrupt Kimmel’s running form and speed.

Ragna Debats goes from strength-to-strength and this year has joined Kimmel and Maiora with a string of strong performances. She can mix speed with technical terrain and this will bode well for a strong performance in Tromso.

 

Emelie Forsberg will toe the line (*she is on the start list but may not run?) in her own race. Forsberg has been quiet in 2017 so far. She raced at Zegama-Aizkorri and was off the pace, she also did a road half-marathon but in the weeks and months between these races she has been focused on training – I think we will a fit and motivated Forsberg on the start line. For me, she is the potential winner of the race. *Emelie has confirmed she will run the VK and not the SkyRace.

Nuria Picas on her day is still one of the best female mountain runners in the world. It’s been sometime since Picas toed the line in a Skyrunning race and I for one am happy to see her back. She races hard and will most definitely push Debats, Kimmel, Maiora and the other ladies for a fast race – we may well see a course record this year and victory could be Picas’!

Hillary Allen is having an awesome summer racing in Europe. She consistently is in the mix at races of varying length be that the shorter classic distance or ultra. One thing that is important for the USA based runner is vertical and technical terrain – Tromso is not going to disappoint Allen and we may well see her have her best race so far.

Malene Bikken Haukoy is an ever-present at the Tromso SkyRace and has been on the podium. She also excelled at Glen Coe last year with a strong performance. Racing on home ground is always an advantage and top-5 is likely.

Japan’s Kaori Niwa was 8th at the 2016 UTMB maybe someone to watch as a dark horse.

Ones to watch:

Natalia Tomasiak, Kristina Pattison, Martina Valmassoi, Nuria Dominguez, Sarah Ridgway, Maija Oravamaki, Olga Lyjak, Natalia Nescheret and Desislava Hristova

Both Blåmann Vertical Kilometer® and the Tromsø SkyRace® are capped for safety and environmental reasons. It’s an important element of running in such a stunning part of the world and they are both ecologically sustainable.

Gnarly, grueling, technical, beautiful and challenging; Skyrunning goes EXTREME this weekend, don’t miss it!