Ronda dels Cims, Andorra 170km Preview

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It’s only 170km’s long. Don’t worry; it only has 13,000m of vertical gain and loss. It’s 94% single track, 5% path/trail and 1% on road so you can make up some time! It has 13 aid stations, starts on Friday 21st June at 0700 and you have 62 hours to complete the event. Easy! I don’t think so…

Logo_Skyrunning_World_SeriesTwelve months ago on the island of La Palma, Skyrunning held a conference post Transvulcania La Palma and pre Zegama-Aizkorri. The conference was called, ‘Less Cloud, More Sky’. It assembled some of the best ultra runners from around the world, team managers, ancillary staff and journalists. The purpose was to help forge a direction for the sport. To cut a long story short, what was apparent was the need for technical courses that would attract and test the best runners in the world. Also, the 100-mile distance, for many, was perceived as the one distance that Skyrunning did not cover. Twelve months down the road, or should I say the trail and we have Ronda del Cims, now in its fifth year. Possibly one of the toughest, gnarly 100 mile races on the planet.

With less than a month to the start of one of the most important mountain competitions, the ‘Andorra Ultra Trail Vallnord’, a series of races starting at 10km and culminating in the main event, the 170km Ronda dels Cims.

Over 2,000 athletes will arrive in Ordino, Andorra from June 20th to 23rd to participate in an event that for them will be a tough and life changing personal challenge. In simple terms, the races on offer are hard, technical and pure. They offer a total immersion in nature and as such, must be completely respected.

The 2013 edition of the race will be particularly challenging. Due to a harsh and prolonged winter, several peaks and mountain passes will almost certainly have snow. Believe me, the fifth edition of the Ronda dels Cims has all the makings of a classic. So. Lets look who are the likely contenders in the female and male race over the 170km distance.

LADIES

The ladies race has all the makings of being a classic. We have some very tough mountain ladies taking part, all in with a chance of winning this race!

Lizzy Hawker, 2012 UTMB copyright Ian Corless

Lizzy Hawker, 2012 UTMB copyright Ian Corless

Lizzy Hawker (The North Face) needs no introduction. Unlike Emilie, Lizzy has no specialization. She is an out and out ultra runner and performs to the highest level on road, trail or mountains. A multiple champion at the TNFUTMB she will bring all that experience to Ronda dels Cims. In the latter half of 2012 she had a real purple patch with wins at a shortened TNFUTMB, Spartathlon and Run Rabbit Run. However, she did have injury issues over the Christmas period. They have now cleared up and to get 2013 rolling she raced at Annapurna 100k and won the ladies race. She then decided to break her own personal record running from Everest base camp to Kathmandu (319km/ 198m) in 63 hours and 08 minutes (here) smashing her previous record. Not content with running for 63 hours, Lizzy then raced the 277km Mustang Trail Race and was 2nd overall. However, just recently she entered the 24-hour championships and pulled out. Apparently all is well with Lizzy and her focus is now on Ronda dels Cims. I have to say, that Lizzy has not only the potential to win the ladies race but the race outright.

UPDATE June 6th, An email from Lizzy “As it turns out I’ve just had an MRI confirming a stress fracture in my foot. So, Hardrock would have been off the cards, and now I also have to pull out of Ronda del Cims.”

Francesca Canepa copyright iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa copyright iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa (Team Vibram) placed 2nd to Lizzy Hawker at the reduced TNFUTMB in 2012 but then just seven days later lined up at the Tor des Geants and won it. An incredible double. Like many other ladies in this race, she loves tough and technical. The distance will not be a problem for her and when in form, she can push Lizzy, Emilie, Nerea and the rest right to the line. A very exciting addition to the race.

Emilie Lecomte far right, Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Emilie Lecomte far right, Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Long distance specialist Emilie Lecomte (Quechua) from France comes to Andorra after a very successful 2012. She set a new course record on the GR20 long trail in Corsica and she won the tough and technical, 100m Diagonale des Fous (Raid de la Reunion) on Reunion Island. She recently raced at Transvulcania La Palma and although placed 5th overall she was 2 hours behind race winner, Emelie Forsberg. Without a doubt, Ronda dels Cims is a completely different race to Transvulcania and for sure, Emilie will revel in the tough and technical aspects that this race brings.

Nerea Martinez copyright cmdsport.com

Nerea Martinez copyright cmdsport.com

Nerea Martinez (Salomon Santiveri) has already had a successful 2013. She won the 119km Transgrancanaria, won the Apuko 83km, won the Royal Raida 79km and just last month, won the 115km Ultra Trail Madeira. Wow! That is some start to 2013 and looking at her schedule, she has lots more planned! Without doubt she is in form but two of those races in the last two months, Transgrancanaria and Ultra Trail Madeira have been tough and long days out, 17h: 16m and 19h: 15m respectively. One has to question if these will leave Nerea a little jaded for Ronda dels Cims, if not, watch this space.

Julia Boettger copyright iancorless.com

Julia Boettger copyright iancorless.com

Julia Boettger (Salomon) is equally at home on the long tough trails. In 2012 she was on the podium behind Emilie Lecomte at Diagonal des Fous so she has all the required credentials, strength and mental fortitude to battle over a very tough and technical 170km. She was due to race Transgrancanaria earlier in 2013 but picked up a virus in the days before. She was due to race the 115km Penyagolosa Trails but she either did not start or pulled out. Ronda dels Cims will be her first big race in 2013 and without doubt she will arrive prepared for the battle. 

Update, 18th June. Julia has had to withdraw from the race for personal reasons.

Hiroko Suzuki (Salomon) gets a notable mention as another name to watch.  Hiroko placed 2nd in UTMF in 2012 and was 4th at Tor des Geants. Without doubt she has experience of long tough races and will be one to watch.

Karine Sanson will also perform to the best of her ability and push all the way.

MEN

Julien Chorier copyright mudsweatandtears.co.uk

Julien Chorier copyright mudsweatandtears.co.uk

The men’s field on paper has less depth than the ladies field. The out-and-out favorite is Julien Chorier. He excels on tough and technical terrain and as a previous winner of Hardrock 100, he will come to Ronda dels Cims understanding 100% what is required to win the race. In early 2012 he won the 100m UTMF in Japan. When TNFUTMB was shortened he left Chamonix and like Emilie Lecomte he made an attempt on the GR20 in Corsica. His plan was to break Kilian Jornet’s record time. However, the weather was against him. Just a few months ago he returned to Japan and this time he placed 2nd at UTMF. Renowned for meticulous preparation, he will be racing in Andorra with only objective, to win!

Jared Campbell copyright La Sportiva

Jared Campbell copyright La Sportiva

*Breaking news… no sooner had I done this preview and I was made aware that Jared Campbell (La Sportiva) would be toeing the line at Ronda dels Cims. Why has this now been confirmed? Well, he ‘tweeted’ this just a few hours ago… “The Andorra course (Ronda dels Cims) looks to be in primo condition! Is it bad that this gets me excited?”

Jared without doubt brings a whole new mix to the men’s race. He is notorious for tough and technical races. Without doubt he will embrace the course in Andorra and embrace the challenge it will bring. One of the very few to finish Barkley, Jared will tough this course out to the bitter end. He recently ran at Pocatello 50 and said he had tired legs but that will have been a training run for the end of June and then Hardrock 100.

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bruno

Bruno Brunod (Team Forte di Bard) is a legend in Skyrunning. Born in 1962 he has a list of achievements that we can only bow down to and acknowledge:

Record ascent and descent of Matterhorn from Cervinia in 3 hours and 14 minutes. Record of ascent and descent of the Monte Rosa from Gressoney in 4 hours and 45 minutes. Record ascent and descent of Aconcagua in 5 hours and 57 minutes. Record ascent of Kilimanjaro on the Marangu route in 5 hours and 38 minutes. Record ascent of Mount Elbert in 1 hours and 54 minutes. Just like Kilian Jornet, he is a true Alpinist. I have very little knowledge of his recent attempts and endeavors but his palmares alone mean that he should be respected and certainly he will be one-to-watch.

Matt Cooper copyright mattcooper.com.au

Matt Cooper copyright mattcooper.com.au

Matt Cooper (Salomon Australia) is currently training in Chamonix preparation for the race. He was 5th at TNF 100 in 2012 and may add an element of the unknown to the front of the race. He was due to race Bogong to Hotham in January but that race was cancelled. At Cradle Mountain Ultra (82k) he placed 3rd, recently won the 100k Alpine Challenge in 12:31 so he looks to be coming in to form.

Terry Conway at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Terry Conway at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Terry Conway (X-Bionic) from the UK is new to Skyrunning. In the UK he has had great success with wins and course records on the Lakeland 100 course but his recent trips to Europe to run at Cavalls del Vent and then La Course des Templiers gave no real indication of his ability to perform against much more competitive fields. In early 2013 he raced at Ultra Trail Barcelona and placed 3rd. He has been out on the Lakeland fells and mountains in recent months gaining time on his legs and accumulating as much vertical as possible. However, the trails in Andorra are a long way removed from those in the UK.

Dave James, The Coastal Challenge copyright iancorless.com

Dave James, The Coastal Challenge copyright iancorless.com

Dave James from the US has been immersing himself in Skyrunning recently. He raced at Transvulcania La Palma, Zegama-Aizkorri and now he will line up at Ronda dels Cims. Dave has a pedigree. He is a 100m US champion and has a fastest 100m time of just over 13 hours. However, he is just not used to the technical terrain that Andorra will throw at him. He is spending time on the course in the coming weeks. It will be a big learning curve buy he is under no illusions of what lies ahead.

Ty Draney copyright door5.com

Ty Draney copyright door5.com

Ty Draney (Patagonia Ultra Running Team) from the US is 38 years old and has over a decade of ultra running experience to fall back on. Way back in 2003 he placed 4th at Bear 100, a race that he then went on to win in 2008. He has placed top 20 at Hardrock 100 and most recently won Grand Teton 100m in 2009, placed 3rd at Grindstone 100m in 2010 and was 5th at The Bear in 2012. His recent form is open to question and a 27th placing at Gorge Waterfalls 50k in March leaves us with little indication of he will perform over 100+m tough mountain miles.

Finally, Nico Valesia (Salomon Agisko) I know little about. His most recent results are as follows: 1st Trail Bianco di Cesana 24 km,  1st Mini Trail di Gargallo,  2nd Trail Lago di Como 106 km,  2nd Trail del LAgo d’Orta 63 km,  7th Trail Oulx 48 km.

18th June, Nico has had to withdraw with an injury

One thing is for sure, Ronda dels Cims will be an incredible few days of ultra mountain trail running. Although I have highlighted the ‘elite’ runners one cannot rule out local talent who will have knowledge and experience of the trails, conditions and mountain. It will be very exciting!

Ones to watch:

Oscar Perez Lopez (2012 winner of the race), Uli Calmbach, Kenichi Yamamoto , Hugues Vos, Pep Ballester Gomes, John Todd, Amando Jorge Teixeira, Jean-Hugues Vos, Pep Ballester Gomes, Jordi Comas Corral, Jordi Codina Ventura and Marc Llucià Fleitas.

You will be able to follow the action unfold via Twitter, Facebook and via iancorless.com 

  • The race website is HERE
  • Skyrunning HERE

Emelie Lecomte GR20 by Niandi Carmont

The GR20 is very topical at the moment, particularly with Salomon athlete Julien Choriers‘ imminent attempt at the course record set by Kilian Jornet in 2009. Read HERE

However, earlier this year, Emelie Lecomte broke the female record. Unfortunately this didn’t get much coverage outside France, however, Niandi Carmont actually was trekking on the GR20 route when this attempt took place and later caught up with the new female course record holder. Here is what she had to say:

Emelie Lecomte GR20 by Niandi Carmont

Corsica is affectionately known by the French as the “Ile de la Beauté” (Island of Beauty) and Nicolas Hulot the well-known French adventurer and journalist aptly said even the most beautiful islands in the Pacific cannot compare with this French island in the Mediterranean South of France and off the West coast of Italy.

The GR20 in Corsica is arguably Europe’s greatest and most spectacular mountain trail. In French G.R. stands for “Grande Randonnée” (great trek). Over a distance of 200 km of crests, pinnacles, rocky mountains, pine forests and snow-capped peaks the GR20 crosses the island from Northern Corsica to Southern Corsica. It is traditionally divided into 15 stages and takes an experienced hiker about 2 weeks to complete.  With 14 500m of positive incline it is also considered Europe’s toughest trail and its spectacular scenery  and free roaming wildlife are only accessible to experienced hikers  who are prepared to do some serious rock climbing and looking for a physical challenge.

The GR20 was created in 1971 and since then has been the playground of many an experienced athletes looking for personal challenges and setting records. It is here that Kilian Jornet astonished the ultra community by setting a new course record of 32h54 in 2009.

But today all the focus is on 32 year old French female trail runner Emilie Lecomte, a Team Trail Quechua sponsored athlete, who smashed the previous female record held by Corsican Stéphanie Samper knocking an amazing 9 hours off the previous record to finish in 41h22.

I happened to be hiking in Corsica when Emilie set the new record and the day before I finished my hike she literally flew by me towards victory looking fresh as a daisy.

Emilie is not what you imagine a tough ultra trailer to look like: feminine, nymph-like with big blue eyes she exudes an aura of calm and self-control. But make no mistake this girl is immensely talented, tough, focused and determined.  Modest and generous too Emilie was very excited about sharing her experience with UK readers.

Can you take us back to your beginnings in trail running? What motivated you to start sport seriously only 4 years ago and especially trail running?

I started trail running in 2009. The Raid de la Réunion (160km, 9000m+ and 9000-) was my first ultra. My partner got me interested in sport. Before 2007 I did some cycling. When I started cycling 12 years ago I quickly developed a passion for endurance and adventure sports. Then in 2007 I started multi-sport events. The notion of pushing yourself to your limit was an eye-opener and suddenly there was new meaning to my life. I work in sales so I can relate to the idea of competitivity. You have to work really hard to achieve your goals. . Having said this today I identify more with the values in sport than in the working world – basic values – like sharing emotions and achievements.

What made you decide to set the GR20 record?

It’s a long story. 12 years ago before my passion for sport I hiked the GR20. It felt great to be in Corsica in the mountains. It was amazingly beautiful – a bit like being on another planet- back to basics. Also it’s the toughest trail in Europe. I returned 12 years later to hike the GR20 in 7 days, then in 5 days –that was last year. It was obvious to me that the next logical step would be to do it non-stop. What I was interested in was the sports challenge – a challenge against myself – a personal challenge. I was competing against time. Would I be able to cover 180km non-stop with more than 12 000m+?

What makes this so different from an ordinary race is the team work. I was seconded and assisted by a team of close family members including my partner, mother and friends from the Marseille Trail Club.

This was not about claiming a trophy it was about sharing a challenge with my team.

How did you train for this?

Like you would train for any other ultra mountain event. What’s important when preparing for this kind of challenge is managing your race.  Race management is key – you need a good combination of physical training and race management to succeed.

When I saw you on the course you were with Stéphane Talotti – what was the role of your seconds?

The seconds ran mostly behind me – they were not ‘pacers’ but more like ‘guardian angels’ – giving advice, protecting me. Pacing was OK on the fast runnable stretches but I set the pace.

In your blog you mention your ‘Dream Team’. Tell us about them.

I wanted a small close-knit team of people bonded by mutual trust. I met the Marseille Trail Club in 2009 on the GR20 – we hit it off immediately and became very good friends. They have done a fantastic job. They gave up their time in preparation for the challenge, during the challenge and after the event. They had to carry 12kg ruck-sacks in the mountains to provide me with food and water. Most of them had to take holiday leave and go through white nights.

Your partner Franck was on the course too – what was his role and was it difficult to get the timing right?

There were 8 refreshment stations. I drew up a road-book with a pacing chart to help my seconds. What made things complicated was when I was delayed or when I was ahead of schedule. On the GR20 there is hardly any mobile network.  When I was delayed the seconds worried I might be injured and when I was ahead of schedule the whole seconding chain had to recalculate the check point times so that they wouldn’t miss me. I needed seconds who could react quickly. Franck my partner was at 6 of the 8 refreshment stations which were accessible by road and he was responsible for liaising with and coordinating the seconds. The key to success is preparation. I couldn’t decently expect of my team to be available for me if they couldn’t count on me to be organized and prepared.

You started on Thursday morning at 4am and arrived on Friday at 21.30pm. How did you manage to run on this steep, rocky and very tricky course on mountain crests, with via ferrata and tricky dangerous descents at night?

I didn’t find it any harder at night. On the contrary I prefer running at night!! You are so much more in symbiosis with the elements. We had very good frontal lamps and on the technical stretch I was paced by the fire fighters from the Fédération Française de Montagne – all mountain experts.

What was the hardest bit?

I had 2 hard patches. The first was when I stopped at Vizzavonne for 15 minutes. It was 3 in the morning. When I started running again it took me a while to get back into it. I’m not so sure the break was a good idea.

The second was just before I got to the Col de Bavelle – it was like an oven – I was boiling hot – there was no shade – it was 42°C and the sun was beating down on us.

Friday was hard going on the mountain crests with soaring temperatures, lack of shade, forest and wind.

Your mum was with you on the course. What did this mean to you?

I really wanted her to be there. I needed her moral support.

In your blog she writes ‘Emilie is excessive in all respects as much in her energy, will-power, pugnacity, and stubbornness as in her affection, love and generosity towards others’ One really gets the impression that she’s 100% behind you.

My mum finds it much easier to express her emotions in writing – she wrote that straight after the GR20 –I felt she was very proud of my achievement and it was very touching to feel all that love. Even though she worries about me she will always back all my projects even the craziest ones!

Is it hard to juggle with your professional life and your training?

It’s really hard. A project like that is very time-consuming both in physical training and conception. It4s really hard juggling your professional life and your life as an elite athlete especially for someone like me who holds a full-time job in sales.

Do you intend to go back to Corsica to try and beat your record?

Not for the time being. To be honest I was aiming for sub 40 hours. I’m not disappointed just a little frustrated. Why not in the future? Right now I’ve got too many other projects and challenges in the pipe-line.

How do you see your future in trail running?

I’d like more recognition of the sport whether it is at a national level or with regards to the Federation. It’s an extremely demanding sport. Nowadays sports like football are disproportionately lucrative. If you consider the investment in terms of training I feel long distance trail running doesn’t get enough recognition considering that it is one of the few sports that conveys essential basic values to the younger generations.

Any future challenges?

Plenty!!!!

I do a lot of multi-sport adventure events, mountain-biking and road-biking.

Any role models?

I admire athletes who share the same philosophical values. For example Myriam Lamare (Boxing) or in sky-running Corinne Lefavre. She’s an icon. And also Derwa Sherpa not because he’s part of the Quechua Team but because of his way of seeing things – I can identify with that.

Last question Emilie – do have any advice for young women out there who would like to take on a tough challenge?

Don’t hesitate. Dreams enable us to move forward. Don’t be afraid of getting involved in a project. Women are genetically programmed to be tough and resistant – it’s our way of compensating for not being as physically powerful as men.

 

Emilie Lecomte

 

2011    1st female du Grand Raid 73

             1st female Andorra Ultra Trail

             3rd female Trail du Ventoux

             3rd female l’Ardechois

 

2010    1st female Trail des Aiguilles Rouges

             1st female 6666 Occitane

             2ND female Grand Raid 73

2009    1st female Grand Raid de la Réunion

             1st female Drayes du Vercors 

 

Objectives 2012:

 

Winner L’Ultra trail l’Ardéchois – 98km, 3930m + in 12 hrs31

The  GR20 female record  in 41h22 beating Stéphanie Samper by 50h52

L’UTMB August 31st – 168km, 9,600m+

La Diagonale des Fous La Réunion 18th to 21st Oct 

Julien Chorier – GR20 attempt

October 12, Julien Chorier will attempt to break the record for crossing the GR 20. This is Julien’s first experience of running a solo challenge like this. Depending on weather conditions, the attempt may take place on the 11th or 13th.

The GR 20 hiking trail crosses from the north to south of Corsica between Calvi and Conca. It is a long mountain route of 185 km and has an elevation gain exceeding 14,000 meters. The previous record held since 2005 by Pierrot Santucci in 36:53:5 was beaten in 2009 by Kilian Jornet and he set a new benchmark of 32:54:2.

“The GR 20 says Kilian Jornet has a beautiful layout with large technical trails and an uneven background of beautiful mountain views and the Mediterranean Sea. I could enjoy the journey and views even if the last few hours were very hard because of the distance. I like the competitive spirit, the strategic aspect, the 100% commitment and tactics compared to other routes or races. In a record there are many variables with or without assistance, pacer or not … and it’s hard to be fully engaged if you’re not very focused. I hope Julien has fun and the weather is kind. I think he’s ready, he is a good friend and I hope there will be a new time to beat on the GR 20 from mid-October!”

  1. Calenzana
  2. Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu
  3. Refuge de Carrozzu
  4. Refuge d’Asco Stagnu (Haut Asco)
  5. Refuge de Tighjettu
  6. Bergeries de Ballone (alternative to Tighjettu)
  7. Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori
  8. Castellu di Verghio (alternative to Ciottulu di i Mori)
  9. Refuge de Manganu
  10. Refuge de Pietra Piana
  11. Refuge de l’Onda
  12. Vizzavona
  13. Bergeries de Capannelle
  14. Col de Verde (alternative to Prati)
  15. Refuge de Prati
  16. Refuge d’Usciolu
  17. Refuge d’Asinao
  18. Col de Bavella (alternative to Paliri)
  19. Refuge de Paliri
  20. Conca

Julien Chorier, Team Solomon explains his reasons for the attempt.

“This is the most legendary GR de France. The challenge in Corsica is a project a little more personal. You need to get involved: contact with the right people, recognize the path, analyze each sector, implement the whole strategy and logistics … An opportunity also to acquire more experience managing an effort of more than 30 hours. ‘

Julien had the opportunity to hike on some areas of the southern part of the GR 20.

“It was a first time to learn about the most technical parts of GR, including the north section and meet up with the people who will accompany me. The northern part is very technical, I will have to be careful and I do not try to go too fast in this sector. I can retrieve a lot of time in the southern section providing I am still fresh ‘
Other potential difficulties are the weather. If it rains the rocks will be slippery. Night vigilance must be optimal in order not to get lost and not to fall.. Julien has never done this type of solo effort over a long period.

“I hope to be ready physically and that I have given the course respect for its severity. I will also be accompanied by friends who know the route because it is their training ground every day. I think for example  William Peretti and his wife, Stephanie Semper, who is the previous female record holder.”

The female record was conquered in July 2011 by Stephanie Semper 50 h 52 min 10 s. Emilie Lecomte set a new record on June 22, 2012 with a time of 41:22:10 and you can read an interview by Niandi Carmont here

In his attempt, Julien Chorier be assisted by a team of guides and guards all coordinated by William Peretti and other runners. Among them, fellow team mate François d’Haene. Logistics will be handled by Solomon.

Julien says “It is very tiring. It’s a huge psychological challenge. Support is crucial to maintain a proper pace and keep me on track despite fatigue. Based on Kilian’s times, my team help will allow me to monitor supplies and equipment”

Benchmarks
Julien Chorier, Team Solomon, was born October 16, 1980 in Saint Martin d’Heres.

He won the 2011 160 km Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run, the 163 km Wide Raid Meeting, 80 km Ultra-Technitrail Tiranges. In 2012 he won 156 km of the Ultra Trail du Mont Fuji and won the 100 km from Zugspitz Ultra trail and second in the 73 km Trail Citadels.