With 10-peaks to ascend and descend over a 55km course and 4141m of vertical gain, the Royal Gran Paradiso Ultra SkyMarathon is not an easy race, not by any stretch of the imagination. But add more snow, in comparison to the 2017 edition, searing heat and intense competition, it was fair to say that every runner who toed the line in the 9th race of the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series knew they had been in a tough edition of the race.
Starting at 0630, Andre Jonsson pushed the early pace ahead of Pere Aurell, Gautier Airiau, Ruy Ueda, Cristian Minoggio, Hannes Hamberger, Dani Jung, Andy Symonds, Benat Marmisolle and more. With the second peak coming at around 12km with just over 2-hours elapsed on the clock, they were all separated by minutes, each matching each others moves.
By contrast, in the women’s race, Myriam Guillot Boisset took a surprise strong lead ahead of pre-race favourite, Ragna Debats with Antoniya Grigorova chasing.
The summit of Colle della Porta at 3002m saw some key changes with the two early powerhouses of Andre and Pere showing signs of fatigue. It was Gautier Airiau who pushed the pace in the snow looking fast and impressive.
Now, we were seeing Cristian Minoggio and Ruy Ueda show their form as they worked through the field along with Hannes Hamberger, Andy Symonds and Dani Jung.
Myriam still led the women’s race but Ragna looked in control keeping her pace consistent, behind, Antoniya Grigorova chased followed by a group of four that included Oihana Azkorbebeitia and Silvia Puigarnau.
As the race moved into the latter third, Cristian Minoggio had taken the lead with Ruy, Gautier and Hannes hunting him down. Unfortunately Andre and Pere were now struggling, the duo both having bad days, but they did not give in, they both battled to the finish.
Ragna had now taken the lead for the women and the writing was on the wall, but, there was still a long way to go and the heat was getting hotter and hotter.
The 55km course wound through the Gran Paradiso National Park in the royal hunting grounds, hence the ‘Royal’ title. After starting at a lake at an altitude of 2000m at 0630am, the participants had traversed five passes with the magnificent Gran Parasido mountain providing a stunning backdrop towering over the race at 4061m. Moraine, rocks, streams and snowfields provided an ultimate extreme challenge but the end finally came to a conclusion next to the lake in Ceresole Reale.
Cristian Minoggio held off a late surge by Gautier Airiau, the duo crossing the line in 6:50:04 and 6:51:01 respectively.
Ruy Ueda completed the podium in 6:56:49 with Hannes Hamberger and Andy Symonds having a late surge to place 5th.
Ragna Debats flew over the course and in the process set a new course record, 7:52:40. Myriam Guillot Boisset most certainly was the courageous runner of the day having battle alone up front for so long, she obviously payed the price in the latter stage but her second place was well earned in 8:14:53. Third place went to Oihana Azkorbebeitia in 8:45:35 with Antoniya Grigorova and Silvia Puigarnau placing 4th and 5th.
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