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

 

2017 #VK Vertical Kilometer Youth World Championships – ISF, International Skyrunning Federation

The KV Arinsal kicked of the 2017 ISF Youth Skyrunning World Championships in the Principality of Andorra following on from the success of the inaugural event held in Italy in 2016.

Sixteen countries (double the 2016 number) from four continents participated. Competing in three age group categories:

  • A (16-17 years)
  • B (18-20 years)
  • and U23 (21-23 years)

18 medals were at stake – Gold, Silver and Bronze.

The KV Arinsal is a 3.5 km long Vertical Kilometer® which started in the town of Arinsal and finished at Alt de la Capa summit, 2,570m altitude.

RESULTS

16-17 age group category A

Nicolas Molina (ESP), Arnau Cases (ESP), Diego Gomes (POR), Jana Aguilar (ESP), Erin Margill (USA), Andreu Sinfreu (AND).

18-19 year-old B category

Jan Margarit (ESP), Roberto Delorenzi (SUI), Luca Lizzoli (ITA), Giorgia Felicetti (ITA), Sora Takizawa (JPN), Irati Zubizarreta (ESP).

U23 category

Alex Oberbacher (ITA), Antonio Alcalde (ESP), Daniele Felicetti (ITA), Fatima De Diego (ESP), Claudia Sabata (ESP), Barbora Chica (CZE).

Countries competing in the 2017 Youth Skyrunning Championships are: Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Peru, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA.

The Youth Skyrunning World Championships are held annually in different countries with a view to developing and promoting the sport and to highlight young skyrunners, giving them an opportunity to shine on the international stage.

With thanks to the La Massana Ministry of Tourism, Federaciò Andorrana de Muntanysme (FAM) and SkyRace® Comapedrosa organisers Ocisport.

 

SKYRACE COMAPEDROSA Preview – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series 

Andorra will host the seventh stage of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series with the SkyRace® Comapedrosa coming just one week after the Dolomites SkyRace and VK that took place in Italy.

Arinsal, a small ski resort within Andorra will have 300+ runners toe the line to take on the challenging 21 km course that includes a brutal climb of 1000m to the summit of the iconic and beautiful Coma Pedrosa at 2942m. The climb even more difficult and spectacular due to its overall distance of just 2km – yes, it’s a 50% gradient!

The opening miles are road and ease the runners into winding forest trails all the way up to the Col de les Cases (1958M), a wooded area follows and from this point the runners will encounter a stretch of ridge. Pic de les Fonts at 2748m and the Pla de l’Estany follows.

Now the beautiful and challenging climb begins, a true vertical wall of more than 1000m of positive difference in about 2km. A VK within a race! Without a marked path, the runners follow markers to the summit of Comapedrosa at 2942m. Pure Skyrunning – Less Cloud, More Sky.

The descent is by the traditional route through the Estany Negre and Coma Pedrosa refuge, until reaching Arinsal where the race started.

2016 Youth Skyrunning World Championships, Italy. ©fabriziopoliti.it

The Skyrunning World Youth Championships will also take place on the same weekend. The first edition took place in 2016 in Italy and it was a great success. Two events, the KV Arinsal which is the classic Vertical Kilometre will take place on July 28 and the SkyRace will take place on July 30. On offer are 54 medals distributed across three age categories – 16-17yrs, 18-20yrs and 21-23yrs. Read ISF release here.

The Contenders Men

Aritz Egea is on form this year and had a great race at Comapedrosa in 2016. He has already placed 2nd at Livignio and Buff Epic and won Olympus Marathon. He is the hot favourite in Andorra.

Jan Maragrit Sole won the iconic 20th edition of the Dolomites SkyRace last weekend and I am unsure at this moment if he will race the Youth Championships or the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series? Either way he is a hot contender for victory.

Pere Aurell Bove had a great result at The Royal Gran Paradiso recently and although this event is considerably shorter and faster, he should be in the mix. He won the race in 2015.

Kiril Nikolov placed highly at Olympus Marathon and the shorter distance events suit him, he has proved this before at races like Limone.

Hassan Ait Chaou like Egea had a great race in Andorra last year and although his form doesn’t appear to be as good as 2016, you can’t rule him out!

Eugeni Gil Ocana is having a great 2017 with strong and consistent running, Comapedrosa will suit the Spanish runner. He is top-10 potential for sure and top-5 on a good day.

France’s Adrien Michaud may well stir up the front of the race but Benat Marmisolle is a likely podium contender after a strong and solid race at The Royal Gran Paradiso – the question will be if he has recovered?

Andorran brothers Oscar and Marc Casal Mir will be focused on this race and they know the course like the back of their hands.

Breaking news may well see a last-minute entry by Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi. If the Italian toes the line, I would predict a podium place and I have a feeling that victory is on the cards… De Gasperi has some great form now as we saw with his 3rd place in the Dolomites, just 45-seconds behind the winner.

It’s a stacked field and other names to watch are as follows:

Nicolas Bouvier Gaz, Brice Delsouiller, Jose Larralde, Jokin Lizeaga, Inaki Uribe-Etexbarria, Aitor Aiuria, Anartz Artola, Paul Riera, Sintu Vives, Ismail Razga, Pere Rullan, and many more runners from FEEC.

The Contenders Ladies

Laura Orgue just won the Dolomites SkyRace and is the defending champion at Comapedrosa. Orgue and Kimmel will have a real head-to-head battle for top honors.

Megan Kimmel is on fire this year and she loves the classic SkyRace distance. The 22km race will suit her down to the ground and as she has proven time and time again, she is the hot favourite victory.

Denise Dragomir had a very strong race in Livignio – she placed 2nd. She was strong on the climbs and fast on the descents which makes her a podium favourite.

Anne-Lise Rousset recently missed High Trail Vanoise through injury but if recovered with good training miles, she will be a definite contender for the podium.

Celia Chiron had a solid 2016 and it was a breakthrough year on the Skyrunning calendar. She has raced a great deal already in 2017 and I see her as a podium, top-5 for sure. *upadate: Celia will not run, confirmed 26th July. 

Hillary Gerardi has been a revelation in 2017 with a solid run in Livignio and just last weekend she placed 2nd at the Dolomites behind Laura Orgue. She is a good friend of Celia Chiron (the duo race together) so we may well see an interesting dynamic in the Comapedrosa race.

Anna Comet this year is racing shorter and faster races instead of the ultra-distance, she had a tough race in the Dolomites but it’s all learning curve – I think we will see an improved performance in Andorra.

Maria Zorroza is another contender for the top-5 and almost certainly the top-10, she will however have some strong competition from Aitziber Ibarbia and Oihana Azkorbebeita.

Laia Andreu rounds out the top-10 contenders and we can also expect Silvia Puigarnau, Paloma Lobera and Nuria Dominguez to be in the mix.

Race website HERE

2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series HERE

Dolomites SkyRace Race Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The Migu Run Skyrunner World Series 2017 continued a pace with the 20th edition of the Dolomites SkyRace. It was always going to be a memorable one and the race didn’t disappoint!

Thunderstorms, rain and low cloud resulted in a delayed start by 30-minutes. It was hoped that this delay would allow the weather to clear. The rain did stop but the cloud came lower. Unfortunately, the final section of climb to the summit of Piz Boe at 3252m was pulled from the race for safety reasons. This resulted in less kilometers and less vertical gain and ascent.

Course records of course don’t count in situations like this, the previous bests held by Kilian Jornet and Megan Kimmel. Neither of these stars were running today, however, defending champions Tadei Pivk and Laura Orgue, respective 2016 winners were expected to dictate the race.

Laura Orgue did not disappoint, her 4th from the previous day’s VK soon forgotten, the Spaniard dictated the pace and looked strong throughout. At the new summit of the race her margin of lead was in the minutes and all she needed was a sold descent to Canazei to seal victory once again – she did it! Laura’s time 2:36:29 almost 90-seconds quicker than rising Skyrunning star, Hillary Geraldi from the USA who produced a stunning descent to go past early 2nd placed runner Hilde Alders who held on for 3rd, their times 2:37:55 and 2:39:55.

Silvia Rampazzo placed 4th, Zuzana Krchova 5th, Magdalena Kozielska 6th, Oihana Azkorbebetia 7th, Stephanie Jimenez 8th, Katrine Villumsen 9th and Paola Gelpi rounded out the top-10.

In the men’s race, VK and Sky specialist Remi Bonnet dictated the pace on the climb and has a substantial gab over David Magnani, Martin Anthamatten, Ruy UedaMarco De Gasperi, Jan Margarit and who’s who of Skyrunning talent. Pre-race favourite, Tadei Pivk, was in the latter half of the top-10 and not looking good!

 

At the high-point of the course the wild and rough descent to the line follows. It’s not for the feint hearted and Remi Bonnet was forced to reduce his pace protecting an injury that almost kept him out of the sport in 2016. This opened the doorway for David Magnani and Marco De Gasperi.

However, it was Jan Margarit who seized the bull by the horns and in his own words, “I ran the fastest descent that I could!” Fast it was, he moved from 5th to take the lead. The pressure was now on with a neck-for-neck race to the line, it was so close but Margarit held on by just 22-seconds to beat Magnani to the line, De Gasperi followed in 3rd just 23-seconds later. It was the close! A real race and just 45-seconds separated the top-3 runners – 2:06:20, 2:06:42 and 2:07:05. All credit to Skyrunning legend De Gasperi who is twice the age of the duo ahead of him.

Remi Bonnet held on for 4th, Martin Anthamatten 5th, Pascal Egli 6th, Martin Stofner 7th, Tadei Pivk 8th, Yuy Ueda 9th and Nadir Maguet rounded out the top-10.

It was a day like no other, fast racing, unpredictable weather and the confirmation of Skyrunning legends and the rise of new ones – just how a 20th edition of a race should be.

Attention now turns to this coming weekend and the Comapedrosa SkyRace in Andorra, in addition to a 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series race, the Skyrunning Youth Championships will also take place.

 

Royal Ultra SkyMarathon® Gran Paradiso Race Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

With a course profile that looks like a shark’s dental record and with 10-peaks to ascend and descend over a 55km course, the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series went EXTREME For the first time in 2017! 4287m of vertical gain awaited the runners in the stunning location of Ceresole Reale, Italy, a stunning mountain location towered over by the stunning 4000m peak of Gran Paradiso.

Starting at 0630, a stunning day of blue skies welcomed the runners, the early morning chill soon swept away with the arrival of the sun.

Andre Jonsson who last weekend placed 4th at High Trail Vanoise was showing incredible powers of recovery leading Zaid Ait Malek, Pere Aurell,  Bhim Gurung, Benat Marmisolle, The five ran together over the first high-peak in the National Park and the second peak coming at around 12km with 2-hours 15-minutes elapsed on the clock. They were separated by seconds matching each other’s moves.

By contrast, Zegama-Aizkorri and Livigno SkyMararhon champion Maite Maiora, was showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals. She took a grasp of the race very early on and despite being chased by Katie Schide, Ekaterina Mityaev and Natalia Tomasiak amongst other.

With 4-hours elapsed, the summit of Colle della Porta at 3002m saw a surge from Pere Aurell as he ran fast through the snow fields that followed the tough climb to the summit – Andre Jonsson, Bhim Gurung and Beat Marmisolle all followed with less than a minute separating them. Following and hoping to bridge the gap was Dimitry Mityaev, Zaid Ait Malek and Hector Haines.

Maite Maiora arrived in the same location, her lead was now extended beyond 30-minutes to Katie Schide and Ekaterina Mityaev following over 10-minutes back.

The race was now on in the men’s race, the quartet watching each other and at times changing lead like in a cycling peloton however Andre Jonsson was still pushing but the elastic wouldn’t snap. Passing Colle del Nivole they had a short decent and then climbed to Colle Della Rocca Bianche at 2670m. Again, less than a couple of minutes separated the four front runners but the long descent took its toll and with the final climb to Colle del Nel at 2551m to come, the pressure was on.

Andre Jonsson and Bhim Gurung took the lead but Jonsson started to feel the pressure and although Gurung complained of feeling tired, he unleashed his incredible descending ability on the final 1000m to drop to the line to open a huge gap and take victory just like he did earlier in the year in China at Yading Skyrace. Jonsson earned an incredible 2nd place 10-minutes back, 6:51:37 to Gurung’s 6:41:24. Pere Aurell fought cramps to finish 3rd and Benat Marmisolle held off a charging Cristofer Clemente to finish 4th.

Maite Maiora crossed the line in 8:05:28 having dominated the ladies’ race. It was a stunning victory and confirms her as one of the best female Skyrunners in the world. Katie Schide finished 2nd and Ekaterina Mityaev finished 3rd, 8:37:02 and 8:48:23 respectively.

The 55km course wound through the Gran Paradiso National Park in the royal hunting grounds, hence the ‘Royal’ title, runners will compete with ibex and chamois. Starting at a lake at an altitude of 2000m, participants traversed five passes – the magnificent Gran Paradiso mountain provided a stunning backdrop towering over the race at 4061m. Moraines, rocks, streams and snowfields provide an ultimate extreme challenge.

Next race in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series is the Dolomites SkyRace that will celebrate its 20th edition – a pure Sky Classic!

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A full image gallery will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com HERE

Royal Ultra SkyMarathon® Gran Paradiso – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

We go EXTREME! Yes, the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series kicks-off the Extreme category in Italy with the Royal Ultra SkyMarathon® Gran Paradiso – 55km, 4287m of vertical and the high-point coming at 3002m.

The course profile is a sharks tooth profile with no less than 10-peaks over the 55km course. Significant points coming at 5km, 12km, 25km, 27km and then a succession of repeated peaks over the final 15km before the final drop from just under 2600m to 1570m. It’s going to be brutal!

The 50km course winds through the Gran Paradiso National Park in the royal hunting grounds, hence the ‘Royal’ title, runners will compete with  ibex and chamois. Starting near a lake at an altitude of 2000m, participants will traverse five passes – the magnificent Gran Parasido mountain will provide a stunning backdrop towering over the race at 4061m. Moraines, rocks, streams and snowfields provide an extreme challenge.

Names to watch (alphabetical order):

MEN

Jan Bartas is a regular on the Skyrunning circuit and while he may not be a contender for the top-3, he will be in the mix for the top-10.

Cristofer Clemente has grown and grown as a trail and mountain runner. His performances in Skyrunning have elevated him to top the world stage and recently he produced a stunning run in the IAU world champs. He’s a favorite for the win.

Kim Collison is one of the UK’s best on his day. Recent injury problems have reduced his training and he is still unsure if he will be able to toe the line…

Bhim Gurung on his day can handle the distance and technical terrain and beat the best in the world. He can descend like a demon and he will be up at the front end for sure.

Hector Haines is slowly but surely coming a dominant force on the Skyrunning SWS. He excelled at Limone SkyRace and recently he had a great run at Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Hector may well win this race!

Andre Jonsson just had a great run at High Trail Vanoise and he will most certainly be a top-10 and on a normal day he would be top-5, however, I think he may be a little jaded after HTV.

Dimitry Mityaev placed 3rd at High Trail Vanoise and like Jonsson is almost certainly going to be tired in Italy, however, he has the strength to potentially dig-deep and make top-5.

Shane Ohly on his day has the potential to turn a few heads, he’s not likely to make the podium but in recent months he’s been showing some great form.

Pavel Paloncy is as strong as an ox and will trade blows with the best, however, on this course I think he will lack speed to contend for the podium.

Konrad Rawlik is a solid mountain runner who like Ohly has all the potential to mix it with the best in shooting for a top-10 slot.

Roger Vinas rose through the Skyrunning ranks in 2016 with a series of solid performances, he is a top-10 potential and if he’s on a good day he may well make an impact on the top-5.

Zaid Ait Malek raced recently in Spain so may well be tired, however, he has all the speed, endurance and skill to make the podium and yes, win the race!

LADIES

Sophie Grant has recently placed 10th a Tararwera Ultra, 4th at Transgrancanaria and 11th at Mont-Blanc 80km – the Royal will bring a whole new challenge to this British runner and she has all the potential to turn heads with a podium place.

Aitziber Ibarbia is a regular competitor in the SWS calendar and is without doubt a contender for the top-5 and a potential top-3.

Maite Maiora is the odds-on favorite for victory after winning Zegama-Aizkorri and the recent Livigno SkyMarathon.

Emanuele Manzoli placed 3rd at the Royal in 2015 and brings course knowledge and experience. A recent victory at  Trail Alta Vai Nure.

Ekaterina Mityaev is a new name and face in Skyrunning and she is excelling after moving up from shorter distance races to ultras. In 2016 she placed 4th at Ultra Pirineu and in 2017 she was 7th at Transvulcania, 2nd at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira and she was 3rd at Mont-Blanc 80km – podium potential for sure!

Katie Schide is a relative unknown on Italian soil but she placed 7th at Speedgoat 50km in 2015 and won Antelop Island 50k. No results show for 2016 but 2nd at Moab’s Red Hot 55km in 2017 shows she is in form! Backed up in Livignio and recent racing in France.

Natalia Tomasiak was 7th at Glen Coe Skyline in 2016 and 6th at Trofeo Kima, A recent win at Stubai Ultratrail shows good form.

Zuzana Urbancova 8th at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira and a string of other top-10 results confirm that a top-10 is a distinct possibility and top-5 is possible on a good day.

Susan Van Duijl and a whole host of other top female contenders will make this an exciting race.

Race information HERE

Livigno SkyMarthon 2017 Summary and Images – Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Livigno SkyMarathon 2017 Race Summary

Days in the mountains rarely get better… the Livigno SkyMarathon really did provide a truly spectacular mountain experience that will be difficult to better – the weather, the course and the stunning town of Livigno all came together along with great organization to give everyone a memorable day.

The race really is a personification of pure Skyrunning. Over the 34km course, the runners climbed over 2700m of vertical gain with much of the race taking place between 2500 and 3000m.

Exposed mountain ridges, roped sections, via ferrata and abundance of technical terrain make the Livigno SkyMarathon a challenge – but a challenge to embrace.

Following on from Zegama-Aizkorri which took place in May, this race was always going to be exciting with valuable Migu Skyrunner World Series points available.

SWS World Champion Tadei Pivk, has had a troubled 2017 with injury, however, he was a last-minute entrant to the Livigno race having missed Zegama-Aizkorri. Pivk was the winner of Livigno in 2017 so he was soon tipped as a favourite for the win. Equally, Zegama-Aizkorri winner Maite Maiora, was tipped as the potential winner for the ladies’ race.

The duo started the race with a determination and a commitment and took the respective leads from very early on. Maiora looked invincible throughout the race, Pivk also looked strong and in control but Aritz Egea was tailing the Italian for much of the race.

At the line Pivk and Maiora were triumphant.

Egea pushed the 2017 champion close and on the line, it was just 2-minutes that separated them, 3:52:42 to 3:54:39. Third placed runner was Eduard Hernandez Texeido ahead of Eugeni Gil Ocana and Robert Krupicka, their times 4:00:39, 4:02:00 and 4:05:24 respectively.

Maiora was in a different league in the ladies’ race, her time of 4:37:30 incredible on this course. Denise Ionela Dragomir ran a strong 2nd throughout the race and her podium place never looked in doubt, she crossed the line in 4:43:21 ahead of Laia Andreu Trias who finished in 4:47:16.

The 2017 edition of the Livigno SkyMarathon was different to 2017 and therefore the times recorded this year are course records. Conditions were exceptional throughout the day with clear blue skies, sun, little to no wind and temperatures were kind until the early afternoon when they started to rise.

The talk post-race was all about how incredible the course is. The opening flat miles providing a warm up before the first climb with no technicality. What follows are walls of rock with chains attached, scree slopes of rock and slate, narrow and exposed technical ridges that really place you in the sky. The high point of the course at 3000m in many respects brings an end to the very technical sections and then the course changes over the second half with plenty of single-track and of course climbing. The final drop from Monte Campaccio at 3007m is long with plenty of rocks and scree. The final 10km’s to the line sap the legs and mind – a Livigno finish is hard fought.

The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series now moves to Greece for the Olympus SkyMarathon which will take place on the weekend of June 24th.

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