Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2018 Race Summary and Images

The second race of the 2018 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series kicked today on the island of La Palma (La Isla Bonita). The stunning Fuencaliente lighthouse once again providing an epic backdrop as 1000+ head-torches rushed north for a 74km journey  of tough and challenging terrain on the islands iconic GR131 route. It was a day of mixed temperatures and the Route of the Volcanoes was bathed in glorious sun as the runners broke through a cloud inversion before heading to the mist, grey and damp of El Pilar. Pushing onwards, the wind increased causing a challenging chill that resulted in many runners reaching for wind proofs. As often happens on La Palma, push through the cloud and a new weather system awaits, it was no different for the 2018 Transvulcania. Running around the Caldera to Roques de Los Muchachos, intense heat and blue skies greeted the runners all the way. Dropping back down to the sea and Tazacorte Puerto, the only thing that remained was the final challenging climb to the finish in Los Llanos.

For the ladies’ 2016 and 2017 champion and pre-race favorite Ida Nilsson lead the charge and she never really looked back. It was a strong performance.

As often happens, the chasing group can change as the brutality of the Transvulcania route takes its toll. Monica Comas from Spain placed 2nd just 6-minutes behind Ida.

The American contingent of Kelly Wolf and Brittany Peterson placed 3rd and 4th ahead of Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva, their times 8:49, 8:59 and 9:13 respectively.

The men’s race proved to be a real revelation… despite the early efforts of Cody Reed, he faded around the 20km mark and then all the main contenders and protagonists made their moves. It was a close race and the long descent to Tazacorte Puerto was always going to be decisive. Pere Aurell Bove held a lead over Dmitry Mityaev, Thibaud Garriver, Marco De Gasperi and Xavier Thevenard. For perspective, it is arguably one of the closest top-5 the race has experience, 7:37, 7:38, 7:42, 7:44 and 7:47 respectively. It is fair to say, that for Pere Aurelio, this is one of the biggest victories of his career and one that he will savour for a long time.

Image gallery available HERE

Route Summary:

Leaving Fuencalientie lighthouse, black sandy trails lead to Los Canarios. From here, the route weaves in and out of pine forests – underfoot the trails are good, at times technical but it is as the runners break the tree line that the challenging volcano sections await. The arrival of the sun provides some clarity and the push begins to El Pilar and notable marker in the race progression.

At least 5km of relatively flat and easy running follow El Pilar. It provides an opportunity for the ‘runners’ to stretch their legs and either extend or reclaim lost time. A left turn and suddenly they are climbing again, high trees with a canopy of green shelter the runners and then from El Reventon the true splendor of this mountain range is exposed with Roques de los Muchachos visible in the distance.

The harder sections of technical running around the Caldera, combined with heat and altitude provided the next challenge. From the high point, dropping 2400+m in 18km requires legs and nerves of steel. Believe me, it’s one hell of a ride. The early sections are open and the heat hits hard. Tree cover finally arrives and underfoot the single-track changes from dusty sand perpetuated with rocks to sand trail covered with a blanket of pine needles. In the latter stage pine needles giveaway to rocks and then the final zig-zag steep path to the port follows.

At Tazacorte Puerto, a short run along the beach, a technical run through a gulley and then a relentless claim all the way to the finish line in Los Llanos would decide the overall winner of the 2018 Transvulcania La Palma

Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2018 Race Preview

Transvulcania is upon us! Since 2012, the race has been an ever-present in the Skyrunner World Series and now it is acclaimed the world over as a pinnacle event. Taking place on the Isla Bonita (the beautiful island) of La Palma, the race personifies the pure ethos of Skyrunning. It is a wonderfully logical race route that starts next to the sea in the south of the island and concludes on the west of the island in the town of Los Llanos. The route offers 74km’s of amazing trails, wonderful views and technical trail and some real vertical ascent (4350m) and descent (4057m) that tests the legs, lungs and mind of the most experienced runner.

Taking place on the GR131, Rute del Bastion, the route starts low and climbs and climbs into the National Park of the Caldera de Taburiente. Runners then traverse the rim to Roques de Los Muchachos before dropping over 2400m in one leg busting drop of 18km’s to the sea and Tazacorte Puerto before a final push upwards to the finish in Los Llanos.

A decade of Transvulcania and La Palma magic. In 2009, just 378 runners toed the line, in 2018, 2000 runners will embark on the majestic journey. One only has to look at past winners of the race to understand the importance of Transvulcania on the world running map – Luis Alberto Hernando Kilian Jornet, Miguel Heras, Dakota Jones, Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost and the 2017 champions, Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks.

As in previous year’s the race has a stellar line-up of world-class talent and notably includes the Italian Skyrunning master, Marco De Gasperi. For Marco, this race will be a departure for him as he will arguably race one of the longest races ever in his remarkable career. He is, one of the first ever official Skyrunner’s who has pioneered and paved a way for the rest. His inclusion in the 2018 Transvulcania is an exciting prospect.

Competition will come from all sides, in particular Xavier Thevenard who comes to the race with incredible results, however, he has raced at Transvulcania before and has always seemed to just miss the performances shown at the UTMB series of events which he has dominated. Will 2018 be his year?

Zaid Ait Malek is a pure Skyrunner. He placed 3rd last year and this year may well place 2nd or take the top slot. The race is there for the taking and Zaid has all the skills to make it happen.

Jason Schlarb raced in La Palma last year and had a solid result. He knows the race now and will be finely tuned to move up the ranks and potentially break into the top-5.

Dmitry Mityaev has risen in the Skyrunning ranks over the last few year’s with a string of excellent performances. He has got better and better and it is fair to say we can expect a solid performance in La Palma. He prefers the longer distances, so, Transvulcania may well be ideal for the Russian.

Michel Lanne rarely these days but when he does, he always excels. He has won CCC and TDS and last-year had a great run in Norway at Tromso SkyRace. For me, on his day, Michel is a potential winner for Transvulcania.

Franco Colle was missing in 2017 from the Skyrunning ranks but he is back. A past winner of the Rut 50km, Franco is an experienced Skyrunner who will make his presence felt in La Palma.

With a stellar line-up, other contenders to watch are as follows:

Morgan Elliott – 2016 and 2017 Skyrunner National Series champion.

Cody Reed – 2nd Bandera 100km and winner of Mt Bachelor 50km.

Cole Watson – 1st Canyons Endurance Run 50km.

Daniel Jung – 2nd Hong Kong 100 in 2017.

Fulvio Dapit – Consistent Skyrunner with great experience. 

Pau Bartolo – 1st at Buff Epic Trail in 2017 and 1st TDS 2015.

Alfredo Gil – 8th Dolomites SkyRace.

Pere Aurell – 4th at The Rut and 3rd at Royal Gran Paradiso.

Thibaud Garrivier – 6th at OCC and Marathon du Mont-Blanc 2017.

Ivan Camps – 5th at Ultra Pirineu.

Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB and 6th at Ultra Pirineu.

Peter Kienzl – Long distance runner won won 360 Transgrancanaria.

Stephen Wassather – 1st Silver State 50 and 4th Bandera 100km

Jan Bartas – 4th Devil’s Ridge and 8th High Trail Vanoise.

Plus many more…

The ladies’ race has the 2016 and 2017 returning champion and course record holder, Ida Nilsson. In all honesty, if Ida shows any potential of her 2017 form, she will be unstoppable in 2018. She knows the course and has the speed and skills.

Ekaterina Mityaeva like her husband, Dmitry, has grown in experience and stature over the last few years and we can expect her to bring that experience to La Palma. The podium is a distinct possibility! 

Anna Mae Flynn has won Speedgoat 50km and placed 3rd at Lake Sonoma 50, two races that indicate a solid performance at Transvulcania. However, racing in Europe is always different than the US. I still think we will see something solid from this lady.

Cassie Scallon has won Bandera 100km and so we know the distance will not be an issue. In 2017 she had two notable wins at Gorge Waterfalls and Nine Trails.

Brittany Peterson has won Moab Red Hot 55km and placed 2nd at the 50km event at Run Rabbit Run. She is a slid runner with a good skill set that should transfer over to Transvulcania well.

Kelly Wolf may well be a dark horse after her recent win at Tararwera in New Zealnd. Arguably though, her 2nd at Speedgoat 50km and victory at Flagstaff SkyRace is more indicative of a good performance in La Palma.

Francesca Canepa prefers the longer distance races and although she brings a wealth of experience I believe the Italian will lack the speed required to penetrate the top 5.

Emilie Lecomte like Francesca is a long distance specialist and although she will perform well, it is unlikely she has the speed for the podium.

Meredith Edwards placed 2nd at TDS which confirms that climbing is not an issue, the question mark will be does she have the speed required to make the podium?

Eva Moreda is a solid Skyrunner who placed 5th in the 2017 Skyrunner World Series.

Ildiko Wermescher 3rd at TDS, 2nd at Swissalpine T133 and 2nd Swiss Irontrail confirms that Ildiko can run and handle the vert, however, I think Transvulcania may well be around 30km too short for a podium performance.

Laura Besseghini won the 2016 Dolomite Sky Run and in 2017 won Valmalenco Ultra Trail.

Paloma Lobera potentially could impact on the top-10 but lacks the pace or speed for the podium. She placed 8th at Matterhorn Ultraks in 2017.

Zuzana Bartasova – 7th at Trofeo Kima in 2016.

Natalia Roman – 1st Ultratrack Supramonte 2016 and 2nd Mustang Trail Race 2017.

Juan Maria Jimenez – 10th UTMB and 7th Oman Desert Marathon

Maylis Drevon – 11th Transvulcania 2017 and 2nd Marathon du Mont-Blanc 80km.

Plus many more…

Race Website HERE

As a point of note, other races take place over the Transvulcania weekend:

In the marathon, a key name to watch out for is Ryan Sandes, and in the half marathon, Stian Angermund-Vik for the men and Laura Orgue for the ladies.

Action starts on Thursday with the Vertical Kilometer Transvulcania Binter starting in Tazacorte Puerto at 1700 hrs.

The main events take place on Saturday with Transvulcania starting at 0600 and it is estimated that the first finisher will arrive in Los Llanos around 1230pm.

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Matterhorn Ultraks 2017 Race Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The Matterhorn provides a stunning backdrop for Switzerland’s Matterhorn Ultraks race, a 49km Skyrunning race with 3600m of positive and negative gain. Now in it’s 5th edition, the race once again is in the Migu Run  Skyrunner® World Series.

It is a magical race that provides a circular journey that starts and concludes in the picture postcard mountain town of Zermatt with the towing Matterhorn ever-present to inspire the runners.

The day started with rain and cloud. It was an ominous beginning. But by the time the runners had reached the high-point of the course at thee Gornergrat, the rain was easing, the cloud was clearing and suddenly the sun broke through. What followed was a glorious and hot sunny day.

Whispy white clouds penetrating the blue of the sky, we all knew though that it wasn’t going to last… with 2 hours of running the sky turned grey, the rain arrived and low mist enveloped the mountains; the beautiful Matterhorn was gone!

Wild expansive space, high mountains and the 3100m Gornergrat provides the high point of the race and the first indication of how the race would play out. Marco De Gasperi was pushing the pace closely followed by Aritz Egea and Eugeni Gil.

In the ladies’ race, Ragna Debats was already dictating the race and the pace but Sheila Aviles and Laia Andreu were very close and chasing together.

A 1000m drop from the summit is broken by a small climb at Riffelalp and then Furi follows at 24km at 1880m. Two short sharp climbs follow, the first to Schwarzsee at 2583m and approximately 28km covered. Here De Gasperi was leading Gil Ocana, Anthamatten and Egea – it was all too close to call! For the ladies, Debats was still at the front, but like the men, anything could happen.

A drop down to 2200m from Schwarzsee was followed with another 500m+ climb and then what follows is mostly a flat runnable plateau that gently weaves up, down and left to right all the way to Trift. De Gasperi had taken the lead now and was flying, Gil Ocana chased but the Italian was looking too strong – he really wanted this victory, it was clear to see. Anthamatten was now in 3rd and Egea in 4th.

A short kick up of 100 to 200m follows Trift and then a fast and furious drop of almost 1000m over a distance of 6km leads to the finish line in Zermatt and the assembled crowds. De Gasperi sealed victory in a new course record, bettering Kilian Jornet’s time and this 2017 course was 1km longer – an incredible run.

Gil Ocana held on for an excellent 2nd and Anthamatten placed 3rd. Once again Egea ran an excellent 4th place.

We also witnessed the race of a rising star, Petter Engdahl who placed 5th.

Debats finally managed to open a gap in the latter stages taking a convincing victory ahead of Laia Andreu who had shadowed Debats all the way to Trift.

Aviles placed 3rd followed by Laurance Yerly and Michaela Mertova.

Skyrunning is not just about the uphill and more often than not, it’s the downhill that determines the winner. Today was all about patience and consistency. Racing is often a mental journey as much physical, De Gasperi and Debats today proved this at the Matterhorn Ultraks.

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Results:

1. Ragna Debats (NED) 5h52’05”
2. Laia Andreu (SPA) 5h53’22”
3. Sheila Avilés Castaño (SPA) 6h00’17”
4. Laurence Yerly (SUI) 6h15’45”
5. Michaela Mertova (CZE) 6h20’36”

‪1 – Marco De Gasperi (4h42’31”)‬
‪2 – Eugeni Gil Ocaña (4h45’15”)‬
‪3 – Martin Anthamatten (4h48’59”)‬
4 – Aritz Egea (4h53’50”)
5 – Petter Engdahl (5h00’46”)

Matterhorn Ultraks 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The stunning Matterhorn provides the backdrop for Switzerland’s Matterhorn Ultraks race, the next race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series – a 48km race with 3600m of positive and negative gain. A magical race, now in its 5th edition that provides a circular journey that starts and concludes in the picture postcard mountain town of Zermatt.

Eight out of eleven Sky Classic races have been completed and Matterhorn Ultraks counts for a 20% bonus on points, so, it is all to fight for.

Wild expansive space, high mountains and the 3100m Gornergrat provides the high point of the race where the ever present lone peak of the Matterhorn shadows the race and runners with it’s majestic beauty.

Zermatt, located 1600m above altitude provides the focal point for this high altitude race, a beautiful place steeped in history. It’s a logical start and finishing place for such an iconic race.

Renowned for its tough opening kilometres, the Matterhorn Ultraks immediately heads to the sky via Sunnegga at 2260m all the way to the high point Gornergrat at 3130m. It’s a brutal 14km to open any race and as such, those opening km’s can be decisive in who crosses the finish line first.

Aritz Egea has been on fire in 2017 and he is looking to better his 3rd place of 2015. He needs the points but it has been a long season.

Marco De Gasperi pioneered those early Skyrunning days with Giacometti in the early 90’s and he is still running head-to-head with the best in the world and matching them, he was recently pipped to the top-slot at Dolomites SkyRace and Comapedrosa.

2015 champion and designer of the course, Martin Anthamatten will be fired up for victory, especially after his recent success at the Red Bull 3000m vertical race – he is in great shape and knows the course like the back of his hand.

Jon Albon, Skyrunner World Series Extreme champion in 2016 and recent winner of the Tromso SkyRace is toeing the line here isn Switzerland. He is incredible talent but this race may well lack technicality for Albon to excel, he will be in the mix for sure, but the top-slot maybe a tough call?

 Aurelien Dunard-Pallaz had an incredible race at Ultraskymarathon Madeira – he lead the race from the front only to be passed in the latter stages by Albon. He also had a great run at High Trail Vanoise giving Luis Alberto Hernando a push all the way to the line. He has come of age in the Skyrunning Series this year and we may well see the Frenchman achieve another podium place in Switzerland.

Equally, Pere Aurell has stepped up to the plate in 2017 kicking off the season with a strong run at Yading SkyRace in China and then an excellent run at the Royal Gran Paradiso. Aurell has raced a great deal in 2017 and he may well be feeling some fatigue but he is strong and motivated.

Andre Jonsson just keeps racing and racing. He has had a gap from racing recently and we may well therefore Jonsson fresh for the Ultraks race. He is always in the mix and earlier this year he had some excellent top placings, the best coming at the Royal Gran Paradiso just 1-week after a great run at High Trail Vanoise.

Hassan Ait Chaou has always run well in Zermatt, particularly last-year when he pushed for the podium. This year his form seems a little below his 2016 levels but on this course I wouldn’t rule him out of something special on the day.

Murray Strain may well be a surprise package in the race and he will almost certainly not be on the radar of the top runners going valuable points – don’t be surprised if he makes the podium!

As always, the depth of talent in Zermatt is deep, surprises can come from anywhere, two names worth keeping an eye on are Benat Marmissolle and Marc Casal Mir.

Can anyone beat Kilian Jornet’s 2013 time of 4:43:05?

The ladies race will be an interesting one with Megan Kimmel, Stevie Kremer and Elisa Desco not racing – all ladies who have excelled in past edition, Kremer still holds the course record 5:18:43 set in 2014.

However, Ragna Debats is on fire in 2017 with a string of top results, the most recent coming in Tromso when she was just a few minutes behind Maite Maiora. Debats recovers well and I am sure she will be the lady to beat in Zermatt, the course will suit her, her run ability matches her technical and climbing ability.

Rising star Sheila Alves will have other ideas… her podium at Zegama-Aizkorri and recent victory at Comapedrosa has left her wanting more and she will almost certainly be Debats biggest rival.

Paloma Lobera and Michaela Mertova are podium contenders and then it is wide open. The potential threat from Megan Kimmel, Laura Sola, Aziber Ibarbia, Maria Zorroza and Ekaterina Mityaeva has disappeared in the last week due to injury or sickness.

The ladies race is wide open!

The 2017 edition of the race has had a slight course change adding an additional kilometre to the race, so, finish times will need to take this into consideration, particularly with course records.

The race starts 0730 on Saturday August 26th.

The Sky Classic ranking?

Five results out of eleven are counted for the final titles and end of season bonus prize for the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series category.