Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Review of 2017

As a year comes to a close, I always like to look back and consider the highlights of the year, not only personal highlights but global highlights of the running world.

It is a daunting task at times.

The running year is now so full that it can be difficult to remember what happened just weeks ago, never mind months ago. So, with this in mind, please consider that this article is my thoughts and not a definitive highlight of 2017.

Having said that, I am going to make some huge mistakes and I am going to miss some key people, races and performances.

I welcome you, the reader, reminding me of what they are – please, just be nice!

So, let us look at 2017.

I was considering going through chronologically and in all honesty, it may have been the better solution to the task at hand, however, I have just gone on impulse! 

Western States was won by Ryan Sandes and I have to say, it was a sweet victory for the South African who over the years I have considered a great friend. Ryan was my first ever interview on Talk Ultra podcast and I love his story. The non-runner who became a runner who eventually won Western States. It’s a dream story. While on the subject of Western, we also need to mention the ladies champ, Cat Bradley. While all the top contenders faded, Cat ran a sound and solid race to take the biggest win of her life. It was no one-off, something she has proven recently by setting a FKT in the Grand Canyon – Rim – to – Rim – to – Rim fastest known time in 7:52:20

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

Francois D’Haene is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world – end of the story. The dude has been nailing it for years and when Rob Krar won 3 100’s in one year, so did Francois. The Frenchman has consistently dominated the distance and when the trail has vertical, he is almost unbeatable. In 2017, he elevated himself to a new level firstly beating the ‘unbeatable’ Kilian Jornet at UTMB and then setting (obliterating) the FKT for the John Muir Trail. He also ripped MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) apart, and the previous CR set by Zach Miller. Without doubt, Francois is the male ultra-runner of the year in my eyes. We just need to see him at Hardrock 100 now!

Andrea Huser blows my mind constantly. She is the most impressive and consistent runner in the ultra-world and I often ask the question, if she raced less, would she win more? She has a string of top results but often has missed the big win. But when you race as much as she does, you can’t help but just nod in respect.

Caroline Chaverot was unbeatable in 2016 and 2017 started with some issues, issues that she has battled with throughout 2017. Despite this, she won Hardrock 100. It was a great victory and not one without controversy… she left her bleeding pacer on the trail for others to help. Just recently she rounded out her year with a win at Saint E Lyon in France – the classic November night race.

Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks kicked off their seasons with victory at Transvulcania. Ida’s win was to be expected, but Tim’s win was a revelation. The ‘cowboy’ then went on to set a FKT in the Grand Canyon. Ida continued her great running throughout 2017 and then the duo turned up at San Francisco 50 and both won again – they topped and tailed the year and we can expect big things in 2018!

Jim Walmsley and the PR machine in many ways signified a new era in the sport of ultra-running and not all for the better in my opinion. The hype around the 2017 Western States before the race pretty much had Jim with his buckle, the Cougar and a new CR. The reality was very different. Jim then went to UTMB and showed signs of learning the craft. He watched Francois and Kilian and paced his day. It eventually went wrong but he rallied and closed out strong. A definitive moment for Jim and I was well aware that this would be a turning point for his 100-mile future. He then confirmed he would run on Reunion Island at Raid de la Reunion! While I can admire the decision, for me, it was always going to be a questionable decision in regard to his ‘professional’ development. But I am being judgmental and I hope not in a negative way. I ‘get’ that Jim wanted to run on the island but the step-up from UTMB was huge and despite leading the race, he eventually dropped around the 100km mark. It has been a huge learning year for the fast man and I still hold true that up to 100km, the guy is pretty much un-matched. I am looking forward to seeing him nail 100-miles in 2018 (maybe 2019) and when he does, watch out, it will almost certainly be super-fast and mind blowing. 

Kilian Jornet pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life – Everest. A failed attempt in previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world. Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE. More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all questions. Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season. Kilian has nothing to prove in my eyes. What does 2018 hold? Who knows really, ultimately, Kilian is at the top of his game and he will go where his heart takes him… expect a Zegama appearance, a Hardrock appearance, maybe the Bob Graham will be on the cards and maybe he will be back in Scotland for Glen Coe. Who knows? Whatever the path, he will inspire.

Camille Herron won Comrades, wow, it is the holy grail of road ultra-running. She then followed with a DNF at Western States and Leadville and I, and others, was left wondering what had happened. Oh, my word has she put the record straight. In recent weeks Camille has set a 100-mile world record 12:42:39, a 100km USA track record 7:36:39 at Desert Solstice and then went on to run for 12-hours and set a 12hr All-Surface World Record 92.708 miles. She is the new Ann Trason and arguably, she will be in for a shout as ultra-runner of the year.

Courtney Dewaulter can push Camille close. This lady won Run Rabbit Run (again) this time losing her vision in the final 10km. She then went on to win Moab 200 (actually 238-miles) outright and then recently ran 250.079km / 155.391 miles in 24-hours setting an American record. Wow!

Nuria Picas came out of the wilderness of 2016 and quite rightly, finally won UTMB. Nuria was unstoppable for many years but the big loop around Chamonix had eluded her, I firmly believe she can consider her career complete with this win!

The UK’s Dan Lawson flew around the Gobi Desert to win with a new CR at the 400km Ultra Gobi. Dan is the UK’s hottest prospect at the long game, particularly when you consider past runs on the Grand Union Canal and 2nd at the iconic Spartathlon.

Marco De Gasperi pioneered the way for Skyrunning on Monte Rosa in the early 90’s and has had incredible journey as one of the most respected mountain runners in the world. Finally, in 2017, Marco became the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) champion after an incredible season of consistent running and podium places – a true inspiration.

Maite Maiora moved up several notches in 2017 and was a dominant force on the Skyrunning circuit with a string of victories and podium places. 2017 was her year in the sky! But let us not forget Ragna Debats, she had an amazing full season and triumphed over multiple distances in addition to a great run at the IAU World Trail Champs. Also, Sheila Aviles came of age… a name to watch in future years! For the guys, keep an eye on Jan Maragarit.

UTMB had arguably the greatest male line-up of elite runners ever and it turned out to be great show down and we saw the confirmation that US runners are getting UTMB. Tim Tollefson was again flying the flag with a 3rd place. It is only a matter of time until we see an American win the big dance around France, Italy and Switzerland – will it be 2018? It could well be if Francois d’Haene and Kilian Jornet don’t run.

Hillary Allen has represented the USA in Europe for a couple of years now and once again she was doing so in 2017. However, it all fell apart, before my eyes, at Tromso SkyRace in Norway. She fell many meters, bounced on the rocks below and came away with some serious injuries. Thankfully, the recovery process has gone well and I wish Hillary well for 2018.

Ruth Croft has been in the mix for some time and I think it is fair to say that her victory at ‘Templiers’ in France recently has elevated to the New Zealander to a new level for the coming year… what does 2018 hold for this lady?

2017 most certainly has been a FKT year – Iker Karrera, Darcy Piceu, Francois d’Haene, Tim Freriks, Cat Bradley, Alicia Vargo, Rickey Gates and so many more have all taken the Fastest Known Time discipline to new heights but I wonder if ‘Stringbean’s’ FKT on the Appalachian Trail is the one that should have had more press and coverage? He soloed the AT quicker than Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek and without help, but, relatively slipped under most radars. Read here.

Jeff Browning crushed the 100-mile distance in 2016 and did so again in 2017, he is a great ambassador for the sport.

Luis Alberto Hernando is for me, arguably one of the most talented runners in the world. But he is a quiet guy who in many ways, keeps himself to himself. He races hard and crushes the competition. In 2017, he once again became IAU World Trail Champion on a course that he, and many others said, didn’t suit him. The guy is pure class!

The UK’s Damian Hall came to running late in life (not that he is old) but he has slowly and surely chipped his way through the ultra-ranks and this year just missed the top-10 at UTMB – an incredible result.

Tom Evans broke on the scene by placing 3rd at MDS Morocco and in the process set a new benchmark for UK based runners to aim for. He followed this up with some other solid results in 2017 and I, like many others, wonder what 2018 holds in store.

Rickey Gates ran across America. Nuff said! Read here.

Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine, died on the mountains and left the mountain world devastated by his passing. Here.

Alex Honold free soloed El Cap in arguably one of the most awe-inspiring and risky climbs in the history of the sport. It is quite literally, off the scale and beyond comprehension. I know it’s not running but it is without doubt worth a mention! Here.

The infamous Barkley once again served up another serving of spine tingling history with John Kelly finishing and Canada’s Gary Robbins left wiped out on the floor in tears. You can’t make stories like this up.

Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake of Barkley fame) organised a race that went through his garden, The Big Backyard Ultra. Every 60-minutes, runners set off on a loop. During the night, the loop changed. The principal was simple, you keep going till one man or woman is left Standing. Well, Guiiiaume Calmettes was that man in 2017 running 245.835 pipping Harvey Lewis. 

Rachid Elmorabity once again won Marathon des Sables in Morocco proving that he is the greatest multi-day desert runner in the world at the moment. Elisabet Barnes, 2015 MDS champion once again returned to the sand pit after missing victory in 2016 and was unstoppable with a dominant and impressive force of sand running.

MDS Peru followed on the 32-year traditions of its Moroccan big brother with the first edition in Peru’s Ica Desert. This was the first time any event was allowed permission to take place in this amazing National Park. It was great first event with Morocco’s Rachid Elmorabity and France’s Nathalie Mauclair taking the top honours.

Michael Wardian did what he always does, run and run and run throughout 2017. But he kicked off the year with a world record running 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. The guy just continues to impress.

Best shoes of 2017? Well, this is well and truly a can of worms and I can only answer from a personal perspective. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 here blew my socks off and is now my favourite day-to-day trail running shoe. For when it gets technical, gnarly, muddy and I need an aggressive shoe, the VJ Sport iRock2 here has set a new benchmark for me in regard to grip.

Best clothing? inov-8 have continued to impress me with not only excellent run shoes but appeared to match. They now have a really specific line of products (including packs) that make them an excellent one-stop shop for anything that you would need for a messy and muddy 5km fell run to the tough and challenging 100+ mile UTMB.

Best moment of 2017? That is a serious toughie but maybe Ryan Sandes finally taking that WSER top slot. I know how much he wanted it and he didn’t have an easy journey obtaining it. Huge respect! But hey, I have been inspired by so many in 2017.

On a personal note to conclude:

For me, I started travelling in January and I stopped in December. Yes, I have been on the road for 12-months and I consider myself to be truly blessed for the opportunities I have had to follow my dreams and make a living from it. I never take it for granted! While I could go into the details of each trip, I won’t. Every race is documented in words and images on this website and my social channels and you can find out about them should you so wish.

INSTAGRAM here

TWITTER here

FACEBOOK PHOTOGRAPHY here FACEBOOK TALK ULTRA here

PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE here IMAGE SALES here

Don’t forget Talk Ultra Podcast which has documented this sport HERE

BUT, and this is a huge BUT. My passion, and my work calendar comes at a price. I have a son, a family and an amazing partner, Niandi. They have all been neglected in 2017 with my travel and race coverage. It’s a dilemma and one that keeps me awake. I struggle for answers but I want to say THANK YOU for the support to all those people who mean the world to me, you know who you are.

 

Limone Extreme 2017 Summary and Images – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

What an epic day in Italy!

The final race of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series turned out to be an epic day.

Young gun, Jan Margarit and Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi went head-to-head in a full-on battle as they climbed and descended in the mountains that back onto Lake Garda. It was Margarit who dictated the pace on the early climb while De Gasperi followed just a minute or so back with Aritz Egea and Peter Engdahl.

However, De Gasperi closed to Margarit and the duo ran side-by-side for much of the race pushing each other all the way beyond the 20km mark. The final descent is renowned for its punishing technical running and it was here that De Gasperi opened a small gap, reversing the result from Dolomites SkyRace earlier in the year when Margarit dropped the Italian on the final descent.

Needless to say, De Gasperi’s win on home soil not only is a popular one but it also confirms De Gasperi’s skill and perseverance in the sport. He won’t mind me saying but he is twice the age of Margarit. 

Young German runner, Stefan Knopf was around 10th place on the first climb but ran a stunning 2nd half of the race to take the final podium place ahead of Peter Engdahl.

For the ladies’ Ragna Debats laid it all on the line knowing that she could win the series with a 1st or 2nd place. On the first climb, she pushed and pushed with Laura Orgue hot on her heels. Michelle Maier followed and in 4th was the orienteering world champion, Tove Alexandersson.

As the race progressed, Debats went through a bad patch allowing Maier and Alexandersson in to the first and second slots. Despite pushing, Debats found it difficultl to find her rhythms and when she finally did it was too late, the other two had leaped ahead.

Alexandersson gave it everything and opened up a gap of 4-minutes over Maier. Pushing the pace, she took several tumbles on the final descent and as she crossed the line in Limone she collapsed – her legs cut, her feet bloody, her hands and arms damaged. It was a seriously gusty run and one that wiped her out completely. 

Maier finished 2nd and Debats 3rd.

The big question would come around who would win the series? In many respects, it was Laura Orgue’s to lose. Unfortunately, Orgue had a bad day, a very bad day for her and Sheila Aviles finished ahead of her and in the process, took the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series title. 

Limone Extreme over the years has had many an epic battle, this year was no different.

It was a confirmation of experience and an introduction to new names and new faces. Marco De Gasperi and Sheila Aviles were crowned 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series champions and now as the Skyrunner season comes to an end, everyone looks ahead to 2018 and 2019 for a new era in Skyrunning.

Less Cloud, More Sky!

The COMBINED title was won by Jonathan Albon and Maite Maiora, the two most consistent athletes over all Skyrunning disciplines in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series.

1 – Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 3h31’11”
2 – Michelle Maier (GER) 3h43’03”
3 – Ragna Debats (NED) 3h45’39”
4 – Holly Page (GBR) 3h51’46”
5 – Sheila Avilés Castaño (ESP) 3h54’20”

1 – Marco De Gasperi (ITA) 3h07’32”
2 – Jan Margarit Solé (ESP) 3h07’58”
3 – Stefan Knopf (GER) 3h10’51”
4 – Oriol Cardona Coll (ESP) 3h13’18”
5 – Petter Engdahl (SWE) 3h14’56”

Limone Extreme 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series draws to a conclusion on the stunning shores of Lake Garda for the Limone Extreme weekend of racing. The mountains that back onto this iconic location provide a wonderful playground to Friday’s VK (VK World Circuit) and Sunday’s Classic SkyRace.

It’s been a long season of Skyrunning all around the world. Recently, Jonathan Albon and Maite Maiora were crowned EXTREME champions in Scotland at the Skyline Scotland and at Ultra Pirineu, Ragna Debats and Luis Alberto Hernando were crowned champions for the ULTRA category.

This weekend in Limone we will have two champions crowned for the CLASSIC sky distance and in addition, we will have COMBINED champions. The combined champions having scored points in the 2017 season over different race distances.

Over the years, Limone Extreme has grown to be a pinnacle event on the calendar and as the last race of the Skyrunner World Series, it is often a crouch race for points, therefore, fast and aggressive racing is guaranteed over the 27km course with 2450m of vertical gain.

Marco De Gasperi will go head-to-head with Aritz Egea and young gun, Jan Margarit for the Sky Classic title, it is et to be an epic battle with nine out of the top ten male runners toeing the line.

Limone gives a 20% bonus, so, it’s all to fight for!

The ladies’ race may be even more exciting than the men’s, it is wide open! Ragna Debats has already won the Ultra title and she would need an incredible run in Limone to pull off the overall tittle – it is possible though! In reality, Laura Orgue is the favourite with a strong threet coming from Sheila Aviles. These two have fought each other in the mountains in 2017 and now it comes down to who will perform in Italy! Hillary Gerardi and Oihana Azkorbebeitia will also figure.

Joining the line-up for the SWS title is a host of world-class talent who will not only impact on the results of the race but they will more than likely impact on how the SWS points are allocated and therefore influencing who are the champions for 2017.

Remi Bonnet and Stian Angermund-Vik are likely winners of the race, Bonnet has won here in the past and Angermund-Vik has been unbeatable in 2017. Joining these two is Eugeni Gil. Hector Haines and Pascal Egli – all theree have had their fair share of podium places. Marc and Oscar Casal Mir, Kiril Nikolov, Eduard Hernandez and Julien Martinez round out the top contenders.

The combined titles are also at stake and here there is a very interesting prospect with Maite Maiora not racing and Ragna Debats toeing the line. Should Debats place first or second, she will take the title from Maiora. For the men, Jonathan Albon has an untouchable lead.

Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace 2017 Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

Uncompromising mountain running, ridges, scrambles, steep ascents, boggy ground and a bucket full of technical running made the 2017 Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace™ an epic race. The sodden ground was muddy and uncompromising, the weather wet and brutally cold. This race had epic written all over it and it drew comparisons with the Skyrunning classic, Zegama-Aizkorri.

The h finish line post-race was full of praise, many stating that it was a pure classic, a race they would return to and yes, one of the toughest 25km’s they have ever run! A sentiment echoed by race winner Stian Angermund-Vik who won the previous day’s Amores VK and who was the champion of the Ring of Steall in 2016

“A Tough and beautiful race. The weather was harsh today and I didn’t feel great but I rallied in the latter stages. I saw my teammate Tom Owens, he shouted encouragement at me and it spurred me on!”

Stian produced a stunning win in an incredible 3:24, a new course record. In the early stages, the race was all together with the USA’s Andy Wacker leading from the front by a small margin. He was followed though by all the favourites, Marco De Gasperi, Jan Margarit, Kiril Nikolov, Stian Angermund-Vik and many more, As the conditions took hold and the temperatures dropped dramatically with an icy wind, Angermund-Vik pulled away from the race. In-form Pascal Egli pursued and Kris Jones from Wales was paving the way for UK runners. It was all close and anything could happen. Egli held on for second in 3:26, just 1-minute later Jones finished and then young-gun Margarit finished 4th ahead of Kiril Nikolov in 5th,m their times 3:29 and 3:30.

In the ladies’ race, Laura Orgue, like Angermund-Vik, was looking for the double, VK and SKY victories. She lead the race to the top of the first climb but then lost the lead only to regain it and then pull away with a strong and convincing victory in 4:05.

“I loved this race, the terrain, the mountains and the challenge. It was a close race and I had to fight which is good. It feels very different to the other races on the SWS calendar and I think it may be my favourite – Ioved it!”

Sheila Aviles moved up from outside the top-3 as the race progressed, showing her form that gave her victory at Comapedrossa earlier in the year. Once in 2nd she stayed there and crossed the line in 4:05:51 just 40-seconds behind Orgue. The Spanish duo are now head-to-head in the SWS17 ranking with Limone Extreme in October the deciding race.

Oihana Azkorbebeitia finished 3rd, the USA’s Hillary Gerardi continued her strong streak of top performances for 4th and Maite Maiora was 5th after placing 2nd at CCC just 2-weekas ago, their times 4:15, 4:21 and 4:22.

This Skyrunning race route incorporated two lofty ridges within the Mamores, including the Devil’s Ridge, which provides a thrilling and airy traverse with Glen Nevis visible ahead.

Full results HERE

Gallery 2

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.

A full gallery of images are available at iancorless.photoshelter.com

all images ©iancorless.com

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.

SkyRace® Comapedrosa – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The tiny ski-resort of Arinsal was bustling as 300+ runners lined up to take part in the next stage of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series, the SkyRace® Comapedrosa. The weekend also would host the ISF Skyrunning Youth World Championships over a shorter 15km course.

The SkyRace® Comapedrosa’s full course is 21km in length with a vertical ascent of well over 2,000m. The most challenging part of the course, in addition to very technical terrain, was the 1000-metre vertical climb over 2km in length to the summit of Coma Pedrosa – the highest point of the course (and Andorra) at 2,942m.

Jan Maragrit Sole, winner of last-weekends Dolomites SkyRace set the pace from the off, Rui Ueda joined him and the duo forged ahead chased by Marco De Gasperi and last year’s 2nd place at Comapedrosa, Aritz Egea

I led the race from the beginning, I felt good and I decided to push,” said Maragrit Sole on the finish line. “I reached the summit of Coma Pedrosa in the lead and it was all downhill from there to the finish line. I feel great at the moment. The USA will be next and I will race at the RUT doing the VK and SkyRace!”

 

The surprise of the day was without a doubt Rui Ueda, who made the pace early on. He was later passed by Marco De Gasperi after the Italian Skyrunning legend made a stunning climb to the Coma Pedrosa summit which sits just under 3000m.He flew across the finish-line, beaming and looking incredibly fresh especially when one considers just last weekend he took a podium place in the Dolomites. Ueda held off a charging Zaid Ait Malek who ran a stunning descent. Adrien Michaud finished 5th and last year’s 2nd place Aritz Egea was just outside the top-5. De Gasperi ran 2:41:50 and Ueda 2:44:54.

The course is extremely hard – the climbs are like vertical kilometers. There is no flat running in Comapedrosa. This course suits the vertical specialist but at the same time what comes up must come down and Maragrit Sole not flew up but flew down and in the process set a new course record 2:35:36.

In the female field, few were surprised at race favourite Laura Orgué’s early charge and dominating the race from the front. She climbed hard using her VK skills and by the time she reached the summit at Coma Pedrosa she had a convincing lead over Sheila Aviles Castano, race surprise Takako Takamura, Megan Kimmel and Hillary Gerardi.

For Laura Orgué though, victory was not to be today. She gave it her all but on the descent a recurring stomach issue struck causing severe pain. She continued but struggled. Avilés Castano passed and took an incredible victory in 3:17:36. Orgue held on for 2nd in 3:19:29.

I Felt good today, particularly after last weekend’s victory in the Dolomites. I lead the race from the front and then on the descent the pain hit,” Orgue said post-race. “It really is annoying but the pain is terrible. It just slowed me down. I couldn’t push and gave way my hard-earned lead. Importantly I finished 2nd and I can take away positives of how strong I felt.”

Takamura finished an incredible 3rd in 3:26:43 and the USA’s Gerardi followed 2nd in the Dolomites last weekend with 4th here in 3:28:43. Pre-race favourite Megan Kimmel, also from the USA had a tough day but finished 5th in 3:33:22.

Next up is the Tromso SkyRace in Norway – the 2nd race in the Extreme category of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

all images ©iancorless.com

Image galleries will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com

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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.

 

Dolomites SkyRace Preview – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

Twenty years, yes, twenty years the Dolomites SkyRace has existed – It’s a classic, no doubt! The simple ethos of starting low and getting high as quickly as possible and returning makes this race an ever present on the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. In twenty years, a family has been built reflected in the Dolomites VK which is usually two days before the SkyRace and the many Children’s race that are run the day before.

Shadowed by the stunning peak of Piz Boe at 3152m, the town of Canazei hosts the start and finish of the race. At 22km in length, the race has 10km of climbing and 22km of descending. In principal, it’s a simple race that is made complex with the variables of weather, snow, ice, technical terrain, altitude and speed. It’s important to climb strong, however, the descent often proves to be a key deciding factor. What goes up, must come down and with 12km to play with, an exceptional descender can make any lost ground on the 10km climb.

4-hours 30-minutes are allocated for participants to complete the course starting and concluding in the Piazza. It’s a fast race and course records currently stand with Kilian Jornet and Megan Kimmel, their times 2:00:11 and 2:25:57 recorded in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

IMPORTANTLY the 2017 edition of the race will be longer at 23.5km with an additional 200m of vertical gain.

Added interest can be noted in the record for the ascent and descent, a key feature of this race. Augusti Roc Amador and Laura Orgue have recorded 1:16:47 and 1:29:30 of the ascent and Fabio Bonfanti and Angela Mudge hold the records for the descent, 00:43:35 and 00:58:47.

In 2016 Tadei Pivk and Laura Orgue were the champions recording times of 2:03:38 and 2:27:42 respectively.

The 2017 Edition

The 20th edition has one of the best fields ever assembled in the history of the Dolomites SkyRace. Over 100 elite runners will toe the line and therefore it is impossible to look at each runner individually. We will therefore concentrate on the potentials for top-3 and we will also look at the likely contenders for the top-10 who may well male top-5 and on a good day, may make the podium.

Notably, past winners Megan Kimmel, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet will not be running.

MEN

Tadei Pivk heads up the men’s race as the Skyrunner World Series past champion and defending champion of the Dolomites SkyRace. Tadei had injury issues earlier in the year but has now put them behind him with a great victory in Livigno SkyRace.

Marco De Gasperi is a legend in Skyrunning and recently just missed out on victory at Zegama-Aizkorri. Marco also came close to pipping Kilian Jornet for Dolomites victory a few years back and lost out in a head-to-head sprint for the line – could this be Marco’s year? It would be a popular victory!

Alexis Sevennec crosses between ski mountaineering and Skyrunning and excels at both. He has a solid history with the Dolomites race and in 2016 had great runs at Trofeo Kima and Limone.

Hassan Ait Chaou had a stunning 2016 and seems to be lacking that extra 5% this year, however, he can never be ruled out and the distance and format of the Dolomites race suits him.

Jan Margarit is one of the rising stars within the Salomon Team and has all the potential to have a great race here in Italy. He has been a little quiet in the 2017 so far – he will hopefully come fresh to Canazei.

Martin Anthamatten is past winner of the Matterhorn Ultraks and on his day, can go head-to-head with the best. Like Sevennec he is also a skier and ski mountaineer – the crossover with Skyrunning is a formula that has been proven to work.

 

Pascal Egli had a solid race earlier in the year in China at Yading SkyRun and has excelled at the Dolomites race in past editions. He is most definitely a contender for the top-5.

VK specialist Marco Moletto in many respects is a surprise entry for the SkyRace, however, we can expect to by one of the front contenders if not in the lead at the summit. The question will come in regard to his descending ability?

Remi Bonnet is now finding form after many injury issues in 2016. If we look back to 2015, this young Salomon runner was unstoppable at the VK distance and he scored impressive victories at Sky races at the USA’s Rut and Italy’s Limone. If he is in great shape, we can expect top-5 and a podium if not victory is a distinct possibility.

Micha Steiner has raced Dolomites on many occasions and is always in the mix for the top-10. Could this be the year for a break out performance?

Francois Gonon may well impact on the front of the race, on his day he can mix it with the best but I am currently unsure of his form? One to watch.

Kiril Nikolov raced in China earlier in the year recently had a solid race at the Olympus Marathon in Greece. Top-10 potential for sure.

Andre Jonsson keeps racing and racing an in the past two weekends placed 4th at High Trail Vanoise and last weekend placed 2nd at the Royal Gran Paradiso – both races long and tough. The pace at Canazei may well just be too much for a tired body but who knows… Andre could pull out a surprise performance.

Another VK specialist, William Bon Mardion is showing on the start list. Like Moletto, we can expect a strong performance in the first 10km’s of the race as they climb all the way to the summit of Piz Boe – how will the 12km drop to Canazei go?

Surprises could come from anywhere with a field that has so much depth and it may well be that I have missed some key names from the extensive start list. One thing is for sure, Saturday’s 20th edition is going to be an exciting race.

WOMEN

Laura Orgue returns as a past winner and the fastest female to the summit, The VK specialist who runs Sky races is the odds-on favourite for victory. However, she will have run the VK race the day before and that may just take the edge off?

Ragna Debats is on the start list and would almost certainly be a contender for the podium – she is having a great year! However, I believe she will miss the Dolomites and will be looking for some rest and recovery ahead of the Tromso SkyRace in early August.

Aitziber Ibarbia is always a contender at the Sky distance and we can expect her to make an impact at the front of the race.

Ekaterina Mityaev like Ragna Debats is on the start list and would be a contender for the top-5, however, she placed 3rd just last weekend at the Royal Gran Paradiso and I believe she will miss the Dolomites race.

Hillary Gerardi from the USA had a strong performance at Livigno SkyRace and went on to have some solid results at other races such as the Chamonix VK and Pierre Menta. I think she will be a surprise package in the race and will turn a few heads.

Addie Bracy also from the USA won the USA Mountain Running Championships in 2016, so, she has plenty of speed. Placing 10th at Zegama-Aizkorri would suggest that she still has something to learn on a real mountain. Dolomites will certainly test her but top-10 is on the cards.

Maria Zorroza finished just over 1-minute clear of Bracy at Zegama-Aizkorri and some 20-minutes off the winning time. Therefore, a top-10 is a distinct possibility and a top-5 would see her having a great day!

Norway’s Hilde Alders may well have a great race in Italy. The Dolomites course will suit the Mizuno sponsored runner.

Katrine Villumsen had a solid race behind Megan Kimmel and Ragna Debats in China earlier this year – if she has a good day, a top-5 is a distinct possibility and she may well just make the podium.

Ever-present Stephanie Jimenez has raced in Canazei many times and always is in the mix – I expect no different this year.

Anna Comet has been missing so far, this year in the Skyrunning calendar after concentrating on the IAU World Trail Championships – the Dolomites will see a return to her racing fast and light in a full-on mountain race.

Names to watch:

Laia Andreu, Victoria Kreutzer, Stine Haustreis, Lisa Buzzoni, Beatrice Delflorian, Francesca Rossi, Lara Mustat, Axelle Mollaret, Svetlana Buravova, Jennifer Asp, Chiara Gianola, Susanna Tervo, Lucia Dobrucka

Full SWS Calendar available HERE