Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc UTMB® 2016 Preview


I won’t be at UTMB this year, Trofeo Kima is happening the same weekend in Italy and I wouldn’t miss this high octane extreme event for anything, especially when it only happens every other 2 years.

But UTMB has a stellar line up this year. It’s going to be a cracking race.

Just in case you didn’t know, UTMB is a 170km circular journey that starts and finishes in Chamonix passing through France, Italy and Switzerland with 10,000+ meters of vertical gain on non-technical trails. In 2014 Francois D’Haene of France set the men’s course record 20:11:44 and the female course record is held by Rory Bosio (USA) who ran 22:37:26 in 2013. Rory in the process ranked in the top-10 overall that year!

Recently, UTMB has hit the headlines after a top 10 finisher in the 2015 race, Gonzalo Calisto, was tested and found positive for EPO. This came to light in June when the IAAF added Calisto’s suspension to its website. However, UTMB were not notified of this positive test? In recent weeks and months, many investigations have been made and you can read them all on this website HERE. Ultimately, this positive test has raised alarm bells and certain aspects of the testing and notification procedure need to change. I hope UTMB will have testing once again this year and they provide data and information to the media.

Racing for the main starts on Friday August 26th at 1800hrs local time and it looks like a great weekend of weather is in store for spectators, it may be a little hot for the runners. Please also remember that many other events happen in and around the UTMB, the PTL, TDS and CCC.



Luis Alberto Hernando is in a good place! He is a new Dad, has raced less and when he has raced he has been in top form. A repeat win at Transvulcania and dominant performance at the Skyrunning World Championships for a gold medal and world title and suddenly you begin to see everything clicking into place. Luis dropped from the 2014 UTMB and then came back, one year later to place 2nd. Luis does always race from the front and hard, he tempered this in 2015 but it still may well be his achilles heel in 2016? I hope not, Luis would be a popular champion!

David Laney third at UTMB and 8th at Western States in 2015 are two very significant performances and bode well for a great 2016 UTMB. What doesn’t bode well is the most recent 20+ hour finish at Western States. It leaves a huge question mark on David’s current physical and mental ability to take on the big dance in Chamonix.


Andy Symonds for me is the dark horse. It’s his first 100 miler and that is a huge disadvantage. But Andy knows how to race, prepares meticulously and I know he’s fired up for this race. In the past he has often played 2nd fiddle at the big races but a podium at Transgrancanaria, a victory at Lavaredo and 2nd (silver) behind Luis at the Skyrunning World Championships tells me that the time is right for the Brit who lives in France. Listen to the podcast here.


Zach Miller is relatively easy to write about… we will see one of two performances: 1. An all guns blazing early race that potentially will open up a gap that he extends and holds on to take the biggest victory of his life! 2. As 1 but a major blow up that sees him lose the lead and drop substantial places or a resulting DNF. Think Max King at Leadville.


Didrik Hermansen is a potential revelation in Chamonix and I do believe that he can win. I said that at Western States after I saw his run and victory at Transgrancanaria. He didn’t disappoint in the USA and he placed 2nd at WSER. UTMB is a different playground but this guy can run and hike – he is going to need all those skills in France, Italy and Switzerland. Listen to the podcast here.


Jason Schlarb was fourth at UTMB in 2014, won Run Rabbit Run, completed Marathon des Sables. skied the Hardrock 100 course, won the Hardrock 100 with Kilian Jornet and here he is, in Chamonix, looking to do an epic double – you know what, I think he can do it! I’m not sure that he will have those extra percentages for victory, Hardrock may well have but pay to that. But I do see a potential top 5 and even the podium if the stars align. Listen to the podcast with him here.


Gediminas Grinius 5th at UTMB in 2014 and what followed was quite a rise in the sport of ultra-running. Gediminas has an interesting back story of post-traumatic stress and it is running that helped. When you have been to hell, pain in an ultra is nothing. It’s worth remembering that this guy can dig deep. A win at Transgrancanaria, a win at UTMF and a string of top 2nd places certainly elevate GG for a top UTMB place. Listen to the podcast here.


Tofol Castanyer won CCC and was 2nd at UTMB in 2014. He has a string of top performances and results but his recent form seems a question mark. On paper, he’s a podium contender but I said that last year and he didn’t finish. We will have to see?

©iancorless.com_South Africa14-5983

Ryan Sandes had a tough 2015 and has patiently come back in 2016 with a 3rd place in Tararwera and 4th place in Australia at the Ultra Trail. Ryan never likes to race a great deal preferring to train and prepare meticulously for key events. He has done that in the past, Western States for example only to not race at the 11th hour due to injury or illness. Apart from FKT records, Ryan’s career highlights are his win at Transgrancanaria and top results at UTMF and WSER. Ryan has been in Chamonix for some time training and I hope he will arrive at the line fresh. He has all the potential to shake up the podium. Listen to the podcast here.


Fabien Antolinus is an under the radar runner who is known in France and not many other places. A top consistent performer at Templiers and the Ice Trail Tarentaise, Fabien backed this up last year with a 6th place finish at UTMB behind a doping Gonzalo Calisto, so, he finished 5th really. I see a potential repeat performance.

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras could win, could finish in the top 10, may not start and if he does start, may not finish. Yes, Miguel is a class act when the stars align but neither he or us can predict when this will happen. A highlight for sure was his UTMB 2nd behind Xavier Thevenard in 2013.


Javier Dominguez just had a great run at the Skyrunning World Championships with 3rd place behind Luis Alberto and Andy Symonds. He also placed 3rd at Lavaredo. Although he will be in the mix he is potentially a top 5-10 finisher.


Julien Chorier has the long game, strength and persistence for a top UTMB performance. I’ve seen him time and time again grind out great results. His victory at Ronda dels Cims a few years back is still one of the most dominant performances of running I have seen. Julien has backed that up at Western States, Hardrock, Diagonale des Fous, UTMF and of course UTMB. His best UTMB was 3rd in 2008 and in 2013 he finished 6th.

Paul Giblin for me is a dark horse. Last year he missed UTMB and compensated with focusing on Western States in 2016, he placed 5th. That’s one of the UK’s best performances at the race. He’s a runner and the 10,000m of vertical may go against his natural abilities but don’t rule him out! Listen to the podcast here.


You have to draw a line somewhere but we also need to consider, Diego Pazoz who has illuminated several races in 2016, most notably victory at the Eiger Ultra Trail and Mont-Blanc 80km.

He could be a huge surprise as could Stephan Hugenschmidt from Germany who has had many notable results.

Zdenek Kris finished 9th at Ultra Perineu in 2015 and recently placed 5th at the Skyrunning World Championships.


Two Frenchmen, Arnaud Lejeune who was 2nd at UTMF in 2015 and Thomas Lorblanchet who has wins at Leadville and 4th at Western States will also mix things up.

Ryan Smith, Pau Bartolo, Jez Bragg, Aurelian Collet, Ludovic Pommeret, Armand Teixeira, Jordi Bes and Bertrand Collomb-Patton all have top 10 and certainly top 20 potential.

Needless to say there is a whole stack of other male talent that have experienced UTMB before somewhere in and around the top 50. Any of these runners who could make a breakthrough performance and venture into the high ranking top 20’s or even top 10. It’s what makes the race so interesting.


Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio holds the course record at UTMB – nuff said! Any lady that finishes in the top-10 overall rocks. But where has Rory been since her repeat victory in 2014? Well, believe it or not, she was filming a reality TV show… really, Rory is an actress! In 2015 she won the Atacama Extreme but other than that she has been relatively low key when racing. UTMB performances are backed up by 2nd, 4th and 5th at Western States so Rory needs no other boosting. I do wonder though if she is in the ‘A’ game frame of mind of 2013 and 2014? We will find out…


Caroline Chaverot for me is the lady that will win UTMB 2016. Caroline is a machine who smiles from beginning to end and her performances over the last 18-24 months have blown me away. She does race a great deal and I think that went against her at UTMB in 2015 when she DNF’d. This year though I have noticed a difference… she obliterated the Transgrancanaria course, she obliterated the MUT in Madeira and she became Skyrunning World Champion at the Buff Epic Trail – 2016 is Caroline’s UTMB year!


Nuria Picas has twice finished 2nd and I would normally talk Nuria up as the winner. Last year she dropped early and since has had very mixed performances. I do believe she has the UTWT curse of running and winning too many races in a short period of time which has left her drained. I have seen this in 2016 at Transgrancanaria and most recently at the Buff Epic Trail. Of course, Nuria may well have been savvy and kept her powder dry for Chamonix – I hope so! *August 24th, Nuria will unfortunately not run the 2016 edition due to an injury.

Magdalena Boulet will be there or thereabouts but for me, this course will not allow enough running which is Magda’s strength. No doubt she will be in the mix, her 2nd at CCC proved that but 170k and 10,000m is a big difference to CCC or Western States. Listen to the podcast here.

Uxue Fraille will be out of the mix early on and keep going and produce a solid finish. Uxue’s success is all about pacing and finishing. She lets the other ladies race and fade and then she sweeps them up in the final 1/3rd. Last year she placed 2nd at UTMB and she won UTMF.


Jasmin Paris is one lady who may well win UTMB one day. I’d love to say that 2016 will be the year but I don’t think it will happen. Jasmin runs a great deal and therefore rarely ‘peaks’ for any one race. This is sometimes a good thing but also a bad thing. Although Jasmin can run long, this will be her first big 100+ miler and the Chamonix experience may well overwhelm her. This year she blitzed the Bob Graham Round FKT to a new level and a week after getting married took bronze medal at the Skyrunning World Championships and then won Tromso SkyRace. Personally, I feel Jasmin’s forte and skill set will be best suited to the Skyrunner courses where her fell and mountain running background really shines. She will do well at UTMB but this year will be a learning curve. Don’t get me wrong though, top 5 and certainly top 3 is possible. Listen to the podcast here.

Andrea Huser like Jasmin is a non-stop racer and for me always lacks that extra 5-10% when required due to a constant element of fatigue. Her string of top 2nd and 3rd places for me confirm this. In this 2016 field, Andrea can better her 2014 7th and potentially will make the top 5 and may even challenge the podium but I don’t see a victory.


Fernanda Maciel is a another runner who mixes many sports, races regularly and is always in and around the action. Like Andrea Huser, I see her in the mix but not taking the top slot. If we look at recent results, the consistency is there – 4th at UTMB in 2010, 3rd at MDS, 3rd at Lavaredo 2016 and a string of other podium places at UTWT races. * Fernanda will not run 23rd August. News from her doctors: “They said I was in an advanced stage of injuries to my kidneys caused by my last 2 long races due to dehydration I suffered during the races. Now my blood tests from last friday done here in Chamonix seem normal but not 100% recovered, and of course I am thinking of the UTMB on friday… I’m really sad because they only told me it today!”

Emilie Lecomte has the long game, strength and tenacity for a 170km race but she lacks the speed of many of the other ladies. A top 10 is an almost guaranteed and as other ladies fade, we can expect Emilie to move up.

Francesca Canepa and Emilie Lecomte in many ways are similar runners and Francesca has a strong history with UTMB and Tor des Geants. On her day, she can be up there and in the mix. Recently her form has been questionable.

Amy Sproston has won Hurt 100 and placed 2nd at Western States. For me, Amy is a runner but then again, Hurt has some gnarly terrain on those 20-mile loops, so, is this the year that Amy puts UTMB demons to rest? Her history is not good with the race – three starts and only one finish when she placed 8th.

Aliza Lapierre is potentially the USA’s top contender behind Rory Bosio. Her list of results in all varieties of races bodes well for a solid UTMB. But at really specific races, Transgrancanaria for example the mountainous terrain has caused her to struggle a little. Aliza like to run and although UTMB has plenty of that, it also has plenty of hands-on-knee action.

Larisa Dannis likes a running race and like many of the American ladies the increased vertical causes an issue. On paper though, she has the racing pedigree for a top performance. you don’t get 2nd at Western States by accident.


Ester Alves is a good friend and races too much (sorry Ester). One day, Ester will pick a race and prepare meticulously for it and then excel. I saw this earlier this year when she won and dominated The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. I think what worked there was it was the first race of the season and she could therefore be specific over the winter. What has followed is a string of races in many varied locations with a list of good results but no stand out results! Ester placed 8th at the 2014 UTMB so the potential is there!


Gemma Arenas I know well in the Skyrunning circles but this will be her first 100 and it’s a tough one with strong competition. It will be a learning curve.

Like in the men’s race, curve balls will swing in and we can expect to see these ladies’ mixing it up, Silke KoesterNicky Spinks, Sally McRae, Sarah Willis, Sophie Grant, Frederica Boifava, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St. Laurent and Manu Vilaseca amongst others.

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LOGO_SKYRUNNING_WORLD_CHAMPS-768x778Every two years the Skyrunning world assembles at an iconic venue and racing commences in VK, SKY and ULTRA distances to announce a male and female champion in the respective distances. Two years ago, the endurance capital of the world Chamonix, hosted the championships and this year it is Spain.

The Vall de Boí in the Spanish Pyrenees will provide a modern day coliseum where Skyrunning gladiators will battle at the BUFF® Epic Trail Aigüestortes events. A spectacular natural arena surrounded by 3,000m peaks and 200 mountain lakes. Rich in cultural history, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It may come as no surprise that runners from all over the world will arrive in Spain and over the three races, the lineup of talent is second to none. The line-up has five previous world champions returning:

Luis Alberto Hernando

Luis Alberto Hernando

Luis Alberto Hernando, Laura Orgue, Oihana Kortazar, Augusti Roc and Elisa Desco.


In 2014, Australia were a dominant force and surprised many with break through performances, once again they return with a super strong field. The Czech Republic, Japan and Portugal are also sending talented squads, for many, it may well be a first racing in Europe or the high mountains of the Pyrenees. In total, 35 different countries will be represented.

Events start on Friday July 22nd with the VK, on Saturday 23rd it is the ULTRA and closing events on Sunday 24th is the SKY distance.

Importantly, WADA anti-doping tests will be carried out at the Championships managed by FEDME, the Spanish Mountain Sports Federation and ISF member for Spain which will sanction the events and oversee them with their referees. The organisation will be in the capable hands OCI Sport, with whom the ISF has collaborated on a number of high-profile events including the 2012 SkyGames® in Andorra and Spain.

Needless to say, the number of athletes taking part is extensive and at this stage, we may well have some late additions. Below are many of the key runners who I anticipate to do well:

VK – For the short and steep specialists, the BUFF® EPIC TRAIL VK is 2.8 km long with 1,030m positive climb. The average incline is 30.7% and reaches a mean 50.4% at the steepest point. It is capped at 250.


Ferran Teixido from Andorra is currently ranked highly on the SWS2016 and we can expect strong competition from Saul Antonio Padua, Andrej Fejfar, Augusti Roc, Jan Margarit, Alexis Sevennec and Pascal Egli.


Laura Orgue just did the ‘double’ in the Dolomites winning both VK and SKY and will be hot favourite on home soil. However, Christel Dewalle will have other ideas and the race may well be a head-to-head between the two. Vanessa Ortega, Yngvild Kaspersen, Therese Sjursen and Ekaterina Mityaeva.

SKY – The rugged BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 42KM is a point to point with 3,200m positive vertical climb. Again, a highly challenging extremely technical race with a nine-hour time limit capped at 500.


Is going to be fast and furious and the lineup is stunning with Tom Owens, Blake Hose, Manuel Merillas, Pascal Egli and Marcin Swierc pushing for the top slot. But strong competition will also come from Marc and Oscar Casal Mir, Pablo Villa, Jessed Hernandez, Alexis Sevennec, Dai Matsumoto and Artem Rostovstev.


Elisa Desco, Yngvild Kaspersen, Azara Garcia and Maite Maiora form a stunning quad of talent but Oihana Kortazar, Ida Nilsson, Marta Molist, Ragna Debats and Katrine Villumsen will make sure that the run for the line is not an easy one. Dark horse is the UK’s Jasmin Paris – watch out.

ULTRA – The BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 105KM, with a grueling 8,000m elevation gain and a maximum gradient of 56%, is as tough as they come. Strict qualification standards will be enforced for participants, which are capped at 250.


The ultra is the big one and I have to say the talent is what one would expect when a world title is at stake. Luis Alberto Hernando may well be the one to beat on home soil but Andy Symonds after recent success in Lavaredo will push him. As will Franco Colle, Majell Backhausen, Zaid Ait Malek, Cristofer Clemente and Ben Duffs. Miguel Heras is also toeing the line and if in form, watch out! Fulvio Dapit, Leonardo Diogo, Nuno Silva, Jan Bartas and Pau Bartolo are also strong contenders.


The ladies race is equally editing with Caroline Chaverot being the lady to beat. She has been on fire this year! Ruth Croft made the podium at Transvulcania but arguably local lady, Nuria Picas is the one to upset the apple cart. A strong fight will come from Fernanda Maciel, Anna Strakova, Gemma Arenas, Hillary Allen, Ester Alves, Kristina Pattison, Soto Ogawa and let’s not forget Mira Rai who is returning from injury.


World titles and medals will be awarded, crowning the champions of the Ultra, Sky and Vertical disciplines together with combined titles and country ranking. A total of twenty-seven medals and a €20,000 prize purse await the champions of these prestigious competitions.

Alpina Watches, 2016 Skyrunning World Championships Official Timekeeper, will award six prestigious Alpina Horological Smartwatches to the male and female champions of each category, Vertical, Sky and Ultra.

The Vall de Boí will also host the 2016 ISF General Assembly on July 22, which will be attended by members from far and near.

Check out details of the three World Championship courses here.

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Transgrancanaria 2016 – Elite Press Conference


Many of the top elite runners assembled in Maslpalomas, Gran Canaria yesterday evening for the Transgrancanaria 2016 elite press conference.

In the past few years, Transgrancanaria has grown as the first big European race that in many ways sets the scene for what is to come later in the year.

The 2016 edition of the race is no different.


2015 champion Gediminas Grinius is back and looking to defend his crown but he is going to have a tough job. He said:

“I feels no pressure now but as I stand on the start, the tension will come and then will be soon released. I am here to perform to the best of my ability.”


Seth Swanson from the USA is considered to be a dark horse, his repeat 2nd places at the past editions of Western States and 4th at UTMB not only means that he has pace to run fast but that he can also climb and descend.

“I’m really happy to be back in Europe and the opportunity to run across an island, from the top to the bottom, is one of the unique attraction of the Transgrancanaria race.”

Julien Chorier, Yan Long Fei, Antoine Guillon, Didrik Hermansen, Jonas Buud, Tim Tollefson, Sondre Amdahl, Andy Symonds, Seb Chaigneau, Yeray Duran are just some of the other top elite men who will contest the finish line on Saturday outside the Palais de Congress in Maspalomas.


The ladies race has less depth but two time champion Nuria Picas is back and of course a hot favourite for victory. Last years 2nd placed lady, Caroline Chaverot is also one to watch:

“I want to have a good race, a pleasant journey and I hope I don’t get lost… last year I made a couple of mistakes.”


The USA’s Angela Shartel was also present and excited to be racing in Europe for the first time.

Dong Li, Uxue Fraile, Manuela Vilaseca, Lisa Borzani, Anrea Huser and Silvia Trigueros are also hot contenders for the top-3 podium places.

Racing starts at 2300 (local time) on Friday March 4th

Read a full race preview HERE

Ultra Pirineu 2015 Race Images and Summary


Nuria Picas was looking to defend her ‘home’ crown in a race that she has won for the last 4-years. Luis Alberto Hernando, champion in 2013 and 2014 was returning looking to make it a triple but more importantly the Skyrunner® World Series title for the ultra distance was at stake. Add to the mix Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, the last time the duo raced here in Baga was 2012. Kilian won that year ahead of Anton Krupicka and Dakota Jones, Emelie placed 3rd behind Nuria Picas and Anna Frost.


Starting at 0700 in the center of Baga, one has a full appreciation of how important running has become in Spain and I guess more importantly here in Catalonia. Kilian and Nuria are as important if not more important than football stars here in this part of the world. Autographs, photographs, shaking hands, pats on the back and the noise; wow the noise is incredible! Yes, they are the ‘Messi’ of the running world in these parts.


The day was always going to be one full of drama and battles. We had a race within a race and as such one had to keep an eye not only on who was running in the top-3 but also who was running in the top overall rankings. Coming into Ultra Pirineu Franco Colle was 1st in SWS rankings followed by Cristofer Clemente in 2nd and Luis Alberto Hernando in 3rd. It was all up for grabs. For the ladies the battle was relatively straight forward; if Emelie won the race she would be SWS champion. If Mira Rai won the race, she would become champion.



From the gun Emelie made her intentions clear and took hold of the race from the front and it stayed that way for the whole 110km. Although the story changed a little behind the dominant Emelie, the writing was on the wall; Mira Rai would place 2nd and Nuria Picas would place 3rd. At times Mira looked to close the gap and then it would extend whereas Nuria looked resigned to a solid 3rd place.



The men’s race was a little more unpredictable! I say unpredictable but in all honesty, did we (I) ever think anyone other than Kilian Jornet would win the race? I know I shouldn’t say that; anything can happen in 110km but barring an accident or some unforeseen problem, I really didn’t see any other scenario playing out.


In the early stages Jessed Hernandez, Miguel Heras and Zaid Ait Malek accompanied the Catalan over the undulating terrain. Kilian always looked relaxed and in control. The protagonists changed at the front of the race, Miguel and Zaid would take a turn to pace and all the time Kilian would run in 2nd keeping his powder dry. The elastic finally snapped with Zaid and Kilian taking the front and opening up a gap over Miguel.


Behind the lead trio a battle was unfolding. Franco Colle SWS leader coming into the race dropped with sickness; his 2015 SWS chances over! Cristofer Clemente was running in 4th and Luis Alberto Hernando clearly tired from his 2nd place efforts at UTMB just 3-weeks earlier was running in and around the top-10 battling to win the SWS title.


Miguel didn’t give in though, he found some internal strength with 85km’s covered and closed the gap to then take over the lead with Kilian as Zaid faded. Over the final km’s, Kilian put his foot on the gas on one of the final climbs and quickly opened up a 6-minute gap over Miguel. The writing was on the wall, Kilian would win the 2015 Ultra Pirineu and he would be welcomed by a home crowd like a long lost son.


Behind the drama unfolded, Zaid refused to give in. He once again caught Miguel and this time pulled away and never looked back. He finished 2nd and produced one of the most impressive display finish line antics I have witnessed. Miguel took the final podium place and then attention turned to the SWS ranking.


Cristofer Clemente finished 4th and Luis Alberto Hernando had to finish in the top-15 to take the SWS crown; he did it! It has been quite a year for Luis. A series of high ranking victories and podium places, 2nd at UTMB, Skyrunning European Champion and now the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series Champion. Bravo!

Attention now turns to Limone Extreme for the respective SWS titles in VK and SKY.


  1. Kilian Jornet 12:03:27
  2. Zaid Ait Malek 12:12:23
  3. Miguel Heras 12:20:35
  1. Emelie Forsberg 13:39:33
  2. Mira Rai 13:43:49
  3. Nuria Picas 14:13:01

Skyrunner World Series Champions 2015

Emelie Forsberg and Luis Alberto Hernando


Full race results HERE

Ultra Pirineu 2015 Race Preview


The Skyrunner® World Series for 2015 for the Ultra distance draws to a close in Spain at the Ultra Pirineu. It’s amazing how time flies; it only seems weeks ago that I was writing about Transvulcania.

Taking place on September 201th, Ultra Pirineu follows on from the RUT and as such, it will be an exciting race.

Runners will assemble in the Cade Moixero National Park to do battle over a very challenging race. The 110km race is the main event and the one that gains the most attention. With 6800m of vertical gain it’s a race that will push each and every Skyrunners’ legs and lungs to the limit.


Luis Alberto Hernando, Skyrunning World and European Champion for the ultra distance will be looking to repeat his victory from 2014. Would you want to bet against him? Luis has been on fire in 2015 with victories at Transvulcania and Ice Trail Tarentaise. Add to this podium finishes at Tromso SkyRace and UTMB and for sure Luis will be a hot favourite for victory.


However, a certain Kilian Jornet running on home ground may well scupper Luis’s plans. Kilian has had a quitter year in 2015 as he has concentrated on his Alpinrunning projects but that did not stop repeating his 2014 victory at Hardrock 100 and in the process he now holds the course record for both directions.

“I am very excited about competing at home again as this was the very first race I competed in. There is an incredible level of competition this year, so a show is guaranteed.” – Kilian Jornet

And Kilian has hit the nail on the head, rising star of the sport Manuel Merillas (winner in 2011) will run. Manuel is still looking for the big win but a string of high placing and podium finishes will almost certainly guarantee that he is pushing the pace with the rest at the front.


Franco Colle just the other weekend won the RUT in the USA and has now decided to miss Tor des Geants to content the podium on Spain. Currently Franco leads the Skyrunner World ~Series for the ultra distance and he will bo looking to gain maximum points and the bonus that come with it to secure the overall position in the ranking, it won’t be an easy task!


Cristofer Clemente was 2nd at the RUT also and now lies 2nd on the ranking for the SWS. He did have some question marks over if he would race here in Spain due to the proximity of the USA race, however, I can’t help but think he will give the race a go and he will see what happens. At 110km it’s a long tough race for this late in the season.

tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com

UTMB duo, Miguel Heras and Tofol Castanyer both had troubled races this year on the big loop of Chamonix and so they will no doubt be looking to put the record straight here. As we all know, on their day they are 2 of the best ultra mountain runners in the world. They also both have a great history with this race.



Ricky Lightfoot has once again had another incredible 2015 mixing up his race distances and experiences with diverse races races such as Ultra Skymarathon Madeira, DoDo Trail in Mauritius and of course his local fell races in the UK.  *may not race due to illness, me missed the Lakes Sky Ultra?

Jessed Hernandez placed 3rd in 2014 and he will be looking to move up 1 or 2 places in 2015 but the odds may well be stacked against him with such a quality line-up. Yeray Duran, Philipp Reiter and Miguel Caballero will also contend the top 5 but there are more runners than places; who will come out on top?


Nuria Picas has made a home at Ultra Pirineu, it’s ‘her’ race and 2015 will be the 5th time she will toe the line looking for another victory. Her recent blip at UTMB will soon be behind her and she will no doubt looking to put the record straight on home ground. We can all think back to that epic battle between Anna Frost, Emelie Forsberg and Nuria Picas in 2012.

“I am delighted to see that world renowned international athletes are once again coming here, it’s a race that deserves consideration.” – Nuria Picas



Emelie Forsberg ran her very first 80km race at Ultra Pirineu (then called Cavalls del Vent) in 2012. She placed 3rd! What has followed has been an incredible rise in the sport of Skyrunning. While Nuria pursued the UTWT, Emelie has gone on to dominate Skyrunning races worldwide, the 2015 edition of Ultra Pirineu will once again see these two dominant and inspiring ladies once again go head-to-head. It’s an exciting prospect.


Nepalese sensation Mira Rai will also race. Her victory at the Mont-Blanc 80km turned heads and I think it’s fair to say that the 110km distance will suit her running style.


Anna Comet has been a revelation in 2015 and has consistently placed on the podium. Like Nuria, Anna is placing a great emphasis on Ultra Pirineu as she considers it a home race. The ‘home’ advantage really motivates and Anna’s recent non-racing will almost certainly mean that she will be fresh for an epic battle.

Ester Alves, Julia Boetger, Gemma Arenas and Roser Espanol will also be looking to mix it up at the front of the race. Ester in particular has seemed unstoppable in 2015 after going from one race to the next.

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In addition, the official Skyrunning Facebook page (here) and Twitter @skyrunning_com will have regular updates and news.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® #UTMB 2015 In-Depth RACE PREVIEW


It’s the end of August and that can only mean one thing, UTMB. 

UTMB has become one of if not THE mountain races to do. In many respects it is almost a victim of its own success. More and more runners want to participate in the big circular dance around the Mont-Blanc but the trails can only take so many people.

I could enter into a debate about the points system but I won’t. I actually think it’s a solution to an ever increasing problem that UTMB organisation face and as such we all know the score, we know what we need to run the race and ultimately we have a choice.

Should points come from qualifying races? Yes, why not!

Should races pay a fee to supply those points? Yes, why not!

I know my last comment will create some debate but to be honest, the fee to ITRA is relatively small and the cost per head is minimal and the races that offer points gain entries. However, I do think another option exists for points.

Why not let all races provide points? Say 0.5 points for an easy trail race of say 50km and then points increase by 0.5 up to a maximum 4-points for a big mountain ultra. If you then want the points, you the runner pay for each 0.5 point you receive. That way, the person who wants/ needs the points pays and the race and other runners don’t pay. Seems logical to me and in actual fact, I think it would generate even more money for ITRA and the UTMB. I welcome your thoughts on that and boy oh boy what a way for me to start a preview on the 2015 race.

UTMB is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) and as such offers points to a larger circuit. Francois D’Haene and Nuria Picas were 2014 champions.


Well, I was supposed to be in Chamonix for this race but at the 11th hour I have decided not to attend. It was a tough decision and one that I didn’t take lightly. Particularly now that I am seeing all the social media posts of all the runners and spectators arriving in the endurance capital of the world.

The reality is I have been on the road since January with little or no break and next week I travel to the USA for over a week which is then followed by a succession of weekends travelling and providing photography and writing for a succession of races. I personally had great potential to break )ver training one may say), so, home I am staying and for once a relaxing weekend.

The main event starts at 1800 Friday 28th August. I always feel a little ashamed when I say the main event as a whole series of tough and challenging races take place during UTMB week. For example, the ridiculous PTL, the tough TDS, the challenging CCC and the OCC but I only have so much time and the UTMB draws the crowd and the most stacked field. For the first year, UTMB will not be a TNF event and the new sponsor Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and Montrail has a tough act to follow, I wonder if we will notice any difference?

One thing is for sure, the men’s and ladies’ races are stacked. Darn it, I used that word again! Let’s try again – A plethora of talent has arrived in Chamonix to do battle on this super tough and iconic 100+ mile course that circles Mont-Blanc.



Tofol Castanyer made the podium last year and with no Francois D’Haene he for me has the nod for victory. He has been quiet lately no doubt keeping the powder dry and although not very experienced over 100-miles he is a super savvy and experienced mountain runner with the solid Salomon team who can offer support and backup.


Luis Alberto Hernando should win UTMB but he won’t. Nothing would please me more to see Luis top the podium in Chamonix but the reality is, he is not a 100-mile runner (not yet anyway). Put him on a course from 50km-80km and he is unstoppable. Put him on a 100km course and he may or may not win but will podium. Put him on 100m route and he will go great for the first 80km and then fade. This is not helped by entering UTMB tired. He won Transvulcania, placed 2nd at the IAU World Trail Champs, won Ice Trail Tarentaise and then placed 2nd at Tromso Skyrace looking distinctly whacked at the end. That was only a few weeks ago and I just don’t see the recovery and training working in Luis’s favour. I hope I am wrong!

tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras, well who knows? If he is fit and on fire he could win and almost certainly podium. However, he is extremely injury prone and his performances could come with a flick of a coin. In 2015, Miguel has been much more low key, he has raced but without any pomp and circumstance and that was intentionally so. Placing 2nd behind Thevenard in 2013, Miguel WANTS to win the UTMB and this may well just be the year!

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The Salomon trio is rounded out with Ryan Sandes. This is a really interesting inclusion into the UTMB mix. Ryan can climb, can run fast and is endurant (Drakensberg Traverse) and therefore may well have the essential credentials to podium at the least and may well just win. Certainly, Salomon could repeat the trio of results that we have seen in pervious years. Ryan has had a mixed 6-months with injury, a last minute withdrawal from Western States and I therefore think he is going to be super focussed on this race. One to watch!


Sage Canaday enters the 100-mile distance for the first time and as great a runner as he is, I don’t see him making the podium. Controversial I know. He has the speed for sure. He has the climbing and descending but I have no reason to think he has the race plan or strategy for what will be at best a 20-hour race. Like Luis Alberto I would expect strength and dominance over the first 100km and then a fade. But he has been in Chamonix preparing and he is a student of the sport. He may very well have hidden himself away, changed everything about his training and come up with the perfect 100-mile training plan? A 5k track session (in 16min) just 3-days before the race suggest otherwise though.

tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com

Xavier Thevenard won the race (surprisingly) in 2013 and then seemed to implode with the pressure. Last year he took the attention of himself and ran the TDS and won it. In doing so, he became the only runner to have won the CCC, TDS and UTMB; impressive! So the facts speak for themselves, super talented and obviously can perform with the best if the pressure is off. Will the pressure be on for 2015 is the question? I think it will but less than in previous years and that may just allow him to run his own race and find his 2013 legs and head. Good luck.

Julien Chorier Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier impressed the hell out of me a couple of years ago at Ronda dels Cims with a consummate performance. He loves the mountains and he can run fast too. He was 2nd to Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria in 2014 and 2nd to Kilian at Hardrock 100. A recent 6th at Western States shows us that all is in place for a great run and that’s why I give him a nudge over Gediminas.


Gediminas Grinius has been a revelation. His rise in the sport over the last 18-months has been remarkable and you know what, he could win UTMB. He ran a great UTMB last year (5th), won Transgrancanaria and placed 4th at Western States. Expect him to be out of the mix early on and then he will close out super hard and fast.

Stephan Hugenschmidt is my dark horse and potential big surprise of the 2015 UTMB. He had a breakthrough 5th at Transvulcania, won Zugspitz and had a great result at Transalpine.

We are now in the territory of surprise packages and believe me, some of the fellas mentioned below will figure highly in the run for the podium and top-10.

Seth Swanson has been 2nd at Western States 2-years on the run and I still know very little about him. My head says he will need a UTMB run to find his legs before he can comeback and mix it up at the very front. However, nobody expected him to place 2nd at WSER and then go back and do it again!


Sebastien Chaigneau is the old guard of the race, the wily old fox that everyone loves. Seb has had a tough couple of years and as time has passed, the competition has got faster. I’d love him to find some of that old form, that 100-mile sparkle and dish out to the newbies.

Jeff Browning may well be the best prospect from an American perspective as he is a true mountain man. But he may well lack some of the essential European speed.


Franco Colle won Tor des Geants and then earlier this year placed 2nd at Mont-Blanc 80km. In addition, he has been at the IAU World Trail Championships, ran (and won) a Skyrunning exhibition event in Cervinia and recently ran Tromso Skyrace. Potential dark horse for UTMB!


Sondre Amdahl like Gediminas has been a revelation. He is committed, sometimes too committed but I love his passion. He prepared meticulously for Transgrancanaria and placed 4th, went out to the USA to prepare for WSER and placed 15th and has spent recent months preparing in Chamonix for UTMB. Top-10 potential and maybe around 5th if he has a great day.


Best of the rest


Francois Faivre – 7th at UTMB last year.

Carlos Sa – He could win it but more than likely a top-10.

Pascal Giguet – Top-10 at Mont-Blanc 80km.

Ryan Smith – a Brit who may well be a real dark horse.

Robbie Britton – local lad, 3rd at the 24-hour and 7th at Tarawera. Placed just outside top-50 at UTMB last year but has been in Chamonix for months which will either mean he is in fine form or broken. I think the former. Good luck Robbie.

Yeray Duran – Always strong at Transgrancanaria.

Paul Giblin – another Brit with all the potential to spring a surprise.

Kim Collison – Another multi talented Brit who has speed and endurance.

Joe Grant – We all know Joe and what he can do.

Danny Kendall – The UK’s top MDS performer, not new to UTMB and this may well be his best year.

Jesse Haynes – Great at WSER but in Europe, who knows?

John Tidd – Won’t win but absolutely solid performer.

Stone Tsang – Every chance for a stunning or latter ‘teens’ performance.

Yoshikazu Hara – same as Stone?


I could go on….




Neck on the line, this race is for Nuria Picas and I personally think she is going to have the race of her life and win it with a consummate performance. This is no way a reflection on the competition, just an observation of Nuria and an understanding of how this lady ticks. For the past 2-years, Nuria has raced a ridiculous schedule and still placed 2nd twice behind Rory Bosio. This year, Nuria has been quiet. Very quiet. A win at Transgrancanaria and then what? I will tell you, training and preparation. She will be on fire!


Caroline Chaverot though has also been on fire! In the last 18-months Caroline has exploded with a series of remarkable performances that would suggest a solid UTMB is on the cards. Her victories at Lavaredo and the Eiger confirm that she can perform on the big days out.

Nathalie Mauclair beat Caroline at the IAU Word Trail Championships but that really draws no comparison to UTMB. However, Caroline beat Nathalie at Lavaredo. Take your pick! On paper, I would say Nathalie will be better over the longer distance and time that UTMB will offer and her victories at Diagonale des Fous will put her in a great place both physically and mentally for that.

The upset may well come from Stephanie Howe and I am sure that TNF and the USA would like nothing more than Steph picking up where Rory Bosio left off. Stephanie’s 3rd at WSER left her feeling tired but by all accounts, she has prepared well for the circle of the big white mountain. She has the speed, I just wonder if she has the legs for the climbs and descents and a 24+ hour run in her?


Francesca Canepa may make the podium? I have always been impressed how Francesca can race UTMB and then just a week later race Tor des Geants. One thing is for sure, I don’t think we will see Francesca at Tor this year after last years’ controversy. 2014 was a great year for the Italian (until Tor) and then it all seemed to go to bits. Understandable really. So coming into UTMB we have little to go on, other than 3rd at the Eiger but she was 30min of the winning time. UTMB may well be a redemption year!


Uxue Fraille has always impressed with her patience and calculated running. She is a diesel. Expect her off the pace early on and close well. She placed 5th last year and a repeat performance is a distinct possibility.


Fernanda Maciel is solid on the UTWT circuit and although I don’t see her taking the top slot on the podium, top-5 is a distinct possibility and if she has a great day, the podium may well be hers. Fernanda spent a great deal of time at altitude over Christmas (too long) and this tired her. Let’s hope she is recovered and ready to race hard in Chamonix.

Darcy Piceu is an interesting addition and after that ding-dong with Frosty at Hardrock I am really eager to see what she can do here in France. She placed 3rd in 2011 in just under 29-hours, she will need to run much faster than that this year! One thing is for sure, the distance and time on feet will be no issue, the question mark will be recovery post Hardrock?


Ester Alves from Portugal has already raced a great deal in 2015 with a string of top placing’s and I have no reason to think that a strong performance is a distinct possibility here. But by strong I mean top-10. A recent tumble at Ice Trail Tarentaise won’t have helped her preparation but she is strong and committed.

Lisa Borzani races and races and races. At TDS in 2015 she placed 2nd. I see her a consistent performance for a top-10 but not victory or the podium.

Nicole Struder ran 14:22 at Rocky Raccoon 100-mile. That’s fast! But she will need to add 10-hours of running to that Rocky time at a minimum for UTMB and through in some serious mountains. So although I see her potentially having a good race, I don’t think that those USA trail legs will handle the European mountains.


My dark horse for the ladies is Veronica Bravo. She is a super strong adventure racer, has the mind for the long game and 100% commitment. She may not win but I expect she may turn a few heads and UTMB race day looks like it will be a hot one; she loves the heat! Earlier this year she won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.

Amy Sproston is a tough one to call. She won Hurt 100 but UTMB is a faster race with tougher competition.

Sally McRae may well offer the best prospects of a top USA performance outside those of Howe. Sally has been top-10 at WSER twice and although UTMB is a big step up from Western, she may well have the race to mix it up.

Gill Fowler from Australia may well rock the apple cart. She was 4th at Lavaredo, yes somewhat off the front pace but a top-10 at UTMB is on the cards.


Ones to watch


Shona Stephenson – Top-10 at UTMB before.

Sarah Morwood – 11th at UTMB previously.

Manu Vilaseca

Caroline McKay

Denise Bourassa


And so many more….


Schedule HERE

Ultratrail TV HERE











The North Face Transgrancanaria 2015 – Race Day Images



The 2015, The North Face Transgrancanaria was always going to be an exciting race… you only had to look at the line-up of elite athletes who had travelled from around the world to participate.

However, the script was thrown out of the window and series of surprises continued to unfold for the duration of the race, leaving us all to wonder, who would be crowned 2015 champions?

Nuria Picas (Buff) regained her 2014 title with a time of 16:53:27. Although Nuria didn’t lead the race from start to finish, once the Catalan took the reigns there was no holding her back.

Lithuanian Gediminas Grinius (inov-8) won in the male race in a time of 14:23:37. However,  was a race of many surprises and changing scenarios.

The race started in mild weather but as time passed, an ever increasing wind started to blow making conditions extremely difficult during the night. The breaking of a new day added sun and heat to the equation and this combination of elements caused a continual problem for nearly all the runners.


1 – Núria Picas 16:53:27
2 – Caroline Chaverot 17:16:48
3 – Dong Li 18:15:55


1 – Gediminas Grinius 14:23:27 new CR
2 – Didrik Hermansen 14:30:07
3 -Antoine Guillon 14:39:05

Notable withdrawals during tha race came from: Nikki Kimball, Yan Longfei, Iker Karrera, Pau Bartoló, Fernanda MacielJoe Grant and local hero, Yeray Durán.

A full results article will be posted on Sunday 8th March.

Race Day Images are below. Please respect the copyright of ©iancorless.com

The North Face® Transgrancanaria® 2015 – Race Preview


Transgrancanaria kicks off the first race of an ever growing European calendar and just as has happened in previous years, a stellar field will assemble on the island for what is always a tough and challenging series of races.

For the men, we have some of the 2014 big hitters missing: Ryan Sandes, Julien Chorier, Timothy Olson and Sebastien Chaigneau. That leaves the podium wide open… you’ll soon see though, Transgrancanaria has no shortage of male talent gunning for the top slot.

For the ladies, 2014 champion Nuria Picas returns along with Fernanda Maciel who placed 3rd. The only significant name not starting is Francesca Canepa.

The third race of the 2015 Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) looks all set for an epic battle.



The competition among male runners will be tough and exciting. Many elite runners already know the race but we need to watch out for several names that are racing for the first time who stand a great chance to contest the podium.

Iker Karrera, Anton Krupicka, Pau Bartoló, Sondre Amdahl, Carlos Sa, Gediminas Grinius, Yeray Durán, Antoine Guillon and Javier Domínguez arguably head up the elite field but there are no guarantees of victory…

Experience always provides an advantage; previous editions of Transgrancanaria have shown that this course offers many surprises due the tough and challenging terrain. Joe Grant, Brendan Davies, Sebastien Buffard, Anthony Gay, Sylvain Couchaud, Cyril Cointre, Christophe Le Saux and Yan Longfei will all ensure that the ‘hot’ contenders will have to fight hard for victory.

Who’s shooting for the podium?

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.comIker Karrera has all the potential to be an unstoppable force at Transgrancanaria. He has a great combination of strength, speed and endurance; Ail essential ingredients for success at Transgrancanaria. Iker’s 2013 Tor des Geants and Eiger Ultra Trail performances and arguably, he would have been a potential 2014 UTMB winner had an unstoppable Francois d’Haene not turned up.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1080340Anton Krupicka had a couple of low-key successes in 2014 with Jemez 50 and the Dirty 30; both great comeback races that precluded a strong and impressive Lavaredo. This had us all thinking Anton is back! Unfortunately, it all went pear shaped at UTMB when his body shut down. If Anton is ‘on’ then he will push at the front and contesting the win. The distance suits his racing style and the technicality will play into his hands.

Gediminas Grinius had a stunning 2014 with 3rd, 4th and 5th places at Lavaredo, UTMB and Raid de la Reunion. Three tough races! Based on these performances, Gediminas has all the potential to podium once again and should all things align, he may even win.


Carlos Sa is an ever-consistent performer who performs exceptionally well on a multitude of surfaces, distances and temperatures. Think: Badwater, UTMB and Marathon des Sables. Without doubt Carlos will be in the mix, definite top-10 material and if he has a great day, the top-5 is not beyond him.

Sondre Amdahl like Gediminas Grinius had a great 2014. He placed 6th at Transgrancanaria last year and then 7th at UTMB. His recent 2nd at HK100 is a sure sign that he is in form. He has prepared meticulously for Transgrancanaria… he even moved to the island! 2015 may very well provide an opportunity for a breakthrough performance?


Pau Bartoló won the 2014 CCC and a tough and challenging Transgrancanaria course will play into his skill set. He’s going to need a great day to make an impression on the podium but this island has a habit of jawing runners up. A little patience early on may well pay dividends later.

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Brendan Davies is a guy who likes to run, a win at TNF100 and top-10 at Western States proves this. However, he always seems less positive on technical courses and as we all know, Transgrancanaria has plenty of this. If Brendan can find his legs and get in a rhythm, he will be a contender.

Javi Dominguez was 7th last year and followed that up with a solid 5th Raid de le Reunion. He’s a shoe in for top-10 but the podium will likely elude him unless several other runners crumble (possible on this course) and he as a great day!

Antoine Guillon is part of the unstoppable WAA team who somehow seems to manage racing almost every race in the UTWT calendar and still come out with great results as his 3rd, 4th and 5th at Tor des Geants, UTMF and Transgrancanaria show. I see no reason why Antoine wouldn’t make top-5 again!

©iancorless.com.IMG_1749Yeray Duran was 4th last year and is always fired up for what is his ‘home’ race. His form however can be little unpredictable, so, I’m going to sit on the fence; he could very well have a brilliant day or a disappointing day. Let’s go for the former… top-5!

Yan Long Fei won HK100 ahead of Sondre Amdahl arguably to his incredible sub 2:15 marathon speed. Ultimately though, Transgrancanaria is not going to all Yan many opportunities to open the after burners and run… I see Yan having a similar race to Brendan; they could both potentially struggle with the technicality.

©iancorless.com_TCC2015_Day6-2991Plenty of other great male runners in this race and any of them could shine. For example, Joe Grant will like this course, how he performs very much depends on his recovery from The Coastal Challenge, which he raced in early February.



©iancorless.com.IMG_2858The female field can often lack depth, but not at Transgrancanaria… 2014 champion Núria Picas heads up the ladies race along with 2014 3rd place, Fernanda Maciel. Nikki Kimball fresh from The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica will also be a major contender.

From Europe, Caroline Chaverot, Emilie Lecomte, Denise Zimmerman, Ildiko Wemescher and Elena Polyakova are the main contenders but they will need to suppress competition from American and Canadian: Aliza Lapierre and Stephanie Case. Manuela Vilaseca, Dong Li, Wyan Chow, Nerea Martínez, Xari Adrián, Silvia Trigueros and last but not least, Claire Walton make this arguably one of the strongest female fields we have seen at Transgrancanaria.

Who’s shooting for the podium?

©iancorless.com.IMG_2053Nuria Picas was unstoppable last year winning or making the podium in pretty much every race she ran. Kicking off 2015 with a podium place at UTMF was clear sign that Nuria was running herself in to form. I think she will show the ladies a clean pair of heels at Transgrancanaria and take a strong and decisive victory.


Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd last year and arguably gave 2nd place away to Francesca Canepa (who has decided not to race) after having a to-and-fro battle with the Italian. Fernanda had a strong 2015 consistently making the podium in UTWT races. Recently, she has had an extended period at Aconcagua and all that altitude must be advantageous.

©iancorless.com_TCC2015_Day4-2099Nikki Kimball needs no introduction, she has been there and done it: from Western States to UTMB. Nikki, like Joe Grant raced The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and by contrast to Joe, I don’t think TCC will have fatigued her, on the contrary, it will have provided a great kick-start for a potential podium performance in Gran Canaria.

Aliza Lapierre placed 5th at Templiers in 2014 and has won Bandera 100k. I can’t help but think that a ‘running’ course would play into Aliza’s hands more than this course, however, she has loads of class and we can expect that to shine through for a potential top-5.

Emilie Lecomte copyright iancorless.comEmelie Lecomte lacks outright speed but she is a pure mountain lover and she has endurance in abundance. The tougher the better! Emilie has set records on the GR20, excelled at Tor Des Geants, Raid de la Reunion and Ronda dels Cims.

Nerea Martinez and Emelie are made from the same mold and ironically have very similar race histories. Top-10 for sure and don’t expect Emelie and Nerea to finish next to each other in the results.

Wyan Chow won HK100 and may well upset things a little. I don’t see victory coming Wyan’s way but a podium is a possibility. Similarly, Dong Li who placed 2nd at HK100 and Sai Kung 50 will almost certainly make top-10 but the podium is a long shot.

A surprise may come Caroline Chaverot who placed 5th at Mont Blanc 80K in 2014 and my dark horse is Claire Walton and possibly Elena Polyakova.

Stephanie Case gets a nod as a last minute entry.

Follow the race in images and posts on Facebook HERE and on Twitter HERE



Elite runners will not be seen just in the Ultra race but also in the Advanced race of 83 km. The Advanced has been included this year for the first time in the Spain Ultra Cup® Aml Sport HG and will start from Moya town. Furthermore, this race will allow runners score points for the Championship of the Canary Islands. Zaid Ait Malek, from Morocco, Jorge Aubeso, Pau Capell, Judit Franch, Laia Díez, Yolanda Fernández, among a number of local runners from the Canary Islands, are the ones who will keep the level of this race very high.

Additionally, last year winner Nuria Domínguez will participate in the Marathon and the Polish Tomasz Kilsz, winner of Marathon in 2013, will run this year the Starter race. Efrén Segundo, Trail Series, Championship and Cup of the Canary Islands winner, will participate in the Promo race.


What is the UTWT? 

The aim of the UTWT is to gather the most important races of the five continents and to offer the runners the opportunity to discover new landscapes while running. These races also show how diverse trail running can be: steep mountains on Gran Canaria, strenuous uphill in the Alps, paths in California, hills and beaches in Hong Kong or the Moroccan desert.

The proposed races are made for runners with high adaptability and each and every of them is unique: The North Face® Transgrancanaria®, Vibram® Hong Kong 100, Tarawera Ultramarathon, Marathon des Sables, The North Face® 100 Australia, The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra-Trail®, Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, Eiger Ultra-Trail®, Ultra-Trail® du Mont-Blanc, Ultra-Trail® Mt.Fuji® and Le Grand Raid de la Réunion. All these races require different skills in order to win or to be one of the finishers.

Volta Cerdanya Ultrafons 2014

Eugeni Roselló - VCUF 2013

The Tour Cerdanya; take paths linking the towns of the region or neighboring regions, it is a wonderful environment to explore and discover… it is one of the most beautiful valleys in Europe for its breadth and its sunshine. A place where athletes such as Kilian Jornet and Emma Roca have spent hours and hours running and discovering. It is a magnificent corner of the world that is surrounded by four peaks, Carlit Puigpedrós, Tossa Plana Lles and Puigmal; they dominate the plains.

The Volta Cerdanya Ultrafons consists of four key races:


Perfil VCUF 2014 - rut

Data: 6th

Start: Puigcerdà

Distance: 214 km

Elevation: +10.000 m

Elevation: -10.000 m



Perfil VCT 2014 - rut

Date: 7th

Start: Alp
 Arribada: Puigcerdà

Distance: 87,5 km

Elevation: +4.410 m

Elevation: -4.365 m



Perfil CMC 2014 - rut

Date: 8th

Start: La Tor de Querol

Arrival: Puigcerdà

Distance: 37,6 km

Elevation: +2.095 m

Elevation: -2.160 m



Perfil CPMC 2014 - rut

Data: 7th

Start: Bellver de Cerdanya

Arrival: Martinet

Distance: 12,8 km

Elevation: +530 m

Elevation: -617 m

Nuria Picas (Buff) has confirmed her participation in the Tour Cerdanya Trail (87 km race) this comes as a surprise after her withdrawal from Zegama-Aizkorri. However, Nuria must feel strong and will use this as preparation for the Skyrunning World Championships at the end of June.


Nuria is one of the best mountain runners in the world and currently leads the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) after impressive wins at Transgrancanaria, UTMF and TNF100.


Judith Franch (inov-8), along with Berta Moreno, Djanina Freytag and Xari Adrian are strong candidates to become the new champions this weekend in Catalonia Cerdanya.

Who else should we watch out for?


  • Eugeni Roselló winner of The Spine in the UK will be a strong contender
  • Eduardo Perez
  • Ganuza, David Vallverdu
  • Olga Manko


©copyright .iancorless.com.P1170664

Almost all Spanish/Catalan, but great names indeed:

  • Jordi “Toti” Bes (Esports Nabes team)
  • Gerard “Blacky” Morales (Buff),
  • Pau Bartoló (Buff)

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1170586

  • Arnau Julià (Buff) is not sure if he’ll run 87K or 37K.
  • Karim El Hayani (from Morocco, runs in sandals and was fourth a few weeks ago in a Spanish Cup race),
  • Berta Moreno,
  • Isaac Torija,
  • Ignasi Vilà
  • And two Tarahumara Indians from Mexico: Silvino Cuberas and Arnulfo Quimare.


  • Emma Roca is the best known here and hot favourite.
  • Kilian Jornet used to run this distance but he’s attempting Denali (McKinley) as part of his Summits project.
  • Pau Zamora (Buff),
  • Marc Pinsach
  • Diego Marin


Pablo Vigil!

P in CPMC is for “popular” so there are no elite runners (apart from Pablo, of course!), some famous TV presenters, writers, doctors and so… More than 200 people take part making VCUF a big event.

The Region

The Catalan Cerdanya region is an area of natural beauty that has unique traits such as, terrain, climate and history that give a very particular character. Cerdanya is one of the widest valleys of Europe, with a minimum altitude of 1000 feet). Cerdanya’s east-west orientation provides around about 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. The mountain range consists of the Sierra del Cadi (western half) of the Sierra Moixerò and others as eastern most massifs Tossa d’Alp and Puigllançada, and the bulk of Pedraforca as Berguedá. The diversity and beauty is very clear: from the pure features of the Mediterranean to alpine levels. The area has sub-Mediterranean forests, beech forests, boreal forests of pine and sub-alpine coniferous forests, with pine and fir. The vegetation of the park is considered of special interest, because of the low temperatures and high humidity in the area and its altitude contributed to the existence of species that are not typical of the Mediterranean area, but in northern Europe and the European high mountains. Cerdanya is a great place to enjoy sport in a unique environment that offers a wide range of possibilities for any kind; mountain bike, trails, Nordic skiing, skiing, golf, horse riding, fishing, mountaineering, climbing, snowshoeing … the region has endless possibilities.


Website http://www.ultrafons.com


Zegama-Aizkorri 2014 In-Depth Race Preview

Kilan and Hernando copyright Ian Corless

Kilan and Hernando copyright Ian Corless

The heat subsides on the island of La Palma, the waves continue to splash on the shoreline and a new week begins. It’s only 10-days since the incredibly successful, dramatic and exciting Skyrunning Transvulcania La Palma. But wait a minute, days away, the iconic mountain race, Zegama-Aizkorri kicks off. Ask anyone about ‘Zegama’ and they say, it’s ZEGAMA! Nothing more needs to be said… it’s a race that excites mountain runners like few other races do.

Zegama Map iancorless.com

It’s a brutally fast and technical race that is not for the feint hearted. Located in a natural park, Aizkorri-Aratz, it brings respect and excitement to every mountain runner that toes the line.

Zegama Profile Zegama this year may very well just be a classic in the making, we had fireworks at Transvulcania, but one look at this line-up and I think we may well have fireworks once again but this time on the proportions of a New Year’s Eve get together…

Kilian Jornet, Luis Alberto Hernando, Marco De Gasperi, Tom Owens and Pablo Villa illuminate a top-quality men’s field.

Emelie Forsberg, Maite Maiora, Stevie Kremer, Kasie Enman, Elisa Desco and Nuria Picas add no element of softness to the race line up, these ladies are as tough as nails and may well take down a few of the top ranked men.

So, what is going to happen on the trails and mountains of the Aizkorri-Aratz?

Tech specs:

A medium mountain route over the Aratz massif and the Sierra of Aizkorri, which includes the four highest peaks in the Basque Autonomous Region (Aratz – Aizkorri –Akategi and Aitxuri). Starting in the town of Zegama (296m) the race climbs up to the high point of Otzaurte (652m) and then follows a mountain pass and a route along paths and mountain tracks of great natural beauty. It combines forests with steep rocky slopes and high grazing land. It is very technical and with a high level of difficulty.

Date: 25th of May, 2014

Start and finish: Zegama ( guipúzcoa ) –09:00 start.

Total length: 42.195 km.

Control points: 14
Refreshment points: 13

Flying sprint: Aizkorri (22.58 km)

Accumulated height gain: 5.472 meters

Maximum altitude: 1.551m Aitxuri

Minimum altitude: 296m Zegama.

Technical percentage of course: 70% approx.

Climate: medium mountain, possibilities of intense heat, strong winds, fog or rain.

Time limit: 8 hours.

Closing time of check points: Click the button to see the control time



Kilian Jornet, Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet, Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

The men’s race is full of talent and like Transvulcania, a winner could come from any direction; are we due a surprise? However, based on the La Palma showdown, one has to conclude that Luis Alberto Hernando and Kilian Jornet are HOT favourites for the win.

Luis Alberto Hernando Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando fulfilled a dream at La Palma and coming to Zegama he will either be immensely satisfied and looking for a victory loop or he will be fired up and ready for more… I’m going with the latter! He’s a fierce competitor and his powers of recovery post Transvulcania will be good. Zegama suits Luis and he only ‘just’ missed out on the win in 2013 by seconds, pushing Kilian Jornet all the way to the line.

Kilian Jornet Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet now has one race under his belt and all the competition will now know that his training is done… I joke, but Kilian usually only needs one race to loosen up and he is back in his stride. If we look at 2012, Kilian placed 3rd at Transvulcania and then just 1-week later dominated Zegama in atrocious conditions. For sure, Kilian doesn’t like heat and he will be hoping for cooler conditions come the weekend of the 24th. If he could choose, he would like rain, some snow and wind. If we get those conditions, Kilian will almost certainly be hot favourite. Should we get sun, heat and calm conditions, I think Kilian is still the hot favourite BUT it will be close, very close.

Marco De Gasperi Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Marco De Gasperi Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

So close that Marco De Gasperi will almost certainly make Kilian and Luis potentially repeat the Zegama finish of 2013 or we may have a ‘replay’ of the Kilian and Marco sprint from the Dolomites Skyrace in 2013. One thing is for sure, the legend that is Marco De Gasperi will be pushing the Spaniard and the Catalan over every meter of this course and if he is not pushing them, he will be leading them. Marco keeps telling me that he is getting old but class is permanent and that class will shine in Zegama.

Tom Owens Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Tom Owens had a superb Zegama in 2011 and 2012 and then disappeared in 2013 with injuries. However, Tom is back! A recent 2nd behind Ricky Lightfoot at the Three Peaks in the UK and a stunning 6th at Transvulcania, his first ultra, without doubt elevates Tom to hot and he will be looking for a podium place. For Tom to place 6th in an ultra and then drop down to his preferred distance, SKY, can only mean that he has an even greater chance of rocking the cart. His strong fell running background is a perfect fit for this race. Podium potential for sure.

Tadei Pivk Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Tadei Pivk Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Tadei Pivk produced a stunning run in 2013 taking the final podium place ahead of Zaid Ait Malek. Both of these runners will make an impact one again. In particular, Zaid has progressed in the last 12-months with a series of quality results and performances. He’s a small guy with a huge character and personality. They will both be up at the front.

Zaid Ait Malek Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Zaid Ait Malek Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne will be leaving his helicopter at home and once again lacing up his ‘Sense’ to test himself against the best in the world. He will be in the mix, he always is, however, he just needs that touch of extra luck to help him move up to the very front end of a pure mountain race like this. Michel had a string of top-3 performances in 2013, a notable 2nd to Francois d’Haene at Mont-Blanc 80km a highlight. Just recently he placed 2nd at Trail du Ventoux, so, the form is good.

Pablo Villa Transvulcania 2014  ©iancorless.com

Pablo Villa Transvulcania 2014 ©iancorless.com

Pablo Villa is going to be on a high after top-10 at Transvulcania and like Tom Owens will be looking to carry the momentum on here. It’s going to be a tough call and although I don’t see him contesting the podium, the Scott runner will be in the mix if recovered.

Oli Johnson inov-8 ©iancorless.com

Oli Johnson inov-8 ©iancorless.com

Inov-8, Skyrunning partner are sending a very strong field that can be broken down into several levels. I see the strong performances coming from Eirik Haugsnes, Aritz Egea and Alex Nichols. Anyone of these guys could make the top-10. Oli Johnson placed top-10 at Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2013 and will represent the UK at the up and coming Skyrunning World Champs, he has the run ability and skill set to excel at Zegama, however, I am not sure he is 100% at the moment, so, I think he will have a presence at the front end, his performance will very much depend on his progression in the last 2 to 3 weeks. Pierre Laurent Viguier recently won Trail du Citadelles but like Robbie Britton, this race may well be too short, too technical and too fast for them to excel. I see Zegama, as being a learning curve and Chris Steele will no doubt embrace the opportunity and give it all he has.

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

Alex Nicholls gets a nod in the inov-8 line up but we have other quality overseas competition coming from Cameron Clayton (USA), AJ Calitz (South Africa) and we should have had Vlad Ixel arriving from the Southern Hemisphere, however, recent injury has put a stop to that. A real shame, Vlad is my hot-tip as one of the new ‘surprises’ in the trail and ultra world. No worries, we will get to see him perform in June at the World Champs. AJ Calitz pushed at the front end of the 2013 Zegama and then it all went pear shaped when he tried to follow Kilian on one of the descents, he hit the deck and his race was over… AJ swore he would be back and he is! I still think he is in for a learning curve experience but I do expect to see him in the mix. Cameron has all the speed needed to race at the front but this race is like no other. It’s fast, furious, relentless and technical. The question for Cameron will be can he use all that natural ability and perform on what for him, will be very technical terrain?

Martin Gaffuri Transvulcania Half Marathon ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri Transvulcania Half Marathon ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri raced really well in 2013 earning some very cool Skyrunning stripes. He started 2014 with a warm up in Costa Rica laying a great foundation and at Transvulcania he raced the half-marathon so as not to use up too much energy and gain a confidence boost. However, the race didn’t go well… just a bad day I am sure. However, it may play on Martin’s mind? Martin has the right skill set, speed and downhill ability to do well at Zegama so we will just have to see what happens.

To be honest, Zegama has an elite list that extends well beyond 50 runners, so, here are a few notable mentions that we can almost certainly expect to see in the mix:

  • Cristobal Adell – potential top-10
  • Alfredo Gil – potential top-10
  • Jokin Lizeaga – potential top-10
  • Greg Vollet – Team Manager for Salomon. Don’t be surprised to see Greg beat some of his own athletes and he may well make top-10.
  • Thorbjorn Ludvigesen
  • Fabio Bazzana
  • Florian Reichert still new to Skyrunning and on a learning curve but may make the mix?
  • Stephan Wenk
  • Hassan Ait

Who have I missed? In a field this stacked, it’s impossible to account for everyone, particularly local runners who I may not know too well but who will excel on local terrain.

Check out the men’s elite field at http://www.zegama-aizkorri.com/en


Emelie Forsberg copyright Ian Corless

Emelie Forsberg copyright Ian Corless

Rewind to Transvulcania and I think we may well see some similar performances with the exception of Frosty who will not be racing at Zegama. What we have, is a who’s who of female mountain running and it’s wide open.

Nuria Picas Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas is on fire! As I write this, she has just won TNF100 in Australia setting a new course record. Add to this win, two incredible 2013 wins, one at the 105-mile UTMF and the other at Transgrancanaria and Nuria is the female to beat at any distance and on any course. However, she pulled out of Transvulcania (correctly in my opinion) and although Nuria is on the start list for Zegama, I expect a similar withdrawal this coming week? However, should she race, she will be pushing at the front, of this I have no doubt. The question mark will come on how fresh she will be for a short, fast mountain race after racing 100km’s or more in the early part of 2013. Nuria placed 2nd in 2013 behind Emelie Forsberg and finished just seconds ahead of Stevie Kremer. It’s an exciting prospect. Update 21/05/14 : Nuria will not race stating that recovery is paramount after her win in Australia.

Emelie Forsberg Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg is just off skis and other than running half of the Transvulcania VK and a couple of hours in the Transvulcania main event, has little running in her legs. Add to this a bad fall in La Palma, stitches and some recovery time and Emelie may well be going to Zegama the most underprepared ever. She was relatively underprepared in 2012 when she arrived an unknown, however, look what has happened since… She has said to me that Zegama is no longer an ‘A’ race and she will use it to find form, however, Emelie on an off day is still a formidable force and I still see her in the mix. Emelie won Zegama in 2013 and pretty much everything else in her long and demanding season. When knocked off the top slot, particularly in mountain running, it was by Stevie Kremer! Firstly at Mont-Blanc and then at Limone, so, Emelie will be taking Zegama with one eye on the trail and the other on Stevie.

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer is also just off skis but unlike others, Stevie does maintain some running during the winter months. It may not be a great deal of hours or mileage but that connection with trail certainly puts her in a good place for the first race of the season. She showed this last year at Zegama when she flew down the final descent (she says she can’t descend) and nearly caught Nuria for 2nd place. Notorious for being nervous on the start, Stevie turns that energy into exciting running. She can climb with the best and although she thinks that she can’t contest the downhills, she can! Stevie just needs to believe it. My tip for the race victory!

Maite Maiora Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Maite Maiora Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Maite Maiora is a class act when it comes to mountain running. Her recent 2nd place at Transvulcania shows a new side to this slight but extremely strong runner. With added endurance, boosted confidence and great technical ability, Maite will be in the mix at Zegama and testing the other ladies to the limits. I see her on the podium; the question will be at which level? To be honest, if her recovery has gone well post La Palma, I see her going head-to-head with Stevie.

Elisa Desco Transvulcania VK ©iancorless.com

Elisa Desco Transvulcania VK ©iancorless.com

Elisa Desco returned to racing in 2013 and won the highly prestigious Sierre-Zinal. Her recent win at the Transvulcania VK and half marathon confirms that her form is good. Elisa has all the right elements to perform well at Zegama and without doubt she is podium material. The ladies field is so strong, it may well just come down to who makes the least mistakes? Elisa won’t make many!

Uxue Fraile Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Uxue Fraile Zegama 2013 ©iancorless.com

Uxue Fraile once again produced an incredible race in Transvulcania. I said in that preview that she lacks the outright speed of some of her rivals, however, what she does have is staying power and true grit. So, should any lady falter, Uxue will be in the mix to take places. I see this happening again at Zegama. She will definitely be in the top-10, probably in the top-5 and may just sneak the podium.

Kasie Enman is coming over from the USA and will add an interesting dynamic o the race. She’s a fast lady and as Stevie says, she is without doubt one to watch. The trails and technicality of Zegama may not allow Kasie to unleash her natural speed, however, I don’t see her being off the pace. The biggest question will come in her form, as this is a return to racing after having a child.

The ladies race has less depth than the men’s field, however, you can expect to see the ladies listed below in or around the top-10.

  • Oihana Azkorbebeitia last big win in 2012, Puebo de Gran Fondo and has had top ranking at Zegama before. This is her comeback after having a baby. You can’t rule her out…
  • Nerea Ambilibia
  • Aitzibier Ibarbia
  • Stephanie Jiminez strong run at Transvulcania VK and just coming into form.  Will not race, Stephanie says she is not ready for 42k yet.
  • Silvia Miralles
  • Landie Greyling strong South African runner, 5th at Kepler Challenge and 2nd at Addo Elephant.

Who have I missed? It’s impossible to account for everyone, particularly local runners who I may not know too well but who will excel on local terrain.


Trail Magazin, Germany 2013