Ultra Skymarathon Madeira 2016 Preview #USM – Skyrunner® World Series

©iancorless.com_USM2015-3300

Running and ultra running really is booming in Portugal. Carlos Sa and Ester Alves amongst others are paving the way. Madeira, an island in the Atlantic Ocean lies west and slightly south of mainland Portugal and it is an incredible natural landscape that cries out for challenging races. Madeira is of volcanic origin with extremely rugged topography, as such, it’s the perfect location for a Skyrunning race.

The USM is a technical mountain race which consists of steep slopes and trails covering a distance of 55km and 4000m of vertical gain. It is no ordinary race and one that combines mixed elements in a wonderful natural playground for the adventurous runner. Comprised of passages which require technical climbing expertise of grade 2, stunning mountain scenery, mountains, sea cliff landscape plus the addition of an up river boulder hopping scramble; yes, the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira is a unique race.

Starting in the town of Santana, a northern municipality of Madeira Island,the runners soon head up a climb of 1400m to Encumeada Alta (1750m). Cloud inversion happens often here and suddenly runners can feel as though they are floating. In the distance as altitude changes, islands appear in and out amongst a sea of clouds.

“The views when the mist lifted were incredible,” said Ricky Lightfoot, 2015 champion. “It was almost as though I was running in another race.”

 

“‘USM is one of, if not the hardest race I have ever done,” said US based mountain runner Stevie Kremer. “The terrain is relentless and conditions underfoot just make it so much harder than others.”

For the first time, the island of Madeira, Portugal, will feature on the Skyrunner® World Series. The 55 km course with a brutal 4,000m vertical climb will welcome runners from across the globe up for the challenge.

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Anna Frost, fresh from a 7th place at Transvulcania is just one of the competitors who loves skyrunning and island-hopping. Speaking to Lauri van Houten she says:

“This place is incredible. The diversity of nature, the amount of vertical that you get immediately from the sea is breath-taking. The colour of the water is like nothing I have ever seen. I have stopped so many times to say “wow”! The organisers and community runners have made me feel at home already. I don’t want to ever leave…”

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-7697Frosty  will be joined by Americans Hillary Allen, who is looking strong after her 5th place in Transvulcania and Kristina Pattison who is now fit and fired up to compete in Madeira after a recent illness and a a late withdrawal from Transvulcania.

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-9587Strong competition will come from Spaniards Gemma Arenas (6th) and Anna Comet, who placed third overall last year in the SWS.

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Cristofer Clemente from Spain, second on the 2015 SWS Ultra ranking and in last year’s race, is among the men’s favourites with new-entry Remigio Huaman from Peru who finished 7th at Transvulcania. The line-up includes Philipp Reiter from Germany who has been missing from racing for some time, Jan Bartas from the Czech Republic, Dimitrios Theodorakakos from Greece, Pau Bartolo as well as competitors from Japan Skyrunning.

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Nuno Silva and Ester Alves, 2015 Portugal National Champions, will no doubt perform well on home ground after placing respectively 3rd and 2nd last year.

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Notable absentees include Mira Rai with a stress fracture and Paul Hamilton who will sadly miss the whole season. Also, Alicia Shay and Chris Vargo are unable to race (they have had to return to the USA) even though they travelled to Madeira directly after two great runs in La Palma at Transvulcania Ultramarathon.

Other runners to watch out for:

 

  • Elisabet Bertran
  • Anna Strakova
  • Luis Fernandes
  • Martina Valmassoi
  • Franch Pons
  • André Jonsson
  • Rick Floyd
  • André Rodrigues
  • Hidenori Fukuda
  • Lucia Franco
  • Santiago Soria
  • Zuzana Urbancova
  • Tiago Silva
  • Hana Krajnik
  • Ron Braz
  • Sachiko Kotani
  • Albert Herrero
  • Yukari Fukuda
  • Mindaugas Grigas

The Madeira Ultra SkyMarathon®, now in its third year, perfectly embodies the sea-to sky concept pioneered by skyrunning – with some very technical stretches up to Grade II, and a via ferrata sections just below the island’s highest point at 1,861m altitude.

Course records: Ricky Lightfoot 6h09’56”. Stevie Kremer 7h33’37”

Anticipation mounts for Saturday’s race where the top runners can be followed with our new live tracking system.

Current Ultra Series ranking

Race details

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The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series is brought to you with a new management company, Geneva based SkyMan SA

SkyMan SA  is pleased to present a new Main Partner, Migu Xempower, a Chinese exercise and health management platform which also counts a rich experience in organising marathons, city and mountain races for millions of runners.

The well-established, SkyUltra and Vertical format is joined by the Extreme Seriespresented by Alpina Watches, which more than ever expresses the true spirit of skyrunning defined not only by distance, but vertical climb and technical difficulty.

Skyrunner® World Series is supported by Migu Xempower, Alpina Watches, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.

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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

 

MEN

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

LADIES

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.

YOU CAN CHECK THE FULL LIST HERE

Trail Magazin, Germany 2013

 

The Coastal Challenge #TCC2014 – Stage 5 Preview

tcc-stg-5

Day 5 – Sierpe to Bahia Drake

Another long day at 47.5km but what a day and what a course awaits; the route provides a pure rainforest experience. Much of today’s route is in accessible by vehicles. In truth, they only true way to navigate this course is by foot or by boat. The trails are dense, technical and muddy but they interspersed with dramatic water crossings, plantations, small villages and as the stage comes to a close the sea awaits and the stunning Drakes Bay. It’s a paradise. The day starts with a short transfer and water crossing by boat. This is necessary to get all the runners on the correct side of the water. Leaving Sierpe a 5km climb awaits, from the summit, the route very much drops down to the finish with short sharp climbs at 22km, 39km and 43km. Three checkpoints at Sabalo (16.1km), Florida (26.2km) and Guerra (36.1km) are followed with a final water station at 41km. Today is arguably the toughest day for the TCC staff and team as gaining access to the course and route is extremely difficult.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1060802 ©copyright .iancorless.com.P1060809

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#TCC2014

Limone Extreme Race Preview – the 2013 Skyrunner VK and SKY World Series final.

ISF Logo 2013 ORNG+GREY TRANS

The 2013 Skyrunner World Series comes to an end in Italy this coming weekend at the Limone Extreme amidst the stunning backdrop of Lake Garda. It has been an incredible year, three disciplines; VK, SKY and ULTRA have been raced throughout the world over a total of fifteen races (five in each discipline). The ULTRA championship was decided in Vail, Colorado where Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg were crowned Skyrunner Ultra World Champions. This coming weekend, world champions will be announced in the VK and SKY disciplines.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1030770

The Limone Extreme course was designed by Skyrunning legend, Fabio Meraldi. As one would expect, it is a true Skyrunning race with steep, sharp vertical over technical terrain. For example, the VK has 1,100m gain in 3km, climbing from the shores of Lake Garda, the race is extremely unique as it takes place as light fades and the course becomes illuminated by torches.

The SKY course by contrast is very similar to the course in Canazei. At 23.5km it is a short race, however, in contrast to the Dolomites race it does have less vertical ascent. Starting at Lake level runners will tackle 2002m of vertical ascent over a looped course. At the summit, stunning views of the surrounding area and lake are offered, however, participants will have no time to enjoy the view; a long and technical descent to the lake awaits. Often open and exposed, this course requires 100% concentration. Skyrunning legend, Marco De Gasperi set the men’s record of 2:13:34 in 2012 and Deborah Cardone holds the ladies best in a time of 3:02:08.

THE SKY RACE

MEN’S RACE

Kilian Jornet ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet (Salomon) irrespective of his performance at Limone will be crowned World Champion. His three victories in previous races means he is unbeatable. It once again proves Kilian’s ability as a runner but also his ability over multiple distances. One thing is for sure though, he likes to win and he likes to race. The Limone Extreme course will suit his skill levels and it will also fulfill his desires to be at one with the mountain. Without doubt he is an outright favourite for the win.

Luis Alberto Hernando ©iancorless.com

With the absence of Marco De Gasperi due to injury, Kilian will have his hands full with Luis Alberto Hernando (adidas). Kilian and Luis have had an incredible season pushing each other to new levels and better performances as they both attempted to win the ULTRA and SKY series. Luis currently second overall on the SKY series will be looking to consolidate that position and coming from a recent win at Cavalls del Vent he will be looking to maybe topple Kilian and finish the series by topping the podium ahead of the Catalan.

Tofol Castanyer ©iancorless.com

Following Luis at Cavalls del Vent, Tofol Castanyer (Salomon) will join the party on Lake Garda. Tofol has had a very mixed season. Plagued with injury and bad luck, the latter half of his season has seen a return to form. The Limone course suits his natural abilities. *not racing 08/10/13

Alex Nichols ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols (inov-8) has the skill level and speed to move up from 4th overall on the SKY series and move ahead of Jokin Lizeaga Mitxelena (EMF). The two are separated by just 32-points. It will require a top performance by Alex. In the past, Alex has often commented that his descending has let him down, however, just recently he flew down the descent at Pikes Peak proving that he has been working on this!

Erik Dagsson Haugsness inov-8

Erik Dagsson Haugsness inov-8

Unfortunately, Nicola Golinelli (Arc’teryx) who is currently 5th on the ranking will not perform due to injury; this leaves the door open for Erik Dagsson Haugsness (inov-8) to chase his teammate, Alex. Whatever the outcome, UK brand inov-8 will be extremely happy to have two runners in or around the top five in the first season competing in the Skyrunner World Series.

Zaid Ait Malek - Haria Extreme

Zaid Ait Malek – Haria Extreme

One name to watch and look out for in the Limone race is Zaid Ait Malek. This quiet Moroccan has had an incredible season consistently making the podium, often behind Luis Alberto Hernando, however he is without doubt a star for the future. He raced earlier in 2013 at Zegama-Aizkorri and placed an excellent 4th but he has progressed and matured in the following months.

Finally, David Schneider is making a first time appearance for inov-8 at Limone Extreme and it shows how as a brand, inov-8 are looking to the future. They are already committed to a 2014 season and they are laying the foundation now. David is an accomplished runner and comes from a strong orienteering background. He attracted the attention of inov-8 with an 11th overall at the highly respected Sierre-Zinal race earlier this year. Limone will be a great initiation into Sky racing and the technicality it brings.

Other names to watch:

Dai Matsumoto, Ryan Bak, Florian Reichert, Eric Diaz Martin, Didier Zago

Fulvio Dapit, and Nicola Golinelli.

LADIES RACE

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

It is very much a Salomon showdown for Limone with Emelie Forsberg, Stevie Kremer and Silvia Serafini going head-to-head not only for the final race win but the overall title. In real terms, the outright world title will be decided between Emelie Forsberg and Stevie Kremer. These two pocket rockets have had an incredible season and excitement is most certainly building as we anticipate who will come out on top in Italy. Separated by just ten points, 288 to 278, Stevie and Emelie will have a battle royal ahead. I for one can’t wait to see how this one unfolds. Emelie has been Miss Consistent in 2013 showing a skill and ability level beyond her years.

Stevie Kremer ©iancorless.com

Stevie Kremer has been equally impressive. Stevie produced maybe one of the performances of the year with an incredible win and course record at Mont Blanc Marathon. Stevie’s biggest issue may very well be out of her control, she can actually make the long trip from Colorado just two days before the race.

Silvia Serafini ©iancorless.com

Silvia Serafini has blossomed into an incredibly consistent and dominant runner. She gives herself quite a punishing schedule, regularly racing and regularly winning at all disciplines. Currently 3rd in the SKY ranking with 226 points she would need a podium finish and Emelie and Stevie not to finish or finish outside of the points to move up the classification. Irrespective of overall positions, Silvia, racing in Italy will be looking to push as hard as possible and hopefully win the race outright.  *injured 08/10/13

Oihana Kortazar ©iancorless.com

Oihana Kortazar returns to SKY racing after a quiet 2013 and has all the ability and talent to push her Salomon teammates all the way and don’t be surprised if she is on the podium at the finish. *not racing 08/10/13

Anna Lupton ©iancorless.com

Anna Lupton (inov-8) currently placed 6th overall will be looking for a strong and consistent performance to consolidate her 2013 season. The podium may just be out of reach but keep an eye on her.

Finally I am going to tip a hat to Brit, Tracy Dean. This will be her first ever Skyrunning race. Tracy is a strong fell runner and has recently represented GB at the world trail championships. I don’t think we will see her up at the front end but it will be interesting to see how she performs.

Other names to watch:

Maud Gobert and Tessa Hill.

THE VERTICAL KILOMETER

A race within a race! Our attention splits for the Limone VK, for once, Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg are not in contention for the overall World title. However, they will both most certainly be looking for outright victory in the Limone race. Emelie and Kilian have not placed an emphasis on the VK circuit this year and therefore have not accumulated enough points to qualify, however, when they have raced the VK distance they have performed consistently well. Kilian won in Canazei and placed 2nd at Mont Blanc, Emelie by contrast was 4th at Mont Blanc and 2nd at Canazei; both will be up at the front in Limone.

Urban Zemmer leading at Canazei VK

Urban Zemmer leading at Canazei VK

The men’s race is a who’s who of VK racing with the top seven in the rankings performing. Marco Facchinelli is currently leading with 236-points followed by Ferran Teixido Marti Ventosa 2nd with 216-points. In 3rd Joan Freixa Marcelo, 180-points and then the real interest starts, Urban Zemmer, 2012 champion and current VK world record holder is chomping at the bit with 168-points. Interestingly, Marco Facchinelli will need to finish in the top three if he wants to keep the world title, however, should Urban Zemmer win and Facchinelli drop to 4th, the title could be Zemmer’s. It is going to be an interesting race.

Other names to watch:

Oscar Casal Mir 5th, Xavier Teixido Marti Ventosa 6th, Marco Moletto 7th. And in addition, Erik Dagsson Haugsness (inov-8) will compete in the VK in addition the SKY race.

Antonella Confortola at Canazei VK

Antonella Confortola at Canazei VK

Vanessa Ortega Trancon currently leads the VK series with 236-points closely followed by Alba Xandri Suets on 228-ponts and the 2012 VK champion, Laura Orgue is 3rd with 188-points. Brit Tessa Hill is 4th with 156-points and it is all to play for. The addition of Emelie Forsberg and Antonella Confortola will add an interesting element to this race as they are both more than capable of taking the 1st and 2nd places, if this happens, 3rd place and the points awarded will be very important in deciding who will be the 2013 Skyrunner VK World Champion.

An exciting weekend of racing is about to unfold; the VK takes place on Friday and the SKY race Sunday.

LINKS

Follow the action as it unfolds on twitter @talkultra on Facebook HERE and via this website.

Skyrunning HERE

Limone Extreme HERE

Sierre-Zinal Race Preview 2013

©copyright .iancorless.com.iancorless.orgSierre Zinal 1sirrezinalIt’s a birthday year for this iconic mountain race. 40 years! To celebrate, the race organisation have invited many a past winner.

Considered to be one of the finest mountain races in the world. It was once written that it is to mountain races what the New York Marathon is to marathons. It is the oldest mountain race found in its category in Europe’s mountains.

The location is incredible. Of all the races I attended in 2012, Sierre-Zinal left some incredible memories… you see, the Zinal basin is just an incredible place. Also called, ‘the Race of Five 4000m Peaks’ when you stand in Zinal, look to the Matterhorn, you fully appreciate why. It is quite stunning.

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Sierre-Zinal, which takes place in the heart of Valais’ Alps, offers its participants a significant challenge: distance – 31 km, 2200m ascent and 800m descent. Incredible scenery, a warm atmosphere and exceptional organisation explain the success and longevity of this challenge.

As Jonathan Wyatt (record holder of both Sierre-Zinal and the Jungfrau Marathon, as well as a multiple world mountain racing champion) wrote, ‘As a mountain racer you must experience the tradition and history of this race.’

The course records are held by Jonathan Wyatt at 2:29:12 set in 2003 and Anna Pichrtova 2:54:26 set in 2008. If anyone fancies breaking a record in 2013, it would be a great pay day! A CR and a win this weekend, would earn the lucky person 3,000 Swiss Francs.

Legendary Pablo Vigil is a special guest this year. He participated and won the race years back and has become an ambassador for the race and has been instrumental in ensuring a strong American contingent at the race, for example, Stevie Kremer may very well have not participated in 2012 had it not been for Pablo.

This years race, as in any year will have names missing and I guess the big omission will be Marco De Gasperi. He is choosing to race in Italy. So, who will be lining up from the impressive 40-year history of the race?

MEN

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Despite Kilian Jornet telling me he was having a rest post Trans D’Havet so that he could prepare for his Matterhorn Summits attempt and the ISF Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks later in August, it would appear the proximity to Zinal is just too much temptation for him. So, he will make the trip from Cervinia and line up in Sierre for what he says will be a ‘fun’ run. Read into that what you will. When I see Kilian’s name on a start sheet he always must be considered for the podium… however, he may just kick back and enjoy the day. Read my interview with Kilian HERE

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Sage Canaday is travelling to the race after a strong victory at Speedgoat 50k and although he will be new to the course, I have to think it will suit him. He will need to ensure that he is near  the front in the early stages for the long climb, but once up, the course flattens and he will be able to open up and let his natural speed do the work. If he has a good day and is pushed, we may well see a new course record.

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Max King has raced at Sierre-Zinal before and from memory he didn’t have a great race. He was around 20th and I think the European style of racing was just too different from what he was used to. However, he is a very different person now. In actual fact, Max raced at the 2012 Zegama-Aizkorri, however, that race was as problematic as his 2011 Sierre-Zinal. It’s a tough call for Max. Definitely top 10 potential and of course he has all the ability to be on the podium. But will he get over the European demons?

Course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt is back at the race and although his pedigree and his history elevates him to a high-profile within the race, one has to wonder how he will perform against top-level competition who are some years younger than him. He still runs and races regularly, but as he told me in Chamonix, it is for fun. We will see ‘Jono’ figure for sure… his ability will set him apart from so many other runners but I think the podium is an option.

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Tofol Castanyer is finding form after early season injury issues and recently placed 2nd at Giir di Mont. Like Kilian, he will also race at Matterhorn Ultraks. This race won’t tire or affect his Matterhorn performance so we can expect him to run hard and that can only really mean one thing, a podium place is without doubt in his grasp.

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Rickey Gates also raced at Giir di Mont and placed just behind Tofol. He is obviously finding form after a slightly problematic Ice Trail Tarentaise. Sierre-Zinal will suit him and his speed.

Cesar Costa has finished 2nd at Sierre-Zinal three times, he knows the course like the back of his hand and in the 40th edition will most certainly want to move one place up the podium for the win. He will without doubt be a favourite. Local knowledge and being slightly under the radar to the American runners will play into his hands. He will push hard and for sure, top 3 is an expectation.

Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand has been in Europe for some time. Sage Canaday for sure will be well aware of what this man can do after racing each other at Tarawera in New Zealand earlier this year. Vajin has speed and considering he has had some great results recently: 2nd at Zugspitz behind Philipp Reiter, 2nd at the K78 Swiss Alpine Marathon, one can’t help but think that he will shake things up and turn some heads at the finish in Zinal.

LADIES

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It all started 12 months ago and the progression has been incredible. Stevie Kremer lined up at Sierre-Zinal completely blown away by the competition and experience that surrounded. Cut to the finish of the race and she was 2nd on the podium. What has followed is a meteoric race in the sport and without doubt, Stevie comes to the 2013 Sierre-Zinal race as my outright favourite. Listen to my recent interview with Stevie HERE

Ladies Winner

Aline Camboulives won the race in 2012. She has experience and ability and for sure, I see her on the podium. But I think Stevie has moved on and has the all the potential to take the race to Aline and not only push her to the finish but to go past her.

Megan Lund is a name I am familiar with but in all honesty, I know little about her. Stevie Kremer has told me that she has great potential and is one to watch on this course. I am aware that she won the race in 2010 but her European performances are few and far between. She has had a baby and as Stevie said, don’t you come back stronger after a baby!?

Ladies Podium

Celine Lafaye has been up at the front of all the Skyrunning races and I don’t see Sierre being any different. She has all the ability and potential to win this race and if she has a good day, she will push Stevie at the front of the race.

Local lady, Maud Mathys finished 3rd last year and will come to the race knowing full well that Stevie is the one to watch. I anticipate she will keep as close to Stevie as possible and try to pull something out of the bag in the latter stages of the race. However, she was five minutes behind Stevie in 2012 and Stevie has moved on. Has Maud progressed at the same level?

Lizzy Hawker

Lizzy Hawker turned up and ran literally at the last minute in 2012. Once again she will toe the line in 2013. I anticipate a top 10 finish but not the podium. Like last year, she will use this as a prep race for her attempt at another UTMB title. Lizzy has also had injury issues and although UTMB is only weeks away, she is still on the road back!

Zhana Vokueva will also be looking to push at the front of the race. She recently raced in the Dolomites at the Skyrunning European Championships but it wasn’t a great weekend for her. She will be looking to get back into form and for sure, would like to repeat or go better than her 5th place in 2012.

Stephanie Howe has just won Speedgoat 50k and like Sage Canaday, that has got to be a great boost going into this race. If she has recovered well from Speedgoat, Stephanie may well be the person to push Stevie all the way to the finish. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

Finally, 2001 Sierre-Zinal champ and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge will toe the line. She has recently raced at a very high level and with some impressive results. I see Angela being a dark horse to the new runners who will know her name but may well dismiss her due to her lack of high profile racing of late.

Without doubt it will be an exciting men’s and ladies race.

Links:

Sierre-Zinal website HERE