Skyrunning goes global! Normally we would be previewing the first race in the Skyrunner® World Series in April with the prospect of Transvulcania or Zegama-Aizkorri looming around the corner. Not in 2015! More races, more places and now, the chance to count an extra race in the ranking.
The successful 5/5/5 formula (VK, Sky and Ultra) stays where three results from five count but now you must include a fourth race from the Continental Championships. Step in the MSIG Sai Kung 50 in Hong Kong.
Taking place on February 7th, Michael Maddess from Action Asia has assembled a high quality field that will do battle on the trails of Sai Kung after starting in Pak Tam Chung Picnic Garden. Rest assured, this race will be no picnic!
A ranking race this early in the Skyrunning season is extremely significant when one is looking to contest the Skyrunner® World Series. Early points provide a great platform on which to build a season and this is reflected with the presence of Marco De Gasperi, Elisa Desco, Kasie Enman, Tom Owens, Fulvio Dapit, Stephanie Jiminez, Alesandra Carlini, Vlad Ixel, Samir Temang, Luke Nelson, Blake Hose, Dong Li, Yan Long Fei, Mira Rai and so many more.
Two races are on offer
28km SKYRACE and the 50km ULTRA SKYMARATHON.
The SKYRACE has 1954m of vertical gain and 1941m of loss and a maximum elevation of 408m. The ULTRA SKYMARATHON has 2810m of elevation gain ad 2781m of elevation loss. Race director, Michael Maddess says,
“This 50km course is tough & we believe one of the toughest 50km course in Hong Kong yet one of the most spectacular beautiful courses in Asia.”
Winning times in 2014 for the 50km event were 4:51:05 for Rudy Gilman (USA) and 6:00:59 for Cassie Scallon (USA).
When a race field contains past champions, world champions and a plethora of rising talent, we know the action in Hong Kong is going to be incredible.
Yan Long Fei (50km) just the other weekend won Hong Kong 100 in 9:52. A 2:15 marathon runner, Yan must be an outright favourite for racing here at Sai Kung. Providing he has recovered? It’s a justifiable question mark.
Marco de Gasperi (28km) needs no introduction to anyone. When in form he is an unstoppable force on any mountain course. A long time sparring partner for Kilian Jornet, Marco’s presence in Hong Kong is extremely exciting and he will be a hot favourite. Marco had a mixed 2014 with injury niggles and we sincerely hope he has been able to get fit and healthy over winter.
Vlad Ixel (50km) also ran at Hong Kong 100 but twisted an ankle just before the race; this hampered any possibility to contest the front of the race. Vlad is a fast runner who is slowly but surely making his presence felt in all the races he runs. In 2014 he spent time in Europe, which opened his eyes to the challenges that European racing brings. He will be focused on the podium at Sai Kung.
Blake Hose (50km) surprised everyone at the Skyrunning World Championships in the middle of 2014 when he placed 6th overall. In actual fact, the whole Australian Skyrunning team was a revelation. Eager to impress, Blake will look at Sai Kung as an incredible opportunity and I know that he has plans to spend time in Europe in 2015; watch out!
Luke Nelson (50km) loves the mountains and excels at the 100-mile distance. He has been a regular at Transvulcania and has placed consistently well at Speedgoat 50k. Over the winter he has had an expended period in Patagonia, so it’s fair to assume that Luke will be in great shape.
Samir Tamang (50km) placed 2nd at the TDS (UTMB sister race) and I was fortunate to watch him race day-in and day-out at the Everest Trail Race in November. He’s a super talented athlete who loves the mountains. He will be a fierce competitor at Sai Kung and don’t be surprised if he contests the podium looking for the top spot.
Fulvio Dapit (50km) is a regular in races all over the world. A Skyrunner in the purest form, Fulvio has experience and endurance that will play into his hands on a tough course here in Hong Kong.
David Byrne (50km)
“What excites me most about racing in Hong Kong is the opportunity to test myself against top class athletes on a course that’s steep and technical. I’ve heard a lot of great things about trail running in Hong Kong and the awesome running culture there, so to experience it first hand will be special.”
David is a fast man! A 29-minute 10k confirms this. Explosive speed and strength is not always a guarantee for success on tough, mountainous and technical courses, however, David has won the Six Foot Track back in Australia. One to watch!
Tom Owens (28km)
“I’m very excited about racing in Hong Kong, especially in Sai kung, where the trails look great. It will be nice to get some warmer weather (it’s been very wet and dark in Scotland) and kick start the 2015 Skyrunning campaign with an early season race.”
Tom is one of the UK’s top fell, mountain and Skyrunners. In previous years he has excelled, in particular, 2012 and 2014. Unfortunately 2013 was a troubled year with injury but Tom is back. When in form, he can push Kilian Jornet all the way to the line and although Sai Kung comes early in the year, Tom is fit and therefore has great potential for top honours.
Martin Gaffuri (28km) moved up the ISF rankings in 2013 with a series of strong and consistent performances. However, 2014 was a troubled year. Early success at Tarawera and a good run at the Skyrunning World Championships were never really followed up with stellar performances of the previous year. With some time away from the sport and racing, it will be interesting to see if Martin has recharged his batteries for the 2015 season.
Ones to watch – Male
- Marco Sturm
- Mohamad Affindi Nudin
- Chou Pin Chi
- Dai Matsumoto
- You Peigui
Elisa Desco (28km) is the current Skyrunning World Champion and along with a string of high profile performances in 2014 is without doubt a hot favourite for victory in Hong Kong. However, Elisa will not have things her own way!
“I am excited to kick off the 2015 Skyrunning Season with the MSIG Sai Kung 50. I finished up my 2014 racing season mid-September with a 2nd place overall ranking in the Skyrunning Ultra Series, then took a couple months of down time in my training and racing to recuperate and enjoy time with my family at home in Vermont (Northeast USA, near the Canadian border). I am excited to have the opportunity to come to Hong Kong to see the trails and meet the trail runners here. It will be my first time visiting and running in Asia.”
Kasie deciding to race this early in the season can only mean one thing, early season points and the opportunity to gain a foothold in the Skyrunner® World Series. Kasie had a great 2014 running strong at Zegama-Aizkorri, Speedgoat 50k and taking victory at Trofeo Kima.
Wyan Chow Pui Yan (50km) won the recent HK100 and therefore like Long Yan Fei and Dong Li, powers of recovery will be tested. Ryan has recently quit the police force to be a full time trainer and therefore allow her more time for recovery and racing. It’s an interesting and exciting prospect to see how she performs against some of the worlds best Skyrunners.
Dong Li (50km) also heads up the local talent and placed 2nd at the HK100 in 12:39 just two weeks ago. Sai Kung coming so close to HK100 will almost certainly leave Dong Li feeling a little jaded and therefore racing some of the top female Skyrunners in the world may well push her to her limits. But the talent is there for all to see.
Alesandra Carlini (50km) placed 2nd at Sai Kung in 2014 and followed up her performance with a string of top performances. Considering Allesandra lives on the Italian coast, her ability in the mountains is seriously impressive as we witnessed at Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima. Arguably a stronger field is assembled for 2015, however, Allesandra has the potential to contest the podium.
Mira Rai (50km) from Nepal is a previous winner of HK50 and placed 2nd at Lantau 50. All great credentials for a top performance here in Sai Kung.
Lucy Bartholomew (50km)
“Don’t think about it as one big chunk of a run. For me I break it down into checkpoints and make it into achievable amounts! It’s never going to be easy but the key is to find happiness in the toughness of it because when you get to the top it’s worth it!”
Lucy is the junior Skyrunning World Champion and so therefore Sai Kung will be a steep learning curve for the young Australian. Coached by Emelie Forsberg, Lucy is a rising star in the sport.
Stephanie Jiminez (28km) is a last minute entry to the race and is always a force to be reckoned with. Consistently strong on VK courses and SKY distances races, Stephanie can push the pace and the competition to the edge.
Ones to watch – Female
- Hsiao Shiang Chong
- Ho JoChun
- Shiho Iwadate
All the action starts in the early hours of Saturday February 7th.
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