It was close… oh so close! Seconds separated Kilian Jornet and Luis Alberto Hernando at the 2013 Zegama-Aizkorri. Post race in a chat with Kilian, we discussed the race and he was extremely satisfied to be pushed so hard in the latter stages of the race.
“I had relaxed and was running comfortably and then suddenly Luis appeared” Kilian said, “I had a race on my hands, we pushed each other very hard and it was only in the final kilometre that I surged and pulled away”.
Luis Alberto Hernando is the 2011 World Champion and is clearly in great form at the moment. Only a couple of weeks ago he participated in his first ultra, Transvulcania La Palma, and here he placed second again behind Kilian.
Marco De Gasperi, after some deliberation (ankle injury) toed the line and led the race to the 21 km check point with his sparring partner, Kilian Jornet. Kilian and Marco love to race each other and we have witnessed some tremendous battles over the years. However, Zegama would not see a repeat, Marco pulled out to ensure that he did not stress his injury any farther.
Luis Alberto Hernando worked his way through the field and pursued Kilian and finally caught him. What followed was a tremendous game of cat and mouse as the two pushed each other to the limit on the long and final descent.
Kilian pulled away in the final moments of the race to miss Rob Jebb’s 2005 course record by just 20 seconds, his finishing time 3:54:38. Luis Alberto Hernando finished just seconds later and Tadei Pivk produced a stunning run to finish third in 3:59:07.
The ladies race had all the makings of a classic. Emelie Forsberg, Nuria Picas, Oihana Kortazar, Silvia Serafini and Stevie Kremer would do battle on this classic mountain course.
World long course mountain running champion, Stevie Kremer pushed hard from the start and lead the race until over halfway but Emelie Forsberg paced herself extremely well. She took over the lead and then slowly pulled away to ultimately dominate the race for a stunning win in 4:48:12.
The first half of the race was fast and furious, but as time and distance progressed experience came through. In particular, Nuria Picas, the 2012 Skyrunner Ultra champion and fresh from her second place at Transvulcaniawho was out of the top five in the first half of the race. She moved through the field, hunted runners down and then passed Stevie Kremer on the descent to be place second.
Stevie Kremer (pre race interview here) running her first SkyMarathon performed superbly and without doubt is a star of the future. She openly said, “I need to work on my descending, it is what let me down today”.
As Nuria waved to the crowd she almost lost second place as Stevie burst around the corner of the finishing straight. The time gap shows how close it was at the finish, 4:49:55 for Nuria and 4:49:58 for Stevie. Without doubt we will be seeing Stevie on podium again throughout the 2013 calendar.
A notable mention must also go to Silvia Serafini (pre race interview here). Silvia was having a stunning race and was in third place for much of the race, but she twisted her ankle on the final descent. She finally finished within the top ten but the frustration of what might have been was clear to see on her face and she fell to the floor after crossing the finish line.
Zegama-Aizkorri is renowned for the severity of the course, the ability of the runners and the passion of the supporters. It’s a pleasure and a honour to witness the action unfold and the atmosphere is akin to a stage of the Tour de France.
Skyrunning is not just about fast ascents, but even faster descents – a technique that distinguishes the sport. Many strong runners new to the sport, like Germany’s Florian Reichert, Japan’s Toru Miyahara and South African A J Caltiz, who excelled on the uphill, will be honing their skills on the downhill for the next Sky Series challenge in Chamonix on June 30 with the Mont-Blanc Marathon.
1. Kilian Jornet (Salomon Santiveri) – 3h54’38”
2. Luis Alberto Hernando (adidas) – 3h54’50”
3. Tadei Pivk (Crazy Idea) – 3h58’07”
1. Emelie Forsberg (Salomon) – 4h48’12”
2. Nuria Picas (FEEC) – 4h49’55”
3. Stevie Kremer (Salomon Agisko) – 4h49’58”