Baga, the home of Ultra Pirineu is located in Catalonia; it may come as no surprise that the Catalans take support to the next level – Ultra running to Spain is like football to the UK.
110km in length, with 6800m of positive gain, the race takes place in the Cadi-Moixero Natural Park. The profile, a little like a jagged sawtooth blade that includes several key peaks, the highest coming very early in the race with just 14km covered at Niu, 2500m high. Comprised of primarily trail, it’s a tough and challenging race that has often been made considerably more challenging due to inclement weather! Not this year though, the sun gods were kind and shined throughout the race as clouds rolled in and out.
Established in 1983, the Cadi-Moixero Natural Park is the hub for the racing and it stretches more than 30km over the mountain ranges of Serra de Moixero and Serra del Cadi; both part of the Pre-Pyrenees.
The narrow streets of Baga and an enclosed medieval square form an incredible start arena.
Immediately it’s hand-on-knees and straight into the first and highest climb of the day. It’s a dangerous mountain to start a race with. The effort and commitment just to get to the top requires a 100% effort, and this is all coming in the opening hours of a very long day on an exceptionally tough course. Finally breaking the tree line, the rugged terrain reveals itself and the first peak, with refuge, finally will come into sight. In the men’s race, Cristofer Clemente dictated the early pace followed by Zaid Ait Malek, Pablo Villa, Luis Alberto Hernando and Dmitry Mityaev. Maite Maiora started the day as she would continue, from the front followed by Nuria Picas who placed 2nd at UTMB just 3-weeks ago.
Dropping down, a short climb at 28km, ‘Serrat’ leads to another long descent and an aid at ‘Bellver.’ A third of the race completed, a long and relentless series of climbing takes place over the following 25km’s through ‘Cortals’ and ‘Aguilo’ to the 2nd highest point of the race at 2300m, Pass de Gassolans. Clemente had now built up a lead but Pablo Villa was within 5-minutes and looking strong. Hernando though was looking tired and laboured. Maiora was still leading the ladies race and continued to smile while Picas pursued and Ekaterina Mityaeva was in 3rd place.
The race is all about economy of effort for those at the front of the race, it’s about effort management to sustain the energy to the line and hopefully victory. At 70km covered, the race may well be considered to be downhill to the finish in Baga, but no, the race has a series of false flats with a couple of brutal cardiac moments that arrive at 86km and 96km; the latter a technical ascent of 1000m to Sant Jordi at 1500m altitude. Clemente despite his small lead dropped from the race after twisting his ankle on multiple occasions. This opened the door for Villa and he seized it taking the biggest victory of his running career. Behind Hernando was struggling and Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz moved into a podium position pursued by the Russian Mityaev. But behind, Jordi Gamito was looking strong – it was going to be close! At the line Mityaev produced a stunning 2nd and Dunand-Pallz was 3rd. Hernado would finish 6th behind Gamito and Ivan Champs Puga but he would still retain the overall title for the SKY ULTRA 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series.
For the ladies’ Maiora produced a stunning victory on what has been a remarkable year, she has been consistently strong over all distances. Last weekend she took the overall title for the Sky Extreme Migu Run Skyrunner World Series and just three weeks time at Limone, she may well be the combined champion too? Picas showed incredible recovery from UTMB to once again place 2nd in front of her home Catalan crowd. Mityaeva placed 3rd after another solid year in the Skyrunning ranks. Ragna Debats was crowned 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series champion for the Sky Ultra discipline.
- Pablo Villa 12:30:19
- Dmitry Mityaev 12:33:46
- Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz 12:44:15
- Maite Maiora 14:22:19
- Nuria Picas 14:41:45
- Ekaterina Mityaeva 15:41:17
Sky Ultra 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Champions
- Ragna Debats
- Luis Alberto Hernando
Race website HERE