Western States Endurance Run #WSER 2017 on IRUN4ULTRA

With 18.000ft of climb and 22.000ft of downhill, the race has in the past been full of incredible stories – Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball, Ellie Greenwood and Timothy Olson to name just a few names from an incredible 40+ years of history.

 

Over the years, the course is often discussed around the heat that the canyons bring and if it will be a snow or no snow year.

 

Let’s be clear, the 2017 WSER is going to be a snow year but it is melting.

Read the full preview on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc UTMB® 2016 Preview

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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.

MEN

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

LADIES

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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Ultra Pirineu 2015 Race Preview

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

MEN

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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….

 

LADIES 

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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!

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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….

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Schedule HERE

Ultratrail TV HERE

Follow LIVE HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cavalls del Vent 2013 – Race Preview

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The 2012 edition of the Ultra Cavalls del Vent turned out to be a classic race. It’s inclusion on the ISF Skyrunner World Series attracted a stellar field and fans around the world of true mountain running had a stunning display from the men’s and ladies races.

Kilian Jornet, Anton Krupicka and Dakota Jones inspired with stunning performances and the ladies race proved to be a thriller, with arguably the three best mountain runners in the world going head-to-head for the Ultra Cavalls del Vent crown. At the line it was local girl, Nuria Picas who took the crown from a charging Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg.

However, the event was marred with bad weather and unfortunately the loss of life. Teresa Farriol who had placed 14th lady in the 2011 event unfortunately came into difficulty during the night and although she received expert medical help, she passed away.

Our sport should be challenging and we all acknowledge accidents happen. Needless to say the mood after the 2012 race was subdued but safety has always been and always will be paramount at the Ultra Cavalls del Vent.

Article on the 2012 event HERE

Anton Krupicka race report HERE

The Race

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Now in its fifth edition, the UCdV will once again attract top mountain runners to participate in an ultra endurance mountain race crossing the mythical trek in the Cadi Moixero National Park. The route is 100km long and has a total elevation gain of 6668m, the highest point of the course coming at approximately 14km at Niu de L’Aliga (2400m). The course takes in eight huts and starts and ends in the quiet town of Baga. In comparison to previous editions, the route has been extended from 84km to 100km and the cut off time has also been extended to 28 hours.

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Potential Winners

One thing is for sure the 2013 edition of the race has nowhere near the stacked field of 2012. But what may be missing in depth is compensated for with quality, particularly in the men’s field. The ladies have a couple of stand out names and although not confirmed yet, Nuria Picas did say that she would return for her ‘home’ race.

Men

Tofol Castanyer, Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Tofol Castanyer, Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Tofol Castanyer has raced at Cavalls del Vent before, he placed 2nd in 2011 in a time of 8:42 (for 84k) and in 2013 he unfortunately had to drop with hypothermia. So far, 2013 has been mixed with some injury issues and stomach problems in one or two races, however, his recent form at Transalpine should ring alarm bells for all his completion. Without doubt a hot favourite for the win.

Luis Alberto Hernando, Haria Extreme ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando, Haria Extreme ©iancorless.com

Luis Alberto Hernando is a class act and 2013 has seen him move up the distances in a long-term bid to race at TNFUTMB. He has repeatedly played second fiddle to Kilian Jornet and has been one of only a small handful to really push the Catalan to the line.  He was seconds behind at Zegama-Aizkorri, finished joint first at Trans D’Havet and once again, just finished a minute or so in arrears at Matterhorn Ultraks. Luis can win Cavalls del Vent, no doubt.

Zigor Iturrieta, Trans D'Havet ©iancorless.com

Zigor Iturrieta, Trans D’Havet ©iancorless.com

Zigor Iturrieta like Tofol raced in 2011 and placed 5th overall. He has the potential for a strong performance here; the terrain and distance suit him. However, he has already raced a lot in 2013 and one has to wonder how fresh he will be.

Jordi Bes will be racing on home soil. He recently won the CCC and must come to Cavalls with high hopes of a podium finish. He knows the area well and placed 9th at the 2011 edition. One-to-watch for sure.

Gerard Morales Ramirez placed 10th and the 2011 edition and last year, in a much higher quality field placed 8th. He will come with high hopes of hopefully moving into the top five and if all things go well, maybe even a podium slot.

Felipe Artigue Rodriguez is a runner I know little about, however, he placed 10th overall at the 2012 edition of Cavalls del Vent at the knowledge will be extremely useful for 2013. I don’t see him as a contender for the podium but I am sure he hopes to improve on his overall placing.

Terry Conway (2nd place) Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Terry Conway (2nd place) Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Finally, Terry Conway from the UK raced at Cavalls del Vent and was a victim of the bad weather. Since then, Terry has struggled with below par performances at Ronda dels Cims and the Lakeland 100. He didn’t finish either event. He recently secured a top fifty place at TNFUTMB and this will be a great boost for him. Providing he is fresh and recovered from TNFUTMB, he has all the potential of a good run and make the top ten.

Other names to watch out for: Carlos Santasusana Bayona and Pau Bartola Roca.

Cavalls del Vent 2012 ©iancorless.com

Cavalls del Vent 2012 ©iancorless.com

Ladies

Nuria Picas, Cavalls del Vent  ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas, Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas is not on the start list so I am going here from conversations with her post TNFUTMB. She confirmed for me that if her recovery was good, she would line up at her ‘home’ race and run. If she does, she is the outright favourite for the race win, even with a tough 100-miles in her legs from her circular tour of Mont Blanc and 2nd place!. Nuria is a class act, her 10:34 from the 2012 edition of the race smashed the previous course record and when you consider her consistency over all distances, not many ladies beat her. This year over the 80km distance and less she has consistently placed second to Emelie Forsberg, however, that will have no impact here!

Placing 6th at Cavalls del Vent in 2012, Laia Andreu Trias is the next lady with top billing. In 2013, she has won several races; La Vall de Nuria, Vertical Sobrepuny, Curse de Muntanya Sotabranques and Curs Mossos d’Esquadra, so, she has form. Should Nuria not run, Laia is a potential winner and for sure, a hot possibility for a podium place.

Teresa Nimes Peres has potential to make the top 10 and if she has a good day, she will be pushing for the top five and maybe even the podium. In 2013 she placed 8th at Trans D’Havet and in 2012 Teresa was 15th at La Grande Course des Templiers, 11th at Cavalls del Vent, 19th at TNFUTMB and 9th at Transvulcania.

Christina (Tina) Bes is a ski mountaineer and has a list of palmares the length of my arm. However, her ability as a runner in the mountains is relatively unknown to me. One thing I have learnt though is that a quality Ski Mountaineer very often makes a great mountain runner! A dark horse?

Finally, Natercia Martins Silvestre placed 3rd at the 80km Grand Raid des Pyrenees in 2012 and was 2nd at Ultra Trail das Aldeias do Xisto. In 2013 she had a win at the Trail de Perialara 80km, so, she has form. It will be interesting to see what she can do in the Cadi Moixero National Park.

I am absolutely sure that the 2013 edition of the Ultra Cavalls del Vent will be an exciting race with many surprises. For sure, the addition of 16km will make a big difference to the final outcome.

If you’d like to follow the race, go 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

Matterhorn Ultraks Race Preview

image copyright Matterhorn Ultraks - www.

image copyright Matterhorn Ultraks – www.

On the Italian border of the Canton of Valais in the west of Switzerland, at the end of the 30 km-long Nikolaital, lies Zermatt, the village at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world. Zermatt epitomizes their image of Switzerland; high alpine, awe-inspiring and original. Almost one-third of the 4,000-metre mountains in the Alps are grouped around this word-famous health resort, which has been visited by mountaineers from all around the world since the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. The hotels and restaurants are world-class, and the ski area is not only the highest in the Alps – it is also one of the best developed and most convenient in the world. The climate is of an excellent quality; with 300 sunny days a year, there is less rainfall than anywhere else in Switzerland. The air in Zermatt is clear, dry and clean, because, since 1947, only electric cars without a combustion engine are allowed to operate in the village. Things are a little different in Zermatt. Zermatt – A world of its own.

The ISF Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks is the penultimate race in the SkyUltra series. It will be a magical race, 46 km long with 
D+ : 3’600 m | D- : 3’600 m. It has a great combination of wild open spaces, high mountains and a course that will require a thrilling combination of speed and technique. The highest summit of Gonnergrat at 3100m will be a test for all, however, at the summit it offers incredible panoramic views and of course, the ever-present Matterhorn will dominate.

Want to race? limited places are still available at ultraks.com

Men

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Kilian Jornet comes to this race the outright favorite. At the ISF Skyrunning European Championships he came away with three gold’s in VK, Sky and Ultra. Post Trans D’Havet he moved over to Cervinia (Italy) and he is now preparing meticulously for his next ‘Summit’, a speed attempt up and down the Matterhorn itself. He will be prepared and adapted for everything that the Ultraks can throw at him.

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Breaking news just in, 14th August. Luis Alberto Hernando to join the line up at Ultraks. Of course this is great news. Luis is one person that has pushed Kilian Jornet throughout 2012. He placed second at Transvulcania, he pushed Kilian to the line at Zegama, placed third at Mont Blanc and of course, Kilian and Luis crossed the line together to be crowned European Skyrunning Champions at Trans D’Havet. One thing is for sure, Luis will push Kilian and all the other contenders for the top spot right to the line!

iancorless.comiancorless.comP1060841cavallsdelventcavallsdelvent

Tofol Castanyer has had a troubled early 2013 with a series of injuries, however, a win at Salomon Four Trails and a second place at the recent Giir di Mont means he is coming back in form. If he has a good day, he will certainly be up at the front pushing with Kilian.

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Michel Lanne secured a joint win with teammate, Francois D’Haene at the Mont Blanc Marathon ultra event but then had to miss Trans D’Havet due to an injury.  Michel, along with Tofol, Philipp, and Cameron will dictate the early pace at the front and as his reputation confirms, he has all the ability and potential to make the podium. *injured

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Philipp Reiter romped to a great podium place at Ice Trail Tarentaise and was ready to repeat his performance or move up the podium at Trans D’Havet, however, a bad fall in the first 30% of the race unfortunately meant some time in hospital and recuperation. At this stage his recovery is progressing well and we hope that he will toe the line in Zermatt.

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Cameron Clayton has had a very impressive rise in the ultra world. He is young and races just one-way; hard! He applied that principal at Transvulcania La Palma and lead the race in the early stages but later faded to still secure a top placing. At Western States, his first hundred miler, he applied the same principal but came unstuck. Just the other weekend he raced at Speedgoat 50k but I am sure this was very much ‘getting back into racing’ race post Western. If he is making a trip from the US to Zermatt, you can be sure of one thing; he will turn up to run hard and win. Question is, will he be able to? Most certainly he has all the ability to mix it up at the front and push his peers. Cameron is an exciting addition to the race line up.

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Nicola Golinelli had a great race at Mont Blanc Marathon and then placed in the top fifteen at Dolomites Skyrace. It wasn’t a great race for him; he certainly would have expected to be at the front end of the race. So, with that in mind, Nicola will be looking to put the record straight at Ultraks.

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Florian Reichert and Didier Zago, both had similar stories to Arc’teryx teammate, Nicola Golinelli. Great racing and top ten placing’s at Mont Blanc and then below par performances in Canazei at the Dolomites Skyrace. Didier is experienced and will bounce back, Florian however is new to Skyrunning and once again found the Dolomites and its combination of steep gradients and snow another learning curve. However, he is a sub 2:30 marathon runner and the Ultraks course will suit his abilities.

Ben Abdelnoor is coming to Zermatt after an impressive win and new course record at the Lakeland 50 in the UK. For sure he is going to relish the opportunity to push against some of the best in the world. Joining Ben we have his new inov-8 teammate, Erik-Dagsson Haugsness. Erik from Norway placed fifth at Mont Blanc Marathon and is certainly a name to watch in the future.

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Tadei Pivk has consistently performed in 2013 with great results at Zegama and Dolomites Skyrace; without doubt he will be coming to Zermatt to move from third place on the podium to second or even the top. Watch this space, without doubt he will add spice to the front of the race.

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Stuart Air from the UK is starting to get a reputation for himself within the Skyrunning calendar. With little fanfare he turned up at the brutal Ronda dels Cims and placed thirteenth overall, he then followed this up with nineteenth at Ice Trail Tarentaise. He will participate at Matterhorn Ultraks as a guest for Scott Running. At 46km, the race may very well be a little too short and too fast for him, but it will be great to see how he performs.

The men’s field at Ultraks has great depth, Nicolas Pianet, Dai Matsumoto and representation from Russian Skyrunning, Diedre-Matxacuca, Euskal Herriko Mendi Lasterkarien Selekzioa and the FEEC will mean that an iconic and fast race awaits us.

Ladies

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Emelie Forsberg, how can you bet against her? Her rise in the sport is meteoric and after winning at San Francisco in late 2012, Emelie has rarely been off the top of the podium. Her 2013 result sheet is incredible and like Kilian, she is becoming a dominant leader in the sport. Her recent results and performance ability at any distance from VK to Ultra puts her way ahead of the competition at Ultraks. I honestly don’t see anyone coming close, particularly if Emelie decides to push.

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Silvia Serafini does offer a glimmer of hope at the front of the race and like Emelie, Silvia has also had a speedy rise in the sport. Just recently everything has started to click. A podium place at Dolomites Skyrace and while Emelie was dominating Trans D’Havet; Silvia topped the podium at Giir di Mont. For sure, Silvia will be Emelie’s biggest rival at Ultraks.

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Anna Lupton had a troubled performance at Zegama and then found some consistency at Mont Blanc Marathon. She has recently raced in Poland and will be coming to the Matterhorn with several weeks’ recovery and training, so, she may well perform as she would expect and add some pressure to the front of the race.

Ragna Debats, Aitziber Ibarbia Beloki, Anna Comet Pascua, Paloma Lobera Grau and Eugenia Miro Figueras all have the potential to make the podium and it will be interesting to see who has the strength on the day to push the outright favorites to the line.

LINKS: 

Skyrunning HERE

Race start list HERE

Matterhorn Ultraks website HERE

Race start 0700 am 24th August 2013.

Mont Blanc Marathon Preview

affiche marathon 2012 hte def avec logo copie

The Race:

The Mont Blanc Marathon needs no introduction! Starting from the center of Chamonix (1035m) the race route over the classic marathon distance has has a positive vertical gain of 2511 meters and an elevation loss of 1490meters. 

The route climbs steadily towards the upper valley, progressively passing through the hamlets of “les Bois” and Lavancher to reach Argentière at 1250m. Following a trail towards Le Planet the route traverses to the Balcon Nord before heading down towards Montroc. On leaving Montroc village runners take the trail towards Tré le Champ and go towards Col des Montets.

Crossing the “Col des Montets” at 1461m in the heart of the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve runners take the old stage-coach route along the “chemin des Diligences”, the old stage-coach route to arrive at the hamlet of Buet before reaching Vallorcine at 1260 m.

Climbing to the Col des Possettes at 1997m via a trail leaving from the Plan de l’envers progression is made onwards to the highest point of the course at the Aiguilles des Possettes (2201m). The climb and exhaustion is worth it… each participant is rewarded by a breathtaking panorama of the Mont Blanc range.

Facing the ‘Aiguille Verte’ and the Mont Blanc range, the route Following the ridgeline of the ‘aiguillette’ and facing the ‘Aiguille Verte’ it is now time to descend in the direction of Tré le Champ.

A pretty trail toward le Tour, runners cross through a village, and then the Tour glacier. Taking a north-facing trail towards Montroc, cross through hamlets of the Frasserands and Tré le Champ. Now at the heart of the Aiguilles Rouges massif, opposite the Mont-Blanc range, the route climbs up towards la Flégère (1875 m). Cross the magnificent Charlanon Comb (1812m) and then the gradient increases until just before the arrival at Planpraz at 2050 m giving one of the most beautiful views of the Mont-Blanc.

The race is done!

Results 2012:

Ladies:

2012: Maude Mathys (SUI) 4h28’17’’

Mens:

2012: Kilian Jornet (ESP) 3h38’24’’

Key players in the 2013 race

Without doubt the 2013 Mont Blanc Marathon has quality and depth in abundance in both the ladies and men’s fields. The second race in the Skyrunning World Series, we now have a clear indication of who is in form and who is coming in to form.  Stand out names are Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg. After topping the podium at Transvulcania La Palma and Zegama-Aizkorri, will the Salomon duo remain on the top step when the race is completed on Sunday? 

Men:

 ©copyright .iancorless.com.P1090785

Kilian JornetSalomon Santiveri, without doubt is the out-and-out favorite for the race. Last years winner is in form and firing on all cylinders, it is his home playground and he knows the route like the back of his hand. Post his win at Zegama-Aizkorri were he had a head-to-head battle with Luis Alberto Hernando, Kilian he has done some shorter races and he has won all of them.

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Luis Alberto Hernando – Adidas is without doubt a great addition to the race. His second place at Transvulcania La Palma, followed up with a second place (just 12 seconds) behind Kilian Jornet at Zegama-Aizkorri fmeans that we have a battle on our hands! A couple of weekends ago he ran Haria Extreme and produced a strong and convincing performace. Without doubt a potential winner for the race.

Copyright iancorless.com

Copyright iancorless.com

Tofol CastanyerSalomon Santiveri, was forced to miss Zegama-Aizkorri due to injury so his form may not be 100%, however, he loves the mountains and he knows how to race.

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Marco De GasperiScott, despite dropping at half way at Zegama was showing some fine form. He was head-to-head with Kilian and pushing him. He has had some injury issues (hence the drop at Zegama) but he seems to be well on his way to a full recovery and is coming back strong. Kilian and Marco have 100% respect for each other and love to push each other to the line… we may very well see a repeat battle of the Luis Alberto Hernando and Kilian battle at Zegama, re run over the course in Mont Blanc.

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Florian Reichert – Arc’teryx/ Inov-8, is new to Skyrunning but he has speed! Despite the odds, he pulled out a great first race at Zegama-Aizkorri and not only survived but also performed exceptionally well. With his duck over he will come to Mont Blanc with renewed confidence. Without doubt he will have worked on improving his technical running ability and descending. If he can add his natural speed to improved technique, he may well be one to watch!

Nicola GolinelliArc’teryx, always performs well in the mountains and Skyrunning events. He is the 2010 combined events champion. He will bring mountain skill and speed to the Mont Blanc course.

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Ben BardsleyInov-8, had a troubled race at Zegama-Aizkorri with a calf strain. At this moment in time we are unsure of his rehabilitation but his skills on the fells and regular trips and training in Chamonix will mean that if fit, he will be one-to-watch.

Brendan DaviesInov-8, has had an incredible 2013 with top placing’s at the super competitive Tarawera Ultra in New Zealand, a top five at UTMF 100 in Japan and then a win and new CR at TNF100 in Australia. He is fired up and his running is re-invigorated with sponsorship from the Inov-8 International Team. Fast over the marathon and 100km distance, hos only downfall at Mont Blanc may well be his ability over tough and technical terrain. He has all the ability to be top three and without doubt, he will not be aiming for anything else.

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Alex NicholsInov-8, scored a top 5 at the Sky Games in 2012, his first outing in a Skyrunning event. He said, “It was a learning curve’. He recently came over to Zegama-Aizkorri to race but pulled a muscle early in the race forcing him to drop. With Pike Peak on his doorstep in the US he has plenty of opportunity to practice ascending and descending, combined with natural speed he will be a force at the front of the race.

Scott DunlapInov-8, has already had a busy start to 2013, he PR’d at Boston Marathon with 2:44:35 and most recently he has run Silver State 50m in sub 10 hours. Scott has the potential for a good race but I don’t see him in contention at the front of the race.

Nicolas PianetNew Balance, winner of the race in 2010 and 2011 and fourth last year will have some stiff competition this year and will need to provide everything within himself to fight such tough competition.

Marc PinsachFEEC, just recently was joint first place at the 35kmVolta Cerdanya Ultrafons with no other than kilian Jornet. Marc, like Kilian, is a ski mountaineer and they have often competed together at the world and European championships. Ranked 8th in the World in 2010 in the ‘team’ race, 4th in the ‘world relay’ in 2011 and in 2012 he was 5th in the ‘European championship team’ event; all with Kilian as his partner. He has incredible ability and a true ‘Alpinist’ approach.

The depth and quality of the Mont Blanc Marathon field means that it is just not possible to review everyone, however, here is a list of other main contenders who may well shine in the Alps.

Male contenders:

Fabio Bazzana – Crazy Idea, Sota Ogawa – Salomon, Fabio Tonolo – Salomon Agisko, Giulio Ornati – Salomon Agisko, Daniele Cappelletti – Valetudo Skyrunning, Gyorgy Szabolics Istavans – Valetudo Skyrunning, Ryan Bak – Scott, Didier Zago – Arc’teryx, Marc Caros – FEEC, Just Sociats Asensio – FEEC, Jose Lozano Garcia – FEEC, Jordi Bes Ginesta – FEEC, Joan Valls Gomez – FEEC, Oscar Csal Mir – FEEC, Roberto Sancho Martinez – Diedre-Matxacuca, Daniel Cazalla Lorite – Diedre-Matxacuca, Paloma Lobera Grau – Diedre-Matxacuca, Daniel Cazalla Lorite – Diedre-Matxacuca, Francesc Marti Bertomeu – Diedre-Matxacuca, Josep Cuadrat Besa – Diedre-Matxacuca, Eugenia Moro Bertomeu – Diedre-Matxacuca, Josep Cuadrat Besa – Diedre-Matxacuca, Artem Rostovtsev – Russian Skyrunning.

Ladies:

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Emelie Forsberg – Salomon, come to Mont Blanc as the outright favorite. In just one year Emelie has become a star of mountain running. Her 2012 season progressed and progressed and culminated with a stunning win at San Francisco 50. She started her 2013 season with win at Transgrancanaria running the marathon. A dominant performance at Transvulcania La Palma saw her not only stand victorious on top of the podium but she only missed Anna Frosts CR by minutes. Just a few weeks ago she again showed her form with a win at Zegama-Aizkorri. She will take some beating at Mont Blanc! However, she will not have an easy race. The ladies race is stacked.

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Stevie Kremer – Salomon Agisko, had her first outing in a Skyrunning event Zegama-Aizkorri and learnt many things… probably the most important thing is that she can believe in herself and that she really does have the ability to perform at the highest level against the best in the world. She took the race to the ladies at Zegama and I am 100% sure that we will see a repeat performance in the Alps. Definite podium place and without doubt she has all the ability required to stand on top of it.

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Silvia Serafini – Salomon Agisko, another star in the making! Silvia comes from a road background but she has adapted to the trails and mountain running exceptionally well. Like her teammate Stevie Kremer, she has every possibility to be on the podium. At Zegama-Aizkorri was having an incredible race running in the top four, unfortunately she twisted an ankle in the latter stages and although she finished she had dropped several places (6th) and was in pain. Providing she has no knock on effects Silvia will perform at the highest level and without doubt has the potential to be on the podium or top five.

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Oihana Kortazar – Salomon Santiveri, 2012 winner of Zegama-Aizkorri excels in the high mountains, particularly when the course is tough and technical. Her recent form is in question as she dropped at Zegama, however, you can never rule her out. She will want to prove something at Mont Blanc and put the record straight.

Shona Stephenson – Inov-8, is travelling from Australia as part of the Inov-8 International Skyrunning Team. She has had quite an incredible start to 2013 with impressive runs and results over a variety of distances and terrain. Shona was second at UTMF 100 in Japan, third at TNF100 in Australia and now Europe and the high mountains. Without doubt she has ability but this Mont Blanc course may well be a little too short and technical for her. I can’t help but think she will need some time in Europe not only to adapt to the pace but the terrain for Skyrunning mountain events.

Other lady contenders:

Stephanie Jiminez – Salomon Agisko, Natalie White – Inov-8, Sarah Ridgeway – Inov-8, Anna Lupton – Inov-8, and Tanya Pacheco.

One thing is for sure; Chamonix and Mont Blanc will see an incredible weekend of racing from June 28th to July 1st. Many participants in the marathon will also toe the line for the ‘VK’ on Friday. A lung-busting ascent from the center of Chamonix straight up to a measured 1000 m height gain over a course 3.5km long. Great to watch, painful to participate in.

Weekend Schedule:

Friday, June 28, 2013

– Mont Blanc Vertical KM, 400 places, starting from 4:00pm in the center of Chamonix.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

– Mont Blanc Cross, 1500 places, starting at 8:30am on the landing paragliders.

– Mont Blanc 10km, 800 places, starting at 9:00am on the landing paragliders.

– Mont Blanc Mini Cross, from 800m to 3km starting from 11:00am on the landing paragliders.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

– Mont Blanc Marathon, 2000 places, starting at 7:00am in the center of Chamonix.

Stats:

  • Limited to 2,000 competitors
  • Distance: 42.195 km / 26.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,511m Elevation loss: 1,490m
  • Start: 1,035m. Finish 2,016m
  • Max altitude: 2,201m (Aiguilles des Possettes)
  • 6 aid stations
  • 9h time limit

Content from Skyrunning.com re VK and  Mont Blanc 80k:

The Mont-Blanc Marathon which sold out the 2,000 places many months ago, will be preceded by the KM Vertical on June 28th where 400 runners  will line up for a lung-busting 1,000 metres skywards over the short 3.5 km course.  Heading the start-list are Vertical world champions Urban Zemmer (La Sportiva) and Laura Orgué (Salomon).

Urban will be challenged not only by Kilian, last year’s winner in 36’07”, but current Vertical ranking leader, Marco Facchinelli (La Sportiva) and team mates Marco Moletto and Nadir Maguet; but also Nicola Golinelli and Florian Reichert, (Arc’teryx); Ben Bardsley, Brendan Davies, Robbie Simpson (inov-8); Matheo Jacquemoud (Crazy Idea); Oscar Casal and Joan Valls (FAM); Jose Lozano (FEEC) and Artem Rostovtsev (Russian Skyrunning) in the men’s field.

Vertical specialist Laura Orgué (Salomon) will face tough competition from team mates Emelie Forsberg, Oihana Kortazar and Anna Frost as well as last year’s race winner Antonella Confortola; Shona Stephenson, Tessa Hill (Arc’teryx);  Silvia Leal and Alba Xandri (FEEC).

Among the events over the weekend organised by the Club des Sports Chamonix, is the new Mont-Blanc 80K on June 28, the first time a race has been held on this course, although shortened due to snow on the course.  The race will represent a “test run” for the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships where the three events will be featured.

LINKS:

Skyrunning – HERE 

Mont Blanc Marathon HERE

Zegama – Aizkorri 2013 Preview

Zegama - Aizkorri

Zegama – Aizkorri needs no introduction to those who follow Skyrunning. It is a course that has created many a story over the years.

Located in a natural park, Aizkorri-Aratz, it brings respect and excitement to every mountain runner that toes the line.

Zegama Map iancorless.com

In July 2002, the Village Council decided to revitalise and bring life to the local area, in order to achieve these objectives the Zegama-Aizkorri Mountain Marathon Association was created. Today, the AIA-renovated Alpine Marathon has a reputation in the world as one of the world’s most prestigious mountain marathons.

Part of the Skyrunner World Series it is the ultimate mountain marathon test. In 2008 the European Championships were hold on this very course. When Kilian Jornet was asked about Zegama, he quite simply said:

“Zegama? It’s Zegama!”

Zegama Profile

In other words, nothing more needs to be said. It has a reputation that demands respect from the higher echelons of the mountain running world.

2012 Summary

Zegama followed just 7 days after Transvulcania La Palma in 2012 and therefore we almost had a re run of the La Palma race. Of course, conditions were a little different. The dry heat of La Palma was replaced by torrential rain, mud, cold and the occasional snow blizzard.

The American contingent who had raced well on La Isla Bonita transferred en-mass to mainland Spain with a couple of additions. Nick Clark representing Pearl Izumi and the ‘hot tip’, Max King. Max had everything in is his favour; speed and a mountain pedigree.

As it happened, the American contingent had a lesson on European mountain running and never got in contention. For many of them they could hardly stand up in the tough conditions and as Nick Clark crossed the line he exclaimed

“Now THAT is a mountain race!”.

It was a shock to the system. Dakota Jones victorious just a week earlier had taken the race easy, a pre-race plan as he had nothing to prove after topping the podium at Transvulcania. In comparison, Kilian Jornet had something to prove and now had some running in his legs… midway through the race he applied the pressure and once again proved that he is the king of the mountains.

In the ladies race Oihana Kortazar showed her dominance over this Sky distance and we started to get a glimpse of a star in the making, Emelie Forsberg. Nuria Picas also set her stall out for a year-long process of podium places over all distances, from marathon to ultra. Anna Frost tired after a dominating Transvulcania performance decided not to race at Zegama and keep some powder dry for another day.

2013

* PLEASE LOOK FOR UPDATES posted 26th April marked in BLUE

The 2013 race is going to see some great representation from top ranking teams: Salomon, New Balance, Adidas, La Sportiva, Arc’teryx, Valetudo Skyrunning, Inov-8 and Scott.

Zegama this year is two weeks after Transvulcania and although that would work well for additional recovery, it doesn’t necessarily work well for travel budgets, so, we wont have Sage Canaday, Timothy Olson, Anton Krupicka, Joe Grant and the ‘other names’ joining the Zegama party.

The Mens Race

Kilian Jornet copyright Ian Corless

Kilian Jornet copyright Ian Corless

Kilian Jornet will be a dominating force at Transvulcania La Palma and I see him on top of the podium, two weeks recovery is a life-time for Kilian and after his dominating performance in 2013 I see him replicating the win at Zegama. He has just flown around the Transvulcania La Palma course and set a new course record. Respect!

His sparing partner, Marco De Gasperi, a legend in mountain and Skyrunning unfortunately has now pulled out of the race with a knee problem. This is a great shame, we all love to see Kilian and Marco go head-to-head.

Marco De Gasperi copyright Ian Corless

Marco De Gasperi copyright Ian Corless

This almost certainly means that we will have a re run of the 2012 Zegama race and also the 2013 Transvulcania… Kilian’s main competition will now come from Luis Alberto Hernando. Luis was second behind Kilian at Zegama last year and is almost certainly in some of the best form of his life at the moment. He pushed hard at Transvulcania just over a week ago and was leading the race at the final summit, ultimately loosing his lead to Kilian on the descent. His race on the island of La Palma is even more impressive considering it was his first ultra.

Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Missing from Transvulcania and deciding to run the ‘Sky’ distance in 2013 is Andy Symonds. Andy comes from a traditional fell/ mountain running background and just like Tom Owens, he will love the conditions here. Both Andy and Tom have withdrawn from Zegama I am afraid. In an email from Andy Symonds, he says, “We’re both injured!! can you believe it.. Tom’s got some pretty bad tendon rumpture in his foot and I’m limping with a duffed iliopsoas… neither of us have run for several weeks (much more for Tom). And so, no Zegama this year.. booo.. :-(” A real shame not to have these two top performers at the race. Speedy recovery guys.

Andy Symonds copyright Ian Corless

Andy Symonds copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras missed Transvulcania due to injury so we currently have a question mark if he will run at Zegama. In form he is one of the best runners in the world, so, he will most definitely mix it up at the front. Tofol Castanyer recently raced the Three Peaks in the UK and had a good race but was not used to the ‘navigation’ element of UK fell running, he too has the potential to win, particularly when running on Spanish soil.

Tofol Castanyer copyright Ian Corless

Tofol Castanyer copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras copyright Ian Corless

Michel Lanne from France had a great race over the tough and technical trail at Trofeo Kima in 2012 and has been racing regularly in the build up to this Spanish race. He will arriving in form and ready to take on the front of the race. Just this week he has been on the trails with Kilian.

Inov-8 have Alex Nichols and Ben Bardsley taking part and they may very well be two dark horses. Ben is well versed in fell and mountain running and will almost certainly come into the race a little under the radar… one person who knows and respects Ben’s ability is Andy Symonds. Expect a surprise! Also watch out for South African fast man, AJ Calitz, he may well struggle a little with the terrain, technicality and temperatures at Zegama. But a surprise can come from anywhere…

Other contenders are Michel Rabat, Nicholas Pianet, Dai Matsumoto, Toru Miyahara, Dawa Sherpa, Dave James and Daniele Capelletti.

The Ladies Race

Emelie, Frosty, Maud, Lizzy, Nuria copyright Ian Corless

Emelie, Frosty, Maud, Lizzy, Nuria copyright Ian Corless

The ladies race will be a battle royal and although the men’s field has a top quality field I can’t help but think that some real excitement and a nail biting finish will come from this select group of women. Of course, Oihana Kortazar is returning to hopefully repeat her 2012 victory. She will be fresh as she will have not raced at Transvulcania. However, I am going to go out on a limb and predict a podium place, if not a win for Stevie Kremer. Stevie (from the US and now living in Italy) may not be a name too familiar to many but believe me, she has all the class and ability to create some waves over the ‘Sky’ distance in 2013. She has just recently placed on the podium in a very tough race in Italy (overall podium, not the ladies) and after seeing her perform at Sierre Zinal and other races, I think Stevie will be the surprise package of Zegama.

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas once again had a great race at Transvulcania 2013 and will come to Zegama ready to push hard and go full speed for the win. She had an incredible 2012 season and performed over all distances always making the podium and in most cases, she stood on top of the podium. She is a true champion and a great ambassador for the sport.

Nuria Picas copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas copyright Ian Corless

Emelie Forsberg had a superb race in 2012 and she will be back fighting for the podium. She can go downhill like no other and as she showed last year, she took the final descent at break neck speed and got on the podium. She is wiser, stronger and more experienced now. She is going to be fired up after her incredible run at Transvulcania and just missing Frosty’s CR by a couple of minutes. I think back 12 months when I first met Emelie, Zegama really was her first big race… boy she has come such a long way in twelve months. What does the future hold for her?

Trofeo Kima 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Trofeo Kima 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini is also another great potential for a podium place. I don’t see her on top of the podium… she is still very much a lady who likes speed and good running terrain BUT she is learning fast and has heaps of talent and ability. Just this last weekend, the 18th May, she set a new CR in The Great Wall run in China.

Silvia Serafini - copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini – copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost gets a notable mention. She won’t be racing this year. She missed Transvulcania due to injury but just this last week has had some good news and she is now back on the trails, albeit slowly and one step at a time. She will be back!

Anna Frost 'Frosty' copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost ‘Frosty’ copyright Ian Corless

Emanuela Brizio will lead the rest of the ladies gunning for one of those coveted podium slots. Maud Gobert, Stephanie Jimenez, Debora Cardone, Sarah Ridgeway and Anna Lupton make up the main contenders for the 2013 edition.

Links

Calendar

SKY
1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42k, Zegama – May 26
2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon – 42k, Chamonix – June 30
3. USA:  Pikes Peak Marathon – 42k, Manitou Springs, Colorado – August 18
4. SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks – 46k, Zermatt – August 24
5. ITALY: Skyrunning Xtreme – 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13

TRANSVULCANIA LA PALMA 2013 Preview

Transvulcania 2013_Snapseed

Without doubt, the International Skyrunning Federation and the organization of the 2012 edition of the Transvulcania La Palma created a race that ultra runners throughout the world had been waiting for. A showdown! The best-of-the-best racing ‘head-to-head’ on a tough and technical mountain route on the island of La Palma.

Transvulcania Map

Profile Transvulcania La Palma 83km

Billed as the ‘race of the year’ the tough La Palma course did not disappoint. Both the ladies race and the male race created a topic of discussion, not only during and after the race but also before it… the build up, the media and the buzz was unparalled.

iancorless.comP1040783

The 2012 race is now history; Dakota Jones triumphed over the volcanic course and in doing so created a moment in ultra history that will be talked about for years to come. Anna Frost for the ladies produced a performance that was nothing short of miraculous. She smashed the female course record and confirmed herself as one of the most dominant forces in mountain running. So strong was her performance, she actually almost made the top 10 overall.

Dakota Jones, 2012 winner and course record holder copyright Ian Corless

Dakota Jones, 2012 winner and course record holder copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost, 2012 winner and course record holder copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost, 2012 winner and course record holder copyright Ian Corless

On May 11th, once again we will have one of the greatest ultra fields assembling in ‘La Isla Bonita’ to climb, sweat and survive over one of the most beautiful run courses I have had the pleasure to witness.

Ladies first

Anna Frost is returning in the hope to defend her title. Once again she will arrive on the island weeks in advance and prepare meticulously in the hope not only of taking out the win once again but maybe beating her own CR and creeping into the top 10. She has had a quiet winter and raced at El Cruce 3 day stage race for a 3rd lady place and just recently ran a relay with Rickey Gates at Tarawera ultra in New Zealand. *update 5th May, Anna is having some ongoing health issues and her presence in the 2013 Transvulcania is currently 50/50. Anna’s priority is her health and as much as we want ‘Frosty’ in the race,more importantly we want her healthy. Best wishes Anna.

**6th May – “I have decided not to race Transvulcania” Anna Frost has announced she will not run the 2013 Transvulcania – you can read a post HERE**

Frosty training on La Palma copyright Ian Corless

Frosty training on La Palma copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas will return to push Frosty to the limit. Nuria had an incredible 2012 and most certainly stepped up a notch. With incredible diversity and wins at iconic races such as Trofeo Kima and Cavalls del Vent, Frosty and the rest of the ladies will have their hands full stopping the Catalan charging over the course and taking the win.

Nuria Picas at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Missing from the 2012 race, Emelie Forsberg, now more relaxed at the 50-mile distance will join her friends and sparring partners to make an incredible three Musketeers at the front of the field. Emelie burst onto the 2012 race season and impressed with every race performance, she can run down hill like no other as she proved at Pikes Peak. She also placed 2nd or 3rd behind Frosty and Nuria for most of 2012 but she finished of the season with an incredible win at San Francisco. Emelie has all the potential to win at Transvulcania. She started 2013 with a win over the marathon distance at Transgrancanaria and recently raced Tarawera as a relay with Francois d’Haene.

Emelie Forsberg at Templiers copyright Ian Corless

Emelie Forsberg at Templiers copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini like Emelie has had an incredible rise in 2012. An incredible talent who is new to the longer distances may very well find Transvulcania La Palma a learning curve race. However, she has the ability, passion and dedication to push at the front. *Update May 5th via email: I decided together with Greg (Salomon International Team Manager) and Fabio (Team Manager) not to race at Transvulcania. I have to run the ‘Great Wall marathon’ the week after, and Zegama on the 26th.

Silvia Serafini at Royal Parks Ultra copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini at Royal Parks Ultra copyright Ian Corless

Emilie Lecomte is renowned for running long distance races and performing at the highest level. In 2012 she set a female record for covering the GR20 in Corsica and she finished the season with a win at Diagonale des Fous on Reunion Island. Without doubt she has all the ability to make her presence known at the front end of the race. I just wonder if 80km’s is just a little too short for her?

Emelie Lecomte, Quecha. copyright www.ledauphine.com

Emelie Lecomte, Quecha. copyright http://www.ledauphine.com

Fernanda Maciel from Brazil has had some great results. In 2008 she was 4th at TNF 80k in California. In 2009 she won the TDS and in 2010 she placed 4th lady at UTMB. She may well be a dark horse in the ladies with no Frosty and Maud Gobert, Fernanda may well make top three and if she has a great day, she may take the top slot. In 2012 she was first at The North Face Transgrancanaria 123k. In June, she finished second at TNF Lavaredo Ultra Trail. She placed  at the TNFUTMB and in October, she ran the 860k  Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Fernanda Maciel copyright The North Face

Fernanda Maciel copyright The North Face

Maud Gobert from France had a strong 2012 season and raced throughout the year but ultimately, the key performance came at the end of the year placing 3rd behind Emelie Forsberg at San Fran 50. After a quiet winter it will be interesting to see how she progresses. Maud was 6th at Transvulcania 2012 in 9:54:40. *Update 7th May, Maud will not race and go to Zegama two weeks later instead.

Maud Gobert copyright maudgobert.com

Maud Gobert copyright maudgobert.com

Notable mentions go to Tina Lewis *no longer racing, updated 1st May 2013,  Karine Sanson, Uxue Fraile and Lidia Gomez.

The Men

Boy oh boy… the men will have a battle. On paper, the 2013 race has all the makings of a classic. Kilian Jornet, Miguel Heras, Anton Krupicka, Timothy Olson, Mike Foote, Francois d’Haene, Philipp Reiter, Cameron Clayton, Thomas Lorblanchet, Sage Canaday, Tofol Castanyer, Gustav Reyes and so many more.

With no Dakota Jones (winner 2012) and no Andy Symonds (2nd in 2012) first roll call goes to Kilian Jornet. Kilian placed 3rd in 2012 after being in the lead with Dakota and Andy for the best part of 74k. However, in the final km’s just after the long hard descent to Tazacorte Port, Kilian was hit with fatigue and dehydration. He crossed the line and promptly passed out. It’s not often we see Kilian look ‘human’ but at Transvulcania he did. We must point out that only 7 days previous he had taken off his ski’s after a long racing season. The question is for 2013 will he allow himself more preparation time? It certainly looks as though he has. Nobody doubts Kilian’s ability and his incredible 2012 season confirms that he is the main favourite for Transvulcania.

Kilian pre race at the 2012 Transvulcania copyright Ian Corless

Kilian pre race at the 2012 Transvulcania copyright Ian Corless

Anton Krupicka injured for most of 2011 and 2012 returned with a bang in the latter half of 2012 and got a great 2nd place behind Kilian at Cavalls del Vent. His 2013 season was due to see him start his year at Tarawera in New Zealand but he pulled out just 10 days. He did say he had a hip injury that was very much on the mend but he didn’t want to take any risks. He will be arriving in La Palma in form, in shape and without doubt running with only one objective, to win the race!

Anton Krupicka at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Anton Krupicka at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Sage Canaday has burst on to the ultra scene and has pretty much left the community looking on in wonder. A 2:16 marathon runner he has introduced that speed to the longer races and although as he says himself, he is still learning he is dominating and setting course records. He blazed a trail at Bandera 100k and set a new CR in early 2013 and just recently set the trail on fire at Tarawera. Mid race he was over 12 minutes ahead but at the end that had been reduced to just 3 minutes. Transvulcania is a runnable course but the elevation may be more demanding on Sage and his learning curve may very well take a sharp swing in the ‘up’ direction. However, with his speed and ability he can win the race. In particularly, if Sage is in contention at Tazacorte Port, the final kilometers of the race include road and if Sage gets chance to use his speed it could be devastating.

Sage Canaday, of Boulder, raises his hands in victory, after winning the 52nd running of The Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, with an official time of 58:27, in Pinkham Notch, NH, on June 16th, 2012. 1,200 runners raced up the 7.6 mile Mo

2012 Western States winner and course record holder, Timothy Olson is almost duplicating the racing calendar of Anton. They had planned to face up against each other at Tarawera and then follow with  Transvulcania and TNF UTMB. Timothy without doubt has all the potential to create a stir. With a new sponsorship deal with The North Face, 2013 looks like it will be an incredible year. He raced early on in 2013 at Bandera 50k and although he won the race his pace wasn’t fast (by his standards). Going in to Tarawera ultra he said he had trained well and that he was in form. He was! Trailing Sage Canaday by over 12 minutes at half way he reeled Sage in and at the finish was just 3 minutes behind to take 2nd place. I can’t help but feel that Timothy is just warming up and I am now moving him up to a ‘favourite’ for Transvulcania.

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Miguel Heras had a mixed early part to 2012 but finished it of with a podium place at La Course des Templiers and a win at San Francisco. In form he is most certainly one to beat and he will be mixing it with Kilian at the front end of the race… can he win? Absolutely. He raced the 119km Trangrancanaria but pulled from the race relatively early on. *Update 7th May, Miguel Heras will not start the 2013 Transvulcania.

Miguel Heras at Templiers copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras at Templiers copyright Ian Corless

Francois d’Haene, 4th at Transvulcania in 2012 and winner of the shortened TNFUTMB has all the potential to make the podium and even win the race. He just needs a perfect day. Like Kilian he has the advantage of already racing over the course. He will know how to pace himself. He raced at El Cruce early in 2013 and made the podium behind Max King. He has also just raced at Tarawera in New Zealand.

Francois d'Haene just after his win at UTMB copyright Ian Corless

Francois d’Haene just after his win at UTMB copyright Ian Corless

German, Philipp Reiter, like Emelie Forsberg created a name for himself in 2012 with consistently top-notch performances. At the 2012 edition of the Transvulcania he had a few issues early on, which cost him a top 10 place. However, he battled on and finished side by side with Joe Grant. He raced at the 83km Transgrancanaria in 2013 and placed 2nd behind Ryan Sandes. I spent several days with Philipp in Gran Canaria and he is definitely looking to arrive on the island of La Palma to improve on his 2012 placing.

Philipp Reiter stretching his legs on an evening run in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter stretching his legs on an evening run in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Thomas Lorblanchet figured well in the 2012 race but had a breakthrough moment when he took the win at Leadville 100 ahead of Tony Krupicka. He has secured a new sponsorship deal for 2013 with Asics so it will be interesting to see how he performs.

Thomas Lorblanchet image from Asics http://www.asics.fr

Thomas Lorblanchet image from Asics http://www.asics.fr

*Tofol is not racing. Apparently we had some confusing information and Tofol  had not planned to race at Transvulcania – apologies

Tofol Castanyer adds more Salomon weight to an already packed field. Tofol was the 2010 Skyrunning World Series champion. He always packs a punch when racing and his stunning performance at the CCC in 2012 proves this. He was 5th at Sierre-Zinal, he won at Giir di Mont Skyrace, 6th at Dolomites Skyrace and 3rd at Mont Blanc Marathon amongst others. He had a long 2012 season and suffered like many others at Cavalls del Vent. Without a doubt he will me a main contender at Transvulcania.

Tofol Castanyer at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Tofol Castanyer at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Adam Campbell had a mixed 2012. I was with him in the Pyrenees for an Arx’teryx media camp mid year and his plan was to race TNF UTMB. However, a recurring injury saw him return home and not race at the iconic 100-miler that ultimately was reduced to 100k. Once recovered he managed to set a new Guinness World Record for the marathon by running in a business suit and then at San Fran 50 he competed with the best, including Sage Canaday, however, he managed to go off course and gave away any chance of a win. Adam once again had an injury issue early season but he has assured me all will be good by May.

Adam Campell copyright Ian Corless

Adam Campell copyright Ian Corless

Joe Grant has just finished the 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational in joint 2nd place in just over 6 days. Having interviewed him several times about this event before and after one can only speculate how his recovery will be. He has openly said that the 6 day experience was much harder than he anticipated but relatively quickly afterwards he felt recovered. In fact, he has already been for an easy run to start the build up for his run season. Joe races Transvulcania in 2012 and finished just outside the top 10. He will be looking to move in the field this year but his big objective is improving on his 2012 2nd place at Hardrock 100.

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Luis A Hernando is a Skyrunning specialist and was the 2012 Skyrunning World Series champion and ranked 2nd last year. He loves the mountains and technical terrain and excels at the ‘marathon’ distance. The question is not his ability to perform at the highest level but if 83km’s will be be too far?

Luis A Hernando and Tom Owens in the early stages of Zegama 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Luis A Hernando and Tom Owens in the early stages of Zegama 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Dave Mackey **update April 1st 2013 – Dave Mackey has withdrawn from the raceneeds no introduction. He has been running for years with a string of consistent results. He has also placed highly at Western States, 4th in 2012 with a masters record, so he will be coming to the island of La Palma with high hopes. At Bandera 100k 2013 he finished 2nd behind Sage Canaday but he will have been getting the miles in since then and you can be sure that he will be ready to mix it up and push hard against the best.

Dave Mackey copyright Ultra Pace Photos

Dave Mackey copyright Ultra Pace Photos

Dave James has a very strong reputation on the US ultra scene. He is a USATF national champion and has run some incredible times over the 100 mile distance, his PR is 13:06:52.. He has already had an an impressive 2013. He secured another win at the multi stage,  The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and then just one week later raced at Fuego Y Agua to get second place behind Nick Clark. He is racing The Lost Worlds Tuscany event and just 7 days later  the Causeway Crossing. he will head to La Palma for Transvulcania, just two weeks later he will race at Zegama and then the big one! Ronda del Cims in Andorra. A super tough 100 miler that has a profile that looks like JAWS dental records. Without doubt Dave will be competitive but he has a busy diary… he is going to need to keep some powder dry.

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Notable mentions also go to Gustav Reyes who placed 17th at Transvulcania, Armando Teixeira who was 2nd Transgrancanaria, 7th Cavalls Del Vent 2012 and 11th UTMB all in 2012  and Miguel Caballero who was 6th in the Skyrunning World Series last year. Also, Santi Obaya, Toti BesZigor Iturrieta.

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The surprise package may come from Marathon des Sables expert and champion, Mohamad Ahansal. Mohamad has just won his 5th ‘MDS’ and will be travelling to La Palma with great fitness. I for one will be very curious to see how he performs on this course and terrain.

Don’t hold your breath

2013 without doubt will once again be an iconic race. But don’t hold your breath… we have time to go yet and in that time we may even have more names to add.

The current records of 6:58:54 set by Dakota Jones in 2012 and 8:11:31 by Anna Frost are incredibly fast. However, we do have two incredibly talented and fast fields assembled. Will records fall in 2013? The 83km Transvulcania La Palma course course with 8525m of ascent and descent offers the perfect volcanic arena to watch one of the key races of 2013 unfold.

The growth of Skyrunning and ultra running has been incredible in just the last 12 months. Transvulcania La Palma has set the benchmark for all other races to follow. As 2010 Western States winner, Geoff Roes said:

“It was great to be at such a great race. It had everything you would want from a race. A point-to-point course with unique trail for the entire route. Tough climbs of mixed terrain. Amazing scenery. A finish line in the center of town with amazing crowds, it was like the Tour de France. It is certainly one of the most appealing events I have done. In my mind it has nothing lacking….”

I for one can’t wait to see what May 11th has in store.

Links

  • Visit the Transvulcania La Palma website HERE
  • Visit the ISF website HERE
  • Are you racing at Transvulcania and need some info? Take a look HERE

“Find out everything concerning this Isla Bonita” : www.visitlapalma.es

The new SWS Team Partners supporting the Series, Salomon, Arc’teryx. inov-8 and La Sportiva, are joined at Transvucania by:  adidas, Asics, Buff, Hoka, New Balance, Platinum Sigvaris, Salomon Agisko, Scott, The North Face and Quechua.

Transvulcania La Palma 2013 copyright Ian Corless