This race is something we probably wouldn’t normally preview, but this year there are a few Aussies heading over to Hong Kong to duke it out with some of the world’s best runners. So in light of that, we thought it worth a bit of a punt to see how these guys would fare and to see what some of their chances are.
The Asian Skyrunning champs are perhaps better known as the MSIG Sai Kung 50 which features a 50km (Ultra Skymarathon) and 28km (Skyrace) categories, the former having over 2,500m of elevation over the course of the race.
There are some real heavyweights taking part in this race, namely Elisa Desco from Italy who is the Skyrunning 42k World Champion, Tom Owens from the UK who was 3rd at the World Championship 42k and Martin Gaffuri from France who was 4th overall in the Skyrunning Ultra World Series.
China also seems to be producing some seriously good runners right now. Yan Longfei has won the previous two races in the series the MSIG HK50 and MSIG Lantau 50 and is going all out for this one: ‘‘I have been training really hard for the MSIG Sai Kung 50. As I don’t have a coach, I have the flexibility to create my own training schedule.”
But what of the Aussies in the mix? If we’re honest, when Australia sent a bunch of athletes over to Chamonix to compete in the Skyrunning world champs, not many gave them hope. But our boys did us proud with some pretty amazing results. Ben Duffus managed a podium, with Blake Hose coming in third and Caine Warburton placing ninth.
This time around, we have six Aussies hoping to pit their wares against the big guns of Europe and Asia, with four hitting the 50km ultra and the other taking on the 28km race.
In the ladies, Lucy Bartholomew hits out in the 28kms against some class runners, one of them being Elisa Desco from Italy, whom won the 42km Skyrace world champs. Lucy has been handpicked by the guys and girls at Salomon as someone of great potential and is now coached by none other than Emilie Forsberg. This is a massive tick in the credibility box for Lucy and we hope she gets much out of the experience and puts some great runs on the board.
Next up is Blake Hose, who will be returning back to the Skyrunning fold for another shot at the top placings. Blake must have been disappointed to miss out on another crack at the Bogong to Hotham title with Stu Gibson just a few weeks back after its cancellation due to bad weather. You have to think that Blake is going to be in pretty good form right now, and if he’s in sub 7 B2H shape, he’s going to tear this course up. Given his results in 2014 and the smashing he gave to the GOW100 course, I’m thinking at least a top 5 for Blake here.
Jono O’Loughlin will be running alongside Blake. He’s the type of guy who typifies what ultra running is about for me, trains hard, no pretences, no excuses, no sponsorship and a big heart. Here’s a guy who just gets on with the job, trains his nuts off and lays it all on the line on race day. Jono has the runs on the board as far as ultra running goes in Australia, this will be a whole new kettle of fish for him. I know that he trained his arse off for Bogong, so was massively disappointed to not race. His biggest performance to date is that fourth place at TNF100 last year in a hugely deep field and another sub 10hr run to his name.
This year, he’s stepped it up a notch again and so it will be hugely interesting to see how he goes against some of the world’s leading mountain runners. Jono has a massive engine and will lay it all on the line for this one. He’s either going to go top ten, or bomb altogether – there’s no halfway house with this guy.
Dave Byrne takes on the 28km race where he’ll be pitted against the likes of European legend, Marco De Gasperi, UK runner Tom Owens, France’s Martin Gafferi and Japanese runner, Dai Matsumoto.
Dave comes from a track background and also, if you don’t know already looks after The Long Run website too. His track pedigree is in no doubt at all – he has a 27:xx 10km to his name and he burst onto the trail scene with a win at Six Foot Track last year in 3:25, 10 minutes adrift of the race record. Since then his form has been a little up and down suffering a few injury niggles too. He headed over to Europe with the Skyrunning team, infamously DNF’ing a 3km vertical Skyrace, along with a fade in the TNF50 after leading for much of the race, finishing up in eighth place.
On paper, Dave is probably the quickest man out there, but track speed only goes so far in mountain running and I know Dave has been working on building up the hiking strength to add to his repertoire, trying to shift away from a track mentality.
Vlad Ixel is no stranger to our pages. Currently residing in HK, but of Australian nationality, along with our other Aussie rep, Darren Benson who is also a top pro cyclist in China. Both take on the 50km ultra. Vlad is an athlete with much potential having nailed five wins from his eight races in 2014. Vlad had a few injury woes earlier this year, but he knows these trails well and has won a number of races in HK already. He should go well.
Darren Benson is a name not many of us locally will be familiar with, but as a HK resident has some good results on the board already. He won the China Coast marathon in 2:41, was third at the 100k trailwalker HK as well as winning the 21k Hysan Run also in Hong Kong. I don’t know too much about him, but someone to keep an eye on for future races for sure.
We wish all six Aussie runners, along with the rest of the guys and gals taking part, all the best for the racing this weekend.