Following on from our ladies UTMB preview a few days ago, this time it’s the turn of the men. Just like the ladies race, this one has more talent than you can shake a stick at.
If I’m honest, it really is a battle of three nations for this one. There’s the ever-ready US contingent ready and willing to test their legs on the best mountains Europe as to offer. Then we have the French on home soil, along with their neighbours and partners in crime, Spain, separated only by the Pyrenees.
Of course there are some outliers involved, some very talented ones at that,
such as our own Andrew Tuckey who was sixth here last year. Then there’s the highly talented and podium potential, Gediminas Grinius from Lithuania and the super-consistent South African, Ryan Sandes. Japan’s Yoshikazu Hara also makes an appearance too.
The Fantastic French
Given UTMB is on their home turf, let’s start with the French, who name Xavier Thevenard, Julian Chorier, Seb Chaigneau and Fabien Antolinos as some of their leading runners.
Xavier Thevenard is a former winner of this race back in 2013, as well as the TDS here last year too, UTMB’s little brother. Julian Chorier and Seb Chaigneau need no introduction and are probably the best well known French runners to crowds overseas. Seb was named our International ultrarunner of the year a few years back and has previously won Hardrock back in 2013. Since that win though, he’s been very quiet and dogged by injuries. He’s got just one ultra race to his name, a tenth place finish at 80km Mont Blanc race back in June this year, so it might be expecting a little too much of him to seriously feature in this one. We’re big fans of Seb here at Ultra168, so we hope to see him back to some of his best form for this one.
Julian Chorier has had a solid year, which saw him race down under here at the race formerly known at The North Face 100, finishing eight. After that, he headed over to the US to race WSER100 where he finished a very credible sixth in a stacked field.
Although he’s been racing ultras for nigh on eight years, Fabien Antolinos will be making his debut 100 mile appearance at UTMB. He’s always there or thereabouts in races, only finishing outside the top ten twice in nearly 30 ultras. This guy likes them tough though, as indicated by his strong performances at one of the toughest ultras going, the Ice Trail Tarentaise, where he finished second last year and fifth this year. Top 5/10 potential for sure.
The US Big Guns
But what of our American friends? Well the boys have sent in some serious big guns for this one and everyone is trying to get some tickets to the gun show. Top of the list is Sage Canaday. I have a lot of time for this guy. He’s one of those people whom has such a broad array of talents, from marathon right up to the technical stuff. I also respect him hugely for following his heart instead of the money. He could probably make some good coin running the marathon circuit having narrowly missed out on being eligible for the US Olympic marathon trials. Instead, he heads off and runs in the ‘montanes’ for fun.
Still in 2015 he’s had a crack at both ‘bush’ and ‘bitumen’ as we Aussies would say. He ran a very good fifteenth place at Comrades, as well as taking out the Speed Goat 50km for the third year on the trot. Will he have the legs to match the Euros in the ‘montanes’? I don’t know, but Sage is full of heart. He’ll go mighty close.
Seth Swanson is another hot one on the list. Seth has finished second at WSER100 twice now behind Rob Krar in the last two years. Rob was due to run this race, but has pulled. Such a shame, but if the body isn’t right, then he’s made a great call. Still, I do think had he been in tip top shape, Rob would be a leading contender to take this one out. He would have been my pick as favourite.
But back to Seth. He’s a hugely talented runner with a number of 100-mile races behind him. My big question though is if his form over the quicker trail races will convert over to UTMB. He no doubt has the talent, it’s whether his training has been structured well enough to mirror the demands of the Euro trails. I hope so, it would be good to see the US runners get some good form at this race.
Also known to our local crowds is Jorge Maravilla. He’s blown hot and cold in recent years, but being a family man with a young child, I get it – the demands of top end running can be hard to juggle if your sleeping patterns get sho to bits! He started to run himself into some good form with fourth at the Lake Sonoma 50 mile race, but this will be his first true mountain 100 miler and I think he’ll do well to feature in the top ten.
The Tapas Trio
Moving south of the French border and into Spain, and the trio of Luis, Miguel and Tòfol.
Luis Hernando and Miguel Heras have all the ‘skillz’ to take this one out. They have numerous wins between them at some of the world’s best and deepest field races, yet at UTMB, they’ve both bombed a little, bar Miguel’s second place finished in 2013. It’s clear these boys race hard, or they go home. I’m sure 2015 will be no different, but I’m also sure they’ve both learned a thing or two about racing a hard hundred miler. Either one of these could win this race, it’s whomever keeps their head I guess.
But then I think the real darkhorse for this one is Tòfol Castanyer, he finished second at UTMB last year. Thus far this year, he’s only raced in what you might regard as shorter distances across 50kms, and won big time. I reckon he’s played this one very well and will be right up the front of the pack.
But wait, what about the rest of the world?
Naturellement! I think the guy with the biggest hope of upsetting the three nations above is Lithuanian, Gediminas Grinius. He finished fifth at UTMB last year, but he’s one tough bastard this guy. He clocked a super impressive fourth at WSER100 and he just seems to be getting better and better. I think he’s in for a podium shout.
Ryan Sandes is well-known to our Aussie audiences, but like a few others before him has blown hot and cold in recent times. Word on the vine was that Ryan was in good nick prior to him stomach bug just before WSER100 which saw him pull from the race unfortunately. Ryan should be fresh as a daisy for this one and he has the mountain experience. I think he’ll go well – top five placing would be good money.
Finally, a shout out for Andrew Tuckey. He’s continued to improve again this year and managed to grab that coveted top ten finish at WSER100 too. He finished sixth here last year and has raced hard all year, sometimes to his detriment as we saw at TNF where he pulled. But that probably wasn’t a bad thing as he delivered big time at WSER100. The big question will be whether he still has the legs for one more big hurrah. He’s had a mega 12 months and is our leading 100 mile runner – I think he’s due a good rest after this one. But before that, I think he’ll knock even more off his time from last year for a possible top five finish. Go smash it Tucks 🙂
*Tucks no longer running 🙁
Scores on the doors? Our picks
1.) Luis Hernando
2.) Tofol Castanyer
3.) Sage Canaday or Gediminas Grinius