Le cirque de ultra trail world tour moves on this weekend to the beautiful surrounds of Rotorua and the Tarawera ultra series of events, which this year features a 100 miler for the first time. But, looking through the numbers, the numbers are probably a little bit lower than you’d have thought (136).
It was always going to be tough gig to put on a miler when you have a showcase and highly thought of event in the 100km race, which has been the mainstay and star attraction of the Tarawera ultra series. Unless you get serious scale, a miler is not going to grow your share of the pie because let’s be fair, milers are niche affairs here in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a shame because Paul and team should be applauded for having the balls to stick on another miler down our neck of the woods. I’m sure we’ll see the event grow over the years as more and more people make the transition up to the bigger events.
So onto the main event, the 100km race.
In the ladies, the unassuming but mega-talented Ruby Muir brings her skills back to the Redwoods and in all honesty, barring a serious injury of sorts, should be on the line to win this. She’s absolutely world-class when she’s fit and on her game. Back in December Ruby won the Kepler Challenge in a smoking 5:24, which equals hot form right now.
Giving her a run for her money will be Kiwi-based Italian, Cecilia Flori, who finished third here last year in what was a highly competitive women’s race. She finished second to Ruby at Kepler, while she also won the Mozart 100km over in Austria too, placing her on the UTWT circus radar.
UK runner, Jo Zakrzewski won’t be known on these shores, but she’s got some good pedigree behind her, which includes three finishes in the top ten at Comrades. With a 2:41 marathon PB to her name, there’s a bit of gas there over the faster flat stuff, so Tarawera should suit her well. Watch out for her challenging the lead.
There’s a couple of US ladies headed over here as well in the form of Amanda Basham and Kelly Wolf. Both have performed well at home in the States with strong performances in a number of races such as the Speedgoat 50km, UROC and the North Face Endurance Challenge.
Also keep an eye on local Blue Mountains lady, Lou Clifton. After her third place at UTA last year, she’s proven that while some of the more mountainous terrain probably suits her better, she’s also got a bit of gas too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her sneak a top five placing here.
In the men’s Tarawera ultra race, my favourite is Vlad Shatrov. Despite the fact that ‘DBo’ is racing here (a former winner and record holder of this race), Vlad when he gets his race right is an absolute gun runner. He’s been putting in some massive 220km+ weeks of late, which have included some killer 4hr 60km runs. There’s no doubting he’s primed for this one and having got a few of the longer races under his belt now, he should be getting towards honing his perfect race. This type of course suits him down to the ground.. fast and flat.
While it seems strange to call Sam McCutcheon a dark horse for this race given his current form and pedigree, that’s probably what he is to most of our international readers. Sam’s come on another level in the last six months, winning the Kepler Challenge in December last year by a big margin to Stu Gibson. I really fancy Sam for a podium here.
Dylan Bowman makes a return to antipodean shores to the trails of where he’s won and held the course record here previously, running 7:44:58 in 2015 I believe. That’s pretty speedy, but the question is whether he’s in that type of form or not.
US runner Cody Reed could be in with a shout for the podium having won the 2017 Way Too Cool 50k, and coming in 15th at the 2017 IAU Trail World Championships too.
And lastly, Frenchman Martin Kern (but living in New Zealand), has been in fantastic form for the last six months or so. He landed a highly credible seventh at UTA last year, followed by a barnstorming 29 hour win at the GSER100. Martin’s really stepped up a notch over the last twelve months and I could see him challenging for a podium position on the day too.
In the Tarwera 100 miler, our picks for the win are Fiona Hayvice in the ladies and Grant Guise in the mens. Watch out also for Jean Beaumont and Sally McRae in the ladies race too.
Lucy Bartholomew is also racing the 62km, watch out for her for the win.
Good luck to all racing the Tarawera ultra events this weekend.