As we come towards the close of this year, we have a few more races left to preview and not many of them come tougher than the Alpine Challenge. The miler has over 7,000m of climbing and rivals the likes of Northburn for a spot as one of the toughest milers in ANZ in terms of pure vertical and descent. But Northburn doesn’t have snakes, so in this instance, we’ll give the edge to Alpine.
Given how tough this race can be (not just climbing, but severe weather conditions too), it attracts a small, but perfectly formed field of runners and this year is no exception with some quality names lining up to take the honours come Sunday morning.
So who’s in the mix?
As usual, we’ll kick of with the ladies and the big name that sticks out is one of our best female runners over the 100 mile distance, Gill Fowler. We think Gill’s in with the chance of a podium overall while also highly likely to take the ladies race outright. She’s had another corker of a year to go hand in hand with her fantastic season in 2013, where she finished 6th at UTMB. This year she’s built on that with a superb fifth place at the Wasatch 100 miler over in the US.
Gill’s had an immensely packed 2014, which kicked off with second place at Bogong to Hotham, minutes behind Beth Cardelli. But she’s also gone one better in four other races this year winning Cradle Mountain, the Razorback run, Wilson’s Prom 60kms and the Great Ocean Walk 100kms too. It’s going to be hard seeing any other lady get near her on the day if we’re honest, the question will be how much bum-tapping she’ll be doing to the blokes in the latter stages of the race.
But, should Gill slip up anywhere, Isobel Bespalov and Hayley Teale will be right behind her. Another very solid year for Isobel, which has included podiums at Maroondah Dam 50kms and Heysen 105kms just last month. Hayley finished just ahead of Isobel at the Heysen 105 and Moroondah Dam, and has also won You Yangs 50 miler too. Should be a great battle between these two once again in the longer form distance.
Another couple of ladies to keep eyes upon are Natalie Wallace and Gisela Gartmair. Natalie won the WTF 100 miler a few months back, while also claiming podiums at a few 50km races in Victoria and Queensland too. Gisela, who while she hasn’t got too much in the way of race experience behind her as say Gill or Isobel, ran a very tidy 7:41 for the 75km Kep Ultra over in WA earlier this year.
The mens race looks just as salivating, with a number of what I would consider, our top mountain men taking part, namely Matt Cooper, Andrew Lee, Tom Brazier, Paul Cuthbert, Dan Beard and Damon Goerke. An ‘outsider’ to keep an eye on is Brit, Matthew Yarlett and local Aussie runner, Michael Meredith.
If I’m honest, I think it will be a battle up front between Matt Cooper and Damon Goerke, simply looking at their recent results and experience in the mountains. Damon knows these mountains like the back of is hand, being a perennial podium finisher at Bogong to Hotham most years as well as a previous winner of the event. Going through his results of the last few years, there’s barely a time when he hasn’t finished on the podium.
Matt Cooper is another well-raced mountain man, who’s tested himself against some of the world’s best overseas. Matt won the Alpine100kms last year and this year took out theTNF50kms event, as well as finishing just outside the top ten at theUTMB 80km event. Matt’s the current course record holder or this event with a time of25hrs19mins. It could well be that this record goes this year if the main guys at the front start pushing each other and the weather remains within the boundaries of respectability.
Andrew Lee is a name many of our readers will be familiar with as a former double winner of TNF100. A quiet and unassuming man who simply goes about his business and puts in some killer training sessions. I’m the first to admit that I do a bit of ‘Strava-stalking’ of Andy’s runs and they’re brutal. A top bloke with a top chance of taking this out.
Tom Brazier is one of our up and coming younger crop of runners and another one of my Strava-stalking victims 🙂 A man with a penchant for the bike as well as the trails, Tom has clocked up some impressive results to date. Perhaps his best was taking out the inaugural Canberra Centenary 100kms run last year in a smoking time of 9:48. He’s also placed well at TNF100 in the past (a good benchmark), as well as winning the Wilsons Prom 100kms back in May.
As mentioned above keep an eye out for Dan Beard, a serial performer and podium placer in most Victorian ultra races, as well as Paul Cuthbert and Brit ‘out of towner’, Matthew Yarlett.
In the 100kms event, Matty Abel will win. No pressure.
That concludes the run down for Alpine, as always we invite comments and thoughts from you, our readers. We will never get it 100% right, but in the main, we’re about 96% right with the predictions 🙂
(Feature image credit: Gretel Fortmann)