Not only is it Western States this weekend, but there’s some big racing to be done in Italy with the TNF Lavaredo Ultra Trail. This race really is a precursor to one of the two biggest 100 mile races in the world, one of which is this weekend in WSER100 and then UTMB which is in August.
A sign of the times is that those who race this are in a serious mindset for UTMB in a few months times.
So why are we covering this race? Well there are three Aussies running who I’d say are all in real contention… well two if you count Scotty Hawker as a Kiwi, but the fact that he’s lived in Australia for a while now means that we’ll claim him as one of our own. A little like the English do with Andy Murray, except of course when he loses – then he’s Scottish. So Scotty, no pressure – if you don’t win, you’re a Kiwi again 🙂
Anyhoo! Back to normality, and we’ll as always start with the ladies and feature a few of whom we think need watching.
Firstly there is the French duo of Natalie Mauclair and Caroline Chaverot. Beginning with Natalie, she is probably the lead favourite for this race after a barnstorming 12 months that included third at both WSER100 and UTMB. Last year she also won the brutal Diagonale des Fous down on Reunion Island and is just off the back of a win at the IAU World Trail Champs.
Caroline will be hot on her heels however. She finished second to Natalie at the IAU champs by less than three minutes. She was also second at Transgrancanaria too. It will be a close one between these two, but I favour Natalie to edge it based upon her experience of racing the tough stuff.
Then there’s the Italian due of Lisa Borzani and Francesca Canepa. Lisa finished just outside the top ten of the IAU Champs, whereas Francesca is a previous winner here, taking the title in 2013 as well as being second last year. She’ll be a real threat to the French duo above.
Next in line is Fernanda Maciel, who will be fairly well known to Aussie crowds. She finished third at TNF100 last year as well as an outstanding fourth place at UTMB. She’s a tough cookie and races hard and often. She’ll be right up there in the mix.
Finally is our own true blue Aussie gal, Gill Fowler. Gill has stepped up a gear since last year and she is notably quicker. The good news however, is that she eats courses like these for breakfast. She’s simply a phenomenal climber and Lavaredo will suit her to a tee. I think she’s in good nick for this and I would dearly love to see her podium for this one.
For the boys…
It’s fairly unusual to be previewing a European mountain race and seeing two big-named US athletes taking centre stage. Well, one US athlete and another Englishman based over in the US. Timothy Olson is the standout name here, the Western States course record holder, but someone who’s a had a bit of a tough time of it in recent months in terms of his results. He’s raced once this year at Transvulcania where to be frank, he had a shocker, finishing in 63rd position. Still, everyone has their bad days and you don’t become a Western States record holder by luck. Expect Tim to feature big for this one.
We’re big fans of Nick Clark here at Ultra168. He typifies everything we love about the sport. Hard-working, no excuses and an epic ultra runner beard. My trusty results website shows me that he’s raced once this year, the Jemez Mountain 50mile Trail Run, which he duly won. Go Nick is all we say.
Watch out world, Scotty Hawker is here to race. This is a massive call, but I think he’s in with a real shot of this one. I was flabbergasted by his performance at TNF100. To be within just six minutes of a speedster like Dylan Bowman is phenomenal, and to think that the flatter, faster tracks are probably not his forte. I know he loves these types of mountain races and I’m really excited to see what he can do here. He’s really shown what he’s capable of with that performance at TNF. I chatted with him extensively after that race and the biggest thing he has now is not just his talent, but the belief that he belongs in the lead group of runners. I really hope he has a storming race here.
Another Aussie that could be a bit of dark horse for a podium is Tom Brazier. He’s flown hugely under the radar for this one (until now!), but if he races solidly could be in with a shout. He loves the ‘montanes’ and I think this course will suit him well. Finally, keep an eye out for Frenchman Aurelien Collet. He finished third at the Diagonale des Fous last year. He’s a massively consistent performer on the French racing scene and will push for that podium too.
Best of luck to our Aussies racing, not just the three mentioned above, but the other smattering of guys and girls racing too, along with everyone having a crack at this beauty of a race that now in its ninth year.