This week, many of the world’s leading runners converge on (if they’re not already there!) Chamonix for what is probably one of two of the biggest races globally in terms of breadth and depth of racing. If Western States is the ‘unofficial sprint’ 100 mile champs, then UTMB is the ‘mountain goat’ equivalent.
One of the talking points around UTMB over recent years has been the battle between the US runners compared to the Europeans – I’m sure the athletes don’t view it like that at all. But given how well US runners run at WSER100, and then appear to drop by the wayside at UTMB it has become part of the focus when analysing the elite field.
If you like, WSER100 and UTMB are like the home and away world champs of 100 mile racing. The US runners, generally tend to smash WSER100 out of the park, helped in part by an extremely limited international field being able to actually show up at WSER100. Then, get the Europeans on home ground and their mountain goat legs win the day by some distance.
However, in recent times, many of our US friends have started to wise up about the kind of conditioning required for this race and we see some seriously talented runners from over the Pacific / Atlantic pond (depending upon where you are in the world), show up this year which is very exciting!
In this first edition, we’re going to preview some of the extremely talented ladies on show and whom we can expect to go well. Then in a day or two, we’ll give you the low down on the mens’ race and who might take our honours there. To make life easier for you the reader, we’ve split our ladies into three groups: The US, Euros and then ROW (rest of the world).
The US ladies
One of the top picks from the US contingent is Stephanie Howe. We had the pleasure of chatting with her prior to WSER100 this year and she was a pleasure and joy to chat to. You can read about her preparation for that race here. Needless to say, after coming third at this year’s WSER100, she’ll have been in full on mountain climbing mode to adapt to the different challenges that UTMB is going to provide.
One lady from the US who is no stranger to serious mountain races is Darcy Piceu. She finished second at Hardrock this year behind Anna Frost, and back in 2011, finished on the podium at this very race. A super talented runner who is highly likely to feature in the top 5 we think.
Other US ladies to watch out for will be Nicole Studer, who finished sixth at WSER100 this year, along with ultra veteran, Amy Sproston. Amy is probably known more for her runs over the flatter stuff, where she has represented the US at the IAU 100km champs, but back in 2012, she grabbed a top ten finish in this race also.
The European ladies
Where do you start on this list?
Nuria Picas, Caroline Chaverot, Natalie Mauclair, Francesca Canepa, Liza Borzani and some more!
Nuria Picas has had a relatively quiet 2015 thus far, but she’s been building including a win at the prestigious Transgrancanaria back in March. Her only other ultra performance was on home soil in the Els Bastions 50 kms, which she won easily in a time of 6hrs 20mins – some indication as to how tough that 50kms is.
Caroline Chaverot is a big name to watch for this one and is some real form in 2015. She’s not finished lower than second in a year that’s included some very good wins at Ultra Trail Laverado and the Eiger Ultra Trail 100kms. She also finished second to Nuria at Transgrancanaria – expect a real ding-dong between these two.
Trying to upset the apple cart though will be Natalie Mauclair. Similar to Nuria, she’s had a quiet 2015, which included second place to Caroline at Laverado, but with a win at the Maxi race in Annecy. Real podium contender.
Italian, Francesca Canepa is a top five contender with some serious racing under her belt over the last five years. She’s won the Tor des Geants twice, warming up for this race with a 100 mile win in the 100 miles of Istria race in Croatia. She also finished on the podium at the Eiger 100kms last month too behind Caroline Chaverot.
Rest of the World
Of course it would be remiss of us to not mention some of our local Aussie girls in the mix. Gill Fowler is probably the name most known to most, having finished sixth in this race a few years back. A top 5 finish for her here would be an amazing result. Gill gets better as the race goes on, so if some of the others go out too hard, she’ll be there to mop up the carnage.
Shona Stephenson is no stranger to this race either. She finished tenth last year and had a good result at TNF100 earlier this year, finishing third.
Fernanda Maciel is also well-known to Australian audiences, with a third-placed finish at TNF100 last year. She finished fourth here last year and is another one who will mop up carnage if the horses at the front bolt too early. She’s kept racing this year to a minimum with a third at Laveredo and I think she’s a definite top five contender.
Scores on the doors – our picks:
1.) Caroline Chaverot
2.) Nuria Picas
3.) Darcy Piceu