Skyrunning World Championships Preview – Buff Epic 105km

Continuing with our overseas adventures, this weekend sees the Skyrunning World Championships take place over in the Vall de Boí in the Spanish Pyrenees. The centre piece of this epic weekend, is that rather appropriately named BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 105KM.

It has a grueling 8,000m elevation gain and a maximum gradient of 56%, it as tough as they come, which means there are some pretty strict qualification standards to actually race, of which numbers are capped at just 250.

In short terms, this means there’s no place for us weekend warriors in the starting line-up, this is for the big boys and girls 🙂

So why the focus? Well, we have a pretty cool line-up of Aussies and Kiwis taking on the charge for this one, so we thought we’d better give it a bit of airtime to let people know what the go is and who could feature – plus some potential podium placers among our crew.

Majell in the Blue Mountains
Majell in the Blue Mountains

First up is our very own Ultra168 contributor, Majell Backhausen, who’s spent a long time building up to this one. He’s been over in Europe a few weeks now, stomping around the ‘montanes’ and generally taking pretty pictures atop the mountains, making us all jealous at home! Majell by his own standards didn’t think much of his fourth place at the Buffalo Stampede earlier this year, so is raring to go for this one. It’s a tough field and he’ll need to go well for a shot at the extended podium.

Staying with the ‘B’s’ and it’s Tom Brazier next up. Tom’s been over in Europe a little while longer than Majell and managed to score a highly credible third place in the High Trail Vanoise 18km a few weeks ago. He’s been hanging out a lot with fellow Aussie Aaron Knight over in the French and Spanish cafes of late, so hopefully some of the climbing prowess of Aaron’s will have worn off on Tom and he’ll be ready to battle the 8,000m worth of climbing this race has to offer.

Moving swiftly across to the ladies (well alphabetical order on my entry list), and it’s the turn of Beth Cardelli, the quiet achiever who shouts loudest on the trails. Beth hasn’t lost a race this year on Aussie soil, including a sublime win at Ultra-Trail Australia in May against a stacked field. A top ten beckons here for Beth.

Ruth Croft in action at the Lantau 50 in Hong Kong
Ruth Croft in action at the Lantau 50 in Hong Kong (Credit: Lloyd Belcher)

Staying with the ‘C’s’ in the ladies and it’s the turn of Kiwi/Taiwan resident, Ruth Croft. In three words, Ruth is a ‘freaking awesome athlete’. If her wins at the CCC (baby sister of UTMB) and TNF 50km challenge in Taiwan weren’t enough last year, then her third place at the massively stacked Transvulcania in May said everything. Ruth is right up there with the best in world over this 100km mountainous type of racing and she’ll be a serious podium contender for this one too. Go Ruth is all we can say.

Back to the boys, and this time Ben Duffus returns to European soil, not far from where he had in my opinion, his best ever racing result in this same championship race two years ago in the Mont Blanc 80kms. Ben’s had some big ups and downs of late, spoiled in the main by injury and also getting knocked off his bike too. He’s gradually built himself back up to some decent racing form with a very good second place at UTA100 a few months ago and is likely to be peaking very nicely for this now. He’ll go into this race with a big reputation among the 3/4 length pant locals and I think he’ll deliver. Watch out for a possible podium – he has the talent to do it, let’s hope the training and form ring true for him.

Perhaps Ben's finest result to date - a podium at the World Skyrunning champs two years ago
Perhaps Ben’s finest result to date – a podium at the World Skyrunning champs two years ago

Also in the mix is Kiwi Sam McCutcheon, who’s burst onto the ultra scene with more raw talent than a side of filet steak winking from a frying pan. He’s new-ish to ultra racing, but boy has he made an impact thus far. Third place at the highly coveted Kepler towards the end of last year, followed by wins at the Big Easy 100kms and Buffalo Stampede. He clearly has the pace to match the talents of the boys up front, it’s whether the legs have enough mountain conditioning to match the goats towards the latter stages of the race. Expect him to feature.

In terms of the best of the rest, the ladies has another stacked field with the likes of Mira Rai, Nuria Picas and Fernanda Maciel, all of whom have raced on Aussie shores. Watch out also for Caroline Chaverot too, pure class.

In the mens, Andy Symonds, Christophe Le Saux and Luis Alberto Hernando, plus a whole host of other French, Spanish and Italian whippets who magically turn into mountain goats come race day.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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