Yesterday, we previewed the ladies at WSER 100, today it’s the turn of the men and with eight of last year’s top ten returning, plus a few other international runners, this one looks set to be a cracker of a race. Of course the big question on everyone’s lips is just how quickly will Jim Walmsley go? In many respects from the outside looking in, it appears to be a little unfair on the other competitors to position a race like this, after all we know what happened to Jim last year and anything can and often will go wrong in a race. But Jim has utterly dominated the races he’s run since then, it’s hard not speculate as such.
Apart from Jim, the men’s field also features the likes of Jeff Browning, Chris Mocko, Jonas Budd and Ian Sharman, as well as many other worthy men who will toe the line on Saturday morning over in the States.
The man of the moment that is Jim Walmsley has crushed everything in his path the last 18 months with the only blip being his 19th place at Western States last year when he went off course after leading for most of the race at record pace. Jim will be looking for redemption and has made it clear that he not only wants to win but break the course record.
There is no doubt he will go out hard and given his results since last year’s Western States, barring a major catastrophe, he is in a great position to crush the course. His results in 2016 included 1st at Bandera 100k, 1st at Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and 1st at JFK 50 Mile. So far in 2017 he has been 1st at Tarawera Ultra 100k and Gorge Waterfalls 100k, where he not only won but obliterated the field and established massive course records. Although not a forgone conclusion and surprises always happen and things can and will go wrong, but Jim is seemingly untouchable at the moment and very likely to run away with the win.
If the winning margin is as great as it has been in Jim’s recent results then we can expect a rather large gap before the remainder of the field picks up whatever is left after the carnage. Jeff Browning is one of the most experienced and prolific 100 mile racers in the world, which is evident in his results and also his longevity in the sport where he is still crushing competition that is much younger that he is. In the last couple years alone he has been 1st at Grindstone 100 Mile 2014, 3rd at Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji 2015, 1st at HURT 100 Mile 2016, 3rd at WSER 2016, 4th at Hardrock 100 Mile 2016 and 4th at Run Rabbit Run 2016. That is just his 100 mile race record and he has experienced much success at a variety of other distances. Jeff is meticulous in his racing strategy and expect him to run a smart and calculated race that sees him move through the field as the race progresses.
Chris Mocko is relatively new to the ultra trail racing scene but since experiencing much success in 2016 he has decided to commit full-time to racing in 2017. He races often and consistently places at the top end of the field and his results include 2nd at Gorge Waterfalls 100k 2016, 7th at Western States 2016, 3rd at Lake Sonoma 50 Mile 2017 and 1st at Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k 2017. Although relatively still new to the sport, given his results and the fact that he has committed full-time to racing this year, it is highly likely that Chris will greatly improve on his 7th place from last year and be in contention for a podium spot.
Jonas Buud seems to be off the radar of quite a few for this one, but you can’t ignore a man who has such a cracking race record as he has – a proven runner over both flat and mountainous ultras. Jonas has a 6:32 100km to his name, while he’s also run in the top ten of both Lavaredo and Transgrancanaria in recent years too. Down under, we’ll know him best for his runs at Tarawera too, winning the event in 2016 and then coming in second this year too. Since Tarawerra, Jonas has stayed off the racing, which to me suggests he’s primed and ready for this one. The downhill course nature of Western States will suit Jonas to a tee and I think he’s certainly a top 5 contender, if not a potential podium placing if all goes well for him on the day.
The ever consistent Ian Sharman has seven straight top 10 finishes that include 8th, 10th, 5th, 4th, 6th, 7th and 6th. That is some crazy consistency right there and although Ian has never been on the podium, given his experience and racing pedigree this year could be the year where he breaks onto the podium.
Regardless of whether or not Ian makes the podium, he will no doubt be pushing the pace upfront and putting on a masterclass of how to race Western States. His hugely varied and impressive racing resume also includes 1st at Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile and Leadville Trail 100 Mile in both 2015 and 2016.
Also keep a sneaky eye out for Frenchman Thomas Lorblanchet, who was fourth here at WSER 100 last year. Man’s got the good to finish on the podium and along with Jonas, it would be good to see some international representation in the men’s top 3.
Lastly, because we’re a biased Aussie and Kiwi focused site, Dave Byrne will line up in his first 100 mile event, and what an event to debut. Dave’s certainly got the goods to contend for a top ten placing and his run at UTA a few weeks back will have given him a good deal of confidence going into this. As we know at Western States, to run top ten, you’ve got to be looking at a sub 16hr performance and Dave’s more than capable of that on a course that will suit him probably more than UTA. But 160km is more than just another 60km on top of 100km, the cumulative toll on the body is big and on a downhill course like Western States that impact on the body will be at its greatest. Still Dave has a habit of turning it on in races and I would pretty much expect that if all goes well, a top ten place beckons for him. That would be a cracking result.
*Note – This group is by no means the be all and end all. The incredible depth of the field this year (like most years) means that there are plenty of other contenders capable of crashing the party and having standout performances.
Other male contenders:
- Thomas Lorblanchet – 11th Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115k 2015, 5th WSER 100 2015, 4th WSER 100 2016
- Ryan Sandes – The popular South African is back. He’s finished 2nd here in 2012 and 5th in 2014.
- Paul Giblin – 1st Javalina Jundred 100 Mile 2015, 5th WSER 100 2016, 17th UTMB 2016
- Kyle Pietari – 2nd Leadville 100 Mile 2015, 8th WSER 100 2016, 2nd Leadville 100 Mile 2016
- David Byrne – 2nd Tarawera Ultra 100k 2016, 4th Tarawera Ultra 100k 2017, 4th Ultra Trail Australia 100k 2017
- Chris Denucci – 2nd Bandera 100k 2016, 9th WSER 100 2016
- Jesse Haynes – 2nd Sean O’Brien 100k 2016, 10th WSER 100 2016, 5th HURT 100 Mile 2017
- Erik Clavery – 6th UTMB 2015, 6th Grand Raid Reunion 2016
- Tofol Castanyer – 2nd Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115k 2016, 12th WSER 100 2016
- Jeff Ball – 1st Zion 100k 2015, 2nd Bandera 100k 2017
- Ryan Kaiser – 5th Hardrock 100 Mile 2016, 3rd Javalina Jundred 100 Mile 2016, 2nd Sean O’Brien 100k 2017
- Joel Frost-Tift – 1st American River 50 Mile 2014, 3rd Bandera 100k 2017
- Alex Nichols – 1st Mont Blanc 80k 2015, 2nd Speedgoat 50k 2016, 5th North Face 50 Mile Championship 2016
- Jared Burdick – 2nd Cayuga Trails 50 Mile 2016, 5th Lake Sonoma 50 Mile 2017
- Brian Rusiecki – 1st Vermont 100 Mile 2016, 3rd UROC 2017, 2nd Cayuga Trails 50 Mile 2017
- Michael Wardian – what hasn’t this guy done…
- Zachary Szablewski – 7th Gorge Waterfalls 100k 2016, 4th Lake Sonoma 50 Mile 2017
- Elov Olsson – 8th UltraVasan 90k 2016, 11th 100k World Championships 2016, 2nd Black Canyon Trail 100k 2017
- Avery Collins – 4th HURT 100 Mile 2016, 1st Quray 100 Mile 2016, 1st Georgia Death Race 2017
David’s podium picks
Men – 1st Jim Walmsley, 2nd Jeff Browning, 3rd Chris Mocko
Dan’s podium picks
Men – 1st Jim Walmsley, 2nd Chris Mocko, 3rd Jeff Browning
Feature image credit: WSER 100