Get the 3/4 length pants out, add some fluro and bust me out a rustic loaf with camembert… if it isn’t the latest edition of UTMB ready to hit our computer screens in just over a week’s time.
The ‘olympics’ of ultra trail running has arrived with Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc (UTMB) and apparently it’s the most competitive event of any event anywhere in the history of the whole wide world… ever.
While the event has a relatively short history, it has already established itself as what many see to be the pinnacle of ultra trail running and every year runners from around the world descend on Chamonix to take part in the week-long festivities.
The sheer magnitude of the event can been seen on many levels from the course of the main event that circumnavigates the Mont Blanc massif, to the thousands of different participants set to partake.
Our preview focuses on the three main events that are UTMB 171k, Courmayeur Champex Chamonix 101k (CCC) and Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie 119k (TDS), although there is also the shorter Orsieres Champex-Lac Chamonix 57k (OCC) and ridiculously long Petite Trotte a Leon 290k (PTL).
The sheer depth of the field makes it hard to cover every great runner that has entered the event, thus the focus will remain on those who will arguably be contending for a podium position – sorry folks, but no extended podium congratulatory crap here I’m afraid.
The lists are by no means exhaustive and there will of course be surprises on the day, but the names below will give you a good sense of who will be competing for top spots i.e. within the top ten-ish.
In the main event, UTMB, it’s hard to look past Caroline Chaverot for the ladies, while in the men’s race we’ll stick the neck out and give Kilian the nod. Caroline will be ‘fresh’ outta Hardrock and has been pretty much unbeatable this year. Save a wrong turn at Hardrock, her time would have been even faster. She’ll have competition for sure, but I really can’t see it getting anywhere near her and she looks a dead set favourite to make it two years on the trot.
But in saying that, she’s going to get some serious competition from the likes of Andrea Huser, Kaci Lickteig and Nuria Picas too. Andrea was second at UTMB last year and has also had some very impressive results in 2017 too. She looks to be a dead set for podium for this race as well, which position though will remain to be seen.
Go back a few years and it was Nuria Picas winning all before her with 2014 being a highly prolific and successful year. Her racing (in terms of volume) has tailed off somewhat in the last two years, but she’s still grabbing those podiums regardless. Expect her to feature strongly here once again.
From the US side, we also have Magdalena Boulet and Stephanie Howe flying the flag. Both ladies will be doing the WSER and UTMB double, with Magda fresh from a second place at WSER100. Stephanie has been slowly back on the road to recovery from injury and looks to be getting stronger and stronger as each race passes. Both should feature in or around the top five.
A couple of other runners to keep a close eye on include the UK’s Beth Pascall and Kaci Lickteig from the US. Beth finished second at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail earlier this year, while Kaci pretty much won everything in sight in 2016, including WSER100. While her WSER run went a little bit to shit this year, she stuck it out when many others dropped showing true grit. That’s some big life lessons right there that will stand her in good stead for UTMB, here’s hoping her body has recovered enough for the showdown in the French montanes.
The men’s event is packed full of crazy talent and as usual, there’s a real sense of the Euros versus the Americans again, as tends to happen at UTMB. The story of yesteryear used to go like this, Americans come over to France, blow up, go home. With Zach Miller and Jim Walmsley in the field, Sportsbet have stopped taking bets on this scenario happening again this year.
I jest of course, but in all seriousness, there is a really intriguing sense that this race could be freaking awesome. I’ll start by saying this… there are far too many big names in the men’s field to run through everyone, which means this article could potentially turn into a book. To be frank, that’s boring and also alienates 50% of my audience, so the next few paragraphs will preview just a handful. If your hero isn’t mentioned, then I apologise now – they’ll just have to try harder next year 🙂
Zach Miller has cut his teeth a few times now over in France and this will be the third consecutive year that he’s raced over here – that has to count for something and I’m sure his experiences and understanding of what it takes to travel over this course without starting like a bat out of hell will come to the fore.
Jim Walmsley aka The Big Show and the big unknown for this. Clearly he possesses an extreme amount of running talent, but that’s yet to convert across into a meaningful miler result. He’s killing everything at 100km and below and maybe that’s where his real talent lies, but he has the skills and the tools to win this – I hope we see that side of Jim racing next week and the battle with Mr. Kilian is a corker.
Interestingly, Jim appears to be taking a leaf out of the Kilian school of Hardrock taper, but instead of taking a leaf, he’s dug up the whole freaking tree. His last three days training are ‘unbelievable’, with a 50km, 49km and 42km with a combined elevation of 8,905m. Perhaps this is a secret ploy by Jim to knacker his body so much he has to hold back.
However the US runner who I think is in fine form right now is Tim Tollefson – Aussie readers will recall he won UTA a few months back and I’ve set the Strava spy cam on him for the last few months too. He’s the quiet achiever who just goes about his business AND he finished third in this race last year. I think he could win UTMB and out of anyone else in the field, has the real potential to go head to head with Kilian over the course of 170kms or so.
On the euro side, there are yet again some seriously talented names on the start list. Perhaps my own personal favourite is Francoise D’Haene (because he makes wine and that is cool), looks to be getting back a bit of form where he ran Pau Capell into second place at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail. That’s no mean feat, many Aussies will again recall that Pau won UTA last year as well. He’s an accomplished athlete.
And then there’s Kilian. He will win. Case closed m’lud.
Aussie and Kiwis to look out for
From an Aussie / Kiwi perspective, keep an eye on Victorian, Kellie Emmerson in the main event as well as Robyn Bruins too.
Ruth Croft is a real chance for the win in the CCC as is Lucy Bartholomew in the TDS too.
For the men, Majell Backhausen and Scotty Hawker are in for UTMB, while Andrew Tuckey (now living over in Wales), lines up for the TDS. Vajin Armstrong also takes his position on the CC start line.
Below are some more of the names you can expect to see competing next week over the course of the three races:
UTMB Female Contenders:
- Caroline Chaverot – 1st UTMB 2016, 1st Transgrancanaria 2016, 1st Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017, 1st Hardrock 100 2017
- Nuria Picas – 1st Transgrancanaria 2015, 1st Grand Raid Reunion 2015, 1st Vibram 100 2017
- Andrea Huser – 2nd UTMB 2016, 1st Grand Raid Reunion 2016, 2nd Transgrancanaria 2017, 1st Eiger Ultra Trail 101 2017
- Magdalena Boulet – 2nd CCC 2015, 5th UTMB 2016, 2nd Western States Endurance Run 2017
- Stephanie Howe Violett – 1st Western States Endurance Run 2014, 3rd Western States Endurance Run 2015, 8th UTMB 2015
- Fernanda Maciel – 4th UTMB 2014, 3rd Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015, 3rd Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji 2015, 3rd Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2016
UTMB Male Contenders:
- Kilian Jornet – 1st Ultra Pirineu Trail 2015, 1st Hardrock 100 2016, 1st Hardrock 100 2017
- Francoise D’Haene – 1st Vibram 100 2016, 1st Grand Raid Reunion 2016, 1st Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2017
- Zach Miller – 1st CCC 2015, 1st Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2016, 6th UTMB 2016
- Xavier Thevenard – 1st UTMB 2015, 3rd Hardrock 100 2016, 3rd Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2017
- David Laney – 8th Western States Endurance Run 2015, 3rd UTMB 2015, 4th UTMB 2016
- Tim Tollefson – 2nd CCC 2015, 3rd UTMB 2016, 5th Vibram 100 2017, 1st Ultra Trail Australia 2017
- Gediminas Grinius – 2nd Transgrancanaria 2016, 2nd UTMB 2016, 4th Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2017
- Didrik Hermansen – 1st Transgrancanaria 2016, 3rd Transgrancanaria 2017, 6th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017
- Jeff Browning – 3rd Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji 2015, 4th Hardrock 100 2016, 4th Western States Endurance Run 2017
- Pau Capell – 6th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2016, 1st TDS 2016, 1st Transgrancanaria 2017, 2nd Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2017
- Jason Schlarb – 2nd Hardroc100 2016, 9th Transvulcania 2017
- Sage Canaday – 3rd HK100 2017, 1st Lake Somona 50 mile 2017, 3rd Speedgoat 50km 2017, 3rd Transvulcania 2016
- Jim Walmsley – winning just about everything, bar Western States.
CCC Female Contenders:
- Ruth Croft – 1st CCC 2015, 2nd Trofeo Kima 2016, 2nd Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017
- Nathalie Mauclair – 1st UTMB 2015, 2nd Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015, 3rd Hardrock 100 2017
- Anna Comet – 5th Ultra Pirineu Trail 2015 ,3rd High Trail Vanoise 2016, 3rd Ultra Pirineu Trail 2016
- Azara Garcia – 1st Transgrancanaria 2017, 2nd World Trail Championships 2016
CCC Male Contenders:
- Aurelien Collet – 9th Transvulcania 2016, 7th World Trail Championships 2016, 1st Ultra Trail Australia 2017
- Ryan Sandes – 4th Ultra Trail Australia 2016, 4th Grand Raid Reunion 2016, 1st Western States Endurance Run 2017
- Justin Andrews – 5th Ultra Trail Australia 2017, 17th Eiger Ultra Trail 101 2017
- Ludovic Pommeret – 1st UTMB 2016, 5th World Trail Championships 2016, 2nd Transvulcania 2017
- Tom Owens – 5th Trofeo Kima 2016, 1st Coastal Challenge – Expedition Run 2017, 17th Transvulcania 2017
- Harry Jones – 8th Vibram 100 2017, 1st Translantau 100 2017, 2nd Mozart 100 2017
TDS Female Contenders:
- Mimmi Kotka – 8th World Trail Championships 2015, 1st CCC 2016, 1st Marathon Mont Blanc 80k 2017
- Lucy Bartholomew – 2nd 9 Dragons 2017, 1st Ultra Trail Australia 2017, 2nd Marathon Mont Blanc 80k 2017
- Marie Mcnaughton – 5th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2016, 3rd Vibram 100 2017, 5th Eiger Ultra Trail 101 2017
- Lisa Borzani – 8th Transgrancanaria 2017, 3rd Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2017, 3rd Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017
- Melanie Rousset – 5th Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2016, 3rd Transgrancanaria 2017, 2nd SudTirol Ultra Skyrace 2017
TDS Male Contenders:
- Daniel Jung – 6th Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2017, 5th Transvulcania 2017, 6th Eiger Ultra Trail 101 2017
- Antoine Guillon – 11th Transgrancanaria 2016, 9th Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2016, 1st Andorra Ultra Trail 170 2017
- Samir Tamang – 2nd TDS 2014, 1st Mount Everest 60k Extreme Ultra Marathon 2014, 1st Ultra Trail Australia 50k 2017
- Fulvio Dapit – 6th Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115 2016, 4th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017, 7th Eiger Ultra Trail 101 2017
- Paul Giblin – 17th UTMB 2016, 3rd 100 Miles of Istria 2017, 9th Western States Endurance Run 2017
- Michel Lanne – 3rd Maxi Race 2016, 1st CCC 2016, 2nd Maxi Race 2017
Shout out to the Australasian runners:
- Majell Backhausen UTMB – 21st UTMB 2015, 4th Buffalo Stampede Ultra Marathon 2016, 6th TDS 2016
- Kellie Emmerson UTMB – 13th CCC 2014, 3rd Ultra Trail Australia 2016, 4th Tarawera 100 2017
- Scotty Hawker UTMB – 6th Ultra Trail Australia 2016, 5th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2016, 5th Eiger Ultra Trail 101 2017
- Robyn Bruins UTMB – 7th Ultra Trail Australia 2015, 1st Great North Walk 100 Mile 2016, 4th Ultra Trail Australia 2017
- Andrew Tuckey TDS – 2nd Ultra Trail Australia 2014, 6th UTMB 2014, 9th Western States Endurance Run 2015,
- John Ellis TDS – 2nd North Face 100 Hong Kong 2016, 2nd 9 Dragons 2017, 5th Translantau 100 2017
- Vajin Armstrong CCC – 5th Tarawera 100 2016, 1st Swiss Alpine Marathon 76k 2016, 7th Swiss IronTrail 133k 2017
Addition reporting from David Longo.