It’s that time of year again when the ultra trail world gets more excited than a group of school kids who’ve heard the last alarm bell before the end of term.
Yes, it’s the ultra trail <insert appropriate hyperbole: ‘world’, ‘cup’, ‘tour’, ‘championships’, ‘best’, ‘hardest’ etc…> tour de mont blanc. For those of you living under a rock, this is where the big boys and girls get to pitch their wares against one another across some serious mountain ranges after the track meet at Western States a few months back.
Last time I counted there were approximately 109 different races taking place across the whole UTMB week, so it literally is a case of choosing your own adventure!
However despite my serious dose of sarcasm, we do have a mouth-watering line up in the main event. The ladies race has seen a few withdrawals late on in the piece of one of the potential winners, Nuria Picas dropping this week, a massive shame. But that still leaves the likes of Caroline Chaverot, Mimmi Kotka and Clare Gallagher to vie for the win.
Clare won the CCC race here last year, while this year she’s also claimed first at the SciaccheTrail in Italy. For a bit of context, France’s Caroline Chaverot hasn’t lost an ultra race for two years – that’s 13 wins on the trot, including the likes of Hardrock last year, UTMB in 2016, Lavaredo last year and Transgrancanaria in 2016 too. Sweden’s Mimmi Kotka is another quality runner, who over the last two years has had a string of excellent results in similar vein to Caroline. This has included nine wins from 11 ultras, including victory at the CCC in 2016, as well as wins this year at the MIUT – Madeira Island Ultra Trail and the La Maxi Race du Lac d’Annecy.
In the men’s race, the big chat has been Kilian versus Walmsley. After his stellar win at Western States, Jim’s been logging more kms than a migrating bird from the Kimberly. Some of his training weeks have been off the hook so to speak. With hiking poles in hand, Jim’s climbed pretty much every single peak in the US in training for this bad boy, and combined with his speed, he’s in with a real shot for the double here.
Up against him is this fella called Kilian. You may have heard of him? Since breaking his leg earlier in the year, Kilian’s come back fitter and stronger than ever before. How does he do this I hear you ask? Well, I think we’ve found his secret…
But it would be rather unfair to claim it’s just the Jim and Kilian show. That shows little respect to the likes of Tim Tollefson, Xavier Thévenard, Luis Alberto Hernando, Gediminas Grinius, Ryan Sandes and Zach Miller to name just a few.
Aussie audiences got a view into the capabilities of Tim when he won UTA last year in a rather speedy 8hrs 52mins ahead of Rob Krar. Tim’s got bags of talent and is a sure-fire bet for a podium we thinks. Xavier is backing up from Hardrock of course, and despite his DQ, the guy still ran 97% of the damn course, so you’d hardly describe him as ‘fresh’, but then again Kilian decided he’d warm up for UTMB by breaking the course record at Kima this weekend just gone too. It appears as though Mr. Miyagi is doing some serious overtime!
For us Aussies, our Kiwi import, Scotty Hawker is racing this one. He finished 11th here last year in a very solid field, let’s hope he can go one better and push for a top ten placing. Also a big shout out for Hamish McDonald too. Hamish is a bit of a speedster over the shorter stuff, recording a 3:34 at 6ft track earlier this year for seventh place, while also grabbing seventh at UTA as well.
In the other races, here’s a quick run down of who’s who.
In the ladies, Ida Nilsson from Sweden looks like the one to beat, but after her storming result at WSER100 in a few months back, don’t discount Cecilia Flori our Italian-Kiwi local favourite. She’s been putting in the big ones ahead of this, expect her to feature. Kiwi-compatriot Fiona Hayvice also lines up for this one too, and after a solid block of training here’s hoping we see her back at her very best. Watch out for China’s Miao Yao as well. She’s been setting some unbelievable course records of late, so it will be interesting to see how we fairs on the European trails – she could even be up for a sneaky win.
Men’s favourites to look out for include: Spain’s Pau Capell, France’s Aurélien Collet, Italy’s Marco De Gasperi, Morocco’s Rachid El Morabity and from the UK but living in Thailand, Harry Jones.
The field for this one also rivals that of the big show. America’s Rory Bosio makes a comeback to the French trails, joined by our local legend, Kellie Emmerson who warmed up for this with an easy win at the Berry Long Run 40km recently. Watch out for the prowess of a certain Megan Kimmel too, fresh from breaking the Pikes Peak marathon record recently too. That would have been done in a peak training block as well, telling you all you nee to know about the form of Megan right now. Also watch out for Swiss runner, Kathrin Götz following her win at the Eiger Trail this year too.
In the mens race, local lad, Ben Duffus also lines up for this one, quietly getting on with the job and off the back of a cracking result at UTA this year. Hopefully we’ll see Ben string this one together for a great result here too. Watch out for Tom Owens (UK), UTA crowd favourite, Dylan Bowman, Ludovic Pommeret (France) and Tofol Castaner Bernat (Spain).
The ladies race looks set to be a duel between two ladies in top nick right now. Kiwi Ruth Croft is for want of a better phrase, killing it right now. Anything between the 50-80km race distance appears to have her name written all over it, justified by her win at the very prestigious Speedgoat 50km. It’s probably no word of a lie to say that over this type of distance, she’s rocking it at the top right now. Lucy Bartholomew needs no intro to our Aussie audiences. ‘Fresh’ off the back of her third place at WSER100, she’s ‘warmed’ up for this with a Trans rockies race too. Given what her racing legs have been through the last few months, it’s hard to see Lucy beating Ruth in this one, but I know for sure that she won’t be bothered about that one iota. The match-up however will be great to see.
In the men’s race, America’s Tim Freriks looks good for the win here.
If you’re racing this week/weekend, best of luck to you all.