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A hellish pace (press release)

September 15, 2011

Official press release from the race committee Wednesday 5p.m.

Wednesday 14th September at 12.58 p.m., Marco Gazzola was the first runner to cross the finishing line at Courmayeur after having competed for 75 hours and 58 minutes. Marco’s last control point was timed at 12.06 p.m. at the Bonatti Refuge while the final compulsory crossing point of the race is at the Bertone Refuge. Marco was neither checked nor registered at this point.

Marco’s time from Bonatti to Courmayeur (11.9 km and 809 m of vertical difference) was 52 minutes, which seems highly improbabile. For the above reasons, the race committee has decided to disqualify Marco Gazzola from the competition. The runner commented  “feeling both euphoric and exhausted for the great effort made up until that moment, I committed the mistake of taking the wrong trail. I am the first to regret it. However, I agree totally with the decision made by the committee.”

Courmayeur and the whole Valle d’Aosta are now waiting for the next runner to cross the finish line. Jules-Henri Gabioud is expected at 6 p.m. and will be officially declared the winner of the 2011 edition of TOR des GEANTS® The Tor des Géants® is one of the most demanding endurance trails in the world in terms of the steepness of its slopes and the length of the trail in the heart of the Italian Alps and which covers the whole of Valle d’Aosta in one stage.

As soon as the race started, a group including the favourites broke away and took the lead, establishing an unremitting and constant rythym for the competition. Among the leaders there was the French runner Christophe Le Saux and the Spaniard Salvador Calvo Redondo (who came second in 2010 – Salomon team) followed by the Italians Ulrich Gross and Dennis Brunod a few minutes behind. Another group including Cesare Clap, Grégoire Millet, Alexandre Forestieri, Jules Henri Gabioud and Marco Gazzola attempted to stay on the heels of the leaders.

At the 64 km mark, the first runners to withdraw set the pace of the race. Ulrich Gross and Dennis Brunod forfeited, leaving the Spaniard Salvador Calvo Redondo, Christophe Le Saux et Grégoire Millet in the lead for the first night and second day. By the end of the second day, it was clear that this 2nd edition would break all previous records!

Monday and Tuesday nights were full of surprises in spite of the large improvement in weather conditions compared to Sunday night. French runner Christophe Le Saux seized his position as leader early on Monday evening at the village of Niel. Salvador Calvo Redondo from Spain, after having been in pole position since the beginning of the race, withdrew just before reaching the life base in Alpenzu (207 km.) at 9.33 a.m. on Tuesday morning, suffering from meniscus pain in his knee. Le Saux takes the lead, followed by Swiss runners  Marco Gazzola et Jules-Henri Gabioud.

Fatigue starts to play tricks on the body. Grégoire Millet from France, who had been in third place for a long time, falls victim to a knee tendinitis and slips down the ranking. The head trio widens the gap to establish a 4-hour lead on the others.

Throughout  all of Tuesday, Christophe Le Saux leads the pace. His small strides and his relaxed apearance reveal little sign of tiredness. Nevertheless, Marco Gazzola catches up little by little. While there is just an hour’s difference between them at sunrise, the transit at Valtournenche (236 km) is « strained». Christophe is the first at 1.53 p.m., Marco only 8 minutes behind. Christophe takes 5 minutes to refuel, Marco 8. Young Jules-Henri Gabioud  arrives at 4.02 p.m. and rests for 50 minutes.

20 km further on, at Cuney (256 km), the race takes a new turning: Gazzola  goes to the front overtaking Le Saux by 8 minutes. He will no longer give up his leading position. Le Saux, overcome by deep fatigue, falls asleep in the forest and is woken up 3 hours later by some volunteers of the race who were concerned because they hadn’t seen him arrive at the Ollomont life base (283 km).

Marco crosses the finish line at 12.58 p.m. after 74 hours and 58 minutes of running. That’s 5 hours 30 minutes less than last year’s edition when Ulrich Gross completed the trail in 80 hours 27mins. He declared in front of spectators and journalists «The warm hospitality at the life bases, in the refuges and from all the volunteers along the trail provided me with a strong motivation to go on. This race is one of the hardest I’ve ever done. There was never time to rest my body so my knees, legs and feet hurt a lot. The final part of the race was really trying as I had decided not to sleep and to race against Christophe, who was always either just in front or a bit behind. He has more technique on the downhill slopes whereas I pass him uphill! The duel was tough until last night. It’s a great victory for me!»

While the first man crossed the finish line in Courmayeur’s main square, Anne- Marie Gross maintained her lead. First in 2010, she has dominated most of the race since the start. In Valtournenche, she registered  an 8 hour lead on her pursuers Patrizia Pensa and Guliana Arrigoni, who are running together. At the Cuney refuge (256 km), stomach pain stopped her race for 3 hours 30 mins. She set off again at 12.24 p.m. 10th in the overall ranking.

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