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Trail running: European domination in the UTMB

September 5, 2012

In august and september the Alps are crowded with high profile mountain running events. The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc is predominantly an European affair.

As usual the UTMB was dominated by European runners. In the Mens top ranking European runners placed 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th. US runner Michael Foote who finished 3rd this year is rather an exception from the rule that male US ultra-trail runners usually are a size or two small in the UTMB. And where were the Spanish? They usually dominate the race but in the absence of Kilian Jornet and Iker Karrera the best male Spaniards “only” managed to finish 12th, 13th and 14th.

Also in the CCC (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix), where Dave Mackey US (9th) was the only non-european runner in the mens top-10. In fact there were only 3 non-europeans in the mens top-100. Quite exceptional, considering the reputation of the race by now.

With Jonas Buud’s 2nd place in UTMB, his first long ultra-trail, no one need to question his mountain running skills. But then again, after winning the Swiss Alpine Marathon six times in a row, why would they? Hopefully other strong Swedish mountain runners will take on the UTMB in the years to come. 2012 the second best Swedish male was Erik Jurander, finishing in 253rd place.

This year Kilian Jornet stepped aside in the UTMB, focusing on other running projects.

In the womans category the European domination wasn’t as striking, since non-european runners finished 4th, 7th and 8th. I note that Spanish multisport athlete Emma Roca came 3rd. Personally I believe that multisport athletes have an advantage having experience from racing in tough conditions non-stop day and night.
According to the website ranking no Swedish woman finished the UTMB. Can this be right?  In the womans category of CCC all the top- 10 spots went to Europe, and  only 11 runners in the top-100 were non-europeans. Fastest (and only) Swedish runner were Ellen Berg: in 70th place.

Here is a link to blogger Polyenios who has compared European and North American elite ultratrail runners in the UTMB.

Spanish runner Iker Karrera’s team currently leading the Gore-Tex Transalpine-Run. Photo credits: GTX TAR

So where were the spanish?
Well Kilian Jornet ran & won the classic hardcore skyrunning race Trofeo Kima Aug 26. The race has 3,800m vertical climb over 50 K. Nuria Picas placed 1st among the womens before Emelie Forsberg. Trofeo Kima is a small exclusive race open only for invited runners. As events like the UTMB grows it’s not surprising that some top runners prefer smaller intimate races. Here is an excerpt from skyrunning.com:   “For many of the top runners, it was a Kima first and it seemed the harder it got, the more they lapped it up.  (Andy) Symonds agreed with (Kilian) Jornet in defining the race as “the best in the world” and (Tom)Owens, also at his first experience, described the race as “the definition of skyrunning. Racing here is like being a kid, jumping nimbly from rock to rock and feeling full of energy”

Team Salomon International going for victory in Gore-Tex Transalpine-Run. Photo credits: GTX TAR

Gore-Tex Transalpine-Run
When the race course of UTMB was shortened spanish runner Iker Karrera, one of the favourites in UTMB, opted instead for the stage-race Gore-Tex Transalpine run. The race over approx 300K across the Alps in 8 daily stages, started Sept 1 and after 5 days Iker Karrera and german Philipp Reiter of Team Salomon International have showcased their dominance at this year’s event. For each stage the gap grows bigger to their closest rivals, now Florian Holzinger and Rolfes Volkmar of Team Gore Running Wear since Billy Burns and Ben Abdelnoor from Team Inov-8 have been forced to exit the race due to knee problems. Descending big alpine mountains, sometimes more than -2000m a day, can be painful for the knees. I know, since I have finished this beautiful race twice. Follow the race on Facebook

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