The Power and the Glory: UTMB Wrap Up

Last updated: 06-Sep-16

 

Every year it provides a shedload of drama, and this year was to be no exception at UTMB as it wound its way around the iconic Mont-Blanc.

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is  probably the most iconic ultra trail race in the world. It was first held in 2003 and the route takes you round the stunning scenery of Mont-Blanc and the surrounding peaks. The festival includes five races between 22nd and 28th August. The race centre is in Chamonix in the French Alps.

The five races are:

  • UTMB: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (166 km +9,600 m)
  • CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101 km +6,100 m)
  • TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km +7,250 m)
  • OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (53 km +3,300 m)
  • PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300 km +28,000 m)

There are also mini events for children to participate in and the YCC (Youth Chamonix Courmayeur) which is open to 16-22 year olds.

Sergio Garasa Mayayo, the Editor of www.carrerasdemontana.com is a veteran of both running and reporting the races. He explained the differences. “CCC is a beautiful girl, your favourite girl. UTMB is the Queen and TDS would be like your stepmother – you may love her or you may have a more difficult relationship with her.”

THE QUEEN

UTMB is a single-stage race and passes through three different countries as it follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland. The race varies very slightly in different years but this year it was 170km with 10000m of ascent. 2500 starters set off but the attrition rate was high.

A couple of the big names dropped early including two of the favourites – Rory Bosio of the USA and  Luis Hernando of Spain. Jason Schlarb of the USA who had hoped to podium also had to let his dream die.

ROUTE

The race starts from Chamonix (1,035 m) and goes up to the Col de Voza (1,653 m) to reach Les Contamines (1,150 m). It then climbs to the Croix du Bonhomme (2,479 m) before going back down to Les Chapieux (1,549 m), which is the first life base. The path then runs up to the Col de la Seigne (2,516 m) to enter Italy, and then follows the ridge of Mont-Favre (2,435 m) before descending to Courmayeur (1,190 m), the second life base. It climbs up to the Refuge Bertone (1,989 m) and Arnuva (1,769 m) before reaching its highest point, the Grand Col Ferret (2537 m), on the border with Switzerland.

The path descends to Praz de Fort (1,151 m) via La Fouly (1,593 m) before reaching the third life base, Champex-Lac. The last part includes Bovine (1,987 m) and Les Tseppes (1932 m), separated by Trient (1,300 m). On the descent to Vallorcine (1,260 m), the route goes back into France and crosses Argentière (1,260 m) before the triumphant finish at Chamonix, its starting point.

If you are lucky enough to follow the race as a crew member or journalist or just as a spectator, you get the absolute true flavour of it but because the UTMB Live TV and tracking coverage is SO good, that even if you are sitting at home in Paisley, you can cover a lot of it in real time. The organization is so good that there are lots of chances to watch the runners running through critical points and to see the glorious mountains they are going through.

RACE LEADERS

There are a thousand stories to tell of this race and by the time the leaders run into Chamonix it is difficult to remember back to their start over 20 hours before. Zach Miller of the USA was in the lead for a large part of the race but he was unable to hold it and Ludovic Pommeret of France chased him down for the win. The strong Lithuanian, Gediminus Grinius, came in second and Tim Tollefson from the USA snuck up from the back, working his way forward to eventually take third and be the third American man to podium at UTMB – there have been several USA winners of the female race and the women’s course record is held by Rory Bosio. 

Tollefson crossed the line with a huge smile and then immediately turned round to do a lap of honour. Obviously, 170km wasn’t enough for him. There was more great news for America, as he was followed in by David Laney who had also run a stonking race and had clearly given it all he had as he could barely stand when he got over the line. They didn’t have long to wait until Zach Miller, who was given the accolade “most aggressive runner” by the UTMB TV boys, arrived in 6th.

The USA triumph was one of the stories of the day as the men lined up for their finish line shot. Could this herald a new era for the American runners over in Europe? In his post race interview, Tim Tollefson said that he had aimed to finish in the podium but that it was a “dream” to come in first.

The woman’s race was to go to Caroline Chaverot, giving France the one/two which played very, very well with the crowd at the finish line.

FINAL  RANKINGS

  1. Ludovic POMMERET, France, 22:00:02
  2. Gediminas GRINIUS, Lithuania, 22:26.05
  3. Tim TOLLEFSON, USA, 22:30.38

WOMEN’S RANKINGS

  1. Caroline CHAVEROT, France, 25:15:40
  2. Andrea HUSER, Switzerland, 25:22:56
  3. Uxue FRAILE AZPEITIA, Spain, 26:15:18

PAST WINNERS

The very first winner of UTMB in 2003, Dawa Sherpa, raced the OCC this year. Past champions have also included Marco Olmo, Nikki Kimball, Kilian Jornet, Elizabeth Hawker, Francois D’Haene,  Nathalie Mauclair, Rory Bosio and Xavier Thevenard, who won this year’s OCC to make it a clean sweep of UTMB titles.

Now Ludovic Pommeret and Caroline Chaverot have joined the roll call of heroes. Congratulations to them both and ALL the runners – many of whom will still have a long, long way to go as we publish this piece.

We’ll keep bringing you news from the race till it ends on Twitter and Facebook.

If you want to enter the lottery to race – check out the details http://www.runultra.co.uk/Events/UTMB

"CCC is a beautiful girl, your favourite girl. UTMB is the Queen and TDS would be like your stepmother – you may love her or you may have a more difficult relationship with her"

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