4 experts predictions for UTMB®

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14/07/2017
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This year, UTMB® will see the greatest gathering of top elite runners in its history. Kilian Jornet, Zach Miller, Luis Alberto Hernando, François d’Haene, to name just a few. Progressively the best trail-runners in the world are preparing for a race which promises to be exciting. With such a line-up, the prognostics are intriguing. Will Jim Walmsley go the distance ? Will Kilian convince everybody ? To get a clearer picture we asked 4 astute observers to designate  5 men and 5 women who they think likely of winning the UTMB®.  Just two months away from the event, Didier Curdy, Bryon Powell, Fred Bousseau and Ludovic Collet agreed to designate the runners who have to greatest chance of finishing on the highest step of the podium. 

Didier Curdy's view | Creator of the ITRA Performance Index ITRA

For the women, despite a difficult start to the season, Caroline Chaverot is back on form and has just won, quite brilliantly, the Lavaredo UTWT race. Ultra rapid and incumbent winner  of the UTMB® she is the biggest favourite. With one drawback, is she going to spend to much effort on the  Hardrock ? Climbing on to the 1st step, one must also count on Andrea Huser. Since 2014, the Swiss girl has been indefatigable. She runs races more of than 95km one after the other of with very good results, worth knowing that over 22 races she has had 11 victories and 17 podium finishes. In the group of 5 women, who have the potential to win the UTMB®,  are Magdalena Boulet who knows the UTMB® well with a second place in the  CCC® in 2015 and a fifth place in the UTMB® in 2016. Voted 2016 Ultra Runner of the Year in the  USA , Kaci Lickteig will be one to watch as she takes her first steps in the UTMB®. Lastly, the new Swedish woman in the trail-running world, Mimi Kotka, was the revelation of  2016 notably with a victory in the  CCC®. She has just confirmed that by winning the Mt-Blanc 80km.

As for the men, Kilian Jornet is the big favourite. He seems to be on very good form after his double ascension of Everest and his victory in the Mont-Blanc marathon. One must not forget that he is the record holder of a number of men's victories (2008,2009,2011).  Rarely beaten over long distances, François d'Haene  (6 victories in the UTWT) combines speed, endurance and experience. On his best form, he will be hard to beat.  With incredible stamina in the mountains while remaining fast, Xavier Thévenard could achieve it. He has just done brilliantly in the Mt-Blanc 80km and is unbeaten in the UTMB®. The world champion  Luis Alberto Hernando will be difficult, for the 3 previous winners, to shake off. His second place in the 2015 UTMB® should not be forgotten. Tim Tollefson has been making good progress in the world of trail-running over the last 3 years. He has just won the Australia Ultra-Trail® and he has experience  around  Mt-Blanc with a 2nd place in the 2015 CCC® and a third place in the 2016 UTMB®.

Bryon Powell's view | Founder and editor in chief  iRunFar.com

On the women’s side, there’s sure to be plenty of excitement. Caroline Chaverot has undoubtedly been the best female trail ultramarathoner since the start of 2016, topped off by her UTMB® win last year. Perhaps only Caroline’s racing schedule can beat her. On the other hand, Núria Picas’s lighter racing schedule this year might be just what she needs to finally win UTMB®. Andrea Huser likely had the second best 2016 trail ultrarunning season of any woman and is as consistent as they come. Americans Kaci Lickteig, Magdalena Boulet, and Stephanie Howe have all shown their extreme talent at ultrarunning by winning the Western States 100 and any one of them could wow the world at this year’s UTMB®

There is unlikely to have ever been a better men’s field at a trail ultramarathon than for this year’s UTMB®. To start, Kilian Jornet is best trail ultramarathon of the past decade. If he starts, he’s the favorite. Over the past few years, no one has been stronger at mountainous 100 mile races than François D’haene, the champion in 2012 and 2014. Xavier Thevenard is the king of the UTMB® races, who is yet to be beat at its races. Luis Alberto Hernando has yet to live up to his potential at UTMB®… and everyone should be scared if and when he does. All that said, there’s never been a stronger American men’s contingent at UTMB® as this year, including last year’s pace-setter Zach Miller, Tim Tollefson (3rd 2016), David Laney (3rd 2015, 4th 2016), Jim Walmsley, Sage Canaday, Dylan Bowman, and more.

Fred Bousseau's view | Journalist TrailsEnduranceMag

After an incredible 2016 season, when Caroline Chaverot won everything, she intends to make it a double. If she has recuperated after the Hardrock and is having a good day, she need not be worried. Andrea Huser understands herself, and when she is on the starting line we are sure to see her at the finish. The most serious outsider will be Mimi Kokta. She won the 2016 CCC® in 2016 and she made her mark in the Mont-Blanc 80km without worrying.  Constant and rapid on rather mountainous profiles , will Magdalena Boulet be able to run 24 hours of race and imitate her compatriots like Rory Bosio, Krissy Moehl or even Nikki Kimbal ? Turning to the high mountains, Nùria Picas has just attempted Makalu (8 463 m), but due to pneumonia had to be evacuated from base camp. Can she be ready to prepare herself and come back on top form and register the UTMB® on her list of wins.

Kilian Jornet is obviously one of the 5 runners who are capable of winning. He has never been in difficulty in this race and it is exactly this adversity which he likes and which he should find this year. Like all good wines, François d’Haene he improves with time. Without any physical glitches between now and the end of August he will be the animator of the race from the start, as has been his habit . Xavier Thévenard has nothing to prove on the Chamonix side, he has imposed himself in each of the races, with the bonus of 2 crowns for the UTMB® and has just demonstrated his form with disconcerting ease in the Mont-Blanc 80km by declaring at the end that he was “ready to leave for another 80km”.  Luis Alberto Hernando is a big champion, after participation in the 2006 Turin Olympic Games as a biathlete, he converted to trail-running in 2010. He knows how to prepare himself to achieve high level performance. Jim Walmsley is the fastest runner with his very airy style. Will he have the measures to hold on and win ?

Ludovic Collet's | Official announcer UTMB

The favourite will be, without doubt ,Caroline Chaverot who has the same form which allowed her to win the 2016 UTMB® but Andrea Huser's constant and fast progress could, maybe, cause some doubts. Also, do not forget, Nùria Picas and Emilie Lecomte's  enormous experience of this format and they will not hesitate to seize the opportunity should the race leader show any weakness. I include Magdalena Boulet in my top 5 to be loyal to the American  tradition which always has one runner of this level.

For the men, there is also a lot of excitement in prospect. We are going to experience a historic race about which we will still be talking in ten years time. The direct confrontation between Kilian Jornet Burgada, Francois D'Haene and Xavier Thévenard promises to be explosive without forgetting the talented Jim Walmsley and Luis Alberto Hernando who are never far from winning. On paper Kilian seems to to be the strongest but he has never been pushed to his limits during the ultra. If that is the case, the record for the event is going to be beaten.