Battle of the titans around Mont-Blanc
The 15th edition of the UTMB® kept every one of its promises thanks to the unbridled enthusiasm and perseverance of the 8000 runners in the many races throughout the anniversary week.
The skies above the Mont-Range decided to celebrate 15 years of trail running in their own unique way, by turning on the hose full blast over the hundreds of kilometers of trails traveled by competitors. Mixing rain, wet snow, hurricane-force winds, fog at the higher elevations, and mud, nothing was spared for the several thousand runners, including some who spent two nights out in the mountains to endure the abominable conditions. For event director Catherine Poletti, this 15th edition felt like a new beginning, "The weather conditions reminded me of the first edition in 2003, except that 15 years later we're ready and able to deal with bad weather, just like the runners today who are also much better prepared."
Most of those running in the TDS® enjoyed great weather, including the warm summer sun shining brightly. Bright like the smiles on Michel Lanne's and Mimmi Kotka's faces at the finish line, following their blowout victories in the race, one year after they each won the CCC®. Is the UTMB® the natural next step for the Frenchman and Swede?
A few hours later, Swiss runner Marc Lauenstein and Spaniard Oli Gordan Rordiguez followed in their footsteps across the soaked but festive finish line, winning the 2017 edition of the OCC after having run 56km and 3500m of vertical gain between Orsières (SUI) and Chamonix. Thursday night, the CCC® crowned two promising American runners, the supersonic Hayden Hawks and Clare Gallagher.
A few hours later, Swiss runner Marc Lauenstein and Spaniard Oli Gordan Rordiguez followed in their footsteps across the soaked but festive finish line, winning the 2017 edition of the OCC after having run 56km and 3500m of vertical gain between Orsières (SUI) and Chamonix. Thursday night, the CCC® crowned two promising American runners, the supersonic Hayden Hawks and Clare Gallagher. However, the show's main attraction – for which thousands of fans and enthusiasts traveled to Chamonix and to the most remote sections of the course – would take place on Friday evening: for the 2017 UTMB® the world's best trail runners would compete against each other. This year's race featured an incredibly talented field like never before, including a highly anticipated duel between the world's top two trail runners, François D'Haene and Kilian Jornet. Add the effervescent American Jim Walmsley to the mix, whose explosive style usually wears out the pack, and Xavier Thévenard, with his meticulously scientific approach to the race, and you have one of the quickest races in UTMB® history, completed in just 19:01 by "the great" François D'Haene, who more than earned his nickname. A level of running never before reached in its 15- year history, with a truly unknown outcome until the last few kilometers of the race; in spite of a final Herculean effort by Kilian Jornet to chase down the Beaujolais vintner, he still came up short. With 3 victories to his name, François D'Haene joins Jornet in the UTMB® Hall of Fame.
Catalonia still enjoyed its moment of glory thanks to Nuria Picas, who finally won the UTMB® after two second-place finishes and frequent disappointment in a race that had denied the two-time Ultra Trail World Tour champion (2014 and 2015) several times. The Catalan athlete climbed to the podium's top step, but it would not have taken much for her "dream" to evaporate just a few kilometers from the finish line. After an asthma attack during the long ascent to La Flégère, Nuria saw the comfortable lead she had built over the first 150km of the race come crumbling down (20 minutes before the final descent to Chamonix). Miraculously, over the last 8 kilometers she was able to hold onto her lead by a thread. Nuria crossed the finish line in tears, demonstrating her overwhelming commitment and determination to the very last step.
Andrea Huser, who was less than three minutes behind Picas, is satisfied with another second place, and only expressed slight regret after crossing the finish line. "On the last descent, I was in a dreamlike state, a bit detached. I did not realize that I was so close to Nuria. I think that if I had known that beforehand, I would have given it my all to catch up with her to cross the finish line hand in hand!" The real surprise came from Frenchwomen Christelle Bard, who finished in 3rd place after running a superb second half of the race. Having placed 3rd in last year's TDS®, the Briançon runner's first 100-miler was clearly an overwhelming success.
UTMB® 2017 – 166.9 km – 10,253m of vertical gain
François D'HAENE (FRA) - 19:01:32
Kilian JORNET BURGADA (ESP) - 19:16:38
Tim TOLLEFSON (USA) – 19:53:00
Núria PICAS (ESP) - 25:46:43
Andrea HUSER (SUI) - 25:49:18
Christelle BARD (FRA) - 26:39:03)
CCC® 2017-101 km - 6,100m of vertical gain
Hayden HAWKS (USA) - 10:24:30
Marcin ŚWIERC (POL) - 10:42:49
Ludovic POMMERET (FRA) - 10:50:47
Clare GALLAGHER (USA) - 12:13:57
Maite MAIORA ELIZONDO (ESP) - 12:26:41
Laia CANES (ESP) - 12:47:39
For the complete results, head to utmb.livetrail.net