Magnificent victory for Blandine L'Hirondel in the CCC and new record of Petter Engdhal
The Swede Petter Engdahl established a new record for the men’s CCC yesterday, winning the event in 9 hours 53 minutes and 2 seconds. The women’s victory was claimed by the French Blandine L’Hirondel with an impressive performance throughout the long day.
At 9am yesterday morning, more than 2.000 runners set off on the 2022 edition of the CCC, taking on a “half-turn” of the Mont Blanc over a trail of 100km and 6.100m of ascent. Three waves of competitors set of successively from Courmayeur (ITA) under an overcast sky and a temperature reading of 16°C at the start of the race.
Knowing the solid experience of the Elite runners participating, we expected to see the event dominated by the British Jonathan Albon, a talented all-rounder, a world champion in obstacle courses before achieving the same success in trail-running and winning the CCC last year. But that was before reckoning with the tenacity of the 28-year-old Swede Petter Engdahl, 3rd in the CCC in 2021. A top-level cross-country skier who competed in the world cup before turning to trail running, the Scandinavian took the lead from the first checkpoint at Bertone on the 13th km and stayed ahead until the end of the race.
The rain accompanied the runners for most of the race, and Jonathan Albon would prove to be the Swede’s most formidable opponent. Starting cautiously, Albon, who was running his first 100km like Engdahl, took his time to make his way up to the front and for many long kilometres was just minutes behind the Swedish leader. “Everything was going according to plan, but in Champex I had big stomach problems that got worse on the descent to Vallorcine, where I had to stop,” explained Albon. That was enough for Engdahl to race ahead, maintaining a steady pace, even speeding up at the end of the race. “I was not really thinking about the time,” the Swede said at the finish. “I was thinking above all of keeping up the right pace for me today. I didn’t look at my watch until Col des Montets, where I acknowledged that I was feeling good, and that perhaps I could finish in under 10 hours…”.
A goal that he achieved, since Engdahl established a new record time for the race, 9 hours, 53 minutes and 2 seconds. Behind him, Jonathan Albon fought to hold on to his second place, threatened by the Italian pastry-maker from the Asics team, Andreas Reiterer, who overtook him leaving Vallorcine and stayed in second place until the top of the Tête aux Vents, before Albon found his second wind to overtake the Italian on the descent of La Flégère. He kept his position until the finish line, which he crossed in 10 hours, 16 minutes and 7 seconds, 7 minutes before Andreas Reiterer, 3rd in 10 hours, 23 minutes and 16 seconds.
The first French runner to finish was Baptiste Chassagne, in 10th place, in 10 hours 59 minutes and 55 seconds.
The women’s race offered an incredible finish, celebrating the French Blandine L’Hirondel, world champion in 2019, European champion in 2022 and who was taking on her first 100km race yesterday. A gynaecologist by profession, L’Hirondel largely dominated the beginning of the race, attaining a lead of 23 minutes by La Fouly (km40). A comfortable lead that would dwindle over the kilometres and be greatly reduced on the final descent of the race at La Flégère, with the thundering comeback of the 23-year-old Nepalese Sunmaya Budha. L’Hirondel came back strongly to finish five minutes ahead of the young Nepalese trained by diverse international support team at APA (Asia Pacific Adventure) including an Australian coach, Andy Dubois. “It was my first 100km, I was curious to see how I was going to react, but I felt that this format was for me, though I can’t say that the race was an easy one,” said L’Hirondel. “I was also quite apprehensive about my past injury, but it all turned out for the best in the end,” said Blandine L’Hirondel, 24th in the overall ranking. The American Abbie Hall completes the women’s podium, in 3rd place.
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