Val d'Aran by UTMB® makes a successful debut in a weekend full of emotions
The mountains and villages of the Val d’Aran witnessed an historic weekend, 9-11 July, with 3,116 runners representing 75 nations crossing the start line of the first ever Val d’Aran by UTMB®. Following the forced cancellation in 2020 due to the pandemic, the race had extra significance for runners and organizers alike, as UTMB Group president Catherine Poletti emotionally summed up: “Val d'Aran by UTMB® has the same spirit as UTMB® Mont-Blanc in Chamonix. It's been an incredible weekend. Everyone has done an amazing job to host the first edition of Val d’Aran by UTMB® and we have lived an outstanding event.”
The runners were treated to beautiful sunny and warm weather conditions throughout the four distances - VDA 162km, CDH 105km, PDA 55km and SKY 15km. A course that will leave its mark on all runners, the three longer distances took them on a journey through the National Park ‘Aigues Tortes i Estany de Sant Maurici’ where Europe’s highest spa and the biggest area of glacier lakes in the Pyrenees are located, as well as through medieval villages which are often considered as the most beautiful in Spain. The VDA and CDH also traversed abandoned ancient mines and the Montgarri monastery founded in the XII century.
Commenting on the experience, Catherine said: “This is an event connected with its own region, culture and traditions. We thank the local people and authorities, the race organizers and sponsors here at Val d’Aran. I feel very proud because this felt like a rebirth of trail running events and I am happy because this is the result of hard work by many people. It also shows that the UTMB® brand has a unique character.”
On Friday 9 July, the streets in the centre of Vielha vibrated with excitement as 941 runners gathered at the start line of the VDA queen race and emblem of Val d'Aran by UTMB®, confident that the 162km and 10,700m of positive elevation gain ahead of them would make for a tough and demanding test.
After 23:56:26, Romanian Ionel Cristian Manole was the first participant in the men's category to ring the emblematic iron bell of the finish line. Upon finishing, Ionel commented: "The VDA race challenges you mentally and physically. It has been intense and very hard for me. The race is very beautiful and enjoyable. I want to thank the volunteers, the race organizers and everyone who’s made this event possible, also my family for supporting me. I’m not sure if 24 hours are too many or too few but I think that the race can be finished in less time. I had a few down moments. I started with a very good rhythm, but I went through survival mode moments. This year I’d like to go to UTMB® Mont-Blanc in Chamonix and do it as best as I can.”
Finishing 40 minutes after Ionel, Australian Morgan Pilley took second place, summing up Val d’Aran by UTMB® as “the best race I have ever done. The hardest, but the best.” Spain’s Jordi Gamito was third in 25:32:36.
In the women's category, Sweden’s Anna Carlsson crossed the finish line after 29:25:19, to write her name into the history of the event. A pre-race favorite, she commented: “The course was awesome. I really wanted to raise my head and enjoy the landscape, but some sections were tricky, and I had to stay focused. It has been fun, and I really enjoyed it.”
Japan's Kaori Niwa was second with a time of 32:22:17 and said: “It was a very tough race, with very long ascents and descents, which were killing my legs. I’ve never seen such a beautiful race before; the landscape is so varied you never get bored. Although it’s tough I really enjoyed it. The course is well organized and well-marked, and I couldn’t believe this is only the first edition. This is definitely UTMB®-quality standards. I feel that I am in Chamonix with a very similar atmosphere.” Third was Canadian Stephanie Case in 33:56:00.
The emotion and the struggle were present in every kilometer of the CDH 105km, which was won by the Spanish runner Aritz Egea in the men's category with a time of 13:03:25, and the Paraguayan athlete Feliciana Orquiola in the women's in 17:30:46.
Aritz commented: “This was my first ultra-experience. I lived good and bad moments. The race is so beautiful. At some point along the course, I raised my head and I saw the Aneto (Pyrenees’ highest peak) which was great. At the end I suffered a bit but I’m sure that over the next few days I will remember the good moments. This race is here to stay. It’s a new benchmark.”
In the PDA 55km, David Prades (Spain) led home the men’s category in 6:06:43, with Romanian Andreea-Alina Piscu the first woman in 7:18:05. Spain also topped the table in the SKY 15km, with Jordi Alís finishing in 1:13:28 and Anna Comet in 1:28:55.
Michel Poletti, UTMB® Co-Founder, ran in the PDA, a race that was filled with emotion for the life-long trail runner. “The course is awesome especially when you arrive at the 20+ glacier lakes at Colomers surrounded by lush vegetation. I think this is one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever seen. It’s not an easy terrain, it’s quite rocky and steep but a great experience too,” Michel commented.
“This race is a good preparation for UTMB® Mont-Blanc but it’s a lot more than this. This event is one of the most incredible races in the world and this is exactly what we want to do with the UTMB® World Series from 2022: to offer each runner around the world a fantastic experience close to home or at an amazing place where runners and families can travel to. This was a great first edition. We had a lot of emotion at the start and at the finish and this is exactly the feeling we wish to offer the runners. It was the case in Gaoligong, Oman, Thailand, all by UTMB® events... Each time the race becomes the best trail running race in its country from the first edition, so we can only imagine what a race like Val d’Aran by UTMB® will be like in 3 or 4 years from now,” Michel concluded.
The vision for Val d’Aran by UTMB® was conceived more than 2 years ago, and the event marks a long journey by a committed team, who have been rewarded with a magical inaugural edition. Xavier Pocino, Director of Val d'Aran by UTMB®, said: "After two years of work that have been very hard due to the pandemic, the weekend finally arrived, and we have allowed more than 3,000 runners from 75 different countries to enjoy and get to know the Val d'Aran. We are very happy.”
From 2022, Val d’Aran by UTMB® will be part of the first ever UTMB® World Series, the ultimate global trail running world series, that will bring together the world’s leading international events to give all trail runners the chance to experience the UTMB® adventure across the globe. More details on the 2022 UTMB® World Series will be revealed during UTMB® Mont-Blanc at the end of August.
VDA, 162km, 10,700m D+
Ionel Cristian Manole 23:56:26
Morgan Pilley 24:39:05
Jordi Gamito 25:32:36
Anna Carlsson 29:25:19
Kaori Niwa 32:22:17
Stephanie Case 33:56:00
CDH, 105km, 6,500m D+ / 6,200m D-
Aritz Egea 13:03:25
Isaac Salvat 13:21:01
Daniel Colom 13:29:24
Feliciana Orquiola 17:30:46
Carmen Biosca 19:41:23
Gina Julià 20:02:44
PDA, 55km, 3,100m D+ / 4,000m D-
David Prades 6:06:43
Álvaro Gómez 6:18:27
Xabier Leite 6.19:01
Andreea-Alina Piscu 7:18:05
Cristina Santurino 7:27:48
Karina Gómez 7:30:28
SKY, 15km, 800m+ / 800m-
Jordi Alís. 1:13:28
Joseba Díaz 1:16:46
Álvaro Osanz 1:18:15
Anna Comet 1:28:55
Irati Larranaga 1:39:18
Clàudia Galícia 1:40:15
Full results available here: https://aranbyutmb.livetrail.run/
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