Italy’s Marco de Gasperi showed just why he is considered one of the all-time greats of European mountain running on Sunday, as he used his experience and descending skills to win a third Sierre-Zinal race in Switzerland.
This race never fails to disappoint when it comes to drama after what seemed like a mammoth race with Portugal’s Cesar Costa (now a three-time runner up) and Colombian Jose Cardona. It was perhaps the style of his victory that impressed the most, using his wily course knowledge to good effect on the 31km route, turning a small deficit in the last 10km into a six-minute win by the time they arrived in Zinal.
The Forestale runner has had a difficult season with illness in 2012, and the hot conditions along with being challenged strongly over the steep route, really tested de Gasperi’s mettle. However, using his class and skill honed over 15 years at the top of the sport he overhauled Cardona on the last descent to take the win.
Speaking after the race, he said:
I wasn’t sure without all of the long training if I could manage all of the race, in a good way. But at the end of the last uphill I understood that the Colombian (Cardona) was not very good on the descent and I know that descending is key if you want to win this race.
His winning time of 2:31:36 is actually the slowest of his three wins of this classic race; however, testimony to his consistency is the fact that this is still just over two minutes down on Jonathan Wyatt’s 2003 record of 2:29:12.
To break the record you have to be in very good shape and I knew that in the last two kilometres this would not be possible because I have some cramps and I just had to manage that and made sure that the result was safe and I would arrive here for the victory.
I will concentrate on the recovery and that look to the Jungfrau Marathon (WLDMRC) in one month. This is a very different race because the first part is road and then the very big climb, but I have won it once and I have the chance to try again, and this is my next goal.
De Gasperi’s time confirmed his prowess in this race with a sizable gap over his competitors. At the end of the final summit he saw Cardona struggling on the descent and powered to the finish, with Costa also able to overhaul the Colombian on the run-in. Raymond Fontaine (France) took a fine 4th with Spain’s Tofol Castanyer finishing fifth.
After her second place in 2011, France’s Aline Camboulives overcame the US’s Stevie Kremer to take one of the biggest wins of her life, with Maude Mathys in third – all finishing within 5 minutes of each other.
Camboulives lead for much of the race, often neck-and-neck with US athlete Stevie Kremer – running her first Skyrunning race – but was able to overhaul the US athlete in the closing kilometers to record a win by over a minute and half by the finish.
One late entrant was British ultra runner Lizzy Hawker finished in ninth. Those who follow Lizzy might note that she has finished as high as fourth in this race; however, in post-race interviews she was keen to point out that she was using the race as a fast training run in her preparation for UTMB in a few weeks time, where she goes for an amazing fifth win.
A big mention goes to former S-Z winner Billy Burns, too. His knowledge and experience paid dividends and the European-based Brit was also well conditioned for the heat and altitude. Burns is now a veteran and ran superbly for ninth, in a field that was stacked with mountain running talent.
The 1,145 finishers tackled the early mountain tracks above the majesty of Val d’Anniviers and above them no fewer than five 4,000 metre mountain tops. Happily for the masses, they don’t need to visit the likes of Ober Gabelhorn and the world-famous Matterhorn, but the views and atmospheric nature of these Alpine passes are part of what makes this race so iconic.
Many of the favourites, both in the men’s and women’s categories were feeling the strain from an intensive Skyrunner World Series’ season which confirms Spain’s Luis Hernando now leading the overall ranking, followed by Kilian Jornet, Tofol Castanyer and Britain’s Tom Owens, fourth.
The women’s ranking now has Spain’s Blanca Maria Serrano leading, followed by Emelie Forsberg from Sweden and rising star Silvia Serafini from Italy who climbs to third position after her brilliant run today finishing 5th.
2012 Sierre-Zinal Results
- Marco de Gasperi (Italy) 2:31:36
- Cesar Costa (Portugal) 2:37:39
- Jose Cardona (Colombia) 2:38:06
- Raymond Fontaine (France) 2:40:13
- Tofol Castanyer (Spain) 2:41:13
- David Schneider (Switzerland) 2:41:29
- Joe Gray (USA) 2:42:08
- Martin Anthamatten (Switzerland) 2:43:34
- Billy Burns (GB) 2:43:38
- Nicola Golinelli (Italy) 2:45:05
- Aline Camboulives (France) 3:02:58
- Stevie Kremer (US) 3:04:33
- Maude Mathys (Switzerland) 3:08:01
- Blanca Serrano (Spain) 3:09:34
- Silvia Serafini (Italy) 3:13:39
- Milka Mihaylova (Bulgaria) 3:15:44
- Laurence Yerly-Cattin (Switzerland) 3:16:56
- Celine Lafaye (France) 3:18:30
- Lizzy Hawker (GB) 3:19:06
- Sabine Froment (France) 3:19:07