2013 UROC 100k Men’s Preview

2013 UROC 100kThis year’s Skyrunner Ultra Series finale will be run at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k this Saturday, starting at 7 a.m. local time. Being the first year the race is being run in Colorado, no one knows how the 100k course from Breckenridge to Vail will play out. It’s got a mix of trails over high mountain passes (12,000-feet-plus altitude) and paved roads. Regardless of whether someone is a mountain-running specialist or comes from a road-running background, all will be challenged by the course’s unrelenting, high-altitude nature. Here’s who’ll be facing off in what looks like a heated race for the $10,000 up for grabs by the guys alone.

We’ve also previewed the 2013 UROC 100k women’s race. Look to our reader’s group-think predictions for another take on the race.

Men’s Favorites

Kilian Jornet - 2013 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Kilian Jornet

Kilian Jornet (pre-race interview) is running UROC and, after another dominating summer, that’s got to make him the favorite despite the flatter paved sections on the course. When he’s not been setting inspiring fastest known times, such as on the Matterhorn, he’s won Transvulcania, Ice Trail Tarentaise, Trans d’Havet (with Luis Alberto Hernando), and Ultraks… to name a few.

Sage Canaday (pre-race interview) is having one of the best seasons of any North American ultrarunner. Domestically, he’s won against stacked fields at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview) and Speedgoat 50k (post-race interview), running faster than Kilian did last year. He’s also won the Bandera 100k (in course-record time) and the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 Mile (post-race interview). Internationally, he held off Timothy Olson to win the Tarawera 100k (post-race interview) in March before finishing third to Kilian and Luis Alberto at Transvulcania. He also recently broke Rickey Gates’s FKT for Colorado’s storied Four Passes Loop through the Maroon Bells. In addition, it’s unlikely that any top competitor has spent more time on the course recently than Canaday, who is quite focused on this race.

Kilian and Sage are still battling it out for the Skyrunner Ultra Series title. Having won both his races – Transvulcania and Ice Trail – so far in this best-three-of-five, point-based series, Kilian leads Sage 200 points to 178. For the men, points in each race break down as follows: 100-88-78-72-68-66-64-62-60-58-56-54-52-50 down to 2 points to 40th position with a 20% point bonus for the final race. That means a first or second place guarantees Kilian the series win. If Sage wins and Kilian takes third or worse, Sage wins the series. Up for grabs is a $3,000 first prize with $1,500 going to second.

Dakota Jones - charades handicap

Dakota Jones

One of the few who’ve bested Kilian in an ultra in recent years is Dakota Jones (pre-race interview)when he won Transvulcania (post-race interview) in May 2012. This year, Jones has adventured more and raced less, but that’s not hurt his performance. He decisively won the San Juan Solstice (race report) in June besting one of Matt Carpenter’s legendary records in the process after finishing second to Rob Krar at the Moab Red Hot 55k in February. Not feeling ready, Jones skipped UTMB last month. Don’t count him out at UROC; he’s well trained and hungry.

Ready to join the Rob Krar (pre-race interview) 2013 Course-Record Tour? Moab Red Hot 55k (February 16, Moab, UT), Leona Divide 50 Mile (April 27, Lake Hughes, CA), and Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (May 10, Grand Canyon, AZ). (What tour stops are we missing?) In his 100-mile debut, Krar crushed it in taking second at Western States in 15:22 (post-race interview). He also won the team competition at the TransRockies Run in August.

Rickey Gates

Rickey Gates

Rickey Gates (pre-race interview) is feeling good about his fitness going into UROC, as he should. In just the past week, he’s lowered his personal best on the Four Passes Loop by seven minutes in an attempt to retake his FKT title from Sage (he missed retaking the record, though) and finally won the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in Aspen. As a long-time Aspen resident, we’d expect Rickey to be quite familiar with terrain similar to UROC’s, if not portions of the course itself.

Cameron Clayton (pre-race interview) may want to temper his all-out, do-or-die approach with the depth atop the UROC field. Then again, that approach led him to third at the TNF EC 50 last December as well as second at Lake Sonoma (post-race interview) and seventh at Transvulcania this spring. There’ve been some spectacular blowups in there, as well. Earlier this month, Clayton won the eight-stage, 261-kilometer GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run with Greek runner Dimitris Theodorakakos.

Cameron Clayton (114 points), Martin Gaffuri (104 pts, discussed below), Luke Nelson (66 pts, discussed below), and Rickey Gates (60 pts) all have a realistic shot at taking third place in the Skyrunning’s Ultra Series away from François D’haene, who currently has 154 points but is not racing UROC. Should someone take third away from D’haene, they’ll go home with an extra $750.

Other Top Runners

  • Josh Arthur – Arthur took fourth at the Run Rabbit Run 100 two weeks before UROC. We’re still waiting to hear whether or not he’s decided to run this coming weekend. If he does, it’ll be on heavy legs. Update 9/23: Josh Arthur won’t be racing after his fourth-place run at the Run Rabbit Run 100 two weeks before UROC.
  • Trent Briney – With a 2:12 marathon PR, a recent shift toward ultras, and the second-fastest time ever at the JFK 50 Mile last November, we’d put him in contention for a podium spot but for the fact that fatigue and health issues have plagued him this year and kept him from running Western States in late June.
  • Ryan Burch – Had a couple great runs this spring–thirds at the Moab Red Hot 55k and Quad Rock 5o Mile–before going quiet with other obligations. Not certain he’s racing UROC as he’s signed up for a local trail marathon the following weekend. Update 9/23: Ryan Burch won’t be running UROC.
  • Matt Flaherty (pre-race interview) – Flaherty’s the most likely guy from this list to sneak onto the UROC podium, which he did in 2011 when he was third. This year, Matt won the American River 50 Mile (6:08), took fourth (6:10) at a speedy Ice Age 50 Mile, and then second to Sage at Cayuga Trails in June. Since then he’s been racing shorter stuff.
  • Martin Gaffuri – He won’t be on the podium, but he improved his 21st at Transvulcania to a seventh at Ice Trail Tarentaise and is looking for a top placing in Skyrunning’s ultra series.
  • Gary Gellin – His 2013 hasn’t been quite as strong as his 2012. That said, he took sixth at the Way Too Cool 50k in 3:36 this spring and ninth at the Pikes Peak Marathon last month. It’s worth noting that he was ninth at the TNF EC 50 Mile champs less than 10 months ago.
  • Ryan Ghelfi – Won the Siskiyou Out Back in July with a time on par with Max King and Erik Skaggs after a near course-record win at the Buffalo Run 50k in March and a 9th at Lake Sonoma in April.
  • Troy Howard – Textbook Howard at Hardrock this July. He meticulously prepped for one race and nailed it, taking second (post-race interview).
  • Luke Nelson – Multi-talented mountain athlete Nelson is having another strong season. Highlights include a distant fourth at the San Juan Solstice, sixth at Speedgoat, and his fifth-straight win at El Vaquero Loco 50k in Wyoming.
  • Justin Ricks – An extremely talented trail runner with great success at races up to 50k. He’s not yet seen corresponding success above that distance. Ricks was the runner-up at last November’s USATF Trail Marathon Championships on the gnarly Moab Trail Marathon course. Again in Moab, he smoked the Red Hot 33k field this February in course-record time. Update 9/25: It looks like Justin won’t be racing UROC due to illness.
  • Marcin Świerc – A top mountain runner in Poland who took tenth at Transvulcania this year. With no public mentions of the race from Marcin that we can find, we’re uncertain as to whether he’ll be racing. Update 9/24: Marcin Świerc will not be traveling to the States to run UROC.
  • José Virginio de Morais – A top Brazilian trail runner, who’s not raced much on large international stages. We’re giving him the benefit of the doubt given our unfamiliarity with Portuguese and the Brazilian racing scene.
  • Michael Wardian – Wardian’s back to racing after a rough 2012 due to injuries. He won the 2013 TNF EC 5o Mile – DC before running an indoor 3:12 50k in July. A rough go with altitude at Speedgoat in late July does not bode well for Wardian at UROC, but that won’t stop him from trying.
  • Kalib Wilkinson – Watch out for Kalib’s speed. He’s shown he has it in spades with fourth-place finishes at the JFK 50 in 2011 and the USATF Trail Marathon championships in 2012. This year he took another fourth, this time at the White River 50 Mile. [Update 9/28: Kalib Wilkinson did not start the race.]
  • Jason Wolfe – Without much fanfare, J-Wolfe’s had a great past year, winning the Bootlegger 50k in 3:39 last November, taking sixth at the TNF EC 50 Mile, finishing second at the Leona Divide 50 Mile (a minute ahead of Mike Wolfe) in April, and winning the Imogene Pass Run a few weeks ago. Despite a recent knee injury suffered in a fall at Imogene, Wolfe will be racing and has an outside shot at the podium.

Notable Entrant Absences

For a variety of reasons the following entrants or their sponsors have confirmed they won’t be running UROC this year.

  • Dylan Bowman
  • Duncan Callahan
  • Adam Campbell
  • Mick Donges
  • Max King
  • Anton Krupicka
  • Dave Mackey
  • Karl Meltzer
  • Gustavo Reyes
  • Paul Terranova
  • Mike Wolfe

 Call for Comments

  • Okay, who’ll be battling for the win and who’ll take it in the end?
  • Who’ll be the biggest surprise in the top five?
  • Any more runners who are on UROC’s elite list that won’t be running for whatever reason?
  • Anyone not listed above that we could see in the top 10 at some point in the day?

There are 130 comments

  1. Joey W

    With Sage's time spent on the course, and a little fire in his belly re: Killian's 80% comment, I think Sage is going to have a really good first 50km .. I only hope he can hold on!

  2. Carey

    I appreciate that the field is stacked and that 5-10 guys have a legitimate shot at the win, but I don't understand the confident predictions that Kilian won't be that guy.

    He might not win, but it's difficult to be *confident* that he won't.

    What're the only two things that have led to a Kilian defeat? 1) heat, and 2) lack of interest.

    As for 1), it's likely to be cold and snowy on the course. Those conditions always favor KJ.

    As for 2), this might be true, but as Shelby noted above, a large part of Kilian losing interest is the lack of strong competition. He will have plenty of strong competition here.

    The exciting thing for me is, this race is shaping up as one where Kilian will probably win again, but might just be defeated (and not for lack of trying). Super exciting! I'm glad I'm going to be there watching. Hope everyone has fun.

    1. Ian Sharman

      Difficult not to make Kilian the favorite in a mountain ultra (the amount of climbing and altitude definitely qualifies it as that), but I completely agree with the guys that Bryon's identified as potential winners. These days to win a top ultra like this requires the talent, tactics and nailing it on the day. Whoever does that best will win.

  3. Pete

    It will be interesting to see what happens when KJ is pushed up front by some fast guys. Though he may not have any interest in the roads, that doesn't necessarily mean that he can't run fast on them, especially with some stiff competition on the front end. Sure, he has had a long summer of racing and FKT's, but I wouldn't count him out. I've got to agree that cold conditions at altitude favor him.

    At the same time, Sage has proven that he's got the legs to run up front for the win, knows the course, and with his 4 pass loop FKT, he's got some solid mountain legs ready to lay it down. Will he take it from the front? Or will he provide KJ the what he needs to REALLY push 100%?

    Personally, I lean towards Dakota and Rob Krar leading the pack, I think the fact that we haven't heard from them for awhile is exactly what makes them dangerous. Rob has the legs to cruise fast. I saw him at LD50 this year, and it was unbelievable to watch. And no matter what, a hungry Dakota is tough to stop…even for Kilian.

  4. Scott

    Absolutely. I seriously doubt anyone can touch him when he wants to win.

    Anyone putting Kilian in any slot other than 1st or 2nd is just being a hipster(Hating things/people that are popular).

  5. bohica

    1. Sage

    2. Krar

    3. Clayton

    4. Briney

    5. Dakota

    6. Kilian (dare I say it)

    7. Ricks

    8. Gates

    9. Flaherty

    10. Howard

    Notice a theme here? There is some climbing, but these trails/roads and they aren't particularly steep or technical. Leg speed is most important on this course and the track guys should succeed here. Of course, this is still a 100k, so some of guys will blow-up after going fast. I think it still stay together until the bike path from Copper where the track guys will get a little lead. Also, I wonder how many bloody palms we'll see from the Vail Mtn descent.

    1. John

      With the weather forecast for snow on Friday and 1 foot of snow up high today, I believe Kilian has the skill and speed to do it. The Matterhorn, Chamonix, and more, Kilian lives on the snow. The rest are desert rats almost. Kilian, Dakota for the fist two.

  6. Tinder

    It was this time last year when I was trying to talk Krar into running his first 50k in November at Ian Torrence's Bootlegger 50k in Vegas. He thought I was crazy, but words we stand by "never say never". Now here he is, a different man, more determined than ever.

  7. Ryan

    Rickey Gates just tried an FKT attempt at Maroons Bell, and missed Sage's time by about 5 minutes, I believe. So, he's definitely fit.

    This is going to be a tough race to call, because I can see Dakota, Sage, Kilian, Rickey and Krar all being up there in the mix.

  8. Tahoe Pete

    I think to many people are taking Killian lightly. Killian will dance with the leaders for a while to keep himself entertained. At the end he will run away for the victory. I think the only was he loses is if he goes off course. The race is for second.

  9. Andy

    The prognostications are hilarious, and the confidence behind them even more so. Seems the best "prediction" here comes from Ian Sharman (he should know): It's anybody's game, and will require "talent, tactics, and nailing it on the day" to win. With the breadth and depth of talent, the "nailing it on the day" part seems key. Can we predict who will do that? I hope not. That would take all the fun out of it :)

  10. Eric

    Bryon, very thorough review of the field — nice!

    But I wonder if it's correct to say that Flaherty "snuck onto" the podium at UROC in 2011. If the podium is top-5, then 3rd surely isn't "sneaking on."

    His 2011 finish might have been a surprise, but it seems uncharitable to call it "sneaking on." 3rd is finishing solidly atop the podium.

    Cheers.

  11. John

    Snow in the mountains, snow on Friday…. Kilian without a doubt. Sage hates the snow, the advantage of the road is now diminished.

    From there, Max, Cameron, Krar, it is a tossup. Whoever is less bloody or injured.

  12. Billy Satterwhite

    I think Sage is going to give Kilian a run for his money. When Sage is hungry he's near unstoppable. I think its going to be a showdown between Kilian and Sage, and possibly Dakota. We'll see, its going to be exciting to follow.

  13. Molly's dad

    He did seem more than a little upset by comment. Unfortunately i think Sage will probably take it. I'm just not looking forward to his endless sponsorship commercials and I do hope he can find a little humility too, that would be nice

  14. Carey

    By "his" are you referring to Kilian or Sage?

    I haven't seen much arrogance from either of them even though their results would justify it. ;)

  15. Lstomsl

    Gonna be fascinating. We all know what Killian and Sage have been doing all year. Ripping up CRs and FKTs on race courses and mountains all over the world. They have not only this one race with its money and glory at stake but the skyrunning series money and glory too. Gonna be a race within a race for them. On paper it seems like a course more suited to sage who also appears more motivated by both money and glory and definitely has home field advantage. Killian though…. Nothing seems impossible for him and for all His proclamations of just wanting to enjoy a day in the mts, you have to know he is a fierce competitor as well. How could he not be? Especially traveling from Europe for a race I expect him to go more than 80%….

    We know less about Dakota and Krar. Dakota's young and smart and in theory his potential should still be increasing for a few more years. He may have been adventuring more but the few races he's done have both improved on his previous efforts at the same course and this summer he became the first person ever to break one of Matt Carpenters ultra course records. At least on American soil. And then there is Krar coming in late in the game but also setting some pretty stout records, besting Dakota a few times. These two have raced less recently but that also means they MIT be potentially fresher and both have the potential to blow some minds if everything comes together for them. I think Dakota especially because he just keeps getting faster but we really haven't had the chance to see exactly how much faster in a focus race against strong competition.

    Lots of other wild cards in the race too. I can't wait. So many things can go wrong in a long mt race where people are going full out. Injury, nutrition, weather, fatigue, altitude, hydration, illness. Also we are still frequently seeing relative newcomers toeing the line and blowing people's mind and that could happen tomorrow too. As usual it's going to come down to who has had the best prep, makes the fewest bad decisions, and has a bit of luck tossed in as well. That's what makes it a fascinating sport.

    1. Lstomsl

      I didn't think sage would beat Timmy Olson at 100k for the same reason. Didn't think he had a shot on the steeps at speedboat either. Dude just keeps surprising me.

    2. Billy Satterwhite

      You never know… sage has been seriously focused on this race. He's won 2 and set a new course record at 2 100k's already this year. I think Sage is pretty comfortable at this distance. On paper, sure Kilian has an advantage over everybody in a mountain ultra… but it comes down to who executes the race the best on race day. With this pool of talent toeing the line, you can't predict anything with 100% accuracy. Its going to be a a great race.

  16. Marie

    Molly's Dad,

    You just had a post recently bashing Anton and any time I see your name I know I'm about to read a negative comment. It's easy to hide behind a computer. I bet if you actually spent some time out on the trails with these guys you'd think differently. Lighten up.

  17. CLF

    Is there anyone on the ground in the Breck/Copper/Vail area who can confirm current conditions? I got a snow advisory alert for the Vail area from my weather app, but oddly, the radar view in the same app does not appear to show much activity (other than down here on the front range).

    $.02 – as already noted by others, weather (our lack of) might be the key factor here. Ergo, Kilian/Dakota favored if it's weather, Sage/Krar if it's clear. Regardless, it should be epic!

    1. Bryon Powell

      It's been snowing for hours above 9,500'. Maybe up to an inch accumulation on vegetated areas at 10,500'. Very light snow just below 10,000' at the moment – melting faster than it's sticking at this point. I'm sure that's not the case higher up.

  18. Joe

    With no snow I would have said Sage, but with the recent downfall I gotta go with Kilian. Those are my 1-2 though with Dakota, Ricky, and Rob rounding out the top 5.

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