It’s March and that means it’s time to turn our eyes to Spain’s Gran Canaria where strong fields will once again race The North Face Transgrancanaria’s premier 125-kilometer event across the entire island starting at 11 p.m. on Friday, March 6th. While it’s run on an island, this race is no stroll on the beach. Competitors climb from the ocean up and over the island’s rugged interior under the cover of darkness before racing down to the sea under building tropical heat. Last year, this dichotomy was enhanced, as much of the early going occurred under cool temperatures, persistent mist, and darkness before the unrelenting sun baked runners under a cloudless sky on the desert side of the island. Much of the most runnable terrain on the course also comes late, challenging runners to increase their pace when they’re most tired.
We’re currently en route to Gran Canaria to provide you with extensive coverage before, during, and after the race. Be sure to follow along with our live coverage later in the week! (The race starts at 4 p.m. MST on Friday, March 6th in the U.S.)
2015 Transgrancanaria Women’s Preview
Last year, the Transgrancanaria women’s field was strong. This year, it’s a good deal stronger. In addition to three of the top-four women’s finishers from 2014 returning, there’s an influx of talent from all over the globe.
Núria Picas won last year’s Transgrancanaria by 45 minutes (post-race interview), one of her many strong victories in 2014. She’s back again as unquestionably the woman to beat. However, Núria showed that she is beatable in taking third at the Tarawera Ultramarathon (post-race interview) a month ago in New Zealand. That said, she’s now tripled the amount of running she’d done prior to Tarawera and the mountainous terrain of Gran Canaria favors her much more than the much flatter terrain of Tarawera.
Last year, Francesca Canepa and Fernanda Maciel (pre-race interview) battled for second all the way across Gran Canaria. Francesca led the race early before being passed by both Núria and Fernanda before taking second back (post-race interview) from Fernanda late in the race. In the end, less than three minutes separated these experienced racers with Francesca in second and Fernanda in third. Fernanda will be returning to the race, while Francesca has recently made the decision not to return. After TGC ’14, Maciel continued her season with a second place at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (post-race interview), third place at TNF 100k – Australia, and fourth place at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. She finished a bit further back in taking eighth at the Mont Blanc 80k late last June.
A pair of talented Americans should both challenge for podium positions.
Nikki Kimball is a past champion at Western States and UTMB. Last year, she won the Marathon des Sables (post-race interview, race report), Run Rabbit Run 100, along with with a few other smaller races. She also took fifth at Western States… it was her ninth time finishing in the top five at Western States in her nine tries at the race! Despite her experience, this is much earlier in the season than Nikki typically runs such a long, mountainous race and her Bozeman, Montana home doesn’t exactly lend itself to heat acclimation in February. That said, about a month ago, she took second at the hot and humid The Coastal Challenge stage race in Costa Rica, so she may be more than ready for what TGC offers.
Aliza Lapierre (pre-race interview) remains a quiet powerhouse, which means she surprises folks (including herself) more often than she should! Her 2014 was, like her, quietly strong. She won the Mount Mitchell Challenge, took second in a close race with Jodee Adams-Moore at the White River 50 Mile, and ended her season with a fifth place at Les Templiers. Unlike many North American ultrarunners, Aliza already has a strong performance at the 100k distance this year, as she won the Bandera 100k in early January to earn herself a spot in this year’s Western States. She did so on only a few weeks training. Training in the brutally cold New England winter will have toughened Aliza up, but won’t have acclimated her to the heat.
A pair of Asian runners should also battle to be on the podium.
Wyan Chow (pre-race interview) of Hong Kong recently won the Vibram Hong Kong 100k (post-race interview). This follows up her record-setting performance on a mixed team at last year’s Oxfam Trailwalker. Wyan was also second to Francesca Canepa at the Vibram HK 100k in 2014. I believe Transgrancanaria is both further and of longer duration than she’s ever raced. However, she’s run two tough 100ks in the past three months and should be ready for the challenge.
Mainland China’s Dong Li finished 15 minutes behind Chow to take second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k two months ago (post-race interview). She ran aggressively early. I can see her running just as aggressively this weekend, no matter who’s on the starting line. A month ago, Li finished second to Mira Rai at the MSIG Sai Kung 50k, the Skyrunning Asia championships. She was eight minutes ahead of third-place Kasie Enman.
French speedster Caroline Chaverot will be moving up in distance at Transgrancanaria. She won the Mont Blanc 80k in 2013 before taking fifth last year. Last September, she won the French trail championships, a 60k race. She’s twice raced around the 100k mark at the 2013 CCC and Endurance Trail des Templiers (the longer sister race to the more famous Templiers race). She won both events. Ladies, don’t let it come down to a 10k “kick” with Caroline!
France’s Emilie Lecomte is a long-distance demon! On the darn-tough side of things, she’s earned wins at Tor des Géants last year and twice at La Diagonale des Fous in 2009 and 2012. She’s also been second at Ronda del Cims and ninth at the weather-shortened version of UTMB in 2012. In 2013, she showed the world that she can race well at “shorter” events in taking fifth at Transvulcania.
Hungary’s Ildikó Wermescher will be looking to improve on her fourth-place finish at last year’s TGC. She’ll likely need to run a good deal faster to do so, as she was an hour and twenty minutes behind Fernanda Maciel, who finished third. While Ildikó has been running ultras for a while, she greatly expanded her experience beyond 100k last year. Aside from TGC, she was fifth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and sixth at UTMB. Aside from being a contender, she should also be a source of inspiration for older runners, as she’s putting up strong results at age 49.
Nerea Martinez crossed the 2014 Transgrancanaria finish along side Uxue Fraile with the pair tying for fifth in 19:21. Not a bad result, but not quite on par with the results she was posting a few years ago. Last year, Nerea also took fourth at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji four and a half hours behind winner Picas and sixth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.
Denise Zimmermann of Switzerland has twice run Transgrancanaria, finishing third in both 2012 and 2013. Those fields were not on par with those of last year or this year. Denise raced an incredible amount in 2014. Her season included an 8:30 road 100k, a third at the Eiger Ultra Trail, and a win at the Swiss Alpine Marathon (after many years of running between fourth and 10th there). All that’s before she closed out her year with a third place at Tor des Géants, seventh at Diagonale des Fous, and a 207k (128.8-mile) 24-hour performance. Consider us impressed if she’s able to bounce back for the start of this season!
Other Women to Watch
- Xari Adrián (Spain) — 4th Transgrancanaria 2013 (19:54), 7th Cavalls del Vents 2012, 8th IAU Trail World Championships 2011, 4th CCC 2011.
- Ester Alves (Portugal) — 8th Transgrancanaria 2014 (23:03), 7th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2014, 8th Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2014 (28:39).
- Stephanie Case (Canada) — 6th Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2014 [Added March 2]
- Elena Polyakova (Russia) — A Russian living in Turkey, who dominates races there. 28th UTMB 2013.
- Silvia Trigueros (Spain) — 13th Mont Blanc 80k 2014, 5th UTMB 2013 (28:13). Won at least half a dozen ultras in Spain in 2014.
- Manuela Vilaseca (Brazil) — Likely to end up in the back half of the top 10. She’s been seventh and eighth the past two runnings of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. She was also eighth at UTMB in 2013 and fifth at UTMF last year.
- Claire Walton (U.K.) — 1st Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile 2012, 5th TNF 100k – Australia 2014
2015 Transgrancanaria Men’s Preview
While the 2015 running of Transgrancanaria will be lacking all of last year’s men’s podium–Ryan Sandes, Julien Chorier, and Timothy Olson–the field is strong and quite deep.
The International Onslaught
With the previous men’s podium out of the picture, the winner is likely to come out of an international assortment of runners who weren’t part of the top at Transgrancanaria last year.
With all the strong runners in this race, it lacks a clear favorite. If I had to pick one, it would be Basque runner Iker Karrera (pre-race interview). In the past four years, Iker has twice been runner-up at Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in 2011 and 2014 (post-race interview), as well as runner-up at Transvulcania in 2011, Zugspitz in 2011, and Salomon 4 Trails in 2014. In 2013, he was pretty much unbeatable… at least in winning the Eiger Ultra Trail, Grand Raid des Pyrénées, and Tor des Géants. All that was after winning the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2012. Having watched Iker at two UTMBs, I’m impressed by his strength and focus.
Anton Krupicka’s (pre-race interview) 2014 season was undoubtedly colored by his rough go at UTMB, a race where he was in contention until reasonably late in the race when he, well, blew up. Before that he did happen to log three wins. After two regional wins at the Jemez 50 Mile and Golden Gate Dirty 30 (a 50k) in the U.S., he won the 2014 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. That’s strong enough to suggest he can mix it up at the front on Transgrancanaria. Still, Anton’s persistent injuries are always a concern at this point… especially with a race he’s looked forward to for so long–Hardrock–on his calendar.
Jason Schlarb started Transgrancanaria last year, but dropped along the way. In the following months, he finished well off his potential in taking 16th at Transvulcania and 34th at the Mont Blanc 80k. But then… he cranked out a fourth-place finish at UTMB in August (post-race interview), which was much more in line with the promise he showed in winning the 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100 (post-race interview, race report). Schlarb capped off his season with a tired 10th place at Diagonale des Fous (race report). [March 2 Update: While Jason Schlarb remains on the entrants list, the race hasn’t been on his calendar for some time.]
2014 was just another year for Portugal’s Carlos Sá. You know, a fourth at the Marathon des Sables, a third at Badwater, and an eighth at UTMB. Ho hum. Truthfully, Carlos has long shown his ability to excel at a wide variety of ultra-distance disciplines, but his combined excellence over such a variety of pursuits was exceptional even for him.
To me, Lithuania’s Gediminas Grinius runs like an unknown Iker. He’s been racing ultras for half a decade, but he had a breakout year on the international stage with three top-five finishes at 2014 Ultra-Trail World Tour events: third at Lavaredo, fifth at UTMB, and fourth at Diagonale des Fous. Gediminas stood out at UTMB by racing without a crew. He quietly got things done… as he did all year. His one sub-par finish last year was his 11th place at Transgrancanaria. He’ll surely be looking for… and is surely capable of a better finish this year.
Yan Long-Fei of China showed he’s one to watch in winning the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January (post-race interview). To win there, he out ran five of the other top competitors he’ll race again on TGC, including Sondre Amdahl, Antoine Guillon, and Cyril Cointre. Yan is a recent convert to trail ultras, having previously rigorously focused on the marathon with a 2:15 personal best.
Catalan Pau Bartoló did not have his best performance at the Tarawera Ultramarathon last month and nor would you expect him to on a flatter course. With all the climbing at Transgrancanaria, he should be much more in his element. Notably, Pau won the ~100k CCC race last August and the Transgrancanaria Advanced, the main event’s 82k sister race, last year. While this will be his longest race to date, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pau in the top five.
Heading back over to the Eastern Hemisphere, we’ve got Brendan Davies (pre-race interview) of Australia. Last year, Brendan ran to strong showings at the TNF 100k – Australia where he was third, UTMF where he was sixth, the Western States 100 where he was eighth in a blazing 15:56, and at the IAU 100k World Championships where he was 12th in 6:56. Living in Australia, Brendan raced more over the final few months of 2014 than many of his Transgrancanaria competitors. It will be interesting to see if that leaves him sharp or flat. One advantage he’ll have is heat acclimation.
It’s worth noting that while Miguel Heras is on the entrants list, he won’t be racing.
Top Ten Returnees
And now we get to the top returnees from last year’s race.
4. Yeray Durán (Spain) — 15:06:54 — This Canarian makes the most of running on his home islands. In addition to taking fourth last year, he also finished fourth in 2012 and even third in 2013, although neither of those fields was as strong as last year’s. Yeray has seen success elsewhere, as he’s been fifth at CCC in 2013 and fifth at Ultra Pirineu (formerly Cavalls dels Vents) last year. Have this guy firmly on your radar come this weekend!
5. Antoine Guillon (France) — 15:17:30 — If Iker is silent strength and Gediminas is silent self-reliance, then Antoine is silent peace… or at least that’s the vibe I get from him no matter how hard the race… or, perhaps, all the more so in the harder races. Last year alone, this Frenchman was fifth at TGC, fourth at UTMF, and third at Tor des Géants, along with a slew of other solid finishes at top races. Seven times Antoine has been among the top four at Diagonale des Fous, twice finishing second, but he’s yet to win there.
6. Sondre Amdahl (Norway) — 15:28:35 — Nothing about Sondre’s 2013 could have prepared us for the leap he made in 2014. Aside from his sixth at Transgrancanaria, he was seventh at UTMB. Already this year, he’s been runner-up to Yan Long-Fei at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k (post-race interview). While Sondre is Norwegian, he’s been living on Gran Canaria for almost a year. No top competitor will know the course better than he does except possibly Yeray Durán.
7. Javi Dominguez (Spain) — 15:46:06 — It would have been hard for Javi to top his third place at UTMB ’13 (post-race interview) last year and, indeed, he didn’t. What he did do was put together a strong year. In addition to taking seventh at TGC, he was fifth at Diagonale des Fous and 11th at the Mont Blanc 80k. At the same time, he finished a bit further back at Transvulcania (18th) and UTMB (22nd). Another top 10 seems likely for him on Gran Canaria, but a podium finish doesn’t.
8. Cyril Cointre (France) — 15:47:08 — Last year, Cyril may have been slightly in the shadow of his WAA teammate Guillon. This year, that trend seems to have started again with Cyril taking fourth to Antoine’s third at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. Cyril included an 11th at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, a 13th at the Marathon des Sables, and a ninth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail among his 2014 results.
10. Casey Morgan (U.K.) — 16:00:31 — We don’t know too much about this Scot other than he was 10th at TGC last year. Perhaps, it’s also worth noting that he took seventh at the 83k Transgrancanaria Advanced race in 2013, so he’s got course experience beyond last year’s go.
The only other man from last year’s race that we’ve not mentioned is Dylan Bowman, who squeaked under 16 hours last year, but won’t be running Transgrancanaria after winning the Tarawera Ultramarathon last month.
Others to Watch
- Florent Bouguin (Canada) — 1st Ultra Trail Harricana 2013 and 2014, 3rd Canadian Death Race 2014, 4th TNF EC – Bear Mountain 50 Mile 2014, 15th TNF EC 50 Mile – San Francisco 2013.
- Sebastien Buffard (France) — 10th Diagonale des Fous 2013, 9th UTMB 2012.
- Sylvain Camus (France) — 10th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2014, 11th Diagonale des Fous 2014, 2nd CCC 2010.
- Aurelien Collet (France) — 3rd Diagonale des Fous 2014, 8th Les Templiers 2013, 8th CCC 2013.
- Sylvain Couchaud (France) — 8th Endurance Trail des Templiers (100k) 2014, 4th Mont Blanc 80k 2013, 8th Diagonale des Fous 2013.
- Fulvio Dapit (Italy) — 4th Ice Trail Tarentaise (2013 & 2014), 9th The Rut 50k 2014, 11th Les Templiers 2014.
- Jordi Gamito (Spain) — 5th Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2015, 5th TDS (119k) 2014, former professional Muay Thai fighter.
- Paul Giblin (U.K.) — 11th IAU 100k World Championships (6:56), winner West Highland Way 2014 [Added March 2]
- Joe Grant (France/U.S./U.K./UFigureItOut) — 2nd Hardrock 100 2012, 15th UTMF 2014, finisher 2013 Iditarod Trail Invitational (350 miles).
- Piotr Hercog (Poland) — 13th Transgrancanaria 2014 (16:19), 9th UTMF 2014, 15th UTMB 2012.
- Didrik Hermansen (Norway) — 5th Transgrancanaria Advanced (82k) 2014, 4th UltraVasan 2014, 21st IAU 100k World Championships 2014 (7:11), 10th IAU Trail World Championships 2013.
- Anthony Gay (France) — 3rd CCC 2014, 7th Maxi-Race 2014.
- Urs Jenzer (Switzerland) — 1st Eiger Ultra Trail 2014, 2nd Eiger Ultra Trail 2013, running ultras for at least 23 years.
- David Jeker (Switzerland) — 14th at TNF EC – San Francisco 2014.
- Johan Lantz (Sweden) — 6th Transgrancanaria Advanced 2014, 6th UltraVasan 2014.
- Christophe Le Saux (France) — Tied for 3rd with Antoine Guillon at Tor des Géants 2014, 10th Marathon des Sables 2014, 14th Transgrancanaria 2014 (16:42).
Sebastien Nain (France) — 13th TDS 2014, 3rd Grand Raid des Pyrénées 2011.[March 3 Update: Sebastien Nain is running the 83k Advanced race.]
- Elov Olsson (Sweden) — New to ultras, Elov recently ran 253 km (157 miles) in 24 hours. He has been logging massive mileage on Gran Canaria.
- Remi Queral (Spain) — 6th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2014, 2nd Ultra Trail de Barcelona 2014, 6th Trans d’Havet 2013.
- Armando Teixeira (Portugal) — 6th Ronda dels Cims 2013, 11th UTMB 2012, 7th Cavalls del Vents 2012, 2nd Transgrancanaria 2012.
- Siu-Keung “Stone” Tsang (China) — 9th Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2015, 18th UTMB 2013 & 2014, 11th UTMB 2014.
Call for Comments
- So who do you think will win this race for the ladies? The men?
- Do you know that someone we’ve listed won’t actually be racing? If so, do tell!
- Have we left any formidable competitors out of our preview? We’re always happy to know of more!