2015 IAU Trail World Championships Women’s Preview

IAU logoThe fifth IAU Trail World Championships, which has been held every other year since its inception in 2007, will take place on Saturday, May 30, in Annecy, France.

The women’s start list presently shows 109 women from 29 countries. These women have qualified for the race under their respective countries’ qualification requirements, and are residents of countries who have chosen to participate in this world championship. The women will be competing for individual and team titles.

The race takes place on the Tecnica MaXi-Race course, with the world-championship event beginning 90 minutes before the annual open race. The course is 85 kilometers (52.8 miles) in length and has 5,300 meters (over 17,000 feet) of climb. The route circumnavigates Lake Annecy by summitting a number of the mountains surrounding it, and plunging into the valleys separating those mountains. Runners will find very steep climbs and descents, along with significant technicality (even by European standards), and with the possibility of race-changing mud depending on pre-race and race-day weather.

The IAU Trail World Championships begin at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 30 (Central European Summer Time), which is 7:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time in the U.S. on Friday, May 29. iRunFar will cover the race live. Stay tuned!

Here we preview the top women’s entrants for individual titles and speculate on which teams we expect will be the strongest.

Be sure to read our in-depth men’s preview to learn about who is in the men’s race.

Returning Top 10 from 2013

Here are the women who finished in the top 10 at the most recent IAU Trail World Championships, in 2013, who are planning to race this year:

Nathalie Mauclair

Nathalie Mauclair

1. Nathalie Mauclair (France) (pre-race interview) is the returning women’s champion. In 2013, she blew away the rest of the women’s competition, finishing 17 minutes ahead of all the other women on the 75-kilometer course in Great Britain. Since then, she’s proven herself close-to-unstoppable in trail ultrarunning. It should be noted that her racing has trended toward the longer and more technical side of things, with her top performances in the last two years being a win of the 2013 Diagonale des Fous and a third place there in 2014, a third place at the 2014 Western States 100 (post-race interview), and a third at the 2014 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (post-race interview). We expect that her aggressive racing style paired with the pressure of her previous trail-world-championships win means that we’ll see her taking the race out hard.

2. Since Aurélia Truel (France) finished second at the last trail world championships, she’s gone on to finish third and ninth respectively at the 2013 and 2014 Grande Course des Templiers. Her ninth at Les Templiers last year put her in arrears of four women she’ll be competing against in this race, including second place Juliette Benedicto. In March, she took a close second at the Trail du Ventoux 26k in France. I’m not sure her most recent results will point to a podium finish among the competition at this year’s race.

3. Maria Chiara Parigi (Italy) was third in 2013, and almost all the ultras she’s finished since then have been wins with finishes in the top 10 overall. She races almost exclusively in Italy and not among international-level or national-level competition, however, so it’s difficult to gauge her comparative running. In 2014, she finished second by almost 40 minutes to Italian Skyrunning standout Federica Boifava (who is not competing at this race) at Italy’s BVG Trail, a 73k race.

6. After taking sixth at the last trail world championships, France’s Stephanie Duc has had several successful races in France. She faced her stiffest competition at the 2014 France trail national championships, where she came third behind winner Caroline Chaverot and second place Maud Gobert, both of whom are racing this weekend. A couple weeks ago, Stephanie and Maud raced a 30k in France called the Trail Matheysin, with Maud besting Stephanie for fourth and fifth positions by about three minutes.

8. Lisa Borzani (Italy), since finishing eighth at the last trail world championships in 2013, has raced serially. Among her many results from the last two years are third and second places at the 2013 and 2014 TDS (a sister race to UTMB), a second at the 2014 Tor des Géants, and a third at the 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. In 2015 alone, she’s put in over 500 kilometers of racing in at least seven races–most of them being small Italian races with the exception of Hong Kong–and all of them have been podium finishes.

Individual Podium Possibilities

The way I see it, there are three women who didn’t race last time who have plenty of fire power for a podium finish on Saturday:

Caroline Chaverot - 2015 TNF Transgrancanaria

Caroline Chaverot

Caroline Chaverot (France) should easily challenge for the podium. In 2014, she won the open version of this race in 10:15, unchallenged. She also was fifth at the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category and the easy winner of the 2014 France trail national championships–again unchallenged–against a number of the women who will also be racing this weekend like second place Maud Gobert and third place Stephanie Duc. So far in 2015, she’s been second at Transgrancanaria (post-race interview).

I think an 85k trail race with more than 5,000 meters of climb might just be right in Uxue Fraile’s (Spain) (pre-race interview) sweet spot. She had an incredible race just over a year ago when she ran to third at the 2014 Transvulcania, a similar-style race. Since then, she’s been fifth at the 2014 UTMB and third at the 2014 Diagonale des Fous. And we just watched her run to seventh at the Zegama Marathon two weeks ago. Uxue comes on strong in the second half of races, so keep your eye on her after the 50k point.

2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile - Cassie Scallon

Cassie Scallon

Cassie Scallon (USA) (pre-race interview) is a pro at racing 50 miles, at least on runnable terrain. She was injured over the winter, but her return to running has so far seen her take third at the 2015 Chuckanut 50k and second at the 2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview). Just two weekends before the trail world championships, she took a less pleasing eighth place at the TNF 100k-Australia after slowing from the lead with debilitating stomach issues. Last fall, she finished 10th at Grande Course des Templiers. Though she was behind a number of women who are racing this weekend, this means she’s experienced the sorts of hills and technicality she’ll encounter in more volume this weekend. She’ll be in the mix for sure.

Spain’s Maite Maiora has a fracture of her tibial plateau, that she got after falling during a training run around a month ago. It kept her from starting the Zegama Marathon a couple weeks ago, but we learned at the opening ceremonies that she’s planning to give the trail world championships a go. If she runs to the potential she exhibited with her 2014 season, she’s podium potential. [Added May 28, 11 p.m. local time]

Individual Top 15 Possibilities

These women should be pushing the top-15 boundary on Saturday:

Juliette Benedicto (France) — Juliette blasted onto the international scene last fall when she took second at the Grande Trail des Templiers ahead of a whole bunch of gals who are racing this weekend like Maud Gobert, Stephanie Duc, and Aurélia Truel. She doesn’t yet have a lot of ultrarunning experience or I’d place her a category above. Then again, being a relatively new ultrarunner didn’t stop her at Les Templiers, did it?

Maud Gobert - 2014 Les Templiers

Maud Gobert

Maud Gobert (France) — When I think about the term ‘tough as nails,’ Maud immediately comes to mind. Maud always races strong and tough, with her head down from tape to tape. Her results are always representative of that, strong placings with some finishes being even stronger than others. Maud was 16th at the 2013 IAU Trail World Championships, and she was the winner of the 2011 edition. Her best performances since the last trail world championships have been her fourth at the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category, wherein she bested countrymate Caroline Chaverot by 12 minutes, her third place at the 2014 Ice Trail Tarentaise, and her second place at the 2014 France trail national championships. Inside the top 10 is definitely in the realm of her ability.

Anne-Lise Rousset (France) — Anne-Lise was fifth at the 2014 Transvulcania and the winner of the 2014 CCC (a UTMB sister race). She’s proven she can run with the fast French girls with her third place at the 2014 Trail du Ventoux 46k, an early-season French barnburner, just a couple minutes behind winner Juliette Benedicto and second place Caroline Chaverot.

Krissy Moehl - 2012 Western States 100

Krissy Moehl

Krissy Moehl (USA) — Always strong, that’s how I think of Krissy. She was the 2013 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji winner, eighth at the 2014 Transvulcania, and second at the 2014 Cayuga Trails 50 Mile. So far this year, she finished second at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k and she won the uber-tough Ultra Fiord 100k in Patagonia. I think a race of this distance, technicality, and vertical can favor Krissy, and I hear her training has been really strong. She should be inside the top 10.

Ildiko Wermescher (Germany) — Ildiko has all kinds of solid results in the last 18 months, including fourth at the 2014 Transgrancanaria, second at the 2014 Eiger Ultra Trail, and sixth at the 2014 UTMB. I think she runs a bit under many women’s radars, and the length and sort of trail we’ll see at this year’s trail world championships should favor her strength-based running. I’m interested to see what she can do.

Andrea Huser (Switzerland) — She has been quietly building a great trail ultrarunning name for herself in Europe in the last couple of years. Her best races of the last year have been a seventh at the 2014 Transvulcania, another seventh at the 2014 UTMB, and a fourth at the more recent 2015 Transgrancanaria.

Anne-Marie Madden (Canada) — I’d say that Anne-Marie could surprise us this weekend, but the fact is that she already has. Last December, she ran to a breakout fourth place at the 2014 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships. In all fairness, she’s been on the Canadian road running scene for a while and the trail scene the last couple years. She was also fourth at the 2015 Chuckanut 50k behind third place Cassie Scallon earlier this year.

Pamela Veith (Germany) — Pamela was 12th at the 2013 IAU Trail World Championships. She’s a road-ultra specialist who had a great day at the 2014 IAU 50k World Trophy to finish sixth. She also ran to a-bit-less-stellar 22nd at the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships. While Pamela did just win a 58k trail race in her home country a couple weeks ago, it was a lot less technical and with a lot less vertical than what she will shortly find in Annecy. Honestly, I’m not sure that this race terrain will favor her.

Stacie Carrigan (Canada) — Stacie was 13th at the 2013 IAU Trail World Championships. Probably her best ultra result since then was a 3:57 win of the 2013 Run for the Toad 50k, which registered as the fourth-fastest time on the course, and the fastest by a woman not named Ellie Greenwood.

Tracy Dean (Great Britain) — She was 14th in 2013, and has logged a couple ultra finishes in the U.K. since then, most of which have been wins.

Amy Rusiecki - 2013 IAU Trail World Championships sq

Amy Rusiecki

Amy Rusiecki (USA) — She returns to the trail world championships as the highest-placing American woman from 2013, 15th place. For the 2013 race, Amy was not the American woman with the most accolades pre-race, but she was the one who persevered especially in the race’s second half to move up in rankings as other women faltered. Since then, she’s taken third twice at the runnable 2013 and 2014 Vermont 100 Mile, and she’s also succeeded in gnarlier courses like winning the 2013 and taking fourth at the 2014 Mountain Masochist 50 Mile. I don’t think Amy will have any trouble with Annecy’s trail steepness and technicality given that she trains and races on the rocky and technical East Coast terrain, but she won’t have been able to train for the multiple, many-thousand-foot ascents and descents of this course. Still, my bet is on her for a strong day out.

Cinzia Bertasa (Italy) — She was, respectively, 19th in 2013 and fifth in 2011 at the IAU Trail World Championships. She competed quite a lot since her 2013 performance, but in mostly non-competitive races in Italy. She just came second at the 2015 BVG Trail 73k, but ran some 70 minutes slower than her countrymate Maria Chiara Parigi did a year ago.

Other Women to Watch

Here are some more speedy women to keep your eye on:

  • Ester Alves (Portugal) — 30th 2015 Zegama Marathon two weeks ago and 7th 2015 Transvulcania the weekend before that. After Transvulcania she said her legs were already tired from the hundreds of kilometers of racing she’d previously done in 2015. There’s just no way she can play with the big guns if she’s not fresh, however strong she may be.
  • Lucy Bartholomew (Australia) — 13th 2014 The North Face 100k-Australia
  • Melanie Bos (Canada) — 14th 2014 TNF EC 50-Mile Championships
  • Sylvaine Cussot (France) -2nd 2015 EcoTrail de Paris
  • Julia Fatton (Germany) — 9th 2015 IAU 24-Hour World Championships
  • Sally Fawcett (Great Britain) — 2nd 2014 Highland Fling 53 Mile
  • Gill Fowler (Australia) — 6th 2013 UTMB, 4th 2014 TNF 100k-Australia, 4th 2015 Buffalo Stampede UltraSkymarathon
  • Mimi Kotka (Sweden) — 2nd 2014 UltraVasan 90k
  • Sarah Moorwood (Great Britain) — 11th 2014 UTMB
  • Simona Morbelli (Italy) — 3rd 2015 EcoTrail de Paris close behind second place Sylvaine Cussot
  • Luciana Moretti (Argentina) — 13th 2014 UTMB
  • Teresa Nimes Perez (Spain) — Winner 2014 TDS (a UTMB sister race)
  • Manikala Rai (Nepal) — Winner 2013 The North Face 100k Hong Kong; 7th 2014 Ice Trail Tarentaise; 15th 2015 Zegama Marathon
  • Susana Simoes (Portugal) — 3rd 2015 Madeira Island Ultra Trail behind winner Ester Alves
  • Anna Strakova (Czech Republic) — 9th 2013 Grande Course des Templiers
  • Silvia Trigueros (Spain) — 13th 2014 Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category, 10th 2015 Transgrancanaria
  • Adriana Vargas (Argentina) — 14th 2014 Transvulcania
  • Sarah Vieuille (France) — 4th 2014 France trail national championships, finished a few seconds behind Ildiko Wermescher at the 2014 Trail du Petit Ballon 50k
  • Alicia Woodside (Canada) — 2nd 2015 HURT 100 Mile, 4th 2015 Gorge Waterfalls 100k
  • Lizzie Wraith (Great Britain) — 2nd 2014 Lakeland 50 Mile. She just ran two massive stage races back to back, something like 550 kilometers in a month, in Nepal. Either she’s massively fit or still trying to get her legs back under her.
  • Denise Zimmermann (Switzerland) — 3rd 2014 Eiger Ultra Trail just behind Ildiko Wermescher, winner 2014 Swiss Alpine Marathon, 3rd 2014 Tor des Géants behind second place Lisa Borzani. She ran two 24-hour races within the last two months, though, so I’m not betting on her having fresh, fast legs.

On the Starting List but Not Racing

  • Stacey Cleveland (Canada) — 7th 2013 trail world championships, not racing due to injury
  • Maite Maiora (Spain) — She was a DNS at the Zegama Marathon two weekends ago due to a knee injury. She’s since been diagnosed with a fracture of her tibial plateau from a fall she took before Zegama. [Update May 28, 11 p.m. local time: We just heard at the opening ceremony that, despite a fracture of her tibial plateau, Spain’s Maite Maiora will start the race on Saturday.]
  • Holly Rush (Great Britain) — Injury

Team Predictions

For the team competition, teams must have three finishers in a gender. For teams that bring more than six athletes, they must pre-determine which six team members will have their times potentially counted toward team scores. Finally, team scores are added with a team’s top-three finishers’ times, and the team with the lowest cumulative time wins the team competition. If there is a tie, the tie is broken by the team with the fastest third person.

Team France should be the runaway winner. Among their six designated women are defending champ Nathalie Mauclair, 2011 champ Maud Gobert, and a full passel of fast chasers. French women generally race aggressively, so I don’t doubt that a couple of these women will fade late in the race. But their team depth plus their collective experience racing at the trail world championships as well as running the kind of terrain they’ll find at this race makes them a hands-down favorite. Update May 29: We’ve learned that Juliette Benedicto, Anne-Lise Rousset, and Sylvaine Cussot will not be included among France’s six scoring team members.

Next I’ll give the nod to Team USA. Due to the races used to by the USATF to qualify Team USA plus a fairly short and late invitation window means that only three women are turning up to race on behalf of the U.S. This means there’s no wiggle room, and all three members have to have a good day. My take, Cassie Scallon is good for top five, Krissy Moehl for top 10, and Amy Rusiecki for top 15–on each of their good days. Can they do it?

Team Spain has a chance at the podium… though their chance lessened by a lot with the loss of Maite Maiora to a broken leg. [Added May 28, 11 p.m. local time: …and their chance just increased with the re-addition of Maite Maiora to their team. She has a leg fracture, but she’s now planning to start the race anyway.] She would have been a podium favorite and she also would have brought the competing members of Team Spain to four. Instead they are left with three runners, which puts them in the same challenging spot as Team USA in that all three must compete well. They are composed of Uxue Fraile, who has podium potential, and strong runners Silvia Trigueros and Teresa Nimes Perez.

Team Canada could very well find their way onto the podium. They’ve got six members who are racing. I think it’s possible for a couple of these gals to hit the back end of the top 10 or get into the top 15 on good days, the likes of Anne-Marie Madden and Melanie Bos. We can’t forget Stacie Carrigan who went 13th at the trail world championships in 2013; what can she run this year? Heck, what happens if Anne-Marie races as well here as she did at the TNF EC 50-Mile Championships last December?

With Andrea Huser and Denise Zimmermann racing to their potential, which I think is top 10 for Andrea and top 15 for Denise, Team Switzerland has a fighting chance.

Team Great Britain has a big team with five potential scorers, but the loss of speedster Holly Rush to injury might have knocked them off podium potential. These women will be great on the race’s terrain, however, given they spend time fell running and racing.

And last but certainly not least, Team Italy. They have two top-10 returnees, Maria Chiara Parigi and Lisa Borzani, plus a full team of six potential scorers.

Call for Comments

  • Who are your bets on the women’s top five? Who do you think are the favorites going into the race?
  • Who will surprise us? Who is particularly primed for this race?
  • What about the team competition? Which teams do you think will most strongly represent their country?
  • Are we missing anyone you think should be included in this preview? Is someone in this preview not racing after all? Let us know in the comments section. Thanks!
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

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