Xavier Thévenard, 2015 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc Champion, Interview
For the second time in three runnings, Xavier Thévenard won the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc this weekend. In the following interview, Xavier talks about his four wins in four tries at the UTMB and its sister races, how his race went this weekend, and how he views and dreams of Mont Blanc while training in Jura, France.
For more on how the race went down, read our 2015 UTMB results article.
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Xavier Thévenard, 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Xavier Thévenard after his win at the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). Congratulations!
Xavier Thévenard: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: You had an amazing run yesterday. As always, many fast runners—people we know—you, Luis Alberto [Hernando], Miguel [Heras], Tòfol [Castanyer] were all together at the start. Did it feel like you were running fast together?
Thévenard: On the start line, I don’t want to think about the other runners because on an ultra trail it’s so difficult. You have to run compared to you, compared to your feelings, but not to the other runners. I was very happy to be among very good runners, but I don’t want to run compared to them.
iRunFar: So it felt comfortable to you, the first 30 or 40k?
Thévenard: At the beginning of the race from the start line to Courmayeur, I was very good. I had very good feelings. I have the possibility to run faster, but it was enough because the way was very long, and you have to be very cool at the beginning to run with good feelings at the end of the race.
iRunFar: Yes. For much of that first half, you were with Team Spain—you and Tòfol, Luis Alberto, and Miguel. Did you talk at all? Do any of them speak French?
Thévenard: Yes, of course I was with three Spanish runners, but I didn’t take care of them or pay attention to them. I train alone. I appreciate to be alone in the mountains, but I didn’t pay attention to this.
iRunFar: You’re not focusing on the camaraderie. It’s just running?
Thévenard: Not at all.
iRunFar: Most of the second half, you were running alone. Did you push to pull away from Luis Alberto [Editor’s Note: This should have been Tòfol, not Luis Alberto], or did he just fall back?
Thévenard: When I started running, I thought I had to go slowly just to Courmayeur and after to study the situation compared to the other runners. I would like to accelerate only from La Fouly. When I sped up from La Fouly, I saw behind me it was not so easy for the other runners.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell back with Xavier Thévenard after a brief break in our interview (press conference). We were talking about your race, and up to midway or La Fouly, you were in the lead and building time on Tòfol. Then it starts to get hot. The sun comes up, and it gets hot. Did you suffer?
Thévenard: Yes, it was very difficult and tough because of the sun, especially from Vallorcine. I had to take water in a river because I no water in the reservoir.
iRunFar: At La Fouly, you had a very small lead, maybe two minutes, and then Tòfol drops and you keep running strong. Very soon you had 30 minutes, 45 minutes. Did you know you were building such a big lead?
Thévenard: When I understood the time between the other runners and me, I sped up. I understood because they gave me information. I understood I was stronger, so I sped up again and again.
iRunFar: How are you able to do that? It’s incredible you’re able to speed up so late in the race. Is it physical preparation? Is it your mind?
Thévenard: Both. Training and mental preparation, of course, are very important in this kind of race. For me, this race starts in fact in Courmayeur. Before Courmayeur, it’s only pleasure and enjoying the landscape. The race began in Courmayeur.
iRunFar: So you do enjoy while you’re out there for part of the race. What do you enjoy the most?
Thévenard: There are so many things to appreciate during the race especially during the night. I switched off my headlamp to make the most of the night and of the starts in the sky. Of course, when I arrived at the end of the race with all the family at the finish line and friends… and before Vallorcine and the sunrise on the Grand Col Ferret was amazing and fabulous.
iRunFar: The finish—you’ve done the UTMB races four times. You’ve won the CCC. You’ve won the TDS. Two times you’ve won the UTMB. Is it still special coming to this finish line?
Thévenard: Yes, it’s very special to arrive in Chamonix, of course. With the TDS and the CCC, it was very emotional, very strong emotionally. The UTMB is very, very special because there are so many people everywhere. It’s the queen race of the week of the UTMB.
iRunFar: What keeps bringing you back to the Mont Blanc races? You always win. What brings you here?
Thévenard: Of course, Mont Blanc is a very special mountain. Even from the Jura in my home where I train, I can see the mountain. I can have again in my mind the different imaginations of the victories and images of the different emotions in the race.
iRunFar: You come here and such success around Mont Blanc. You come from Jura which is completely different geology. How do you prepare there in such a different place?
Thévenard: The Jura is a very, very nice place. I consider that it’s easy to train in the Jura to prepare to race the UTMB because since the uphill is less difficult, you can run all the uphill. It’s a good training to win the UTMB to keep on running when you go up.
iRunFar: Since you won UTMB two years ago, you’ve abandoned a few races, you’ve had some races that were okay. You won TDS, but it’s a smaller race. Were you injured at all in these two years, or did you just not feel as strong?
Thévenard: I wasn’t injured. I was in good shape. It’s true. I didn’t race so many races because during all winter it’s only skiing. But from the victory at TDS, I raced the IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy and finished eighth. Of course, it’s not a very, very good result, but it was very hard and I made some mistakes. I won in April in Patagonia, Chile, on 75k. For sure, compared to some runners, I didn’t race a lot, but I prefer to choose in my races and to continue for a long time to race.
iRunFar: Speaking of choosing races, you just had an amazing race and you should enjoy that, but do you have anything on your calendar for this autumn?
Thévenard: Les Templiers in October.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing you there. Will you consider one of the UTMB races next year?
Thévenard: I don’t think so.
iRunFar: Time for a new adventure?
iRunFar: Good luck in whatever it was and congratulations.
Thévenard: Thank you.
iRunFar: One extra question. After you finished, you left and came back for the 10th finisher, Alexandre Mayer, and you had ice cream. What flavor were you enjoying?
Thévenard: Strawberry, blackberry, and lemon.