2015 Diagonale Des Fous Preview

La Diagonale des FousLe Grand Raid Réunion, known as the Diagonale des Fous, is the final stop of this year’s 11-race Ultra-Trail World Tour. Starting on Thursday, October 22 at 10:00 p.m. local time on Réunion Island (a French department in the Indian Ocean), runners will tackle some pavement, miles of mountain trails, and some of the most technical terrain in mountain running. In total, the race is 164 kilometers (102 miles) long with 9,917 meters (32,500 feet) of elevation gain.

Below we preview the pointy end of the men’s and women’s fields. Be sure to check out our essay on the race’s fascinating history.

2015 Diagonale Des Fous Men’s Preview

The way I see it, it’s a three-man race for the win, with a good collection of fast men who will be working on strong races behind them.

Men’s Podium Race

Iker Karrera - 2015 Hardrock 100

Iker Karrera

Iker Karrera (Spain) thought his 2015 would go a little differently. He’d originally planned to spend a lengthy period of time in the U.S., first competing in the Hardrock 100 and then attempting a speed record on the John Muir Trail in California. However, Iker showed up in Silverton, Colorado with a hip injury and had to cut his U.S. adventuring short. He made it though Hardrock, but off his potential and in ninth place overall. That brings us to DdF this weekend. In reality, Iker should win the race. He’s got leg speed and he’s got the street cred on tough, long mountain races, including a tie for second at last year’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (interview), a win of the 2013 Tor des Géants, and a win of the 2013 Grand Raid des Pyrénées.

But then, watch out for Gediminas Grinius (Lithuania), as he is absolutely on fire in the last year or so. He was fourth here last year, finishing in 27 hours, 25 minutes and about 3 hours off François D’haene’s win. Since then this year, he won Transgrancanaria (interview), took fourth at Western States, and won Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. Woof. UTMF was a month ago. Is Gediminas physically recovered and mentally motivated for a romp around La Réunion? If so, I expect he will give Iker a run for his money.

Thomas Lorblanchet - 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji

Thomas Lorblanchet

As far as I can tell, this will be Thomas Lorblanchet’s (France) first epic-ly mountainous 100 miler. He won the Leadville Trail 100 in 2012 (interview), is a multi-time winner of the France fall classic, La Grande Course des Templiers, and he took fifth at Western States earlier this year. When I think of Thomas, I think of flatter terrain and faster leg turnover than what he’ll mostly get on the DdF course. It will be fascinating to follow his race.

More Fast Men

These fast guys are listed in alphabetical order.

  • Fabrice Armand (La Réunion) — 7-time DdF finisher; highest placing was 10th in 2011
  • Pau Bartolo (Spain) — 6th 2015 Tarawera Ultramarathon, 9th 2015 The North Face 100k – Australia; winner 2015 TDS, a UTMB sister race; does anyone know if he has previously attempted a 100-mile race? [Added: October 21, 12 p.m. MDT, thanks, @Olivier_77!]
  • Pascal Blanc (La Réunion) — 5-time DdF finisher including 3rd in 2013 [Added: October 21, 12 p.m. MDT, thanks, @Olivier_77!]
  • Florent Bougin (Canada) — Winner 2015 Bryce 100 Mile [Added: October 21, 12 p.m. MDT, thanks, @Olivier_77!]
  • Sylvain Camus (France) — 11th 2014 DdF
  • Erik Clavery (France) — 2011 IAU Trail World Champion, 4th 2012 DdF, 2nd 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail [Added: October 21, 7 a.m. MDT, thanks for the heads up, @francoisgu!]
  • Cyril Cointre (France) — 4th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 5th 2015 Transgrancanaria, 19th 2015 Western States 100
  • François Faivre (France) — 9th 2011 UTMB, 7th 2012 UTMB
  • Jordi Gamito Bas (Spain) — 5th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 11th 2015 Transgrancanaria
  • Antoine Guillon (France) — 8-time DdF finisher including 12th last year, 3rd 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 3rd 2015 Transgrancanaria, 9th 2015 Marathon des Sables [Added: October 21, 7 a.m. MDT, thanks for the heads up, all!]
  • Jean-Claude Guiton (La Réunion) — 8-time DdF finisher; highest placing was 9th in 2011
  • Michel Lanne (France) — 3rd 2013 Les Templiers, 7th 2015 Zegama Marathon [Added: October 21, 12 p.m. MDT, thanks, @Olivier_77!]
  • Christophe Le Saux (France) — 5th 2012 DdF, 7th 2015 Marathon des Sables
  • Jérome Lucas (France) — 13th 2014 DdF, 2nd 2015 Ronda dels Cims [Added: October 21, 7 a.m. MDT, thanks for the heads up, @francoisgu!]
  • Yolain Nagama (La Réunion) — 9-time DdF finisher; highest placing was sixth in 2007
  • Sota Ogawa (Japan) — 9th man 2015 MSIG Sai Kung 50k
  • Kazufumi Oose (Japan) — 11th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 2nd 2015 Tokyo Shibamata 100k
  • David Pasquio (La Réunion) — 7th 2012 DdF and 5th in 2013, 12th 2015 Mont Blanc 80k
  • Renaud Rouanet (France) — 12th man at the 2013 DdF, 16th 2014 DdF
  • Stefano Ruzza (Italy) — 7th 2014 DdF in 29 hours
  • Jannick Séry (La Réunion) — Winner 2012, 2013, and 2014 Trail de Bourbon, a 90-ish-k shorter Grand Raid Réunion event, first attempt at 100 miles [Added: October 21, 7 a.m. MDT, thanks for the heads up, @Thierry!]
  • Sangé Sherpa (Nepal) — 4th 2015 Eiger Ultra Trail, 7th 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji
  • Freddy Thevenin (La Réunion) — 4-time DdF finisher including a 2nd in 2013, 8th 2015 Transgrancanaria, 14th 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Lionel Trivel (France) — 6th 2011 DdF, 4th 2013 Tor des Géants, 5th 2014 UTMF
  • Michael Wardian (USA) — 5th 2015 Tarawera Ultramarathon, 8th 2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, winner 2015 Eastern States 100 Mile, among many other races, super prolific racer of all distances and terrain
  • Kenichi Yamamoto (Japan) — 10th 2011 UTMB, winner 2012 Grand Raid des Pyrénées, 2nd 2013 Ronda dels Cims, 8th 2014 DdF in 29:04

Men on the Entrants List but Not Running

  • Ryan Sandes

2015 Diagonale Des Fous Women’s Preview

The women’s field isn’t particularly deep this year, but where it lacks in depth it more than makes up for itself in front-of the-pack star power. It’s in part a repeat of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc from less than two months ago, and I’m curious on how things will shake out in this second round.

Women’s Podium Race

Nathalie Mauclair - 2015 UTMB Champion

Nathalie Mauclair

Nathalie Mauclair (France) is the two-time defending Diagonale des Fous champion. Since winning last fall, Nathalie’s had an incredible year, winning the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships (interview), taking second at the 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail, and winning the 2015 UTMB (interview). She sits in eighth place in the the Ultra-Trail World Tour rankings, 10 points ahead of Núria Picas, with both of them having just two races scored out of three. I mean, you have to call Nathalie the favorite with the year she’s had and her two previous DdF wins, so long as she’s recovered from her UTMB effort.

If there’s anyone who could beat Nathalie, it’s Caroline Chaverot (France). She already proven that she could when she won Lavaredo Ultra Trail earlier this year. Caroline has raced a ton in 2015, including a second place behind Núria Picas at Transgrancanaria (interview), second place behind Nathalie at the IAU Trail World Championships (interview), and a win at the Eiger Ultra Trail (interview). She dropped late in UTMB; at the time we thought she’d taken a fall and possibly broken a bone. However, it seems like she had total muscle failure. If she’s recovered, she’ll be pushing the pace at the front from the start. Another note, she’s still on the hunt for her first 100-mile finish. Lastly, Caroline is in second in the Ultra-Trail World Tour with three races scored of three. She could rack up enough points, however, to throw out a previous performance and win the tour.

Nuria Picas - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Núria Picas

The last time we saw Núria Picas (Spain), she was sort of surviving Ultra Pirineu last month. She never looked too good or too bad, but she did look very serious as she ran to third place. Before that, she definitely wasn’t having fun or feeling good at UTMB, and she dropped pretty early there. She’s got two races scored in the Ultra-Trail World Tour from a third place at the Tarawera Ultramarathon (interview) and a win at Transgrancanaria (interview) and is in ninth place presently in the tour. A stellar race here and she could be into the money.

Andrea Huser (Switzerland) should challenge as well. After finishing seventh at UTMB last year, she’s been moving on up in the Euro long-distance mountain-running ranks. This year, she took fourth at Transgrancanaria and 5th at the IAU Trail World Championships. Perhaps her best performance was second and just a few minutes back of Caroline Chaverot at the Eiger Ultra Trail. [Added: October 21, 12 p.m. MDT, thanks for the heads up, @fschuetz!]

Emilie Lecomte (France) is a two-time winner of Diagonale des Fous, in 2009 and 2012. Last year, Emilie’s big races were a second at Ronda dels Cims and a win at Tor des Géants. In 2013, she took third at Ronda dels Cims. She doesn’t have the same leg speed as some of the other gals here, but she sure is experienced in Europe’s toughest races. She’s podium potential, for sure.

More Fast Women

I list these women in alphabetical order.

  • Christine Benard — One of the La Réunion locals who I think has a good chance of finishing as the fastest female from the island. She seems to deliver every year. She’s finished DdF a whopping six times, going second in 2005, 2007, and 2009; third in 2011 and 2013; and fourth in 2014. Last year, she ran 35 hours, 45 minutes, which was 4 hours, 15 minutes off the lead, but still so strong.
  • Marie-Alexandra Clain (La Réunion) — 6th 2014 DdF in 37:04
  • Sophie Grant (U.K.) — 4th 2013 Marathon des Sables, 2nd 2015 Zugspitz Ultratrail
  • Claire Nedelec (La Réunion) — 5th 2012 DdF, 9th 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail

Women on the Entrants List but Not Running

  • Stephanie Case (Canada)

Call for Comments

  • Who did we miss that should be in this preview? And, who is in this preview that you know isn’t racing? Let us know!
  • Who will take the men’s and women’s races?
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.

There are 21 comments

  1. Thierry_Caro

    The local press suggests another Réunionese runner to follow is Jeannick Séry. He has won the Semi-Raid / Trail de Bourbon multiple times and is now about to run the longest race for the first time and with great ambitions.

  2. Thierry_Caro

    The media in Réunion also mention very often the name of Antoine Guillon, who is not a local but still from mainland France. They see him as a potential winner for two reasons. First, he knows the race very well, having finished 2nd in 2007, 2010 and 2012, 3rd in 2009, 4th in 2008, 2011 and 2013! And then Antoine is the current #2 of the UTWT rankings, right behind Gediminas Grinius, who is also running. So he has a very good reason to give everything during the coming race.

  3. francoisgu

    You're missing two others serious contenders : Erik Clavery (7th UTMB, former IAU world champion) and Jérome Lucas (13th last year, 2nd Ronda Del Cims) too.

    Antoine Guillon is my favorite for the win. He has a very large experience at DDF and fresh legs (no race since TDS which is a very long haul for him) !

  4. Meghan Hicks

    Thanks, everyone, I’ve added all of your suggestions to our preview. Appreciate it. Especially Antoine Guillon, a definite top-five contender. There is no separate elite list provided by the organization to aid our research of who is running, so I simply missed him (and a couple others) in hand-combing the couple-thousand entrants. Thanks again!

  5. fschuetz

    Another top contender for the women: Andrea Huser of Switzerland. This year alone she has been 2nd at the Eiger Ultra, 2nd at Swiss Alpine, won the Tramuntana race on Mallorca, was 5th at Trail WC in Annecy, won the Irontrail 201 (2nd overall there) and won that race 100k mountainrace in Marocco in few weeks ago. When fresh should be one for Top3 for sure. :)

    1. fschuetz

      Not entirely sure. I think he wanted to go after the GR-20 FKT on Corsica this summer but didnt as he was kinda tired/OTS maybe!?

      Same for Ryan Sandes, hes on the startlist but not racing. According to his training on facebook he doesnt seem to be injured

      1. Olivier_77

        Francois D´Haene stated this summer on facebook that after some medical check up he decided it was best to rest till 2016 season.(postponing/cancelling september Corsica GR20 FKT attempt).
        It is a long way to go, but according comments from his account in social media he is already planning to race DDF in 2016.

        Similarly Ryan Sandes just after his problem at UTMB decided to put an end to his 2015 season.

  6. @dahu_74

    Not a missed runner, but a missed race: Yamamoto finished 2nd of l'Echappée Belle and Emilie Lecomte 3rd overall. Little know race (especially outside of France because on the same weekend as UTMB) but incredibly tough one – speaks to the current level of both runners!

  7. Meghan Hicks

    @spoher7 and @dahu_74, thanks for the additional context on these two runners. We don’t list all the race results for the runners in our previews, or the preview would be biblical in its length. ;) We try to list runners’ strong performances in competitive races as well as their strong performances in races similar to the race we’re previewing.

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