2017 Transgrancanaria Preview

Transgrancanaria logoThe 2017 Transgrancanaria starts at 11 p.m. this Friday evening (4 p.m. Mountain Time on Friday in the U.S.), February 24th on the northwest coast of Spain’s Gran Canaria. Hundreds of runners will spend the next 13-to-30 hours traversing 125 kilometers across the entire island before finishing on the southern coast. In those 77.7 miles, runners will climb more than 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) up the forested north side, over the volcanic heart of the island, before crashing to the sea on island’s desert south. Among those hundreds of runners will be some of the world’s best, including both of last year’s TGC champions, Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen. Read on below for full previews of the women’s and men’s fields.

For the fourth year in a row, iRunFar will be reporting live from the race. Stay tuned for interviews with top contenders ahead of the race.

2017 Transgrancanaria Women’s Preview

Contenders for the Win

Caroline Chaverot - 2016 Transgrancanaria

Caroline Chaverot

France’s Caroline Chaverot (pre-race interview) won last year’s Transgrancanaria (interview) in dominating fashion as she outpaced second place by nearly two hours. There is nothing to suggest that she won’t do the same when she returns for this year’s race. In fact, what she’s done since suggests she could perform even better. Chaverot basically ran the table last year, winning the Skyrunning World Championships Ultra race, UTMB (interview), and the IAU Trail World Championships (interview) along with a handful of other wins. The last race of 50 miles or longer that I can find that she didn’t win was when she was second at the IAU Trail World Champs in May 2015. She was also second earlier in 2015 at Transgrancanaria (interview).

Andrea Huser (pre-race interview) of Switzerland was that runner up to Caroline Chaverot at TGC last year (interview). She actually played second fiddle to Chaverot a couple times last year, including at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail and UTMB (interview), both impressive performances nonetheless. I believe she’s also the last woman to beat Chaverot in an ultra, granted it was in the 50k race at the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges in September 2015. While Huser didn’t best Chaverot in 2016, she did win the MaxiRace, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Swiss Irontrail T201, and, last but not least, Diagonale des Fous (interview). Huser was fourth at Transgrancanaria in 2015. While I think Chaverot has an aggressive race schedule in 2017, the one woman who can give her hope is Huser, who ran roughly a dozen notable races last year.

Azara Garcia - 2015 Zegama Marathon

Azara Garcia

Also finishing second to Chaverot at a key race last year was Spain’s Azara García, who took second at the stacked IAU Trail World Championships last October. You might not know her… yet, but she’s a former track athlete who’s been running short trail races since at least 2011. In 2014, she was fifth at the Marathon du Mont Blanc, before moving on to win the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon in 2015 (interview). Last year, she was second at the Skyrunning World Championships in the Sky discipline at the Buff Epic Trail. She also won El Reventón last year, which was the RFEA (Spanish athletics federation) trail national championships and the team selector for the world championships. She also won the 32km Carrera Alto Sil, which I understand is Spanish race of growing importance.

Others Up Front

While newer to trail racing than Azara, Spain’s Gemma Arenas has amassed ultrarunning experience more quickly than her fellow countrywoman. After jumping into trail and ultrarunning in 2014, Gemma made her first major appearance with an eighth place at Zegama in 2015. That year, she went on to win the Spanish ultra championship, take fourth at Giir di Mont, ninth at Sierre-Zinal, and fourth at Ultra Pirineu. Last year, she repeated as the Spanish ultra champion at the Ultra Montseny 80k (there are multiple Spanish ultra national championships, was third at El Reventón, sixth at Transvulcania, and ninth at Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category. However, it was last autumn when she was at her best, first winning Ultra Pirineu (interview) and, then, taking fifth at the IAU Trail World Championships.

France’s Juliette Blanchet has made a steady ascent through ultrarunning. In 2011, she won the Endurance Trail des Templiers. In 2012, she won the TDS. In 2013, she was ninth at UTMB. In 2014, she was second at Diagonale des Fous. Then, there was her breakout last year. She was fourth at UTMB, second at Diagonale des Fous (interview), third at Eiger Ultra Trail, and fourth at Madeira Island Ultra Trail. If you don’t know Juliette yet, you should going into this season!

[Update February 22: Beth Pascall will not be racing this weekend.] We, the folks at iRunFar, finally got to watch the U.K. standout Beth Pascall race at last year’s IAU Trail World championships, where she finished eighth. To get there, she also won the U.K. qualifier at the 53-mile Hoka Highland Fling. In addition, she won the Lakeland 100 Mile and the 108-mile event at the Spine Race last year.

It’s taken me a few years of following her, but it’s become pretty clear than Brazil’s Manuela Vilaseca stands out more, the longer and more mountainous the race. In 2014, she was fifth at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, while she was fifth at Lavaredo Ultra Trail and tenth at UTMB in 2015. More important to this preview, she was fifth at Transgrancanaria in 2015. Overall, Vilaseca had a down year in 2016, placing 16th at Transvulcania, 15th in the Skyrunning World Championships Ultra race, and 11th at Ultra Pirineu. Her best performance last year may have been her seventh place at Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

Sweden’s Kristin Berglund has run ultras for a while, but she had a breakout year in 2016. Last year, she won the Zugspitz Ultra Trail and Grossglockner Ultra-Trail, which are each 100 to 110km. Later in the year, she was second at the GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run.

Ildikó Wermescher of Germany had quite a year back in 2014 when she was sixth at UTMB, fifth at Lavaredo Ultra Trail, second at the Eiger Ultra Trail, and fourth at Transgrancanaria. She ran both UTMB and Eiger Ultra Trail in 2016, finishing just a bit lower in the standings taking seventh and fourth, respectively. She was also 34th at the IAU Trail World Championships and ninth at Ultra-Trail Australia. She’s a solid bet to finish from roughly fourth to tenth.

Lisa Borzani

Lisa Borzani

Italy’s Lisa Borzani is a consistent, frequent racer. She finished second at the Tor des Géants in 2014 and 2015 before winning the race last year, when she also won the Ronda dels Cims. Although she’s a powerhouse at the longest and steepest of races, she also fares well on races with some faster terrain. For example, she was second at last year’s Vibram Hong Kong 100k after placing third there the year before.

Yulia Baykova, a Russian living in Italy, runs plenty of Italian ultras for which I don’t have adequate context to place the significance of her finishes. That said, she did finish tenth at the Lavaredo Ultra-Trail last year before placing sixth at the CCC later in the summer. Baykova did place ninth at Transgrancanaria in 2013, when it was her longest ultra to date.

Switzerland’s Helene Ogi has taken third, fourth, sixth, and fifth at the past for runnings of the Eiger Ultra Trail. Ogi took 17th at last year’s Transgrancanaria, which we believe is her only finish at the race. She was also 24th at the IAU Trail World Championships last year.

Rarely racing outside her home county of Spain, Laia Diez has made her mark there. Just last year, she won the 179km Cami de Cavalls, was second at the 101km Ultra Trail Barcelona, and seventh at Ultra Pirineu. A bit further back, she was third at the 85km Transgrancanaria Advanced in 2015 and fourth at the Buff Epic Trail in 2014.

[Update February 22: Jen Benna won’t be racing.] Jen Benna of the US had a strong 2016, when she was third at the Sean O’Brien 100k, first at the American River 50 Mile, and third at the Leadville 100 Mile. A year earlier she was second at the Angeles Crest 100 Mile.

Other Women to Watch

  • Laura Barrera (Spain) — 9th 2016 Transgrancanaria Advanced (81km); 2nd 2016 Ultra Cerdanya; 12th 2016 Ultra Montseny
  • Yolanda Fernández (Spain) — 9th 2014 CCC; 6th Haria Extreme
  • Ewa Majer (Poland) — According to the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), she’s the fifth-ranked woman in the race, but we’re not familiar with any of her available results.
  • Laetitia Pibis (France) — 12th 2016 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 11th GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run; 1st 2016 Hochkönugman (84km)
  • Mercedes Pila (Spain) — 3rd 2016 Transgrancanaria Advanced (81km); 1st 2016 Penyagolosa CSP (117km); 3rd 2016 Ultra Montseny
  • Marta Poretti (Italy) — 3rd 2016 Ronda dels Cims; 7th 2014 Transgrancanaria Advanced (87km)
  • Caroline Röhrl (Germany) — 5th 2014 TDS; 6th 2015 Kepler Challenger; 16th 2016 Swiss Alpine Marathon

2017 Transgrancanaria Men’s Preview

Contenders for the Win

Didrik Hermansen - 2016 Transgrancanaria

Didrik Hermansen

While not the most widely recognized name in the field, top billing goes to last year’s Transgrancanaria champ and 2015 TGC runner up Didrik Hermansen (pre-race interview). Over the past two years, the Norwegian has also been runner up at the Western States 100 mile (2016), won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (2015), and been third at Ultravasan (2015), as well as 10th at the IAU Trail World Championships in 2015. Hermansen started off his 2017 season last month with a fourth-place finish at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k.

[Update February 20Sage Canaday is not racing. While far from a bad year, I doubt Sage Canaday ran like he’d hoped in 2016, particularly with regard to taking seventh at The North Face 50 Mile Championships in December and 11th at Western States in June. Last year, he did win the Black Canyon 100k, logged another podium finish (third) at Transvulcania in May, and take second at the Moab Trail Marathon (the USATF Trail Marathon National Championships) in a time 22 minutes faster than his run there in 2013. Still, Sage’s performances on a whole didn’t match those of 2013 and 2014 when he won the TNF 50, the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, Speedgoat 50k twice, Tarawera 100k twice, and so on. However, a new year offers a fresh start.

Andy Symonds - 2016 UTMB

Andy Symonds

Long a standout trail runner, Andy Symonds (recent long, written interview) shifted his focus to longer races in 2016 and found success. He won the 122km Lavaredo Ultra Trail, took second at the 105km Skyrunning World Championships Ultra race, and was fifth at Transgrancanaria. Sure, he did drop out of UTMB, but that’s a solid season of stepping up after having raced over 100km only once prior to 2016. Symonds was also fourth at Transvulcania in 2016.

If we’re talking about breakouts in 2016, we’ve got to mention Catalan runner Pau Capell (pre-race interview) ,who was ascendant last year on his way to finishing third in the annual Ultra-Trail World Tour rankings. Prior to last year, Capell’s highlights might be his 2015 fifth place at CCC or his 2015 win of the 85km Transgrancanaria Advanced. Then, last year, he was fourth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, took third at Transgrancanaria, won Ultra-Trail Australia, took sixth at Lavaredo, won TDS, and finished 11th at the IAU Trail World Championships. Don’t count Capell out for a podium spot at any ultra he races this year.

Others Up Front

2016 Diagonale des Fous - Antoine Guillon

Antoine Guillon

I can’t help but be a fan of Antoine Guillon. He’s a quiet, consistent, positive force to be reckoned with. If you want showmanship and flashiness, Antoine might not be your guy. On the other hand, if you want a no-fuss top finish at a long, mountainous ultra, keep your eye on this Frenchman who won the Diagonale des Fous in 2015 before finishing second to François D’haene last year. In 2015, Antoine was third at Transgrancanaria a year after finishing fifth at that race, third at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, and third at TDS. He finished 11th at Transgrancanaria last year.

Going into 2016, I wouldn’t have known who Switzerland’s Diego Pazos (pre-race interview) was. Sure, he’d been 11th at UTMB in 2014 and been fourth at both CCC and the Diagonale des Fous in 2015, but he’d not yet been on the podium at a major international race. That all changed last year, starting at Transgrancanaria, where he finished third. He went on to win the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 80km and the Eiger Ultra Trail along with finishing sixth at the IAU Trail World Championships. It’s hard to know what Pazos’s ceiling is at this point, but he could certainly challenge for a podium spot this weekend.

Italy’s Daniel Jung is quickly making a name for himself, as well. In 2015, he took third at both the GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run and Salomon 4 Trails, but that was only setting the table for his slew of wins at Italian ultras in 2016, when he also won the TransAlpine Run. He’s already started off 2017 on a high note, having taken second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k ahead of Hermansen last month.

Pau Bartoló

Pau Bartoló

Pau Bartoló has built up his experience at longer ultras over the past few years and seems poised for a top finish at a race like Transgrancanaria. Back in 2014, Pau won the 85km Transgrancanaria Advanced as well as the CCC. A year later, he won TDS, while placing sixth at Tarawera. His 2016 was not inline with the two previous years, as he dropped out of the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, Transgrancanaria, and the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. [Added February 24]

Fabien Antolinos is another Frenchman who quietly gets the job done. He was fifth at UTMB just two years ago, but do you know him? Last year, he was fourth at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail, while the year before he was 11th at the IAU Trail World Championships. In 2014, he was runner up at both the Maxi-Race Annecy and Les Templiers.

Julien Chorier

Julien Chorier

[Update February 23Julien Chorier will not run because of the rip injury. A Frenchman you probably have heard of is Julien Chorier. That’s probably because he’s won Hardrock (2011), Diagonale des Fous (2009 & 2011), and Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (2012) to go along with a pair of top- five finishes at UTMB. More recently, Chorier was second at Hardrock in 2014, was sixth at Western States in 2015, and was eighth at UTMB in 2016. In previous runs at Transgrancanaria, he was second in 2014 and seventh in 2016. Chorier started his 2017 season with a tenth-place finish at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k.

Undoubtedly, a Timothy Olson at his best has the potential to win a race like Transgrancanaria… or any other long trail ultra for that matter. However, we’ve not seen Timothy at his very best since back in 2013, when he won Western States to go along with fourth-place finishes at Transvulcania and UTMB (interview). In 2016, Olson was 11th at the Hardrock 100 Mile and 20th at the Leadville 100 Mile. Last year, he also won the Thailand 100k, Sean O’Brien Marathon, and Tushar Marathon. Timothy did place third at Transgrancanaria in 2014. Here’s hoping we see Mr. Olson return to form this year.

Along with Cristofer Clemente, Yeray Durán is one of the standout ultrarunners from the Canary Islands. I feel like he’s a bit hit or miss in his racing, but he’s got plenty of top results. Just this past year, he was sixth in the Ultra distance at the Skyrunning World Championships, fifth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, and third at the increasingly competitive TDS. In 2015, he was third at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Duran has run Transgrancanaria a bunch of times with a fourth in 2012, a third in 2013, and another fourth in 2014. He had a rough go at the race last year, finishing 18th.

Jordi Gamito of Spain only finished tenth at last year’s Transgrancanaria, but he could finish higher. He did take third at the Eiger Ultra Trail last year to go with his fifth at TDS and sixth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. In 2015, he was 12th at UTMB.

I don’t know much about Spaniard Juan Marie Jiménez other than he’s was 10th at UTMB last year after finishing 14th at UTMB a year earlier. If you know Juanma, please let us know a little more about him.

Lithuania’s Vaidas Žlabys makes it onto this list on the basis of his eighth-place finish at last year’s TGC, after finishing 36th the year before. Similarly, he improved from 64th to 20th at the past two IAU Trail World Championships.

2016 Ultravasan - Fritjof Fagerlund

Fritjof Fagerlund

If this were a faster course, I’d move Fritjof Fagerlund of Sweden much higher on this list. Just last year, he was second at the Ultravasan 90km, as well as 14th at both the Comrades Marathon and the IAU 100k World Championships. A year earlier, he was sixth at the 2015 IAU 1ook World Champs. Still, he’s a decent enough trail runner, having been 23rd at the IAU Trail World Championships in 2015 before improving to 19th last year.

Sebas Sánchez has a strong ultrarunning resume in Spain. Last year, he won the 85k Transgrancanaria Advanced and Penyagolosa CSP, along with placing second at the Ultra Montsent 80k (as he also did in 2015), sixth at Ultra Pirineu, and seventh at the Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category.

While Australia’s Ben Duffus is clearly a very strong runner, we just won’t know how strong until he runs a couple more races with international-level fields. His best effort to date is likely his third-place finish at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 80km in 2014, where he was third behind Luis Alberto Herando and François D’haene. Duffus did take second at Ultra-Trail Australia last year after placing fifth at the event in 2014.

In 2016, Gerard Morales became the Spanish ultrarunning national champion when he won the Ultra Montseny 80k. Last year, he was also 12th at Transgrancanaria, 11th at Lavaredo, 12th at the Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category, and eighth at Ultra Pirineu. Back in 2015, Morales took second at the Buff Epic Trail and seventh at Ultra Pirineu, as well as 22nd at UTMB.

France’s Freddy Thévenin was eighth at Transgrancanaria just two years ago, when he also finished third at the Diagonale des Fous on his native Reúnion. A year earlier in 2014, he was fourth at Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Thevenin did not run up to his standards last year, when he took 15th at Lavaredo and 27th at Ultra-Trail Australia, and his 2017 season started with a 22nd-place finish at the 46km Transvolcano.

Other Men to Watch

  • Tiago Aires (Portugal) — 13th 2016 IAU Trail World Championships
  • Nicola Bassi (Italy) — 3rd 2016 Ronda dels Cims
  • Victor Bernad (Spain) — 13th 2015 UTMB; 1st 2015 Penyagolosa CSP; 3rd 2016 Penyagolosa CSP; 17th 2016 Transgrancanaria
  • Maxime Cazajous (France) — 5th 2016 Diagonale des Fous; 16th 2015 Diagonale des Fous
  • Fulvio Dapit (Italy) — 6th 2016 Madeira Island Ultra Trail; 4th 2014 & 2015 Ice Trail Tarentaise
  • Frederic Desplanches (France) — 2nd 2014 Endurance Trail des Templiers
  • Thomas Farbmacher (Austria) — 1st 2015 Zugspitz Ultratrail
  • Luis Fernandes (Portugal) — 8th 2016 Buff Epic Trail Ultra (Skyrunning World Championships Ultra race); 7th 2016 Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT); 1st 2015 MIUT; 5th 2015 Ultra Skymarathon Madeira
  • Ugo Ferrari (France) — 4th 2016 TDS; 7th 2016 Maxi-Race Annecy; 1st 2015 Intégrale des Causses
  • Benoît Girondel (France) — 1st 2014 & 2016 Endurance Trail des Templiers; 6th 2016 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (shortened by weather to 44km); 9th 2016 MIUT
  • Bartosz Gorczyca (Poland) — 1st at many ultras in Poland; 14th 2016 Buff Epic Trail 42km (Skyrunning World Championships Sky distance)
  • Robert Hajnal (Romania) — 1st at many ultras in Romania; 9th 2015 CCC
  • David Jeker (Canada) –14th 2014 TNF EC 50 – San Francisco; 1st 2015 Ultra-Trail Harricana (125km); 10th 2015 Eiger Ultra Trail
  • Juan Larrotcha (Spain) — 15th 2016 UTMB; 9th 2016 Pentagolosa CSP (117km)
  • Dmitry Mityaev (Russia) — 1st 2015 & 2016 Elbrus World Race; 7th 2016 Ultra Pirineu; 15th 2015 Dolomites Skyrace
  • Casey Morgan (U.K.) — 10th 2014 Transgrancanaria; 3rd 2016 Ultra Sierra Nevada
  • Shunsuke Okunomiya (Japan) — 1st 2015 Hasetsune Cup; 3rd 2014 Hasetsune Cup; 7th 2015 Eiger Ultra Trail; 6th 2014 Eiger Ultra Trail
  • Giulio Ornati (Italy) — 9th 2016 UTMB; 5th 2014 CCC; 23rd 2016 Transgrancanaria
  • Mikaël Pasero (France) — 13th 2016 Diagonale des Fous; 1st 2016 Grand Raid des Pyrénées 80km
  • Nahuel Passerat (France) — 3rd 2015 Ronda dels Cims; 1st 2016 Ronda dels Cims; 15th 2015 Diagonale des Fous
  • Vivien Reynaud (France) — 4th 2016 Marathon du Mont-Blanc 80km
  • Álvaro Rodríguez (Spain) — 9th 2014 CCC; 8th 2016 TGC Advanced; 8th 2016 Ultra Montseny 80km
  • Efrén Segundo (Spain) — 3rd 2016 TGC Advanced; 4th 2016 OCC; 2nd 2016 Haria Extreme
  • Sangé Sherpa (Nepal) — 3rd 2014 Endurance Trail des Templiers; 7th 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji; 19th 2016 Transgrancanaria
  • John Tidd (Spain) — 15th 2014 & 2015 UTMB; 12th 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji
  • Marco Zanchi (Italy) — 11th 2016 UTMB; 8th 2014, 2015 & 2016 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 4th 2015 Madeira Island Ultra Trail

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will win for the women and the men this weekend?
  • Do you think any of the above runners will surprise the world this weekend?
  • Who else do you think the world should know heading into this year’s Transgrancanaria?
  • Do you know of anyone we’ve listed that definitely won’t be racing TGC this year?

There are 11 comments

  1. SageCanaday

    Hey guys, great preview!
    Just wanted to let you know that I actually had to pull out of this race.
    It was a very tough decision, but after racing two highly competitive ultras on back to back months
    (TNF50 in Dec. and Hong Kong 100km in January) I had to rest up more than originally anticipated and decided to be more conservative with my racing schedule this year.

      1. Mike

        Think that is a great decision Sage. Keep the legs fresh for a big year. With that being said, can’t wait to follow this race! Hermansen is the man to beat but hope for a great showing by Timmy :) Good luck to all runners

      1. Andre Rodrigues

        Tiago has not raced over 90K, but he is just so much faster then most of the guys in this list.

        I think Didrik or Sebas will win the race, but bet on Tiago for the TOP 5. If in TOP form Luis Fernandes will also contend, they had been training on Madeira for this Race(Luis Lives there) and the conditions are very similar.

        Or Mr.Olson comes back to the game and crush’s everyone else :D

  2. Phillip

    Great to meet Byron at the TGC expo and chat – see you at the Thames Path 100 in April! I expect not to be making any headlines at the end of the race :)

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