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2012 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Men’s Preview

Ultrarunning fans are probably sick of reading statements like “This is the best [INSERT DISTANCE] field ever,” but such is the nature of our sport at the moment. The trails and the thought of spending many hours running on them continues to draw more and more talent to the sport. At the same time, general participation in trail running and ultrarunning may be growing even faster, allowing (or, perhaps, necessitating) companies, races, and even international governing bodies to support the convergence of this talent. That’s why, at the risk of Dakota Jones never speaking to me again, I’ve got to say the 2012 Transvulcania men’s race is the deepest trail 50 mile (ok, it’s 83 km, but it’s close enough) field ever. End of story. (Oh, if only.)

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To be run starting Saturday morning on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands (off the Moroccan coast), Transvulcania kicks off the inaugural Ultra SkyMarathon Series organized by the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF). With the first of the ISF’s premier Skyrunner World Series races, the Maraton Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri (aka the Zegama Marathon) being held a week later in Spain’s Basque Country, the organization went all out in gathering top runners from around the world for these races, including a significant contingent of Americans and it’s with the Americans that I start our men’s Transvulcania preview.

[Ps. I’ll be over on La Palma covering the race, but more on that another time.]

The American Men (and Friends)

To start, I can’t imagine that either Anton Krupicka (New Balance) or Rickey Gates (Salomon) will race Transvulcania even though both will be at the event. Just last night Anton wrote, “[I] am committed to returning to primarily hiking for the next couple of weeks overseas; I want to be able to run the next time I’m back up [in Leadville, CO] in a couple of weeks.” It seems as though he’s focused on his recovery and, if possible, training for and racing the Hardrock 100 in mid-July. Rickey, on the other hand, has been battling hamstring issues for quite some time with the injury forcing him to withdraw from the Three Peaks race in the UK little more than a week ago. Both might end up running, but I’m not counting on it.

Mike Wolfe at TNF EC ’11.

With no disrespect to the other American men, that leaves Geoff Roes (Montrail), Mike Wolfe (The North Face), and Dakota Jones (Montrail) as the top American contenders at Transvulcania. Geoff, the Western States 100 (WS 100) course record holder, has not “run” a race since the TNF EC 50 early last December. He did complete the masochistic 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational (great race report) over the winter, but he’s got to be hungry. Wolfe just fully committed to ultrarunning, having just quit his job as an attorney. Last June, Wolfe finished second at the WS 100, 4 minutes back of winner Kilian Jornet, before beating a stacked field to win the TNF EC 50 (post-race interview), including second place finisher Dakota Jones. I probably shouldn’t hype Mr. Jones, but he did just win the Lake Sonoma 50 (post-race interview, race report, results) last month and is working with a coach following stepping away from school to concentrate on running. With Roes and Jones racing again at Hardrock, their races on La Palma will be a good early season measuring stick for what’s to come.

While I won’t speculate as to which nations’ passports they carry right now, both Ian Sharman (The North Face) and Joe Grant (Arc’teryx) currently live in the States, so I’ll claim them as our own. Ian may be the speediest “American” in the field, as he holds the North American trail 100 mile record (12:44!), and has plenty of experience on big stages. The question is, can he run with the big dogs up and down the mountains. We shall see. (BTW, the photo of “Ian” circulating sites and Twitter streams is of Ian’s teammate Mike Wardian.) On the other hand, Joe Grant is a mountain man: the steeper and tougher a course is, the better it is for him. He ran some impressive races last year and this year should be no different.

The Europeans (and Other) I Know

I don’t know every top runner from overseas. Heck, it’s hard enough to keep up with the who’s who here in the US, but I’ve come to know a few of the European men, and here they are.

Seb Chaigneau TNF UTMB ’11.

Last year, Kilian Jornet (Salomon), Iker Karrera (Salomon), and Sebastien Chaigneau (The North Face) spent many hours running through the Alps together on their way to respective, first, second, and third place finishes (all within 20 minutes) at The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. (Kilian and Seb post-UTMB ’11 interviews) That’s enough to tell you that any of these three could win on Saturday. Of course, Kilian is the odds on favorite. Not only is he the defending UTMB champ, but he’s also the defending WS 100 champ… and, more or less, the defending champ of any ultra he’s run since Western States in 2010. That said, he’s just taken off his skis after a long ski-mo season. So, while he’s in great shape, running 50 mountain miles will be an adequate test. Iker has a dozen global podium finishes the past three years, including setting the Transvulcania course record alongside his Salomon teammate Miguel Heras last year. Seb Chaigneau is excited enough about this race that he switched his plans from running Ultra Trail Mount Fuji to Transvulcania. Seb’s already won Transgrancanaria this year.

Finishing one place, though considerably behind Kilian and Ko. at UTMB ’11 was Csaba Németh of Hungary in fourth, 100 minutes back of Chaigneau. That was an improvement on his 2009 UTMB finish when he was seventh in running an hour slower on a faster course. Thomas Lorblanchet (Salomon) won the 2009 IAU World Trail Challenge and finished a respectable eighth at the 2010 TNF EC in San Francisco. (pre-race interview) Americans should note his name as he’ll be racing the Speedgoat 50k and Leadville 100 this summer as well as taking on the Colorado Trail in late May. Thomas’ countryman and Salomon teammate François d’Haene also has solid finishes around the globe, including finishing second to Kilian at the TNF 100(km) Australia last year. Americans might be familiar with Andy Symonds (Salomon) from his win aside Tom Owens at the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run in 2008.

I learned of Gustavo Reyes (Salomon) of Argentina’s dominance of southern South American ultras leading up to his disappointing finish at last year’s TNF EC 50. Still, in both 2010 and 2011, he won TNF Chile, TNF Argentina, and the Patagonia Run. He was 14th at last year’s IAU World Trail Challenge at Connemara.

The Europeans I Know I Don’t Know

There’s also some top talent that I know little about aside from pure stats. I’ll list these contenders along with a nugget of data, but I’m hoping iRunFar’s international audience can put a bit of flesh on these bony facts.

  • Bastien Bravais (New Balance) – 17th at last year’s TNF UTMB.
  • Giuliano Cavallo (Salomon Carnifast) – This Italian has plenty of wins and podium finishes on the trails, but his only result I can find from a race I know was his ninth place at last year’s IAU World Trail Challenge.
  • Erik Clavery (Asics) – This former Ironman triathlete from France is the 2011 World Champ from the IAU World Trail Challenge at Connemara. He’s also finished fourth at Diagonale des Fous (’09).
  • Yann Curien (Platinum Sigvaris) – He was second at Templiers in 2010 and eighth at Connemara last year.
  • Philipp Reiter (Salomon) – This German won the Zugspitz Supertrail last year.
  • Florent Troillet (New Balance) – Ok, so I know Florent’s name, but only as Kilian’s Swiss ski mountaineering partner. A spot of research showed he beat Kilian (by four seconds) to win the solo ski-mo world championship in 2010. Apparently, he runs, too!

Additional Transvulcania Previews/Articles

Call for Comments

  • Who’d we miss as a possible contender? Let us know.
  • Have any inside info on one of the top contenders? Share away.
  • Want to expand upon someone from our “The Europeans I Know I Don’t Know” category? Please do!
  • Excited about running the race yourself? Speak up!
  • Seen a great Transvulcania preview? Leave it in a comment.

I’d ask who you think will win… but I’ll wait until Wednesday for that… ;-)

Bryon Powell: is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com, which he founded more than 10 years ago. Having spent more than 15 years as an ultrarunner and 25 years as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. These days he calls Moab, Utah and its trails home.

View Comments (42)

  • It was actually Andy's brother, Joe, who won the three peaks two weekends ago!

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    • Fergus, thanks for the correction... I was up finishing this off a bit too late last night (early this morning). :-)

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  • On what day and time will this be run?

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    • 6 am WET (GMT+1) this Saturday morning.

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      • Can you convert that to mountain time?

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        • 4:20

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          • Actually, Transvulcania starts at 11 pm Friday night MDT.

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          • an honest mistake...

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          • brilliant

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  • Giuliano Cavallo is really training hard for this race, he's been doing some 40/50 mile trainig runs close to his hometown in the alps with impressive splits.

    He had a good one at Trail du Ventoux last month with a stacked field and he's looking forward to Transvulcania for an opportunity to show himself at european stage after the DNF at UTMB, where he run with the best until Courmayeur.

    Forza Giuliano!

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    • Thanks, Davide. This is great info. So glad you shared!

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  • Should be a good race. Looking forward to iRF's coverage. It is great to see the expanded international coverage, with so many great runners out there (including the US folks).

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  • What a field!! They should call this the unofficial 'ultra world championship.'

    My money is on Young Money... atleast for 2nd place.

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    • It's a bit early in the season to call it a championship.

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      • Unless there's a qualifying schedule/league, no need for a championship to come at the end of a season/year. :-) The deepest field is the deepest field whenever it occurs and I'm guess that's what most folks look for in terms of de facto championships.

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      • I know I know... but look at the field!! We're not likely to get many races with such global superstars.... over a distance that's relatively short (so it should be 'quick' with hopefully no elite DNFs)... over a course as tough as this.

        Yes I know it's not a championship... i was joking... but look at the field!! We're not likely...........

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        • Sorry my reply was meant to be before Bryon's... who I agree with completely. Infact sometimes at the end of the season, runners are a little worse for wear. Right now they're running on fresh legs!

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  • Could we take out the uphills? And how do people confuse me with Wardian in a photo? My hair's not that long :)

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    • Perhaps you and Anton can work as a team. ;-)

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  • Florent Troillet won the first ever ultra trail verbier-st.bernhard in switzerland in 2009. 105k +/- 700m in just about 12 hours. In the same summer he also finished third in his first attempt at sierre-zinal. He also won the collontrek in 2009. A shorter mountainrace from italy over the alps to switzerland. After a year off competitions he gave his comeback last november and won numerous ski-mo races and just about a week ago finished second (with his team of 3) at the legendary patrouille des glaciers ski mo race. Only a minute and a half behind kilianj with his team. We shall see him in a couple of legendary (ultra) trail races in europe this summer. And i say he could be counted as a favourite to the transvulania as well.

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    • agree! Florent is all class, his S-Z result shows that, if not his insane ski mountaineering results over the years. He will be mixing it up for sure

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  • I agree with Dakota, don't believe anyone is better than other one. They just love what they do, and it'll be great to see them leaving all they've got on the office and enjoy trails as they usually do.

    Get some cool pics from La Palma, we'll be following you.

    Cheers

    Mauricio

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    • Oh by the way, i'll be making a coverage in Spanish. If anyone is interested, http://www.trailrunargentina.com.ar is the site!

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  • Does this mean there will be a women's preview soon since the women's field is stacked too? :)

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    • Of course! The two fields were stacked enough that I figured I'd spread them over two days.

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  • I will put my money on Andy Symonds ! I've seen him won the recent trail in France with such a ease. He has an great speed (I read its best time at marathon is 2h38, realized at its last marathon at 18 years old !) and since living in France he has managed to grow the distance successfully. Lastly he was very easy for a 56 km race, so I think he can hold a 83 km race.

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  • Super psyched for your coverage, Bryon! Have an extra capp with european chocolate sprinkled on top for me! (Kristin Z, OR).

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  • Thanks for taking one for the team in going over to cover the race...tough job but somebody has to do it :-)

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  • European chocolate has NOTHING on our American artisan chocolatiers.

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  • Does anyone know what´s with Miguel Heras ? Haven´t heared anything about him after he dropped out at UTMB.

    My money is on Kilian. I wonder if ANYONE could possibly beat him ?

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    • Miguel is running Zegama-Aizkorri a week later- I am sure BP will have review next week

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      • Yes, and yes. :-)

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  • Heras has won TNF Taiwan this year so he's fit for zegema. Karrera is the guy to challange killian for me. He knows the course and when he jointly won last year I heard it was a cruise- knowing the course is always an advantage. Hope wolfe and jones can stay in the mix though. I think its too long for symonds to win outright......for now

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  • I think Kilian is as great as everyone else...

    ...but the fact that he is still skiing, today, leads me to believe he may not be the man to beat this time.

    Love to see one of the US contingent bring home the win!

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    • yes he is skiing still, but dose that mean he hasn't been running as well;-)

      but you are right, he may not be the one to beat, only time will tell

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  • I think the top five man are. Killian for sure, Dakota in best shape of his life, Geoff Roes (in the moment not 100 %, but in juli hardrock 100), wolfe and Karrera.

    Who is winning, may be Killian.

    Thomas

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  • Not sure Kilian will be taking this one. Still skiing and mentioned how sore he was after running with the Salomon team a week or so ago.

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  • I'm slightly disappointed that Bryon has already stolen you for the USA when the seat you left in the UK must almost be still warm! Haven't you got enough good ultra guys in the US without pinching one of our best ones Bryon! ;-)

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  • My bet on Seb Chaigneau and Andy Symonds regarding their recent results.

    Is there a live coverage somewhere?

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    • We'll provide live coverage as best we can and post links to other relevant coverage. :-)

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