This year’s Skyrunner Ultra Series finale will be run at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k this Saturday, starting at 7 a.m. local time. Being the first year the race is being run in Colorado, no one knows how the 100k course from Breckenridge to Vail will play out. It’s got a mix of trails over high mountain passes (12,000-feet-plus altitude) and paved roads. Regardless of whether someone is a mountain-running specialist or comes from a road-running background, all will be challenged by the course’s unrelenting, high-altitude nature. Here’s who’ll be facing off in what looks like a heated race for the $10,000 up for grabs by the guys alone.
Kilian Jornet (pre-race interview) is running UROC and, after another dominating summer, that’s got to make him the favorite despite the flatter paved sections on the course. When he’s not been setting inspiring fastest known times, such as on the Matterhorn, he’s won Transvulcania, Ice Trail Tarentaise, Trans d’Havet (with Luis Alberto Hernando), and Ultraks… to name a few.
Sage Canaday (pre-race interview) is having one of the best seasons of any North American ultrarunner. Domestically, he’s won against stacked fields at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview) and Speedgoat 50k (post-race interview), running faster than Kilian did last year. He’s also won the Bandera 100k (in course-record time) and the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 Mile (post-race interview). Internationally, he held off Timothy Olson to win the Tarawera 100k (post-race interview) in March before finishing third to Kilian and Luis Alberto at Transvulcania. He also recently broke Rickey Gates’s FKT for Colorado’s storied Four Passes Loop through the Maroon Bells. In addition, it’s unlikely that any top competitor has spent more time on the course recently than Canaday, who is quite focused on this race.
Kilian and Sage are still battling it out for the Skyrunner Ultra Series title. Having won both his races – Transvulcania and Ice Trail – so far in this best-three-of-five, point-based series, Kilian leads Sage 200 points to 178. For the men, points in each race break down as follows: 100-88-78-72-68-66-64-62-60-58-56-54-52-50 down to 2 points to 40th position with a 20% point bonus for the final race. That means a first or second place guarantees Kilian the series win. If Sage wins and Kilian takes third or worse, Sage wins the series. Up for grabs is a $3,000 first prize with $1,500 going to second.
One of the few who’ve bested Kilian in an ultra in recent years is Dakota Jones (pre-race interview)when he won Transvulcania (post-race interview) in May 2012. This year, Jones has adventured more and raced less, but that’s not hurt his performance. He decisively won the San Juan Solstice (race report) in June besting one of Matt Carpenter’s legendary records in the process after finishing second to Rob Krar at the Moab Red Hot 55k in February. Not feeling ready, Jones skipped UTMB last month. Don’t count him out at UROC; he’s well trained and hungry.
Ready to join the Rob Krar (pre-race interview) 2013 Course-Record Tour? Moab Red Hot 55k (February 16, Moab, UT), Leona Divide 50 Mile (April 27, Lake Hughes, CA), and Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (May 10, Grand Canyon, AZ). (What tour stops are we missing?) In his 100-mile debut, Krar crushed it in taking second at Western States in 15:22 (post-race interview). He also won the team competition at the TransRockies Run in August.
Rickey Gates (pre-race interview) is feeling good about his fitness going into UROC, as he should. In just the past week, he’s lowered his personal best on the Four Passes Loop by seven minutes in an attempt to retake his FKT title from Sage (he missed retaking the record, though) and finally won the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in Aspen. As a long-time Aspen resident, we’d expect Rickey to be quite familiar with terrain similar to UROC’s, if not portions of the course itself.
Cameron Clayton (pre-race interview) may want to temper his all-out, do-or-die approach with the depth atop the UROC field. Then again, that approach led him to third at the TNF EC 50 last December as well as second at Lake Sonoma (post-race interview) and seventh at Transvulcania this spring. There’ve been some spectacular blowups in there, as well. Earlier this month, Clayton won the eight-stage, 261-kilometer GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run with Greek runner Dimitris Theodorakakos.
Cameron Clayton (114 points), Martin Gaffuri (104 pts, discussed below), Luke Nelson (66 pts, discussed below), and Rickey Gates (60 pts) all have a realistic shot at taking third place in the Skyrunning’s Ultra Series away from François D’haene, who currently has 154 points but is not racing UROC. Should someone take third away from D’haene, they’ll go home with an extra $750.
Other Top Runners
Josh Arthur – Arthur took fourth at the Run Rabbit Run 100 two weeks before UROC. We’re still waiting to hear whether or not he’s decided to run this coming weekend. If he does, it’ll be on heavy legs.Update 9/23: Josh Arthur won’t be racing after his fourth-place run at the Run Rabbit Run 100 two weeks before UROC.
- Trent Briney – With a 2:12 marathon PR, a recent shift toward ultras, and the second-fastest time ever at the JFK 50 Mile last November, we’d put him in contention for a podium spot but for the fact that fatigue and health issues have plagued him this year and kept him from running Western States in late June.
Ryan Burch – Had a couple great runs this spring–thirds at the Moab Red Hot 55k and Quad Rock 5o Mile–before going quiet with other obligations. Not certain he’s racing UROC as he’s signed up for a local trail marathon the following weekend.Update 9/23: Ryan Burch won’t be running UROC.
- Matt Flaherty (pre-race interview) – Flaherty’s the most likely guy from this list to sneak onto the UROC podium, which he did in 2011 when he was third. This year, Matt won the American River 50 Mile (6:08), took fourth (6:10) at a speedy Ice Age 50 Mile, and then second to Sage at Cayuga Trails in June. Since then he’s been racing shorter stuff.
- Martin Gaffuri – He won’t be on the podium, but he improved his 21st at Transvulcania to a seventh at Ice Trail Tarentaise and is looking for a top placing in Skyrunning’s ultra series.
- Gary Gellin – His 2013 hasn’t been quite as strong as his 2012. That said, he took sixth at the Way Too Cool 50k in 3:36 this spring and ninth at the Pikes Peak Marathon last month. It’s worth noting that he was ninth at the TNF EC 50 Mile champs less than 10 months ago.
- Ryan Ghelfi – Won the Siskiyou Out Back in July with a time on par with Max King and Erik Skaggs after a near course-record win at the Buffalo Run 50k in March and a 9th at Lake Sonoma in April.
- Troy Howard – Textbook Howard at Hardrock this July. He meticulously prepped for one race and nailed it, taking second (post-race interview).
- Luke Nelson – Multi-talented mountain athlete Nelson is having another strong season. Highlights include a distant fourth at the San Juan Solstice, sixth at Speedgoat, and his fifth-straight win at El Vaquero Loco 50k in Wyoming.
- Justin Ricks – An extremely talented trail runner with great success at races up to 50k. He’s not yet seen corresponding success above that distance. Ricks was the runner-up at last November’s USATF Trail Marathon Championships on the gnarly Moab Trail Marathon course. Again in Moab, he smoked the Red Hot 33k field this February in course-record time. Update 9/25: It looks like Justin won’t be racing UROC due to illness.
Marcin Świerc – A top mountain runner in Poland who took tenth at Transvulcania this year. With no public mentions of the race from Marcin that we can find, we’re uncertain as to whether he’ll be racing.Update 9/24: Marcin Świerc will not be traveling to the States to run UROC.
- José Virginio de Morais – A top Brazilian trail runner, who’s not raced much on large international stages. We’re giving him the benefit of the doubt given our unfamiliarity with Portuguese and the Brazilian racing scene.
- Michael Wardian – Wardian’s back to racing after a rough 2012 due to injuries. He won the 2013 TNF EC 5o Mile – DC before running an indoor 3:12 50k in July. A rough go with altitude at Speedgoat in late July does not bode well for Wardian at UROC, but that won’t stop him from trying.
Kalib Wilkinson – Watch out for Kalib’s speed. He’s shown he has it in spades with fourth-place finishes at the JFK 50 in 2011 and the USATF Trail Marathon championships in 2012. This year he took another fourth, this time at the White River 50 Mile.[Update 9/28: Kalib Wilkinson did not start the race.]
- Jason Wolfe – Without much fanfare, J-Wolfe’s had a great past year, winning the Bootlegger 50k in 3:39 last November, taking sixth at the TNF EC 50 Mile, finishing second at the Leona Divide 50 Mile (a minute ahead of Mike Wolfe) in April, and winning the Imogene Pass Run a few weeks ago. Despite a recent knee injury suffered in a fall at Imogene, Wolfe will be racing and has an outside shot at the podium.
Notable Entrant Absences
For a variety of reasons the following entrants or their sponsors have confirmed they won’t be running UROC this year.
- Dylan Bowman
- Duncan Callahan
- Adam Campbell
- Mick Donges
- Max King
- Anton Krupicka
- Dave Mackey
- Karl Meltzer
- Gustavo Reyes
- Paul Terranova
- Mike Wolfe
Call for Comments
- Okay, who’ll be battling for the win and who’ll take it in the end?
- Who’ll be the biggest surprise in the top five?
- Any more runners who are on UROC’s elite list that won’t be running for whatever reason?
- Anyone not listed above that we could see in the top 10 at some point in the day?