I’ll skip what’s become a standard stream of superlatives about nearly every race iRunFar covers being the most competitive this or that. We all know that the ultramarathon bar keeps rising and this year’s men’s field at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, is certainly no exception. To see who’s best on the day, they’ll race about 52 miles (83.3k) of volcanic terrain that adds up to roughly 14,000′ (4,000 m) of climbing and a bit less descent on this point-to-point course. The weather should be relatively mild at 75F (24C) for a high by the sea, but moderate humidity and lots of sun exposure can take their toll on runners even if it could be cool when the runners approach El Roque de los Muchachos at nearly 8,000′ (2400 m). We’ll be covering the race starting at 6 am local time (WEST) on Saturday, May 11, which is 11 pm (MDT) on Friday, May 10 in the States.
2013 Transvulcania Men’s Favorites
Kilian’s inclusion is no surprise, as he’s almost always the favorite in any trail ultramarathon he enters. The only issue here, and it’s a biggy, is that his final ski-mountaineering race of the season was this past weekend, which means it’s quite unlikely he’s done any serious running at all this season. A similar lack of recent running surely contributed to Kilian finishing third at last year’s Transvulcania after fading late. (post-race interview)
In contrast, Sage has been killing it so far this year with course records at the Bandera 100k, Tarawera Ultra (post-race interview), and Lake Somona 50 Mile (post-race interview). His season so far reminds me of Dave Mackey’s early 2011 and Timothy Olson’s start to 2012, which immediately make people think of Ultrarunner of the Year… even if the season’s just getting started. Anyway, Sage is straight crushing it and he’s been training specifically for Transvulcania. He knows he’s not as strong as some of the others at descending… so he’s been working on it. On the other hand, Sage is the reigning Mount Washington Road Race champ with the American record there, so he’s likely to be leading the nearly 8,000-foot charge up to the caldera rim.
In different circumstances, I’d include Miguel Heras and Timothy Olson as likely contenders for the win, but both have been hit with injury.
Heras’s two wins at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships (2010 and 2012 post-race interviews) have shown he can beat anyone at the distances on a given day, and sometimes quite handily. However, Heras dropped just 5k into last month’s Lake Sonoma 50 and he’s had to similarly withdraw from numerous races over the past year. While Heras dropped at Sonoma, Olson might have been better off having done the same, as he was battling an injury. The defending Western States 100 champ did run very well at Tarawera, nearly catching Canaday, who faded badly, and ran second to Dylan Bowman at the Ray Miller 50-Mile in February, but he’s not quite regained his 2012 form despite wisely ending his season after Run Rabbit Run 100 in September. Maybe his two weeks on La Palma pre-race will recharge his spirit.
Aside from Jornet and Heras, Team Salomon has two more threats for the win: Cameron Clayton (pre-race interview) and François d’Haene. Clayton is still a newcomer to the sport, but showed poise in taking second to Canaday at Lake Sonoma last month, beating Max King in the process. In his two other ultras, Clayton has taken third at the TNF EC 50 in December 2012 and set a course record at the Run Rabbit Run 50-Mile last September. His growing experience is sure to help. François d’Haene is the defending TNF Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc champ, so he’s shown he can win on a big day. He also ran an impressive second place (just edging out Clayton) at the TNF 50 in December. Before Tarawera in March, d’Haene said that Transvulcania was one of his focus races for the year, so look for him to bring his A-game.
And so we get to Anton Krupicka (pre-race interview), a fan favorite and certainly a contender for the podium. However, aside from his day-to-day training reporting, there’s little to show of Krupicka’s current fitness as he’s not raced since taking second behind Kilian at Cavalls del Vent in September, not long after taking fourth at Leadville in August 2012. The one current reading we have is Krupicka’s recent sub-7 hour effort for a Grand Canyon double crossing. It was a 16-minute PR for him and the second fastest time run for a double crossing. Only Dakota Jones, last year’s Transvulcania champ (Note: He’ll not be defending his title), has run a faster rim-to-rim-to-rim effort. Given that Krupicka skipped Tarawera to focus on staying healthy for Transvulcania, this could very well be a race in which he reasserts himself. [Update: Anton is out because of the flu.]
Three final men who I think could end the day on the Transvulcania podium: Adam Campbell, Thomas Lorblanchet, and Luis Alberto Hernando. When Campbell has an on day, it’s an impressive thing. In the past couple years, I think of his win at last year’s Chuckanut 50k, his second at the inaugural Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, and his third at the 2011 TNF EC 50. He also finished fourth in December’s TNF 50 despite a wrong turn early in the race. If I recall correctly, he’s had some injury issues early this year, and, regardless, he’s yet to race an ultra. It’s time to see what he can do. Thomas Lorblanchet highlighted his 2012 with a win at the Leadville 100 in August. Previously, he’s won and reached the podium at many highly competitive ultras in France and around Europe. As for Hernando, after competing for Spain in the biathlon (10k and 20k) in 2006, he’s jumped into the trail running world. He was the 2011 Skyrunning World Series champion and the 2012 Skyrace Series champ. He took second to Jornet at the Zegama Marathon in 2012.
Other Top Men’s Runners in the 2013 Transvulcania Ultramarathon
Aside from the above, nearly another 20 men have at least an outside shot at the top 10 at this year’s Transvulcania. Here they are:
Mohamad Ahansal – Mohamad is just off his fifth win at the Marathon des Sables last month, so while he might not be fresh, he’s in top form.
- Nicola Bassi – Despite being only 25, this Italian has been racing ultras for five years. His best performances include 10th at last year’s TNF Lavaredo Ultra Trail and 9th at this year’s Hong Kong 100k.
- Patrick Bringer – This Frenchman brings plenty of wins at 45k to 50-mile ultras as well as a 3rd place at the 2011 IAU World Trail Championships at Connemara. He’s already won the 46k Trail du Ventoux this spring.
- Miguel Caballero – While this Spaniard is just coming out of skimo season, he’s a regular to Skyrunning, taking 6th in the World Series combined ranking last year. He was 2nd at the GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run in 2011 and 6th at the Zegama Marathon in 2012.
- Sylvain Couchaud – After a stellar 2011 in which he placed 2nd at Les Templiers, Frenchman Couchaud did not have as strong a 2012 season.
- Yann Curien – Curien’s top finishes include a 2nd at Les Templiers in 2010, 8th at IAU Worlds at Connemara in 2011, and 6th at Les Templiers last year. He was 19th man at Transvulcania last year.
Joe Grant – Joe was 12th at last year’s Transvulcania. His sole race this year? A second place at the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska. Yeah, no typo there – 350-miles on snow in Alaska in winter.
- Zigor Iturrieta – Except for a blow-up at last year’s TNF UTMB, Zigor is a rock-steady ultrarunner with a 2nd (’11) and 4th (’12) at Lavaredo, a third at UTMB (’10), and a 4th at Transgrancanaria (’13) to his credit.
- David James – Two-time 100 mile US champ with some strong runs at 50 miles under his belt.
- Guiseppi Marazzi – An Italian with a couple finishes in the back half of the top 10 at the longer Lavaredo Ultra Trail distances (7th ’10, 9th ’12)
- Luke Nelson – The most multi-talented of the American contingent, Nelson has seen success in ski mountaineering and short trail races as well as ultras.
- Santiago Obaya – While Obaya was 9th at Transvulcania in 2011, the race has exploded since then. In March, the Spaniard ran 5th at Transgancanaria.
Philipp Reiter – Philipp may only be 21, but he was 11th at last year’s Transvulcania before winning Zugspitz Supertrail and Salomon 4 Trails. The German earned 3rd in the 2012 Ultra Skymarathon Series rankings.
- Gustavo Reyes – Argentinian Reyes cleans up in South America. In Europe, he was 16th man at Transvulcania last year and 14th at the IAU World Trail Running championships in 2011.
- Stefano Ruzza – A top Italian ultra-distance trail runner who’s yet to race much at the international level.
- Armando Teixeira – From Portugal, Teixeira had a strong 2012, placing 2nd at Transgrancanaria, 7th at Cavalls del Vent, and 11th at TNF UTMB.
- Xavier Thevenard – Frenchman Theveard won the CCC in 2010 and Les Templiers in 2011. At 24 years old, he’s got a lot of upside. He’s my dark horse if he’s healthy.
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will win this year’s Transvulcania?
- Did we miss anyone or is there someone we’ve mentioned that stands to place well?
- What aspects of this year’s race intrigue you the most?