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2013 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Men’s Preview

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

Ask me who I think will be racing for the win and two names come to mind: Kilian Jornet (pre-race interview) and Sage Canaday (pre-race interview).

Sage Canaday

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.

Timothy Olson

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.

Cameron Clayton

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.

Anton Krupicka

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.]

Thomas Lorblanchet

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 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 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 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?
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 (64)

  • Anton actually battled with Killian at another 50 miler in the fall the Cavalls de vent. Where he finished second. That was about a month after leadville. All though he hasnt raced since then.

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  • Odd to say in a race that features such talent, but I think Sage is the easy choice here. We can talk about a relative lack of experience, or this being a technical course on foreign soil; but running is ultimately running. And he's the best runner in the field.

    Perversely, I'm very interested to see the Let'sRun message boards after the race, no matter the result.

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  • Great preview Bryon! Just a note on AK's last race, was it not Cavalls del Vent in September 2012?

    Cheers, Matt

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  • Slight correction to Krupicka - his last race was late September and he had a very strong 2nd place finish to Jornet.

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  • Krupicka placed second behind Kilian Jornet at Cavalls Del Vent in September.

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    • Thanks, Matt, Spencer, Pete, and Dan. Long day at the keyboard! :-)

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  • Kilian, Anton, Heras, d’Haene, Lorbkachet, Campbell, Foote, Canaday, Olsen.

    Kilian is a risky pick given the fact it appears he has done very little if any running until this week. If he can hydrate and pace properly I think he will redeem himself. Or he will fail spectacularly like he did last year. Pretty amazing.

    I realize that Canaday is likely the fastest pure runner in the field. However, the seriously technical trail, crazy vert at the beginning and long down at the end will be very eye opening for Canaday. Placing in the top ten will be a huge accomplishment for him. Likewise, Olsen’s first exposure to Euro sky running will likely go the same way just about every US runners’ first experience has recently gone (very humbling – See 2011 with Dakota, Nick Clark and the gang at Sierre-Zinal and UTMB or Max King's experiences)

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    • David, from what I've seen, the vast majority of the TVU course is non-technical and the 8,000' climb is over a veeeerrryy long stretch. Certainly no more steep than Mount Washington, 4,500' in slightly less than the race's full 7.6 miles. Now, the downhill will definitely open Sage's eyes... after the downhill at Tarawera gave him challenges. :-)

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      • Having run with Cam Clayton an watched him (from afar!) descend in Moab, along with his recent form, he will be very strong at Transvulcania I feel...

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        • Good points but I still think Sage will place about where I have him. Yeah looks like Foote is out and I forgot about Clayton. I would not be surprised to see him place about where I had Foote.

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    • Ps. Foote took second at Zane Grey two weekends ago - I'm pretty sure he's not race Transvulcania.

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  • I see AK, Kilian, and Sage podium winners..in which order not sure. I feel AK has the vertical aspect of the race down as his training all year and years before have been focused on vertical gain. I also feel Sage is a one fast mofo! And Kilian...well Kilian is on another planet as far as his legs and lung power.

    But if I was to guess how it plays out...

    I see Tony and Kilian swapping back and forth for 2nd place as they chase Sage in the beginning. With Kilian finally taking 1st after swallowing Sage in the last 10 mile stretch. ( I feel Sage will go out fast as he always does but the vertical gain and descent will slow him down around mile 38-40.) Finally I see Tony finishing 2nd due to his strong climbing legs/vertical gain training being the lead factor, finally Sage right behind in a strong but winded 3rd.

    Its going to be a 50 mile version 2010 Western States show down...(TK, Kilian, and now Sage).

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  • Kilian had a bad day at world famous Trofeo Mezzalama, the skimo season closener.

    Noneteheless, I still see him battling it upfront with Sage and Tony (actually Tony raced another 50 miler last year, and he did it in style at Cavalls del Vent). D'Haene is a possible contender, and I agree with Thevenard as a darkhorse.

    Nice you listed some italians, actually the strongest starter will be Marco Zanchi, highest placed italian at 2011 UTMB. The course might suits him well.

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  • American podium sweep!

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  • Kilian is going to come out strong looking for some redemption, the dude is smart and very mental about his game and is learning a lot about race tactics. He's gonna force Sage to push hard in the beginning which is gonna cause Sage to burn out eventually... AK...? who know's, he'll probably just stick back and cruise in 4th or 5th and finish out in 3rd or 4th. Kilian will push strong all the way for the W, Clayton may pass up Sage if he burns out and take 2nd, putting Sage in 3rd and Tony picking up 4th... gonna be sick to watch, too bad I'll be running PCT50 at the time!

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    • I think it will be a real neck and neck race until the long downhill where AK and Kilian will leave everyone in the dust and Clayton will move up along with some of the Euros.

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    • Agreed with all.... except for the "too bad" part. Running is always better than watching running! With IRF's coverage, you get the best of both worlds.

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      • Hahaha!!! You couldn't be more right KenZ!

        Dave T. - Sage and Kilian are SUPER fast on the downhills, they'll pretty much smoke Anton, but that's just my opinion, which isn't worth a dime ;)

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        • I believe Sage said it himself.."I'm terrible running downhill..." I don't seen anyone "smoking" Anton if anything I see Anton smoking Sage both up and downhill.

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        • Agreed that Sage and Kilian can smoke the downhills, however, Sage has had some issues with downhills in the past (although his recent wicked fast downhill of Green shows he has improved), AK is also wicked fast and super experienced. He kept up with Kilian on the downhills at Cavalls Del Vent.

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  • Well, I had a pre-race vision for Lake Sonoma of Cameron Clayton winning and he didn't so I don't how reliable those are but it has happened again and I saw very clearly Cameron Clayton winning, followed by Francois D'haene and then Sage. Much to my surprise I saw Kilian finishing fourth.

    Despite what I have just described I am very excited to watch Kilian vs. Sage. A pure runner vs. whatever the heck Kilian is is incredibly intriguing and I think there will be much to learn from the outcome (about ultrarunning going forward).

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  • Anton is fit and healthy for the first time in a long time, so watch out mofo's. He's way more experienced than Sage in this type of setting and K-Dog isn't in running shape yet.

    1. Anton 2. Sage 3. Kilian

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  • Ohhhh man this is gonna be fun!!!

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  • DBo, does that mean you found that free plane ticket to La Palma?

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    • Haha! Not yet, BP :). Looks like I finally get to run R2R2R instead!

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      • Get after it Dylan! Crush the canyon!!!

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      • Don't leave it all out the, DBo. Save something for the big dance while everyone else is out racing. :-)

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  • Feels like Anton's race this year.

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  • I'm just happy to see Tony at the start. hoping he will have a great injury free season where he gets to compete again over the long haul

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    • I was in the Canyon that day, and he looked very, very good!

      JV in SD

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  • I think it is going to come down to Anton and Sage with Killian at the third spot. I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

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  • I am sure. Excellent preview by the way should have mentioned that as well. I look forward to the women's preview.

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  • Sage is a safe bet. He has been unstoppable this year, and a real joy to watch. I'd like to see Timmy Olson & kilian round out the podium!

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  • I would bet if you asked Krupicka, he would say he's in the best shape of his life with regards to preparing for a race such as this one. He's been clicking off 40,000 vertical weeks for quite a long time while keeping the mileage pegged back a bit for him - 100-130 miles per week.

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    • Spot on! Crazy amount of vertical gain each week for the past year or two....and then turning around and run a PR at the Grand Canyon! Plus his new documentary is coming out soon so it would make sense to marry a win with its release shortly after! My money is on AK or Kilian

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      • That would make sense but probably easier said than done. Kilian's only in it for the W this year.

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