2015 IAU Trail World Championships Men’s Preview

An in-depth preview of the men’s field at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy, France.

By on May 25, 2015 | Comments

IAU logoThe 2015 IAU Trail World Championships will be held in Annecy, France on Saturday, May 30 starting at 3:30 a.m. local time (CEST). The race is being run on the 85-kilometer Tecnica MaXi Race (previously Annecime) course that repeatedly climbs from and falls to the shores of Lake Annecy eventually yielding a total of over 17,000 feet (5.300m) of climbing.

Dozens of nations are sending delegations to compete in these trail world championships. The aggregate times of the top-three runners from each team will determine the team championships. Teams sending more than six runners must designate their six potential scoring runners before the race. As usual, the French federation and athletes appear excited at the prospect of competing in the world championships. This appears to be even more the case with them being the host country. [May 29 Update: However, Xavier Thévenard and Benoit Cori as well Ludovic Pommeret are not among the six designated scorers for the French team.] The neighboring Spaniards have also sent quite a strong squad that might be the favorite for the team win if everyone shows up. The U.K. team are the defending champions and could find themselves on the podium again, although they won’t have the advantage of being the hosts as the did when they won in 2013. While stronger than in past years, the American squad remains far from representative. It would take a surprise performance from someone to get the team higher than third. On paper, the Norwegians look like they could be the dark-horse candidate for the podium finish. There are, of course, surely delegations that will surprise the world this weekend.

As we wrap up a month in Europe, iRunFar will be on the ground providing live updates throughout the race.

Be sure to check out our women’s preview to learn about the women’s race.

Top Contenders

Luis Alberto Hernando - 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Luis Alberto Hernando

Fresh off his win at Transvulcania (post-race interview), Luis Alberto Hernando might be the favorite in Annecy on Saturday. His back-to back wins at Transvulcania and his victory at the Mont Blanc 80k (the Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category) last June make him the man to beat in races around 50 miles. Last year, he also won slightly longer races, including the 94k Tenerife Blue Trail and 104k Ultra Pirineu, putting the 85k race in Annecy even more securely in his wheelhouse.

With his win at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview), Alex Varner (pre-race interview) currently has the fitness for the top finish. That’s on top of taking third at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in San Francisco (post-race interview) and fourth at Lake Sonoma last year. Like Luis Alberto, 50 miles might be Alex’s perfect distance at the moment. That said, I don’t think Alex has ever run a style course like he’ll see in Annecy, with the de facto course often going straight up or down… well, that’s unless you count Alex’s many runnings of The Dipsea Race.

Xavier Thevenard - 2013 TNF UTMB

Xavier Thévenard

It would have been hard for France’s Xavier Thévenard to match his performances of 2013 in 2014 and, indeed, he didn’t quite do so. In 2013, he won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (post-race interview) and took second at Les Templiers. Of course, last year he did win the UTMB sister race TDS, but he only finished fourth at the MaXi Race (which hosts these world championships this year) as well as dropping out of a number of high-profile races.

Alex Nichols (pre-race interview) shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point, but he just may. He was third at Les Templiers last year and has pushed the pace at the TNF EC 50-Mile championships in the past prior to injury issues. Earlier this year, Nichols smoked the Moab Red Hot 55k course, beating Rob Krar and running the second-fastest time in race history there. Last year, Alex also won the Red Hot 55k and the Greenland Trail 50k (in 3:13) as well as placing third at the Speedgoat 50k (post-race interview).

Manuel Merillas - 2014 The Rut 50k - third

Manuel Merillas

Talk about being impressed… just a week after blowing up in the heat of Transvulcania, Spain’s Manuel Merillas (pre-race interview) took second at the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon. Of course, that’s after racing a ton last year with many top finishes including second at Trofeo Kima, third at The Rut 50k (post-race interview), and fifth at the Mont Blanc Marathon (the Skyrunning Skyrace World Championships in the Skymarathon category). Can this youngster bounce back again for another top finish?

Tom Owens is a Brit with plenty of trail experience. Fifty miles may still be at the end of his range, but, to me, this sort of course has Tom Owens written all over it. In 2014, Tom took sixth at Transvulcania, third at the Mont Blanc Marathon Skyrace, third at Ice Trail Tarentaise, and fourth at Trofeo Kima. This year, he’s already won the 75k Buffalo Stampede in Australia.

Gediminas Grinius - 2015 TNF Transgrancanaria

Gediminas Grinius

Sylvain Court is a runner who crushes it in France… but hasn’t had such luck elsewhere. Good thing for him, the world championships are in France! Last September, Sylvan won the 60k French trail national championships in September before taking second at Les Templiers in October. On the international stage, he was eighth at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in 2012 and 11th at Matterhorn Ultraks in 2014.

Just a year ago, there’s no way Gediminas Grinius would have been on this list… heck, he might not have made the preview at all, but what a year he’s had! He was third at Lavaredo Ultra-Trail and fifth at UTMB in 2014 before winning Transgrancanaria (post-race interview) in early March. He’s focused his training on next month’s Western States 100, but that training should have him well prepared this weekend.

While previously entered, Miguel Heras won’t be racing in Annecy due to a leg injury.

Other Top Runners

France’s Benoit Cori could be a bit of a wildcard for the home squad. He surprised us with his win at last year’s Les Templiers. However, he’d previously won a few French ultras, including the 75k Le SainteLyon in December 2013.

Spain’s Dani García had a breakout race when he placed second at Transvulcania just a few weeks ago. He didn’t bounce back a week later when he was 55th Zegama. Which Dani will we see this weekend?

Two years ago, Julien Rancon took third at the most recent 2013 IAU Trail World Championships held in Wales. The same year, he was third at Giir di Mont a year after taking fifth at Les Templiers. While little known outside France, the Trail du Ventoux seems to be the season-starting race there. (Americans, think Way Too Cool or Chuckanut.) Rancon showed he’s already in good form this year by winning the race in March. He was ninth at last year’s 60k-long French trail national championships.

Fabien Antolinos of France was sixth at the previous IAU Trail World Championships. Since then, he’s gone on to win the Endurance Trail des Templiers in 2013, placing second at both the MaXi Race and Ice Trail Tarentaise in 2014. Going a bit further back, he won the 69k Le SainteLyon in 2008 and Les Templiers in 2012.

Pablo Villa is also on the very strong Spanish squad. His eighth at this year’s Transvulcania after his ninth there last year may be a very good indication of where he could be come race’s end this Saturday.

Sébastien Spehler of France had a great start to 2014, including wins at Trail du Ventoux and the MaXi Race, which hosts this year’s world championships. After another couple wins, Spehler was sixth at the French trail national championships before taking 22nd at Les Templiers in October.

David Laney joined the ultrarunning ranks with a win at the Chuckanut 50k back in March 2013. Since then he’s won the Waldo 100k (2013), the Bandera 100k (2015), and Chuckanut 50k again (2015). Those are only his wins, as he’s run numerous other top performances with a fifth at last year’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile most relevant to this weekend’s race. Like the rest of the American’s from Team Nike–see Varner (above) and Tollefson (below), this course could be a real eye opener.

With barely a year as an ultrarunner, Tim Tollefson’s logged some solid results. At 50 miles, he eighth at last December’s TNF EC 50-Mile Championhips and seventh at Lake Sonoma in April. He also ran to third at the Way Too Cool 50k in a blazing 3:20 back in March.

Iain Ridgway placed fourth at the previous IAU Trail World Championships in Wales. He was two minutes behind Rancon and 20 minutes off the lead. This finish appears to be a bit of an upside outlier for the Brit, so perhaps there may have been a home-country advantage the last go around of the world championships.

With his lack of international racing, it’s hard to place where South African Iain Don-Wauchope might end up. That said, he’s won South Africa’s famous 43k Otter Run in 2012 and 2014, while placing second there in 2013. He’s also won the Salomon Skyrun South Africa the past two years.

The Norwegians have a surprisingly strong contingent at these world championships and Didrik Hermansen may be leading the charge. Earlier this year, he was second at Transgrancanaria after a busy 2014 in which he was second at Hornindal Rundt (75k), fourth at Ultravasan (90k), and 17th at Les Templiers. At the previous World Championships in 2013, he finished 10th.

Going back two IAU Trail World Championships, France’s Patrick Bringer was third. He’s followed that up with wins at the Trail du Ventoux in 2013 and Le SainteLyon in 2014 along with a fifth-place finish at Transvulcania in 2013. He was third at the MaXi Race last year, so he knows what he’s facing at these world championships.

Even More Top Men

Okay, this is a world championship with many countries sending some of their top runners. We can’t list all of them here (here’s the full entrants list as of mid-May), but we include a few more below. We may add some runners as additional details filter in via the comments… so comment away!

  • Mirco Berner (Germany) — 3rd Swiss Alpine Marathon (79k) 2014; 2nd GORE-TEX TransAlpine Run 2014
  • Franco Colle (Italy) — 1st Tor des Géants 2014; 3rd Tor des Géants 2013
  • Yassine Diboun (U.S.) — The fifth and final runner on the U.S men’s squad
  • Matthias Dippacher (Germany) — 3rd Eiger Ultra Trail 2014; 1st Swiss Irontrail 2013
  • Paul Giblin (U.K.) — 1st West Highland Way 2013 and 2014; 11th IAU 100k World Championships 2014
  • Eirik Haugsnes (Norway) — 5th Mont Blanc Marathon 2013; 6th Mont Blanc Marathon 2014 (Skyrunning World Champs in the Skymarathon category); 1st Tromsø Skyrace 2014
  • David Jeker (Canada) — 14th The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships 2014
  • Jason Loutitt (Canada) — 4th Chuckanut 50k 2014; 2nd Squamish 50 Mile 2013
  • Nicolas Martin (France) — 9th IAU Trail World Championships 2013; 4th Les Templiers 2012
  • Ludovic Pommeret (France) — 2nd Diagonale des Fous 2014; 3rd French Trail National Championships (60k) 2014 [Added May 29]
  • Florian Reichert (Germany) — 9th Mont Blanc Marathon 2013 & 2014 (the 2014 edition was a Skyrunning World Championshop in the Skymarathon category)
  • Jean-Yevs Rey (Switzerland) — 6th UTMB 2012
  • Lars-Erik Skjervheim (Norway) — 1st Hornindal Rundt (75k) 2014
  • Stefano Trisconi (Italy) — 4th Lavaredo 2013

Call for Comments

  • First off, we’d love to hear more about the runners competing for your country who we’ve not mentioned. Also, feel free to share more about the runners we have discussed above! One of the great things about this event is getting learn about runners we don’t see at other top international races.
  • Okay, so which men are going to finish on the podium? Who will win?
  • And for the teams… how will things shape up there?
  • Any surprises we should be on the lookout for?
  • Have we listed anyone above who you know won’t be racing? Do tell.
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.