2015 Ultra Pirineu Preview

A preview of the 2015 Ultra Pirineu.

By on September 15, 2015 | Comments

Ultra Pirineu 2015 logoIt’s understandable if you don’t know Spain’s Ultra Pirineu. This is only the second year the event has been run under this name. You may be more familiar with its predecessor, the Cavalls del Vent. While the distance has changed from an approximately 85-kilometer circuit of the Cavalls del Vent trail circuit (with a start and finish in nearby Bagà) to what’s now an 110-kilometer course that visits the valley of Cerdanya to the north, the level of competition remains extremely high such that it feels like the de facto Spanish ultra championship.

Kilian Jornet - SalomonThe 1,000 runners will have to tackle over 22,000 feet (6,800 meters) of climbing to finish the race. However, the course is not overly technical and when it occasionally flattens out, racers can burn rubber.

The race starts at 7 a.m. CEST on Saturday, September 19th. That’s 11 p.m. MDT on Friday, September 18 in the States. We’ll be there covering the race live.

Thanks for Salomon for its support in making our coverage of Ultra Pirineu possible.

2015 Ultra Pirineu Men’s Preview

Luis Alberto Hernando - 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Luis Alberto Hernando

In addition to winning Transvulcania in May, Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race interview) was second at the IAU Trail World Championships (also in May) and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (interview) last month. What’s more, he won Ultra Pirineu last September, besting second place by over an hour! The thing most likely to hamper Hernando this weekend is that second place at UTMB only fourthree weeks earlier in what was his first 100-mile finish. In chatting with Luis Alberto after UTMB, he indicated that he might run conservatively at Ultra Pirineu, in hopes of taking home a high placing in the Skyrunner World Series ultra category.

In contrast, Kilian Jornet (pre-race interview) should be incredibly fresh. As far as we know, he’s not raced anything since crushing the Hardrock 100 in May save for a Vertical K race or two, although he’s got plenty of big training days in Norway and the Alps. In addition, if Kilian has a home course, it’s this one as he grew up only a few kilometers north of the course. He won Cavalls del Vent (UP’s predecessor) back in 2012, beating out Anton Krupicka, Dakota Jones, Manuel Merillas, and more.

Catalunya’s Francesc Solé was last year’s runner up to Hernando at Ultra Pirineu. He’s also the two-time defending champ at the nearby Ronda del Cimes. He’s really stepped up his game the past two years after placing 16th and 13th at Cavalls del Vent in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

With Jessed Hernandez’s return, all of last year’s UP podium will be back for this year’s race. This year, Jessed has won the Ultra Trail de Barcelona and taken sixth at Ice Trail Tarentaise.

Miguel Heras - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Miguel Heras

When he’s healthy, Miguel Heras is one of the world’s best ultrarunners. Sadly, that seems to be rarely the case these days. He ran fast in a pair of races in Spain this summer, but hasn’t made a showing on the world stage this year. In healthier times, Heras won Cavalls del Vent in 2011 and was third in 2013.

Blake Hose would attempting his longest race to date, as far as we can tell. This youngster has a pair of wins at the 100k Great Ocean Walk in his native Australia the previous two years. More impressively, he was third at Transvulcania in May after placing fourth at the MSIG Sai Kung 50k in February. [Update Sept 16: Blake Hose has let us know that he won’t be racing.]

Continuing the string of returning talent is the Canarian runner Yeray Durán. He was fourth man at last year’s Ultra Pirineu; however, he was fifth overall as he got Picas-ed. If you don’t know him, he was fourth at last year’s Transgrancanaria and third at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail earlier this year.

In what must have been quite a duel, Josep Cebria finished all of 14 seconds behind Duran to place sixth at Ultra Pirineu last September.

While Italian Franco Collé, who is on the rise in the international trail-ultra scene in the last couple years, he is not yet on the official entrants list, when we interviewed him after his win of the The Rut 50k (interview) two weekends ago, he expressed his intent to both race Ultra Pirineu and go after the win of the Skyrunner World Series ultra division. The race has now confirmed him as a late entrant. [Added Sept 15]

Despite not yet winning one of the contended races, Cristofer Clemente sits in second the Skyrunner World Series ultra rankings. His best run of the season likely came two weeks ago when he was second at The Rut 50k. Earlier this year, he’s been seventh at Transvulcania, third at the MSIG Sai Kung 50k, and eighth at the Tromsø Skyrace.

Pablo Villa’s been ninth and eighth at the past two runnings of Transvulcania. This year, he’s also been 16th at the IAU Trail World Championships and eighth at the Ice Trail Tarentaise.

Zaid Ait Malek - 2015 Zegama Marathon

Zaid Ait Malek

Travel issues have kept Zaid Ait Malek from racing the past few months, but he’ll add some excitement to this weekend’s race, which will be his longest to date. His longest race so far has been the 84.5k Transgrancanaria Advanced, where he’s finished second and third the past two years. He won the Matterhorn Ultraks in 2014. He’s finished fourth, fifth, and eighth the past three runnings of the Zegama Marathon.

Aurelian Dunand-Pallaz of France was 10th at Transvulcania this year, seventh at the Mont Blanc 80k last year, and seventh at the CCC in 2013.

Miguel Caballero was fifth at Cavalls del Vent in 2013. That year, he was also eighth at Transvulcania. In 2014, he took third at Penyagolosa behind Miguel Heras and Dani Garcia.

Sebastien Buffard’s resume included a ninth at UTMB (2012) and 10th at Diagonale des Fous (2013) to go along with plenty of wins at various races in the Pyrenees.

Pau Capell has racked up some wins in Spain this year, with victories at the Transgrancanaria Advanced, Ultra Mallorca, and near-to-UP Volta Cerdanya, among others. In May, at the more competitive Transvulcania, he was 20th.

Other Men to Watch

  • Cristobal Adell — 5th Zegama Marathon 2013; 11th Giir di Mont 2013
  • Ernest Ausiro — 13th Cavalls del Vent 2013; 11th Transvulcania 2015; 5th BUFF Epic Trail 2014
  • Leonardo de Sousa — 10th Cavalls del Vent 2013; 12th Cavalls del Vent 2014
  • Luís Duarte — 3rd Madiera Island Ultra Trail 2015; 10th Ultra Pirineu 2014
  • Zigor Iturrieta — 4th Transgrancaria 2013; 5th Cavalls del Vent 2011
  • Lee Kemp — 6th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015; 1st Highland Fling 2013; 11th CCC 2014

2015 Ultra Pirineu Women’s Preview

Nuria Picas - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Núria Picas

For someone from the United States, it’s a bit shocking to see only 75 women’s entrants as compared to 986 men. Still, the front of the race will feature quite the showdown between Emelie Forsberg (pre-race interview) and Núria Picas.

Núria Picas will be the local fan favorite, if not the favorite to win the race. She’s won Ultra Pirineu/Cavalls del Vent every year since 2011 and lives only a few kilometers from the start/finish in Berga. That said, 2015 hasn’t seen Núria dominate the way she did in 2014. Most recently, she dropped out early at UTMB. Can she return to the form that earned her fourth overall at Ultra Pirineu last year?

The bigger question might be, can any woman beat Emelie Forsberg? The likely answer? No. She’s won all four Skyrunning ultra-distance races she’s run this year: Transvulcania (interview), Ice Trail Tarentaise, Tromsø, and The Rut 50k (interview) just two weeks ago. Emelie’s also been trying to win Skyrunning’s Sky and Vertical Kilometer World Series, so the only thing that might be able to stop her is the amount of racing she’s done since May.

Nepal’s Mira Rai has some strong wins this year with victories at the MSIG Sai Kung 50k and the Mont Blanc 80k. Last month, she raced Forsberg at the Tromsø Skyrace and took second, 14 minutes back in the seven-hour race.

Anna Comet - 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Anna Comet

Similar to Rai, Anna Comet took second to Forsberg at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in May. There, she finished a full half hour behind the Swede. Anna was second to Rai at the Mont Blanc 80k in June before placing fifth at the Ice Trail Tarentaise in July.

Czech runner Anna Strakova has had a strong 2015, taking ninth at the IAU Trail World Championships in May before placing third at the Ice Trail Tarentaise in July. At ITT, Strakova was half an hour behind Forsberg, but half an hour ahead of Comet.

South Africa’s Landie Greyling has won two Skyrunning Continental Championship races this year, winning Australia’s Buffalo Stampede in April and the Dodo Trail in Mauritius in July.

A Russian living in Turkey, Elena Polyakova could chase a top spot. She has many trail ultramarathon wins in Turkey while she placed third at the Zugspitz Ultratrail last year.

Portugal’s Ester Alves is always one to watch, but she did race an incredible amount early in 2015. Back in March she was sixth at Transgrancanaria before placing seventh at Transvulcania in May. A month ago, she dropped from UTMB with physical issues.

Other Women to Watch

  • Gemma Arenas — 7th Ice Trail Tarentaise 2015
  • Elisabet Bertran — 4th at Ultra Pirineu 2014; 5th Mont Blanc 80k 2015; 10th Ice Trail Tarentaise 2015
  • Julia Böttger — 1st Ronda del Cimes 2014; 4th Madiera Ultra Trail 2015
  • Roser Español — 1st Ultra Mític – Andorra Ultra Trail (112k) 2015
  • Judit Franch — 5th Cavalls del Vent 2013
  • Magdalena Ostrowska-Dolegowska — 7th Transgrancanaria 2014
  • Lada Zrzavecka — 1st Swiss Irontrail 121 2015

 Call for Comments

  • Who’s going to win Ultra Pirineu this year?
  • Did we miss anyone who could contend for a top spot?
  • Are any of the runners we included not running?
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.