Deeply rooted in history (think future king of independent Sweden escaping on skis 500 years ago), the Vasaloppet is the world’s oldest and largest Nordic ski race, with more than 15,000 participants. Last year, the Vasaloppet organization introduced UltraVasan, a 90-kilometer (56-mile) footrace on the same historic route followed by the ski race. The mostly dirt- and gravel-road course is flat and fast with local resident Jonas Buud covering the course in a hair over 6 hours in 2014.
To get more of a feel for UltraVasan, read American Helen Cospolich’s report from last year’s race.
We’ll be in Sweden to cover the race live, which starts at 5 a.m. Central European Summer Time on Saturday, August 22nd. That’s 9 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Friday, August 21st in the U.S.
Thanks to the Vasaloppet organization for making our coverage possible.
2015 UltraVasan Men’s Preview
It should be a serious race at the front of the men’s field at UltraVasan, where Jonas Buud and Max King have to be the favorites. Both are extremely strong runners on both the road and the trails with great results within the past year.
Among Jonas Buud’s (pre-race interview) recent top results are a win at the inaugural UltraVasan last August and a second place at IAU 100k World Championships last November (interview). Buud claims that his run at UltraVasan was one of his best runs ever and that’s from a guy that’s also been second at Comrades, second at Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, and second twice at the 100k World Championships. If there’s a course suited to Buud, it’s UltraVasan. Why? Because Buud essentially lives on the course. Last year, he won the race in 6:02:03. That’s a heck of a time for 90k off pavement, no matter how flat those kilometers are! Buud tends to run within himself, working his way up late in races. That could be a huge advantage with him knowing the UltraVasan course like the back of his hand.
Max King is, well, Max King. (pre-race interview) He’s also the only guy to beat Buud at last year’s 100k World Championships (interview, race report), where he ran a North American record at the distance. However, since then King’s not raced much at high-profile trail events and hasn’t had the best results when he has. For example, he was ninth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April and way back at last month’s US Mountain Running Championships, where he was, admittedly, a bit worn out from directing the race, too. King’s faster than Buud on paper, but can he turn his season around and beat Buud on the Swede’s home turf? We’ll see on Saturday!
He’s not yet a household name, but Norway’s Didrik Hermansen is working in that direction. After taking second at Transgrancanaria in March, he won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in June (interview). In between, he was 10th at the IAU Trail World Championships in May. Last November, Hermansen was 21st at the 100k World Championships, some 40-plus minutes behind King. The Norwegian was fourth at the inaugural UltraVasan last year.
Matt Flaherty comes to UltraVasan from the speedier side of ultrarunning with particular strength at 50 miles (80k). He was the USATF Road 50 Mile National Champ in 2013 while also taking third at the USATF Trail 50 Mile National Championships last year. That said, he’s been set back most of the first half of this year with a foot injury. He’s got a 5:28 PR for 50 miles on the road, but even if at 100% that wouldn’t likely put him ahead of a dueling Buud and King.
Like Flaherty, France’s Emmanuel Gault is a stud at race distances from 70 to 80k. He won three 80k’s in the first half of 2015, including improving by 5 minutes to a 5:35 at EcoTrail de Paris, which he also won in 2013. Back in 2011, Gault won the CCC.
In addition to Hermansen, two more Norwegians from last year’s UltraVasan will be racing this year. Jarle Risa took third last year in 6:23, and was 14th IAU 100k World Champs in 2011 with a time of 7:01. John Henry Strupstad took fifth at UltraVasan last year in 6:28 and was the 2013 Norwegian marathon champion. Last November, he was 15th at the IAU 100k World Championships in 7:04.
Other Top Men
- Michael Boch (France) — 22nd IAU 100k World Champs 2014 (7:13); 1st Winschoten 100k 2013 (6:46).
- Johan Eriksson (Sweden) — 7:24 100k in 2014.
- Daniel Nilsson (Norway) — 7th UltraVasan 2014.
- Arnaud Perrignon (France) — 12th Les Templiers 2014; 7th French Trail National Championships 2014 (60k).
- Jae-Duk Sim (South Korea) — 12th Western States 100 2011.
- Johan Steene (Sweden) — Ran 239k (149 miles) at the IAU 24 Hour World Championships 2015.
- Patrick Wikström (Sweden) — 11th UltraVasan 2014; only 22 years old.
2015 UltraVasan Women’s Preview
Unfortunately, the top of the women’s field has been pared by injury–Jo Meek of the U.K. and Mimmi Kotka of Sweden–and administrative policies–Holly Rush as she’ll be racing for the U.K. at the 100k World Championships just a few weeks later.
With those women out, Swiss runner and former Olympic Nordic skier Jasmin Nunige looks to be the clear favorite on the women’s side. Including her win a few weeks ago, she’s now a six-time winner of the 78-kilometer Swiss Alpine Marathon. If she’s racing anything, it’s most likely to be Holly Rush’s course record of 7:09:04.
Other Top Women
- Petra Kindlund (Sweden) — 11th Mont Blanc Marathon 2014; three wins at TjurRuset (2012 to ’14).
- Margrethe Løgavlen (Norway) — 2nd Le Trail de Paris-Ile de France 80k 2013 (7:18).
- Maria Lundgren (Sweden) 18th IAU 100k World Championships 2008; 13th IAU Trail World Championships 2009.
Call for Comments
- Are you excited for the show in the men’s race? Who will come out on top?
- Can Jasmin Nunige set a new course record?
- I’m sure there are some top Scandanavian runners who I’ve missed in the preview. Please let me and the rest of the iRunFar community know who else we should be looking out for on Saturday!
- Any readers ever ski Vasaloppet? If so, how was your experience with the course, the host town of Mora, and Sweden?