There’s no question that this year’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc men’s field is ridiculously deep. That’s where the lack of questions ends. For each talented runner, there seems to be an important question that will only be answered on the trail around Mont Blanc.
[We’ve previously published a UTMB women’s preview, if you’re interested.]
We’ll have a full team over in the Alps covering this year’s UTMB starting at 6 p.m. CEDT on Friday, August 28th, that’s 10 a.m. Mountain Time in the States.
Thanks to Flora for making our UTMB coverage possible.
For the Win
There’s no question that Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race interview) is a supremely talented ultrarunner. He’s won the Transvulcania Ultramarathon the past two years (2015 interview) after taking second to Kilian Jornet in 2013, he was second at the IAU Trail World Championships in May (interview), and won the Ice Trail Tarentaise in July. However, he’s only started one 100-mile race and that was last year’s UTMB where he dropped out. To be sure, there’s a steep learning curve in 100 milers, so, the question is, did Luis Alberto learn enough in last year’s UTMB to come out on top?
Like Hernando, Sage Canaday (pre-race interview) is a proven ultrarunner. In 2014 alone, he won the Tarawera Ultramarathon (interview), Speedgoat 50k, and The North Face 50 Mile in San Francisco (interview), as well as taking third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (interview) and Transvulcania (interview) and second at The Rut 50k (interview). After focusing on an Olympic Trials marathon qualifier early in the year, Canaday has only run two ultras, placing 15th at the Comrades Marathon in June and winning Speedgoat for the third year in a row last month. Canaday’s been over in Chamonix training specifically for the race, but can he perform in what will be his first attempt at 100 miles?
When Miguel Heras (pre-race interview) is on, he’s on. He’s won The North Face 50 Mile (2010 and 2012), Transgrancanaria (2010), Transvulcania (2011), Zugspitz Ultratrail (2011), Ronda del Cimes (2011), and Cavalls del Vents (2011), just to name a few of his accomplishments. However, he’s seemingly either not started or dropped out of just as many races as those in which he’s seen success. Miguel’s history at UTMB is emblematic of his running. He’s started the race numerous times, but only has one finish. However, that one finish was a second-place behind Xavier Thevenard in 2013 (interview). He was entered last year, but didn’t start due to injury. I suppose that leaves two questions for Miguel to answer: Will he start and will he finish?
As noted above, Xavier Thevenard won UTMB in 2013 (interview). He’s also won the event’s sister races, CCC in 2010 and TDS last year. With his win at UTMB, second at Les Templiers, and third at the Mont Blanc 80k, 2013 has been Thevenard’s high water mark to date. Since then, his eighth place at the IAU Trail World Championships in May may have been his best performance. Even that sort of performance won’t have him on the podium at UTMB. Can Xavier return to his 2013 form?
I’m kinda tempted to call Tofol Castanyer (pre-race interview) the favorite for this year’s UTMB. Why? Well, he’s the top returning runner from last year’s race (interview) and I can’t immediately think of anything to make me question whether he can repeat his strong run this year. He’s raced repeatedly at short distances this year with great success albeit in smaller events. He should be fresh. Having only run one 100 miler, I guess one could ask can Tofol repeat his success at another 100 miler?
Ryan Sandes (pre-race interview) has proven he can race well over 100 miles. He won the Leadville 100 in 2011, took second at Western States in 2012 (interview), fifth at Western States in 2014, and second at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in 2014 (interview). He was scheduled to race Western States in June, but a stomach bug kept him from starting, which means that to the best of our knowledge he’s not raced a significant ultramarathon since Western States in June 2014. So, after such a long layoff, will Mr. Sandes be fresh or rusty?
The Next Wave
If you don’t know Gediminas Grinius, take the time to get to know him now. He was a complete unknown until last year, when he took third at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, fifth at UTMB, and fourth at Diagonale des Fous. He hasn’t slowed down this year with a win at Transgrancanaria (interview) and a fourth at Western States. It’s unlikely he’ll win UTMB, but he has a shot at the podium and a strong chance at another top five finish.
Julien Chorier was on the UTMB podium in third in 2008. Later at UTMB, he was fourth in 2010 and sixth in 2013. Whether Chorier has lost a step or the field keeps improving, that’s not a positive trend. He did take second at both Transgrancanaria (interview) and Hardrock in 2014 (interview). On the other hand, he was eighth at TNF 100-Australia in May and sixth at Western States in June of this year; however, these relatively fast courses have never played to Chorier’s mountain strengths.
In looking at Sondre Amdahl’s results from the past two years, it’s hard to find a pattern. He simply appears to have good days and bad days like the rest of us. On the up side, he was sixth at Transgrancanaria and seventh at UTMB last year and, this year, second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k (interview) and fourth at Transgrancanaria. On the down side, he was 17th at Diagonale des Fous last October and 15th at Western States this June.
For whatever reason, Seth Swanson still seems like a wildcard… if aces are wild. I don’t mean that with any disrespect. His back-to-back seconds at Western States is damn impressive (2014 and 2015 interviews) and he’s run strong times at the Cascade Crest and IMTUF 100, but with little competition at the either race. Seth’s proved himself against competitive fields on a “fast” 100-mile course. It’ll be fun to see if he can “surprise” again against such a deep field on a more mountainous course.
For folks outside of Australia, Andrew Tuckey’s sixth-place finish at last year’s UTMB must have been quite a surprise. It was an almost four hour improvement over his UTMB time for the previous year. This year, he ran 14 minutes faster than last year at Australia’s 45km Six Foot Track race and he was ninth at Western States, so he’s in good fitness.
The past two years Adam Campbell’s been third at Hardrock (2014 and 2015 interviews). Full stop. That’s a solid mountain 100 resume right there, but he was also second at UTMF back in 2012. If you look a bit further back, he also has experience on the UTMB course as he was second at the CCC back in 2010. [8/24 Update: Adam Campbell won’t be racing UTMB in favor of local mountain adventures after Hardrock.]
France’s Ludovic Pommeret may not have run well at UTMB (he was 21st in 2012), but he’s twice been second at the even tougher Diagonale des Fous (2009 and 2014). He’s also got speed to compliment his 100-mile strength as shown by his fifth-place finish at this year’s IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy.
Even More Strong Runners
Vajin Armstrong had one heck of a strong 2013… with the except of dropping out of UTMB. He’s had some decent results since then, but nothing that matches his individual results or entire season from that year. This year, he’s managed a fourth at Tarawera, a sixth at TNF 100-Australia, and a third at the Swiss Alpine Marathon.
A few years ago, Sebastien Chaigneau was a near lock for a spot on the UTMB podium. However, since winning Hardrock in 2013 (interview), he’s had a really rough go with injuries and fatigue. As far as we can tell, he’s finished one ultra in the past two years, taking tenth at the Mont Blanc 80k at the end of June.
France’s Fabien Antolinos has solid results up to 100km. He was sixth at the IAU Trail World Championships in 2013 and 11th in 2015. He was fifth at this year’s Ice Trail Tarentaise after placing fifth last year. Fabien started, but did not finish UTMB last year.
Although he’s never run a 100 miler, Dani Garcia could inject some spice into the race. He was second to Luis Alberto Hernando at Transvulcania back in May. He’s also run at Mont Blanc, having taking third at CCC in 2013, early in his ultrarunning career.
Back in 2013, Javi Dominguez surprised us all with his third-place finish at UTMB (interview), although he had been 12th at the race in 2012. Last year, he was 22nd at UTMB. Earlier this year, Javi was 13th at Transgrancanaria, an hour slower than the previous year when he was seventh.
Portugal’s Carlos Sa has flirted with the UTMB podium a couple times, having placed fifth in 2011 and fourth in 2012. This jack of all trades was eighth at last year’s UTMB. Sa’s 2015 has not been typical for him. He’s run a couple shorter races and one stage race, the Marathon des Sables, where he finished far back. Is he injured or is this just not his year?
While he had a poor go in his only UTMB finish, a 30th in 2013, Francesc Sole-Duocastella won Ronda del Cimes in both 2014 and 2015. He also took second at Ultra Pirineu last September.
David Laney is having a strong season. Earlier in the year, he won the Bandera 100k and the Chuckanut 50k. Since then, he’s been 11th at the IAU Trail World Championships and eighth at Western States, to improve on his 20th-place debut 100-mile performance there a year earlier. This will be Laney’s first big mountain 100 miler.
Jorge Maravilla ran very well early this year, taking second at Tarawera (interview) before placing fourth at both the Way Too Cool 50k and Lake Sonoma 50 mile. It’s been a couple years since he had a strong 100 miler. He was eighth at Western States in 2012 (interview), but was 30th there in 2013 and 27th in 2014. Like Laney, this will be his first big mountain 100. [8/26 Update: Jorge Maravilla won’t be racing UTMB this year.]
Jeff Browning is a solid 100 miler with lots of wins at the distance, but he’s never taken a 100 against top competition. Against somewhat stronger fields he’s been third the past Run Rabbit Run 100 the past two years, while he was fourth at Hardrock in 2014. He won the Ultra Fjord 100+ mile (adventure) race earlier this year.
This is your notice so Ryan Smith doesn’t surprise you at UTMB. He’s a Brit living in Colorado who won the Sean O’Brien 100k in February (ahead of Seth Swanson) and was 16th at Western States in June.
Yeray Duran came onto our radar when he placed fourth at Trangrancanaria last year, although he’d taken third there a year earlier. This year, the Spaniard has been third at Lavaredo Ultra Trail and 15th at TNF100-Australia. Duran has run on the UTMB trails, as he was sixth at the CCC in 2013.
Admittedly, I’m not to familiar with Franco Colle, but he’s an intriguing entry. He was fifth, third, and, then, first at Tor de Geants from 2012 to 2014. He’s also seen success at shorter races, having placed second at last year’s Eiger Ultra Trail and this year’s Mont Blanc 80k. In May, he was 15th at the IAU Trail World Championships.
Japan’s Yoshikazu Hara won Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in 2013, but has had poor efforts since at the Western States 100 and UTMB. However, he’s a strong runner who’s run 6:33 for 100k on the roads and took third at Tarawera earlier this year.
We’ve been told to keep our eyes on Germany’s Stephan Hugenschmidt. While we believe this will be his debut 100 mile, last year he did win the 100k Zugspitz Ultratrail and the TransAlpine stage race as well as take fifth at Transvulcania.
By way of his third at CCC last year, Anthony Gay makes this list. He was 12th at CCC in 2012.
Other Names to Know
- Robbie Briton (UK) — 3rd 24-Hour World Champs 2015; 7th Tarawera 2015 [8/26 Added]
- Sébastien Camus (France) — Between 2010 and 2013, he improved from 21st to 8th to 4th to 2nd at CCC
- Erik Clavery (France) — 2nd Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 4th Diagonale des Fous 2012; 26th UTMB 2014
- Jordi Gamito (Spain) — 5th Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2015; 5th TDS 2014; 11th Transgrancanaria 2015
- François Faivre (France) 7th UTMB 2012
- Ryan Ghelfi (USA) — 4th Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile 2014; 6th Lake Sonoma 50 Mile 2014
- Paul Giblin (UK) — 1st West Highland Way (~100 miles) 2013-15; 11th IAU 100k World Champs 2014
- Pascal Giguet (France) — 6th Mont Blanc 80k 2013
- Joe Grant (USA) — 2nd Hardrock 100 2012; 6th Hardrock 100 2011
- Dom Grossman (USA) — 1st Angeles Crest 100 2013; 3rd AC100 2014
- Jesse Haynes (USA) — 7th Western States 100 2013; 10th Western States 100 2014
- Peter Hercog (Poland) — 15th UTMB 2012; 9th UTMF 2014
- Danny Kendall (UK) — 5th Marathon ds Sables 2014; 14th CCC 2014
- Lars Kjerengtroen (USA) — 6th Leadville 100 2014; 6th Speedgoat 50k 2014
- Alexandre Mayer (France) — 6th CCC 2014; 16th UTMB 2013
- Gerard Morales (Spain) — 2nd BUFF Epic Trail 2015; 9th Cavalls del Vent 2013
- Guilio Ornati (Italy) — 5th CCC 2014; 11th Ice Trail Tarentaise 2014
- Mika Pasero (France) — 2nd CCC 2012; 5th Mont Blanc 80k 2015
- Remi Queral-Ibanez (Spain) — 6th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2014; 7th Transgrancanaria 2015
- Jean-Yves Rey (Switzerland) — 6th UTMB 2012; 35th UTMB 2014
- Brett Rivers (USA) — 9th Western States 2014; 4th Way Too Cool 50k 2014
- Rene Rovera (France) — 4th CCC 2014; 5th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015; 107th Diagonale des Fous 2014
- Sangé Sherpa (Nepal) — 4th Eiger Ultra Trail 2015
- Armando Teixeira (Portugal) — 11th UTMB 2011; 7th Madiera Island Ultra Trail 2015; 7th Cavalls del Vent 2012
- John Tidd (Spain) — 10th (’13), 14th (’12), and 16th (’14) UTMB; 6th UTMF 2013
- Stone Tsang (Hong Kong) — 18th UTMB 2013 & 2014
- Jiagen Yang (China) — Winner TNF100-Beijing 2011-13 and 2015 [8/26 Added: Thanks, Xiaozhao Zhao.]
Previously Entered, but Not Racing
- Rob Krar — Back injury
Call for Comments
- Who’s going to win UTMB this year?
- Got any predictions for the men’s podium?
- Who would you move up from one list to the next? Anyone you’d add to the preview?
- Surely, with this many top runners, some won’t be racing this weekend. If you know of some, please let us know!