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2016 IAU Trail World Championships Men’s Preview

An in-depth preview of the men’s field at the 2016 IAU Trail World Championships in Portugal.

By on October 24, 2016 | Comments

IAU logoThis year’s IAU Trail World Championships will be run in Peneda-Gerês National Park in northern Portugal. This difficult, 85-kilometer (53-mile) course climbs 4,680 meters (over 15,000) with a roughly equal amount of descent on the point-to-point course.

There’s both a national team and an individual aspect to the championships. The team rankings are determined by the combined time of a country’s top-three finishers. We’ve laid out the full squads of the countries most likely to finish up front with other top runners further down the article.

The race starts at 5 a.m. on Saturday, October 29th, which is 10 p.m. MDT on Friday, October 28th in the US. As you’d expect, we’ll be reporting on the race live.

Be sure to read our in-depth women’s IAU Trail World Championships preview to learn about who is in the women’s race.

The French Team

The French team returns after absolutely dominating last year’s Trail World Championships on home soil. This year, it looks like they’ve put no less focus on winning, as the squad has reigning champions from some of the world’s most competitive races.

Sylvain Court

Sylvain Court

Let’s start with Sylvain Court (pre-race interview), the defending world champion. Well, for starters, he’s the defending Trail World Champion. Over the past three years, he’s also won the French Trail National Championships (2014 and 2016) and been third (2015). On the other hand, he’s had some more down-to-Earth races over the past year, as well. He did take fourth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in June, but was 10th at last year’s Les Templiers and 16th at Transvulcania this year.

I’ll admit to not really getting to know Ludovic Pommeret after he was the third French finisher at last year’s Trail World Championships when he was fifth overall. He had, however, been second at Diagonale des Fous in 2014 as well as in 2009. Then this year he did win that one UTMB race. It’d be no surprise to see him well up in the top 10 again this year.

Nicolas Martin continued the French roll at last year’s Trail World Championships where he was seventh. Two years earlier, he’d been ninth at the previous Trail World Championships. Since late 2014, he’s twice been runner up at the French Trail National Championships (2014 and 2016), was third at CCC and second at Les Templiers last year, and second at Transvulcania this year. Yeah, this is a strong French team.

Benoit Cori - 2015 Les Templiers

Benoît Cori

Then, there’s Benoît Cori, the two-time defending champ at Les Templiers (2014 & 2015) who didn’t defend his title this year so he can return to the Trail World Championships, where he was 13th last year. Last year, Cori was also runner up at the French Trail National Championships and he won La SainteLyon.

We’re down to the fifth runner on the French team and it’s the current CCC champ, Michel Lanne. Lanne was sixth at the Zegama Marathon in 2014 and seventh there last year. He was second at the Marathon du Mont Blanc in 2014 and third at Les Templiers in 2013.

And the final runner on the French team is Aurélien Collet, who in the past two years has been third at the Diagonale des Fous (2014), won the Endurance Trail des Templiers (2015), been ninth at Transvulcania (2016), and second at the MaXi-Race Annecy (2016).

The Spanish Team

Luis Alberto Hernando - 2015 Transvulcania Ultramarathon

Luis Alberto Hernando

While he did drop from UTMB this year, Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race interview) might be the top trail ultramarathoner of the past two years. There are his threestraight wins at Transvulcania. There is his win at the Buff Epic Trail, this year’s Skyrunning World Championships. Oh, and, last year, he was second at the Trail World Championships and UTMB. Yeah, so, look for Luis Alberto to la cabeza de la carrera.

Then, there’s Pau Capell, who’s having a heck of a breakout year, having won both the TDS and Ultra-Trail Australia. He’s also been third at Transgrancanaria and fourth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. In other words, he’s capable of running himself into the top five is he’s still fresh enough.

Tofol Castanyer - 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Tòfol Castanyer

Tòfol Castanyer has high potential, but he’s had a couple rough races in 2016, including dropping out of UTMB and placing 12th at the Western States 100 Mile. Early in the year, he did take second at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail. In the past couple years, he has been second at UTMB (2014), third at Les Templiers (2015), and fourth at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships (2014).

Yeray Duran offer a solid option as, say, a third runner on the team. This year, Yeray Duran has been second at TDS, fifth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, and sixth in the Ultra race at the Skyrunning World Championships. Last year, he was third at Lavaredo and the year before that he was fifth at Ultra Pirineu and fourth at Transgrancanaria.

Pablo Villa was a solid 16th as the second Spanish runner at last year’s Trail World Championships. This year, he’s been fifth at the Livigno SkyMarathon, seventh at Matterhorn Ultraks, 10th at Skyrun Comapedrosa, and 11th at the Zegama Marathon. In 2014 and 2015, he was respectively ninth and eighth at Transvulcania.

The US Team

Alex Varner - 2015 IAU Trail World Championships

Alex Varner

Alex Varner (pre-race interview) is the lone returning team member from last year’s Trail World Championships, where he was 18th in a rough run with the team finishing second. To be honest, he’s not really seen the same success as he saw before that race since then. In 2014, he was fourth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, seventh at the Western States 100 Mile, and third at TNF EC 50-Mile Championships before winning Lake Sonoma in early 2015. Varner’s highlight since Sonoma in April ’15 would be his course record at the Quad Dipsea last November. He was also fifth at the Way Too Cool 50k in March.

Mario Mendoza has been gradually working his way up into ultramarathons over 50k. He saw his greatest success in placing third at Lake Sonoma this April a month after placing second at Chuckanut. He did also win the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile last year along with the Moab Trail Marathon with both events being USATF Trail National Championships for their respective distances.

Tyler Sigl’s run quite well at the 50-mile distance so far in his young ultrarunning career. He improved on a third place at last year’s Cayuga Trails 50 Mile by winning the race this year. While not a particularly competitive race, he won the TNF EC 50 Mile-Wisconsin in both 2014 and 2015, breaking six hours both years, including running 5:27 in 2014. He also ran 5:32 at the Door County 50 Mile in 2014.

Jared Burdick has been the runner up at the past two editions of the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile and won the Caumsett 50k in February in 2:57. On the other hand, he had a poor showing at last year’s Les Templiers, which is his only international race that I know of.

Ryan Bak is entered, but won’t be racing.

The GB Team

Team GB is stacked at the front, but it would need a huge step up from another runner if it were to win the team title. On the other hand, it should be no surprise at all if the Brits end up on the team podium, as they finished third last year with runners taking fourth, 20, and 27th.

Andy Symonds - 2016 UTMB

Andy Symonds

Both Tom Owens and Andy Symonds have miles-long resumes to their credit. Let’s start with Tom Owens who was fourth at last year’s Trail World Championships. This year, it looks like he’s been focused on Skyrunning, as he’s won at Tromsø and Comapedrosa, been second at the Sky race at the Skyrunning World Championships and the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline, and fifth at Trofeo Kima. Tom was also fourth at this year’s WMRA Long Distance World Championships. As for Andy Symonds, he’s had quite the year, as he’s won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, been second at the Ultra race at the Skyrunning World Championships, fourth at Transvulcania, and fifth at Transgrancanaria. Andy did drop from his first go at 100 miles at UTMB in August.

The team will need one of the following gents to step up. Kim Collison was 20th at last year’s Trail World Championships and ninth in the Ultra race at this year’s Skyrunning World Championships. On the other hand, he was 20th at Transgrancanaria this year and 25th at last year’s UTMB. It’s hard to say how Donnie Campbell might do as most of his top performances have come within the U.K., including a win at the Hoka Highland Fling this year. He was sixth at last year’s Mont Blanc 80k, but had a rough go in placing 54th at Trofeo Kima in August. Damian Hall was the runner up to Campbell at this year’s Highland Fling. Hall improved from 31st at last year’s UTMB to 19th this year. Then there’s Tom Payn, who’s run a couple ultras in the U.K. and placed 24th at the OCC, one of the UTMB sister races.

The Norwegian Team

At this point, I hope you know who Didrik Hermansen is. Last year, he won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail after placing second at Transgrancanaria before taking third at Ultravasan. This year, he won Transgrancanaria and was second at the Western States 100. Oh, and he was 10th at last year’s Trail World Championships. [10/24 Update: Didrik Hermansen isn’t be racing.]

Thorbjørn Ludvigsen sq

Thorbjørn Ludvigsen

Thorbjørn Ludvigsen was fourth at the Trail World Championships back in 2011. From there, he found some success in Skyrunning, taking third at Giir di Mont in 2014, seventh at Dolomites in 2014, ninth at Limone in 2014, and 11th at the Zegama Marathon in 2014.

Eirik Haugsnes was sixth at the Marathon du Mont Blanc back in 2014, when he was also 13th at the Dolomites Skyrace and 18th at the Zegama Marathon. In 2015, he was seventh at the Tromsø Skyrace and eighth at Matterhorn Ultraks. He was 34th at last year’s Trail World Championships. Tom Erik Halvorsen was 10th at last year’s Ultravasan 90k while he was third in the 45k version of the race this year. Lars Erik Skjervheim rounds out the team.

The Nepali Team

To be honest, it’s quite hard to predict how the Nepali contingent will do at the Trail World Championships, not a small part of which is the complication of getting all four athletes to Portugal with the possibility of visa issues. But let’s assume the best…

Bhim Gurung - 2016 Trofeo Kima Champion

Bhim Gurung

Bhim Gurung sure is making himself known this year. Sure, he was on a fourth-place team at Oxfam Trailwalker in 2014 (and won the Annapurna 100k that year). However, he beat out reigning Sky division Skyrunner World Series Champ Tadei Pivk at the Yading Skyrace back in April and broke Kilian Jornet’s Trofeo Kima course record in edging out Marco DeGasperi in August. He did have a down race in placing 11th at Matterhorn Ultraks a week ahead of Kima.

[Update 10/29] Bhim is the only men’s member of the Nepali delegation to arrive in Portugal. Bhim’s teammate Tirtha Tamang has a bit of a longer history on big stages, having won the 2014 Vibram Hong Kong 100k in early 2014 after being on the second-place Trailwalker team in 2013. In August Tirtha was third at Ultraks as well as winning the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa stage race. Bed Sunuwar has two second-place Oxfarm Trailwalker finishes (2013 and 2014) along with finishing second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in 2014. Purna Tamang won The North Face 100k-Hong Kong back in 2013 while having a poor 21st-place showing at last year’s TNF100-Australia (now known as Ultra-Trail Australia).

Other Men to Watch

  • Giuliano Cavallo (Italy) — This Italian improved from seventh at the CCC last year to third this year. He was also 10th at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in June.
  • Brendan Davies (Australia) — In 2014, Brendan was third at the TNF100-Australia (now known as Ultra-Trail Australia), sixth at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, and eighth at the Western States 100.
  • Matthias Dippacher (Germany) — The runner-up finisher at this year’s Eiger Ultra Trail after finishing third at the event in 2014. He was also second at the Zugspitz Ultratrail this year after taking 28th at last year’s Trail World Championships.
  • Daniel Doherty (Ireland) — This Irish runner was 17th at last year’s Trail World Championships ahead of finishing 11th at the Mont Blanc 80k.
  • 2016 Ultravasan - Fritjof Fagerlund

    Fritjof Fagerlund

    Fritjof Fagerlund (Sweden) — The runner up at this year’s Ultravasan 90k after winning the 45k at the event last year. He was 23rd at the Trail World Championships last year before taking sixth at the IAU 100k World Championships on the roads.

  • Luis Fernandes (Portugal) — This host-country runner was eighth at this year’s Skyrunning World Championships in the Ultra category. He was also third at the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira. He won last year’s Madeira Island Ultra Trail ahead of placing seventh this year.
  • Scott Hawker (New Zealand) — Living in Australia, this Kiwi has taken seventh, fourth, and fifth at the past three runnings of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. He was second at the TNF100-Australia (now known as Ultra-Trail Australia) last year.
  • Stephan Hugenschmidt (Germany) — Fifth at Transvulcania in 2014 and sixth there this year. Stephan has won the Zugspitz Ultratrail in 2014 and the Swiss Irontrail this year.
  • Urs Jenzer (Switzerland) — Winner of the Eiger Ultra Trail in both 2014 and 2015.
  • Thorbergur Jonsson (Iceland) — Ninth at last year’s Trail World Championships. He’s been 16th and ninth at the past two runnings of the CCC.
  • Masutoshi Obara (Japan) — Eighth this year at the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji after finishing fifth last year. He was 16th at this year’s UTMB.
  • Giulio Ornati (Italy) — Giulio was ninth at this year’s UTMB after taking fourth at the MaXi-Race Annecy in May. He was fifth at the CCC in 2014.
  • Diego Pazos (Switzerland) — Diego won this year’s Eiger Ultra Trail and the Mont Blanc 80k, while tieing for third at Transgrancanaria with Pau Capell. Last year, he was fifth at CCC and, then, fourth at Diagonale des Fous.
  • Vaidas Žlabys (Lithuania) — Only 60th at last year’s Trail World Championships, but eighth at Transgrancanaria in March.

Top Contenders Entered But Not Racing

  • Ryan Bak (US)
  • Didrik Hermansen (Norway)

Call for Comments

  • Which teams and runners will finish near the top of the standings?
  • Any likely surprises? Who else should we be keeping an eye on?
  • As always, let us know if you know of a runner we’ve listed, but won’t be racing.
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.