Under variable fall weather conditions in Catalunya’s Pre-Pyrenees and mostly within the verdant forests and limestone cliffs of Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park, Spain’s Miguel Heras (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Gemma Arenas (post-race interview) dominated the men’s and women’s Ultra Pirineu fields, respectively, and emerged as 2016 champions.
Ultra Pirineu was the final race in this year’s Skyrunner World Series Ultra division, and Gemma Arenas and Cristofer Clemente ran away with series victories.
In addition to this article, you can find our full play-by-play of the race as well as a collection of our pre-race interviews and previews on our Ultra Pirineu live-coverage page.
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2016 Ultra Pirineu Men’s Race
Going into this race, it was easy to call Spain’s Miguel Heras (pre-race and post-race interviews) the favorite. The guy has a history with the race that dates back to its first edition, he’s already won the race twice before, and he was just coming into good form again after a bout of injury whereas others were racing as part of an already long season. And, then, seeing him in person before the race only confirmed that he was in form and in focus. You could just feel that he would dominate the race. Miguel spent the first 40 kilometers running mostly with Peru’s Remegio Huaman–who would later drop from the race–before he pushed on the long climb following the aid station at Bellver de Cerdanya (40k), leaving the rest of the field in his dust. From there, it was Miguel versus the course, and he seemed to only get stronger as the kilometers ticked off. When he crossed the line, he bent over, went quiet for a few seconds of self-celebration, and then broke out a big smile as the crowds cheered him on.
Spain’s Jessed Hernández wins the award for the day’s steady Eddy performance. He was just right there, all day long, looking a lot like he was on a jog through the park. As the long race went on, he maintained exceptional running form despite hours on his feet and a huge smile on his face for the spectators that cheered for him around the course. While winner Miguel was always a step ahead of him, Jessed was a step ahead of the balance of the men’s field.
The Canary Islands’s Cristofer Clemente (pre-race interview) races with quiet confidence. Also, I’m not sure that this dude even broke a sweat–he looked as fresh at the finish line as he did at the start. One thing is for sure, Cristofer races with measured effort. He let something like 10 men run the first third of the race well in front of him before slowly but surely moving up in the field. At the 96k mark, with a short-but-stiff climb and a 10k rocky descent remaining, he rolled into the Refugi Vents del Cadí aid station looking casual in fifth place. Between there and the finish, though, the game was on. He passed two men in front of him and won a race-to-the-finish battle with those men that found third through fifth places arriving within 39 seconds of each other. And when he crossed the line in third place with two men breathing down his back, he was still calm and collected.
Peru’s Emerson Trujillo ran strong from start to finish and into fourth place, and Spain’s Ernest Ausiró rounded out the men’s top five.
While Cristofer Clemente was the Skyrunner World Series Ultra division winner, France’s Nicolas Martin (who didn’t race this weekend) took second in the series, and Spain’s Roger Viñas was third. The men’s podium was given its awards at a ceremony after Ultra Pirineu in Bagà.
2016 Ultra Pirineu Men’s Results
- Miguel Heras (Salomon) — 12:05:51
- Jessed Hernandez — 12:40:15
- Cristofer Clemente (Race Land) — 12:47:19
- Emerson Trujillo — 12:47:41
- Ernest Ausiró — 12:48:01
- Sebas Sanchez — 12:55:51
- Dmitry Mityaev — 12:59:21r
- Gerard Morales — 13:09:00
- Cristobal Adell — 13:10:43
- Ivan Camps — 13:21:40
2016 Ultra Pirineu Women’s Race
Spain’s Gemma Arenas (post-race interview) works it. When she topped out on the 1,700-meter climb which begins Ultra Pirineu, she was grinning widely but also breathing heavily. You could tell that she’d just put out a hard effort, though we would see that she was just getting started and that she had 110 kilometers worth of that effort to give. Little by little, Gemma carved time into the women’s field, creating a 15-odd-minute lead at the race’s halfway point. She would give back a few of those minutes in the next short distance–though I don’t know if that was her going slower or second place moving faster–before she gained back those lost minutes and a few more to arrive victorious in the main square of historic Bagà, Catalunya. The women’s race had one additional bit of spiciness–it started pouring rain not long after nightfall, and fog encapsulated part of the final ascent and descent. This was, clearly, not an issue for Gemma.
The U.S.A.’s Hillary Allen (pre-race interview) has figured out Skyrunning. Though Ultra Pirineu was a bit longer and with more runnable terrain than a typical race in the Skyrunner Ultra division, she had commanding success. Hillary applies a good dose of intelligence and generally happy-go-lucky attitude toward international travel and racing, and this seems to be a good recipe for her. Hillary acted as a shadow to winner Gemma all day, applying non-stop pressure. Between the 74k and 96k aid stations, Hillary had a rough spell that required her to sit down and eat some food in the 96k aid station. But, third place arrived as Hillary was still there, and this seemingly re-stoked her competitive drive. She hammered the final 14 kilometers. Case in point: With 10.5k to run, Hillary was 30 minutes off the lead. At the finish, she was just 17 minutes back. Yep, she motored. A still-developing runner, I’m eager to see where mountain running takes her.
Spain’s Anna Comet ran right around fifth place for some two thirds of Ultra Pirineu. She would say at the finish line that she wasn’t sure how the race was going to go for her, even when she was a marathon’s distance or more into it, and that she didn’t think she would finish third. But in comparing how she looked with her race peers, her stride was bouncy and efficient and her attitude seemed relaxed. It felt obvious with that comparison that she would shine as the kilometers ticked off, and this was absolutely the case. As late as 96k, she was pressuring the second place, too. She crossed the line in a horrific rainstorm looking perfectly elated with her performance.
Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva and the U.S.A.’s Kristina Pattison (pre-race interview) rounded out the top five. Ekaterina, who is brand new to ultras from shorter-distance races, exhibited the kind of patience you see in experienced endurance runners. Kristina looked strong and relaxed early before succumbing to several physical issues later, which she said required her to walk some of the final kilometers.
Gemma Arenas ran away with the Skyrunner World Series Ultra division win, while France’s Anne-Lise Rousset (who didn’t race) was second, and Hillary Allen took third. The trio was honored in an award ceremony on Sunday after Ultra Pirineu in Bagà.
2016 Ultra Pirineu Women’s Results
- Gemma Arenas (Dynafit) — 15:20:34
- Hillary Allen (The North Face) — 15:37:47
- Anna Comet (Dynafit) — 15:49:46
- Ekaterina Mityaeva (adidas) — 15:59:38
- Kristina Pattison (La Sportiva) — 17:12:58
- Anna Macià — 17:25:12
- Laia Díez — 17:31:02
- Judit Franch — 17:44:03
- Sonia Escuriola — 17:59:15
- Elisabet Bertran — 20:04:10
Thank you to Nelson Coomans, Andrea Danelli, and Nestor Artis for their field assistance to iRunFar in covering the race. Remarkably, Nelson and Andrea rode their bikes from their home in Girona to Bagà to help us cover Ultra Pirineu, making their own ultra adventure. I think that’s a first for iRunFar’s volunteers. Thank you!