There’s already been some strong racing in 2016, but this weekend’s Trangrancanaria in Spain raises the level of competition another notch. Not only will the runners be testing themselves against one another, they’ll also be tested by the 125 kilometers (78 miles) and 8,000 meters (26,000′) of climbing across Gran Canaria during this early season contest. The race kicks off at 11 p.m. local time on Friday, March 4 (4 p.m. MST on Friday, March 4 in the US).
Returning competitors–including all top five men and women from last year’s race(!)–may be smiling about improvements made to the later sections of the course that makes the last 25 kilometers more scenic (and technical), while cutting out a few kilometers of running in a canal bed.
As you’d suspect, we’ll be bringing you video interviews with competitors before and after the race, as well as extensive live coverage on race day.
2016 Transgrancanaria Women’s Preview
The Top Returnees
So, yeah, all the top five women from last year’s Transgrancanaria are entered into this year’s race. That alone would mean a great race. Here they are:
When Núria Picas (pre-race interview) is on, she’s nearly impossible to beat and such was the case when she won last year’s Transgrancanaria by more than 20 minutes or when she won the 2014 Trangrancanaria by 45 minutes. Last year, Núria also won the Buff Epic Trail and La Diagonale des Fous. She’s got to be the favorite to three-peat this year.
Caroline Chaverot (pre-race interview) crushed the first past of last year with wins at the Lavaredo and Eiger Ultra Trails and runner-up finishes at the IAU Trail World Championships and Transgrancanaria (interview). That said, she twice tried to garner her first 100-mile finish later in the year and ended up DNFing both UTMB and Diagonale des Fous.
Chinese runner Dong Li had a breakout season in 2015. Not only was she third at Transgrancanaria, but she won the TNF 100-Australia, was second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100, and took fourth at the Mont Blanc 80k. She followed that up with a dominating win at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in late January. This former marathoner is learning the ultrarunning ropes quickly and that makes her quite dangerous.
Switzerland’s Andrea Huser seemingly ran every race she could get to last year, but she didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from it. After taking fourth at Transgrancanaria, she was fifth at the IAU Trail World Championships, second at the Eiger Ultra Trail, first at the Swiss Irontrail 201, and third at Diagonale des Fous. She did finish back in seventh at Lavaredo and eighth at Matterhorn Ultraks.
Last year, Manu Vilaseca was fifth at Transgrancanaria as well as Lavaredo, where she’d finished eighth the previous year. The Brazilian also managed to crack the top ten at UTMB in August.
Additional Top Contenders
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Uxue Fraile challenges for the win this weekend. Her sixth place at Transgrancanaria two years ago does not at all represent her potential. Last year alone, she won Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, was second at UTMB, fourth at Eiger Ultra Trail, and sixth at the IAU World Championships. It would be a real shock not to see Uxue finish in the top five on Saturday.
I’m not sure what it is, but it sure seems like the top Swiss women sure do race a lot and Denise Zimmermann is no exception. Either despite or because of all her racing the past two years, she finished third at last year’s UTMB, the highlight of her racing year. Earlier in her 2015 campaign, she was 12th at Transgrancanaria. In between, her results include a sixth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and a fifth at the Eiger Ultra Trail. Denise was fourth at Transgrancanaria in 2013, but the competition has strengthened significantly since then.
Poland’s Magdalena Laczak looks to continue rolling after a great 2015 season highlighted by fifth-place finish at Transvulcanaia and runner-up effort to Emelie Forsberg at the Ice Trail Tarentaise. In 2014, she was third at the Mont Blanc 80k. [Added March 1. Thanks, Blas!]
While she was fifth at UTMB 2013, Silvia Trigueros still seems to have stepped up her racing to a new level the past half year. Specifically, her fourth place at UTMB last August and her third place at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k just over a month ago. If she’s recovered from Hong Kong, she should improve on her tenth-place finish at last year’s Transgrancanaria.
While I think “the longer and the tough, the better” when I think of Emilie Lecomte, she did take fifth at Transvulcania back in 2013. Still, she’s won races like Diagonale des Fous (2009 and 2012) and Tor des Geants (2014). Last year, she was seventh at the Eiger Ultra Trail before finishing her season in the runner-up position at Diagonale des Fous.
Whether it’s an ultra is 50k of 300k, you can’t count out Italy’s Lisa Borzani. Since the start of 2015, she’s taken third and, then, second at the past two Vibram Hong Kong 100ks. On the other hand, Lisa didn’t see the same success at some other 2015 UTWT events in taking 10th at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and 14th at the Eiger Ultra Trail. Those results are in line with her 11th-place finish at the IAU Trail World Championships last May.
American Angela Shartel is a consistent runner with tons of experience. Her wins at four-straight mountainous 100 milers suggest she’ll do well at the 78-mile Transgrancanaria. She was fifth at the Lake Sonoma 50 mile in 2014, the most competitive field she’s raced the past two years.
Other Top Women
- Laia Diez (Spain) — 3rd 2015 Transgrancanaria Advanced (83km); 1st 2015 Ultra Trail de Barcelona
- Lucinda Sousa (Portugal) — 7th 2015 Transgrancanaria
- Sophie Grant (New Zealand) — 11th 2015 Transgrancanaria; 12th 2015 UTMB; 6th 2015 Diagonale des Fous
- Szilvia Lubics (Hungary) — 1st 2011, 2013 & 2014 Spartathlon [Added March 1. Thanks, Kornel!]
- Lucía Pasamar (Spain) — 5th 2014 Transgrancanaria Advanced (82km)
- Adriana Vargas (Argentina) — 14th 2014 Transvulcania
2016 Transgrancanaria Men’s Preview
The Top Returnees
As noted in the intro, each of top-five men from last year’s Transgrancanaria is scheduled to return to this year’s race. Of course, that includes last year’s champion Gediminas Grinius (pre-race interview). It’s remarkable that a man who lives in cold, flat terrain (last year Poland, this year Vilnius, Lithuania) can be so well prepared for a long ultra with lots of vertical and the potential for heat at this time of the year. After winning Transgrancanaria, Grinius went on to take fourth at the Western States 100 mile and win Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji last year. This year, he’s already placed third at the Vibram Hong Kong 100 in late January and raced a 65km race in mid-February. Look for the Lithuanian to be ready again this weekend.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing who Didrik Hermansen (pre-race interview) was heading into Transgrancanaria last year. At this point, we hope you’ve gotten to know this Norwegian’s name. After placing second at Transgrancanaria last year, he was 10th at the IAU Trail World Championships, won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, and took third at UltraVasan.
Antoine Guillon has been a solid ultrarunner for more than a decade, but this 45-year-old Frenchman certainly had his best-ever season in 2015, improving on his previous best placings at the Vibram Hong Kong 100 (3rd), Transgrancanaria (3rd), and Diagonale des Fous (win). Not one to sit on his laurels, Guillon won the 100-mile Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan to ring in the new year. I look forward to watching this patient, peaceful runner try to improve once again in 2016.
In 2015, Sondre Amdahl improved to fourth at Transgrancanaria after taking sixth the previous year. That’s not so much of a surprise as he spent much of the year between the two races living on Gran Canaria. Amdahl also ran quite well at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k (2nd) and Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (4th) last year, but he also finished a disappointing 15th at Western States. Still, 2015 was likely his best year of ultrarunning.
Cyril Cointre’s best races of 2015 came early in the year. He was fourth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January and fifth at Transgrancanaria in early March. After that, he declined to 13th at the TNF 100-Australia, 19th at the Western States 100 mile, and 172nd at Diagonale des Fous. Cyril ran to a 10th-place finish at the Tarawera Ultramarathon last month.
Additional Top Contenders
As strong as last year’s returnees are, the runners on this list might prove even more intriguing for a variety of reasons… including a wealth of individual question marks.
Where to start… how about the champion of the most recent UTWT race, Jonas Buud who dominated the second half of last month’s Tarawera Ultramarathon en route to a commanding win. Last August, he ran what I consider one of the most impressive ultra performances I saw last year in his win at UltraVasan (5:45 for 90k on trails and dirt roads). A few weeks later, he went on to win the IAU 100k World Championships after seemingly countless runner-up finishes. Still, it’s a question as to whether Buud can transfer his speed to such a mountainous course so early in the season. We’ll find out this weekend.
For all his success, Seth Swanson (pre-race interview) still feels like a darkhorse. Well, he’s not. Last year, he was sixth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, second at Western States (he did the same thing in 2014), and fourth at UTMB. It’s only a matter of time before Seth wins a big race on the world stage. Could it be this one?
Yan Long Fei started ultrarunning in 2014 with great success in China. In 2015, he moved onto the international stage and saw his success continue. He kicked off last year with a win at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k before taking fourth at the TNF 100-Australia to go along with numerous strong performances in China. This year, he kicked off his season with second-place finish behind François D’haene at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k after faltering late in the race. Last year, Yan dropped out of Transgrancanaria in his first ultra outside of the greater Asia/Australia area, so we’ll get to see if he’s adjusted to racing ultras after global travel. [Feb 29 Correction. Thanks, Pablo!] If he makes it, TGC will also be his longest race in terms of distance or time.
Just two years ago, Julien Chorier was runner-up to Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria. In 2014, he was also second at the Hardrock 100 mile. Last year, Chorier showed he’s not just a mountain monster when he took sixth at the Western States 100. I think Julien is particularly well suited to the TGC course and, while I don’t think he’ll win, I’d almost expect to see him finish in the top five.
We’ve said it before, but you never know what you’ll get when you see Miguel Heras on an entrants list. Will he start? Will he finish? Generally, if the answer to both questions is “yes,” then he’s crushed it. Last year, Heras had two notable finishes, a third-place at Ultra Pirineu and a fourth at Les Templiers. Which Miguel will we see this weekend? [Feb 29 Update: We’ve learned that Miguel Heras won’t be racing TGC.]
Between 2011 and 2013, Sebastien Chaigneau was a podium-placing machine. He took third at TGC ’11 before winning in 2012 and 2013. He won Lavaredo (2011) and the Hardrock 100 (2013). He was third at UTMB (2011) and UTMF (2013). It’s sad to say, but he’s not been the same since. In 2014, he dropped out of a few high-profile races for heath reasons and only started reaching the finish line again the latter portion of last year, including a 10th at the Mont Blanc 80k at the end of June and a win at the 77km STY, a sister race of UTMF, in late September. Will we see Seb return to top form this year?
Yeray Durán is different from the rest of the runners on this list. First off, he’s from the Canary Islands, which makes him a local favorite. Second, I don’t think it’s likely that he’ll finish on the podium. That said, he was fourth, third, and fourth at TGC between 2012 and 2014. With that sort of consistency and a decent fifth-place showing at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January, he’s well set up to finish in the middle of the top ten ahead of some really strong runners.
Last August, Tim Tollefson of the US handled the big step up from having his two longest races being in the 6-7 hour range (8th at 2014 TNF 50 Mile SF; 7th 2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile) to taking second to Zach Miller at the 2015 CCC in 12:06. If he can handle adding a few more hours to his max, he has every chance to make the podium. That said, he has far less ultrarunning experience than anyone else listed above.
Italy’s Franco Colle might be the biggest European ultrarunning stud with the least name recognition in the US. In the past two years, he’s won the Tor des Geants (2014), been second at the Eiger Ultra Trail (2014), second at the Mont Blanc 80k (2015), and 15th at the IAU Trail World Championships. Oh, and he won The Rut 50k in Montana last September. Admittedly, I don’t know Franco’s racing style, but with his strengths, I’d be on the lookout for him later in the race.
It feels like I’ve not seen Andy Symonds in darn near forever. In fact, I haven’t. That’s partly because after a strong 2012 season, he didn’t race on any global stages in 2013 or 2014. He was back in action last year with a ton of podium finishes, including a third place at the Mont Blanc 80k. I’ll admit I look forward to watching this Brit race in person on Saturday.
It looks like Yun Yan-Qiao of China is racing. He was runner-up to Sage Canaday at the 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon before DNFing at the race a year later. Yan-Qiao has won a bunch of major 100k races in China over the past few years. He also finished a strong third at last year’s TNF100-Australia. [Added March 1. Thanks, Maggie!]
Other Top Men
- Oier Ibarbia (Spain) — 2nd 2013 Transgrancanaria
- Pau Bartolo (Spain) — 1st 2014 CCC; 6th 2015 Tarawera; 1st 2014 Transgrancanaria Advanced (82km); Injury DNF at 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Toti Bes (Spain) — 1st 2013 CCC; 9th 2014 Ice Trail Tarentaise
- Pau Capell (Spain) — 1st 2015 Transgrancanaria Advanced (83km); 4th 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 6th 2015 CCC
- Aurelien Collet (France) — 3rd 2014 Diagonale des Fous; 1st 2015 Endurance Trail des Templiers
- Fulvio Dapit (Italy) — 4th 2015 Ice Trail Tarentaise; 6th 2014 Trofeo Kima
- Leonardo Diogo (Portugal) — 12th 2014 Transgrancanaria; 8th 2015 Mont Blanc 80k
- Javi Dominguez (Spain) — 7th 2014 Transgrancanaria; 3rd 2013 UTMB; 5th 2014 Diagonale des Fous
- Jordi Gamito (Spain) — 5th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 6th 2015 Diagonale des Fous; 11th 2015 Transgrancanaria; 6th 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Casey Morgan (UK) — 10th 2014 Transgrancanaria
- Diego Pazos (Switzerland) — 4th 2015 Diagonale des Fous; Tied-4th 2015 CCC; 11th 2014 UTMB
- Armando Teixeira (Portugal) — 2nd 2012 Transgrancanaria; 11th 2012 UTMB
- Freddy Thevenin (France) — 8th 2015 Transgrancanaria; 3rd 2015 Diagonale des Fous
- Marco Zanchi (Italy) — 9th 2015 Transgrancanaria
Call for Comments
- Which woman and man is going to come out on top at the end of the day?
- Who’s most likely to surprise us out there?
- As always, let us know if we missed someone or if you know someone we mentioned won’t be racing. Thanks!