After they both finished second last year, Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race and post-race interviews) and France’s Caroline Chaverot (post-race interview) won the 2016 IAU Trail World Championships held on a never-raced-before course in and around Peneda-Gerês National Park in northern Portugal, which mixed all kinds of terrain but trended toward Euro-style tough and technical on a warm, humid, and smoky day.
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2016 IAU Trail World Championships Women’s Race
2016 IAU Trail World Champion Caroline Chaverot of France ran like she wanted that title–with other women at first, then setting a pace that she would be able to maintain to the finish, and going to battle for the win when things got tight. Her victory was among the closest and most exciting we’ve see in long trail ultras of late. A woman who often races off the front at breakneck pace, Caroline ran the first 15-ish kilometers in the vicinity of other women, including Spain’s Azara García and Sweden’s Emelie Forsberg (pre-race interview). Even at 30k, more than one third of the way into the race, Caroline led, but not by more than 90 seconds. This, however, I am guessing was a product of the dueling desires of Caroline racing easy enough so that she could run hard later and the women behind her wanting to stay in contact.
The lead pack would lose one of the race favorites, Emelie Forsberg, around 33k. Most in the trail-ultra world know by now that Emelie damaged her knee in a ski race last winter, and underwent ligament-reconstruction surgery and rehab. This was her first 50-mile race since then. Compounding that, she’d recently spent a month in yoga-instructor training, which precluded almost any run training. She would say from the sidelines later, after dropping, that her knee just wasn’t ready and that it was smarter for her to bow out.
It was then the Netherlands’s Ragna Debats (post-race interview) who quickly moved into podium position. By 40k she was firmly planted in third, a spot she’d stick to all the way to the finish. Ragna lives in Catalunya and has ability and prowess on Europe’s technical terrain, though as far as we understand, her podium position today is a breakout performance by a long ways.
Though Caroline was in first, Azara second, and Ragna third by 40k–positions they would maintain to the finish–the women’s race was far from over. At 54k, as the lead women dropped into the village of Lindoso and past its medieval castle, Caroline had built an almost-five-minute lead, and Ragna was strung out a bit more than two minutes after Azara. Just 10k later, though, in the village of Soaja, only three minutes total separated first through third places. However, by the time we saw Caroline next at 75k, she’d gotten word of how close her chasers were, and she was in serious ‘go’ mode. The woman was giving everything, pushing, breathing hard, so focused. She’d rebuilt an almost-five-minute lead, which she would maintain through the finish.
Let’s put it this way, I think Azara knows how to suffer. When we saw her last at 75k, when she was being chased closely by Ragna, she was deep in the pain cave and giving it. It was perhaps because of her ability to motor through difficulty that she increased her lead from one minute at 75k to three minutes at the finish. To be sure, this was the tightest women’s podium race we’ve seen at a long ultra in quite a while.
The steadiness of the women’s competition would not end there. When all was said and done in the top 10, 65 minutes separated first and 10th place. For perspective, 49 minutes separated first and 10th at last year’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships, though that race ran a full 2.5 hours faster. And the spread between the men’s top 10 at this race was 41 minutes. It’s possible that this women’s race is of the kind of depth we’ve not yet seen in trail ultrarunning.
Two-time defending IAU Trail World Champion Nathalie Mauclair (pre-race interview) of France put most of her racing eggs into this basket. After a mostly quiet season and two IAU Trail World Championships victories in a row, I think Nathalie really wanted to win again. However, we learned at the finish that she took a hard fall on the first major descent and injured her ribs. She said that every downhill step from there was painful and that she considered dropping several times. In the end, I think Nathalie’s perseverance and desire to help with Team France’s performance won out, and she slowly moved up positions to finish fourth.
Spain’s Gemma Arenas took fifth in what looked like a steady performance start to finish. Sixth place was Switzerlands’s Kathrin Götz, who I admittedly know nothing about except that she finished second at the Eiger Ultra Trail this year, a half hour behind trail-ultra superstar Andrea Huser and a few minutes ahead of Juliette Blanchet. Great Britain’s Jo Meek (pre-race interview) and Beth Pascall finished seventh and eighth. The Czech Republic’s Michaela Mertová, who has seen some success in the Skyrunning sphere, was ninth.
Spain’s Teresa Nimes took 10th for the second year in a row with France’s Aurelia Truel shortly behind her in 11th. The pair completed the team duel for the win. The combined three fastest times are used to score, and it was Team France with the finishes of Caroline Chaverot, Nathalie Mauclair, and Aurelia Truel whose combined times were the fastest. Team Spain took a very close second for the second year of the row, finish less than 14 minutes behind the French. Nearly two and a half hours behind the French, Team Great Britain rounds out the women’s team podium with Jo Zakrzewski as the third scoring woman in 29th place.
2016 IAU Trail World Championships Women’s Results
- Caroline Chaverot (France) — 9:39:40 (post-race interview)
- Azara García (Spain) — 9:45:01
- Ragna Debats (Netherlands) — 9:47:38 (post-race interview)
- Nathalie Mauclair (France) — 10:13:37 (pre-race interview)
- Gemma Arenas (Spain) — 10:21:11
- Kathrin Götz (Switzerland) — 10:30:41
- Jo Meek (Great Britain) — 10:36:12 (pre-race interview)
- Beth Pascall (Great Britain) — 10:41:35
- Michaela Mertová (Czech Republic) — 10:42:59
- Teresa Nimes (Spain) — 10:44:07
2016 IAU Trail World Championships Men’s Race
It’s funny, going into UTMB a couple months ago, Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race interview) seemed so calm, comfortable, and, well, freaking fit. It almost felt sure that he’d be on the men’s podium there. But things went real wrong when he got debilitating blisters and dropped near the halfway point. Perhaps there are blessings in curses, though, that he didn’t make it all the way through 100 miles in late August, which left him fresh for the IAU Trail World Championships. That said, going into this race, he hedged his own bets, leaving us all wondering if he was trying to let us know that perhaps he wasn’t quite ready for this race. That said again, as soon as the race started, you could see the fire in his eyes and the fluidity with which he moved. It was easy to see as early as 30k that Luis was in it to win it.
He bided his time, however, running among the leaders until after 40k. Somewhere between there and 46k, on the long climb to the course’s high point, Serra Amarela, Luis made his move. When we saw him on the far side of the mountain at 54k, he’d put some 3.5 minutes on France’s Nicolas Martin (post-race interview), who was seventh at the world championships last year, and defending champion Sylvain Court (pre-race and post-race interviews), with whom he’d been running at 40k. His lead increased, and his focus and pushing also seemed to. The dude was steam-train-esque. Luis’s lead grew to as much as 13 minutes at 75k as he ran through a tiny village called Bomio, before it reduced to 10 minutes at the finish.
I would venture a guess that the reduction in Luis’s lead in the final 10.5k was not a matter of Luis letting up on things, but, rather, due to the fight going on between Nico and Sylvain behind him. The pair were running what must have been at times in the last 20k in sight of each other, and they have a long back-and-forth racing history. They have gone head-to-head in just the last year-and-a-half in at least four big races: the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships (Sylvain bested Nico), the 2016 Transvulcania (Nico beat Sylvain), the 2016 France Trail National Championships (Nico was declared the winner over Sylvain), and here (Nico bested Sylvain). The gap between Nico and Sylvain’s respective finishes would be only 33 seconds at the finish.
Ultimately, half of the men’s top 10 filled with Frenchmen, with Benoît Cori taking fourth, Ludovic Pommeret fifth, and Aurélien Collet seventh. Each of these men seemed to employ the strategy of running smart but staying in contact with the leaders as much as possible. The exception to this would be Benoît at 30k, where he—but only briefly, as we understand—led the men’s race. This would mean a handy men’s Team France victory for the second year in a row.
Peppered in between Team France was sixth place Diego Pazos, who hails from Switzerland and who first came on my radar when he took 11th at the 2014 UTMB, eighth place Tòfol Castanyer from Spain, ninth place Andy Symonds from Great Britain, and Germany’s Stephan Hugenschmidt. Among these four men, Diego and Stephan seemed to hold steady for much of the race while Tòfol and Andy shifted around a bit more, Tòfol while suffering and recovering from stomach issues, and Andy from perhaps starting a bit more slowly and moving up later.
Team Spain men took second place in the team competition, with Pau Capell finishing 11th and becoming the third scoring team member. I believe that the German team featuring Hugenschmidt, Florian Reichert, and Martin Schedler was the third-place team.
2016 IAU Trail World Championships Men’s Results
- Luis Alberto Hernando (Spain) — 8:20:26 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Nicolas Martin (France) — 8:30:06 (post-race interview)
- Sylvain Court (France) — 8:30:39 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Benoît Cori (France) — 8:36:25
- Ludovic Pommeret (France) — 8:44:15
- Diego Pazos (Switzerland) — 8:54:00
- Aurélien Collet (France) — 8:55:57
- Tòfol Castanyer (Spain) — 8:58:28
- Andy Symonds (Great Britain) — 9:00:04
- Stephan Hugenschmidt (Germany) — 9:01:19
2016 IAU Trail World Championships Articles, Race Reports, and More