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What a women’s race! It was the USA’s Ladia Albertson-Junkans and France’s Adeline Roche (post-race interview) who took out the women’s race, sharing the lead at 9 kilometers, weaving in and out of the men’s field. They were not alone, however, as a big pack of women was strung out behind them in short order, most immediately France’s Amandine Ferrato (post-race interview) and the Netherlands’s Ragna Debats. Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo rounded out the women’s top five there. Among this group of early leaders, the only familiar face from previous Trail World Championships was Ragna Debats, who was returning following her third place last year.
The next time we saw the women at 19 kilometers, at the top of the major climb of the race’s first half, the women’s field had stretched out some, with Adeline looking comfortable and comfortably in front of the rest of the field by about one minute. She climbed with ease, jogging the steeps. Behind her was Amandine, moving just as well, but looking like she was working harder. Ladia had shifted back to third place, but literally just steps out of second, and with fourth-place Ragna just a few steps behind her. Thus, the big story at this point was leader Adeline gapping the rest of the field.
At 29k, just after they finished the first of two big climbs in the race’s second half, Adeline was now two minutes off the front and looking strong. We began to think that this road runner who had recently taken up trail running and who sports a 2:38 marathon best was putting away the race. Amandine ran in second place, now two minutes off the front, still looking like she was putting a lot of effort into her run, but also still moving really well. This pair had two totally different run styles, but both looked just great. Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo had now moved up to third place. Ladia had dropped back a spot to fourth place, but looked well on the flat dirt road here. Ragna now was in the fifth-place position.
Outside of the top-five women, there was a gap to the rest of the women’s field, but a heated race was happening, and, to be clear, Team France was coming on really strong. At 29k, members of Team France occupied positions 1, 2, 6, 7, and 10. With only three members scoring for the team, there was tons of room for things to go wrong for someone–or two women. Foreshadowing? Nope, Team France would close the race’s final 21k just as well as they were running here, and absolutely kill the rest of the women’s team race. A gold medal for Team France again.
Adeline struggled some with stomach issues in the race, and as part of this, she gave back all of her lead over the race’s final third. Near the end of the race, Amandine caught her. Across the line the women would go one-two and three seconds apart from each other, Adeline in first and taking the title of individual trail world champion. They grinned and celebrated together, clearly happy for each other. After the race, Amandine said that she wanted her friend to win, and that she was happy to finish second and help guarantee a Team France victory.
It was quite a while until we would see third-place Silvia Rampazzo at the finish–some 11 minutes–but she was welcomed with a lot of support in being the top finisher of the home team. As someone we haven’t seen race until recently, we’ve now watched her run an impressive double: second at the Zegama Marathon two weeks ago and, now, third here. She passed on doing an interview with us both times, so we’re not able to provide much other information about Silvia and her performances.
Ragna ultimately finished in fourth position and France’s Nathalie Mauclair (pre-race interview), who started out comfortably and consistently moved up to finish fifth position, stamping Team France’s victory in serious style.
France’s Celia Lafaye, who’d run inside the top 10 for the whole race, finished a very strong sixth place. Spain’s Laia Cañes took seventh and the top spot for Team Spain, who was clearly having a challenging team race compared to their very strong second-place team medal last year. Another Frenchwoman, Lucie Jamsin, took eighth. Ninth and 10th positions were filled out by Austria’s Sandra Koblmüller and Germany’s Elizabeth Fladerer.
Team Italy, the home team, would end up with the silver medal, with Italy filling positions 12 and 15 with Gloria Giudici and Barbara Bani. Team Spain, last year’s silver medalist, squeaked in to bronze position this year via Anna Comet’s (pre-race interview) 14th-place finish and Gemma Arena’s (pre-race interview) 25th place. (Teams are scored by time, but the times work out.)
Ladia, who worked the front of the race for such a long time, would ultimately finish as first American in 13th place.
Everyone I heard talking about the race at the finish line said that Team USA took the men’s race out hot and that the early part of the race was influenced by their efforts. Among Team USA it was Andy Wacker (pre-race interview) leading the race full-on at 9 kilometers in. Inside the top 10 there were loads of U.S. men still: Cody Reed in fourth, Hayden Hawks in seventh, and David Roche in 10th. Holy smokes! Defending champion Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race and post-race interviews) shared second place with France’s Cédric Fleureton (post-race interview), a former international-level triathlete trying international trail running for the first time.
We spotted the men next atop the big climb to 19k, and Andy remained in the lead. To be honest, though, he didn’t look that good in comparison to the men behind him. Nevertheless, he maintained a gap of 45 seconds over second-place Cédric, who looked everything like a mountain goat scampering up the steep hill. What impressed me the most, though, was the breathing of Luis in third place and just under two minutes back. Let’s just say that he was working incredibly hard. Another minute back at this point was Finland’s Henri Ansio and France’s Nico Martin, who was returning to the Trail World Championships to defend his second place here last year. At this point, USA still had two more men inside the top 10, sixth-place Cody and seventh-place David.
At 29k, after the runners reached the top of the race’s third big climb and along the dirt road there, Cédric was now leading the men’s race with Luis running two minutes back in second. Both of this pair looked quite strong and Andy, who had led the race for its first half, had dropped back to seventh place while bonking.
In the back half of the men’s top 10, we saw two members of Team France–Nico and Ludovic Pommeret–and two members of Team Spain–Cristofer Clemente (post-race interview) and Daní Garcia–both working together as pairs. What this meant was that, with 21k to go, the team race between Teams France and Spain was really tight. Gone from the top 10 was Team USA aside from Andy, but Mario Mendoza, who was looking like he was just getting started, ran in 11th and Cody and David ran in 13th and 14th, both looking neither stellar nor terrible. Team USA was holding in bronze-medal position.
When we spotted Cédric Fleureton and Luis Alberto Hernando at 39k, Cédric still held his gap of two minutes over Luis, but Luis looked like the stronger man and that it was only a matter of real estate until he took over the lead. Sure enough, on the tough terrain of the ridgeline between 38k and 44k, Luis put the hammer down and took over the lead, and the rest was history. Finland’s Henri Ansio continued to run in third, but was more worried about those behind him than in front of him.
We have to seriously tip our hats to Cristofer Clemente. Check this out: 31st place at 9k, 18th at 25k, ninth place at 29k (and eight minutes back!), eighth place at 35k, fourth place at 39k, and second place at the finish line–just a minute back from winner Luis. For anyone who says that you have to stay in contact with the leaders early if you want to podium in a trail ultramarathon–even a ‘short’ one–there’s an incredible lesson in Cristofer’s performance. More often than not, the way to run your own best race is to run your own race.
Cédric Fleureton ultimately finished in third place, succumbing to leg cramps in the final 12 kilometers, but still finishing strong as the first finisher of Team France. Finland’s Ansio finished in fourth place, ending an all-day strong performance. Rolling over the finish in fifth was Daní Garcia, meaning that Team Spain would take the team gold medal. Spain wasn’t done though, and much like the total domination of Team France in the women’s race, Miguel Caballero took seventh and Pablo Villa 10th.
Team France didn’t have the day they wanted–and weren’t able to defend their team gold medal from last year–but ultimately finished with a silver medal courtesy of the additional efforts of Ludovic Pommeret in sixth and Benoît Cori in 14th positions.
Team USA hung in there for a bronze-medal finish, with Mario Mendoza working his way into the top 10 and finishing ninth, Cody Reed in 15th, and Andy Wacker in 20th. Other early American pace pushers Hayden Hawks and David Roche would finish, but both suffering energy and cramping issues.
Updated June 17, 2017
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.