Two-time UTMB champ Xavier Thévenard returns to the queen race after winning the OCC last year. In the following interview, Xavier talks about why he comes back to Mont Blanc so often, whether he feels any pressure at the UTMB festival of races, and who he admires.
[Our apologies to watchers for the intermittent poor audio quality and to Xavier for cutting an inaudible section of the interview, which we do include at the bottom of this article. Be warned that the audio quality of the additional clip is very bad. We know.]
Additional Lower Audio Quality Portion of Interview
As noted above, the audio quality of this portion of the interview is quite bad. We include it here simply as extra footage for the biggest ultrarunning fans.
Xavier Thévenard Pre-UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in Chamonix, France. It’s two days before the 2017 UTMB. I’m with two-time UTMB champion, Xavier Thévenard. Bonjour! Hello!
Xavier Thévenard: Hello. Bonjour.
iRunFar: How are you doing? It’s two days before the race. How are you feeling?
Thévenard: Very good. I’m very happy to be in Chamonix. I’m looking forward to being at the start line.
iRunFar: I just have to ask you… you’ve won UTMB twice; you’ve won CCC; you’ve won TDS; you’ve won OCC. You’ve come to Mont Blanc so many times. What brings you back?
Thévenard: It’s not very far from home, and I love being in Chamonix in the mountains. It’s very nice. The trails are very nice, and I enjoy the race. I make the most of the race, and it’s a pleasure for me to run in the mountains around Chamonix.
iRunFar: You’re not tired of the course, I guess? You’ve seen it all a bunch of times, but you don’t mind running the same trails again?
Thévenard: I always have doubts before the race, and I’m always a little afraid before the race, but it’s a new adventure each time, and it’s always a pleasure to run around Chamonix. The good thing is it’s the same race, and of course, it’s wonderful emotions with all the win and around Chamonix and Mont Blanc, so I wanted to live again the same emotions.
iRunFar: Do you feel any pressure? You’ve won all of these races, and you’ve won UTMB twice. Is there any pressure on your shoulders because of that?
Thévenard: Yes and no. The goal is to have pleasure with the race. Of course I know people are waiting for me. I don’t want to know if I’m the favorite or an outsider in a race. My goal is to make the loop. I would like to make the loop in 21 hours. I don’t want to know what people are thinking about me. I don’t want to take into account who is running with me in the race. I want to follow my table with different times and finish in about 21 hours.
iRunFar: Okay, well, we know what time Xavier wants to finish–21 hours. We know what his strategy is—to do what he needs to do to finish in 21 hours.
Thévenard: After we will see the result.
iRunFar: I want to ask you what you think about the men’s competition. You ran UTMB in 2013, a competitive race. You ran UTMB 2015, an even more competitive race. This year in the men’s field, arguably it’s the best assembled men’s field in trail-ultrarunning. What do you think of the competition?
Thévenard: I hope that they enjoy the race, too, like me. It’s a good thing that there are many good runners on the start line. People are talking about the race because there are so many top level runners on the start line, but I don’t want to take this into account. I will run my race.
iRunFar: In 2013 and 2015, you ran at the front of the race both times basically from the start either leading or sharing the lead. Can we expect that you’ll be running at the front this time?
Thévenard: I will see. I will follow my times, my focused times. If others are in my times, I will run with them. I will follow my times.
iRunFar: So in 2013 and 2015, was the fact that you were at the front of the race coincidental or were you trying to lead the race then, or was it you were following your pace and they were following you?
Thévenard: I followed my times and my pace even if there were runners leading me. I didn’t try to follow them. I only followed my times. I try also to drink and to eat and to follow my feelings of my body during the race to stay in the best shape.
iRunFar: This weekend, the weather forecast is not so good, so we don’t yet know if the route will make the full loop around Mont Blanc, but the regular UTMB course has some very special running through the night in Italy passing Lac Combal, sunrise on Grand Col Ferret. Are you thinking about the beauty of UTMB while you’re doing a race like this?
Thévenard: Yes, I’m always trying to have a loop at the landscape around me more after the sunrise because during the night I can’t see anything. After the sunrise, you have more energy and you have to open your eyes to make the most of the landscape and to enjoy the landscape.
iRunFar: My last question for you—you’re a UTMB course expert, what’s your favorite part of the course?
Thévenard: Kilian Jornet. No? You are talking about the part of the race or the landscape?
iRunFar: The landscape.
Thévenard: Courmayer or Grand Col Ferret.
iRunFar: Seeing the sunrise and seeing that valley light up?
Thévenard: Yes, to appreciate the sunrise.
iRunFar: You mentioned Kilian Jornet, he’s who you’re calling the race favorite?
iRunFar: Is he your favorite runner? The person you look up to?
iRunFar: Even stars have stars they look up to? Even a person as strong as Xavier has someone he looks up to?
iRunFar: Best of luck out there this weekend. We look forward to seeing you make the loop around Mont Blanc.
Thévenard: Thank you.