With 14 events hosting some 13,000-plus runners over a three-day fall weekend, the Festival des Templiers, held in Millau, France, is one the largest trail running events in the world. The 76-kilometer (47-mile) headline event is the Grand Trail des Templiers. Possessing over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) of climb through the Grands Causses, a series of high limestone plateaus in southern France, Les Templiers always collects a competitive international field. This year is no different.
Can you guess what’s coming next? You bet, iRunFar will be heading to France to bring you pre- and post-race interviews with top competitors as well as a play-by-play of the event. The race departs Millau at 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, October 23rd, which is 10 p.m. Mountain Time Saturday night in the United States. Be sure to follow our live race-day coverage.
2017 Grand Trail des Templiers Women’s Preview
The women’s race, a vertiable who’s who for a wide variety of distances and types of trail running, is what’s got me most fired up at this year’s Les Templiers. Long-course specialists, mountain-running experts, those who excel on flatter terrain, and more: let’s check out the women’s field.
Update, October 16: It looks like Caroline Chaverot is not planning to race, after all.
In 2017, it seems like France’s Caroline Chaverot has been delicately tottering on the fence separating the field of global-level dominance in longer, mountainous ultras and the field representing overracing and health problems. Her 2017 wins, MaXi-Race Annecy, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, and the Hardrock 100, have come with two significant drops due to health issues, at Transgrancanaria and UTMB. If she’s healthy again now, she should help shape the way the women’s race pans out with her aggressive racing style. If she’s not, I sincerely hope she gives herself a well-deserved off-season and rest.
France’s Adeline Roche cannonballed into the international trail-running scene earlier this year when she won the IAU Trail World Championships. That performance was not unprecedented as before that she’d been a successful road runner with a 2:38 marathon PR. Earlier this fall, she won the French Trail Championships on its 30k short course. It took Adeline five hours to win the 55k IAU Trail World Championships, and it’s going to take a performance probably a little under eight hours to win Les Templiers, what will be Adeline’s longest time afoot.
Good grief, I wouldn’t want to bet against Sweden’s Ida Nilsson (pre-race interview) on a win of Les Templiers. This woman is on fire, too. She was the 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships winner, the 2017 Transvulcania champ, and the 2017 Ultravasan winner, among other races. While Caroline excels at the longer, mountain-y stuff, and Adeline at shorter trail races, Ida’s sweet spot seems to be right in trail ultrarunning’s ‘middle’ distances, races that take between six and eight hours.
Circa 2012 to 2015-ish, Emelie Forsberg (pre-race interview) was a race-most-things, dominate-everything sort of trail runner, at least at the 50-mile-and-less variety of the sport. After suffering what could have been a sports-career-ending knee injury during the 2015-2016 ski-mountaineering season and a long rehab, the Swedish runner who dwells in Norway now seems a lot more choosy with where she exerts herself. Her 2017 season has included an eighth place at the Zegama Marathon, a second at the OCC, and a win at the Glen Coe Skyline. Of note, back in 2012, she took second at Les Templiers behind that year’s winner, Núria Picas.
Update, October 20: We’ve learned that Núria Picas decided to end her season at Ultra Pirineu.
Speaking of Núria Picas, the Catalana is racing–again! In just the last two months, and following a long break from competitive racing, Núria won UTMB and took second at Ultra Pirineu. She’s quite familiar with Les Templiers, given that she’s a three-time winner in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and that she finished third last year amidst what seemed like a steady rebuild of physical fitness and competitive fire. The list of women I wouldn’t want to bet against in Les Templiers continues to grow!
How am I just now mentioning Ruth Croft (pre-race interview), a Kiwi who lives in Taiwan? She races hard off start lines, so look for her to impact the women’s competition. And, no doubt, she’s got a lot of street cred to back up her racing style. In the last couple of years, perhaps her best performances have been winning the 2015 CCC, taking third at the 2016 TNF EC 50 Mile, and taking second at the 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail.
2017 Comrades Marathon champion, the USA’s Camille Herron, is racing. Camille has shown plenty of prowess on flat and rolling trail-ultra courses, examples being her win of both the 2016 White River 50 Mile and the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon. However, when races grow more technical or mountainous, she’s so far shown the need to develop more trail skills, examples being her challenges with the hills and mud at the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (fourth) and the 2017 Chuckanut 50k (fourth), as well as a DNF at the snowy 2017 Western States 100. The flat and road stretches of Les Templiers will suit Camille well, I think, and time will tell how she fares with the short but nasty technical bits.
Sweden’s Mimmi Kotka could win the whole dang race! I’d place Mimmi in the category of ‘we have no idea how high her potential is.’ In the last couple of years, she’s taken eighth at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships, won the 2016 CCC, and won both the Mont-Blanc 80k and TDS this year. For a little perspective on her TDS win, she reset an Andrea Huser course record by 45 minutes and got within 75 minutes of men’s winner Michel Lanne–in a 120k race that took the men’s winner 14.5 hours. Thus, I give Mimmi the highest upside potential of any woman in the field.
More Fast Women
France’s Lucie Jamsin finished fifth at Les Templiers last year, and I suspect she could finish more or less fifth place again this year. Since her performance here a year ago, her top finishes have been an eighth place at the 2017 IAU Trail World Championships and a second place at the 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course.
I believe that France’s Sandra Martin is a seven-time Les Templiers finisher–with all but one of those finishes well inside the top 10. Her most recent Les Templiers finish was eighth place last year. Last month, she finished fourth at the French Trail Championships on the 62k long course. I have no reason to think she won’t be a top-10 finisher once again.
Another Frenchwoman with a lot of Les Templiers experience is Aurélia Truel, who has at least five top-10 Les Templiers finishes on her resume, most recently a ninth in 2014. She’s represented France at the IAU Trail World Championships four times, with her top finish as second in 2013. Last year, she finished 11th at that same event. I can’t find much in the way of 2017 results for her; does anyone have an update on Aurélia from this year?
Update, October 21: We’ve learned that Kristin Berglund won’t be running Les Templiers this year.
Kristin Berglund, from Sweden but living in Austria, could run into the women’s top 10. In 2016, she won the Zugspitz Ultratrail. In 2017, her top results have been fourth at Transgrancanaria and 11th at the CCC.
Hat tip to Canada’s Anne-Marie Madden, who seems to have the leg speed and hilly running skills for a top-10 finish at Les Templiers. She’s twice run herself into the TNF EC 50 Mile top 10, fourth in 2014 and sixth in 2015. She’s also run to a fourth and a second at the Chuckanut 50k, in 2015 and 2016. Last month, she was ninth at the uber-technical Glen Coe Skyline.
Still More Women to Watch
- Cecile Clet (France) — 6th 2017 Mont-Blanc 80k
- Sylvaine Cussot (France) — 7th 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course
- Christelle Lazard (France) — 5th 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course
- Sonia Locatelli (Italy) — Plenty of top finishes at Italian trail races in recent years; 10th 2016 Les Templiers
- Claire Mougel (France) — 3rd 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course
- Katie Schide (USA but lives in Switzerland?) — 2nd 2017 Royal Ultra Skymarathon Gran Paradiso; 6th 2017 Glen Coe Skyline
2017 Grand Trail des Templiers Men’s Preview
Now, let’s turn our attention to the men’s race. While the men’s race doesn’t have quite the star power as the women’s, the breadth of the men’s race is there and will surely bring a lot of entertainment when following on race day. Diving right in…
Five times a top Les Templiers finisher–most recently second in 2015–but not yet a winner, is France’s Nico Martin (pre-race interview). The same year he took second at Les Templiers was also the year that Nico broke from the French national scene and into the international trail-ultra world, as he also finished seventh at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships and third at the 2015 CCC. Banner performances in 2016 for Nico were a second at both of that year’s Transvulcania and IAU Trail World Champs. He took fourth at this year’s Transvulcania, then seemed to have an off day at the 2017 IAU Trail World Champs, but circled back last month to win the 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course. Could this be Nico’s Les Templiers year?
Now who is Norway’s Stian Angermund-Vik (pre-race interview) and where’s he been all my life? In all fairness, Stian has been running strong in the Skyrunning and Vertical K genres of trail running for several years before this year when he hit it big to win the Zegama Marathon. I’m *guessing* 76k will also be Stian’s longest race to date. Can anyone confirm?
The USA’s Alex Nichols (pre-race interview) has twice finished Les Templiers, taking third in 2014 and fifth in 2015. He’s also got loads more stellar results to his name, including sixth place at the 2015 IAU Trail World Champs, two second places at the Speedgoat 50k in 2015 and 2016, a win of the 2016 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, and a second place at the 2017 Western States 100. Holy versatility. Alex took an early race DNF at RRR100 last month because he didn’t feel well. Let’s hope he’s back to regular Alex standards.
I gotta’ say, I appreciate Sylvain Court’s approach to high-level trail ultrarunning. The Frenchman takes real down time, lets himself lose fitness, then trains like a madman to reach top level again. He’s got some seven years of competing at a high level in these longer trail races on his resume, so I’m apt to believe there’s something to his approach when it comes to sustainability. His top finishes in recent years have been a win of the 2015 IAU Trail World Champs and a third place at the same race in 2016. Just last month, he took a sub-par 15th at the French Trail Championships on the 62k long course, so I’m not sure what that means for this current fitness state, but at least he can partially rely on his five previous Les Templiers top-10 finishes.
Swiss mountain runner Marc Lauenstein is best known for fast running on short-and-steep courses, but it seems he’s really branching out with his entrance into this 76k race. Can anyone confirm that this will be his longest effort to date? You name the competitive mountain race, and Marc’s probably podium-ed in it at some point, including Sierre-Zinal, Pikes Peak, Zegama Marathon, Giir di Mont, and more. This year, he’s taken third at Zegama and won the OCC. Oh and there is that little matter of him dropping into France and winning the 2017 Trail du Ventoux, where all the French big guns were running to qualify for Team France for the 2017 IAU Trail World Champs. It’s only the extended distance which remains my question mark on Marc.
France’s Sébastien Spehler should make a dent in the men’s competition. Over the years, amongst a slew of strong ultra finishes, he’s got some stellar results in there, too. Cases in point, two MaXi-Race Annecy wins (2014 and 2017), two top finishes at the French Trail Championships (sixth in 2014 and second just last month on the 62k long course), and fourth at the 2016 Les Templiers.
Update, October 16: It sounds like Jared Hazen is officially out with an injury.
The USA’s Jared Hazen is the top returning 2016 Les Templiers finisher, where he took a close second. Props to Jared because he raced Les Templiers in 2015, too, and it didn’t go so well for him. He learned a lot about Euro racing, though, and came back last year ready to hang with some of the top Euro runners in the sport. 2015 was a banner year for Jared, as that’s where he took third at the Bandera 100k, third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and third at the Western States 100. It doesn’t look like he’s raced much in 2017, though he’s got a notable win at the 2017 Moab Red Hot 33k on his resume. We hear he might be a bit injured, so can anyone comment on Jared’s current fitness?
More Fast Men
Anytime you see Fabien Antolinos’s, of France, name on an entrants list for a mountain ultramarathon, you better be ready to watch him run well. Fabien has at least a decade of successful results, which include more recently 11th at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships, fifth at the 2015 UTMB, and a win of the 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. Fabien has a number of Les Templiers finishes, including several in the top 10 and several off-par placings–most recently 16th last year.
I suspect that there’s a lot about the host country’s Adrien Michaud that I don’t know. He’s had an extended mountain-running career, with several years of all-in participation in Skyrunning. His top Skyrunning finishes this year, I think, have been a fifth place at the Zegama Marathon and a third place at the Buff Epic Trail 42k. Just last month, he took third place at the 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course. While he seems to specialize at races in the 25k to 45k range, he’s moved up in distance before so I don’t think this race’s will be too much of a shocker for him.
The Moroccan Rachid El Morabity is the current Marathon des Sables king, with five wins to his name (2014 and 2015 interviews). He hasn’t turned his Sahara Desert leg speed into mountain legs with quite as much success, however. While he was second at last year’s OCC, he went out hard and suffered to finish 22nd at this year’s CCC. I can’t help but wonder if it’s just a matter of time until a guy with his level of talent and drive figures out this different style of racing?
Elov Olsson of Sweden came onto our radar last year when he took eighth at the 2016 Ultravasan and then 11th at the 2016 IAU 100k World Championships. He’s followed that up in 2017 with a second at the Black Canyon 100k, 13th at the Western States 100, and then a win of Ultravasan. Though he seems to fare better when the terrain is flatter, I think Elov is rapidly improving in trail ultras.
Finland’s Henri Ansio seems to be another one of those guys on his way up in the trail-ultra world. After several years of strong performances, he’s blasted out some great ones this year with a fourth place at the 2017 IAU Trail World Championships and a third place at the 2017 Ultravasan. Your guess is as good as mine as to what his potential could be.
France’s Emmanuel Gault is a prolific racer with a decade of national-level results. The winner of the 2017 EcoTrail de Paris has at least seven prior Les Templiers finishes, almost all of them in the top 10. Most recently, in both 2014 and 2015, he finished seventh.
Pau Bartoló is a strong Spanish runner who may have reached his peak between 2013 and 2015, when he had a long string of top results, including a fifth at the 2013 Les Templiers, a win of the 2014 CCC, and a win of the 2015 TDS.
Still More Men to Watch
- Ernest Ausiro (Spain) — 5th 2016 Ultra Pirineu
- Remi Berchet (France) — 3rd 2016 Mont-Blanc 80k
- Thierry Breuil (France) — Long-time trail ultrarunner with both national- and international-level success including at least seven Les Templiers finishes with one of those a win
- Jonathan Duhail (France) — 14th 2016 Les Templiers
- Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz (France) — 2nd 2017 Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira
- Germain Grangier (France) — 4th 2016 French Trail Championships
- Jessed Hernández (Spain) — 2nd 2016 Ultra Pirineu; 2nd 2017 Olympus Marathon
- André Jonsson (Sweden) — 2nd 2017 Royal Ultra Skymarathon Gran Paradiso; 6th 2017 Glen Coe Skyline (for the super-detail-oriented, those aren’t typos as both he and Katie Schide had the same results at these same races)
- Romain Maillard (France) — 4th at both 2017 Trail du Ventoux and 2017 French Trail Championships on the 62k long course
- Peter Maksimow (USA) — 20th 2016 Les Templiers
- Satoshi Okuyama (Japan) — Podium finishes at the 2013 through 2016 Hasetsune Cup
- Mario Olmedo (Spain) — 19th 2016 Les Templiers
- Pablo Villalobos (Spain) — 11th 2016 Les Templiers
On the Entrants List but Not Racing
- Luis Alberto Hernando (Spain) – He’s reportedly injured and unable to race.
Call for Comments
- Your turn to call it: which woman and which man will win Les Templiers 2017?
- With 2,500 entrants, we surely missed some strong runners. Leave a comment to let us know who.
- Tell us if we’ve mentioned a runner who you think won’t be running. We’ll update this preview with such details. Thanks!