Ludovic Pommeret returns to the 2018 Trail World Championships having placed in the top six at the three previous world championships. In the following interview, Ludovic talks about his approach to racing the world championships, how he’s feeling going into this year’s race, why the French team is so strong every year, and why the U.S. team might not be.
Ludovic Pommeret Pre-2018 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar and I’m with Ludovic Pommeret before the 2018 Trail World Championships. How are you, Ludovic?
Ludovic Pommeret: I’m fine. Until now, I’m fine [laughs].
iRunFar: You’ve been here for a few days. How have you enjoyed that?
Pommeret: Yeah, I arrived a few days ago and I spent two days on the trail to do recognizance on the last 50k.
iRunFar: Was this your first time on the course here, or have you been here before?
Pommeret: No, I’ve never raced in Spain except for Transvulcania but it’s not really similar.
iRunFar: Yeah, that’s quite far away from here. So, you’ve been on the French team before. This will be your fourth consecutive world championship, correct?
iRunFar: You’ve run so well for the team. You have two fifth positions and one sixth-place finish, I believe.
Pommeret: Yeah, it could be better of course [laughs].
iRunFar: That’s very consistent.
Pommeret: Yeah, I hope that it will continue in this way. We’ll see on Saturday.
iRunFar: To be in that strong position every year, do you race conservatively, or do you maybe try to win the race?
Pommeret: I never start a race trying to win. I try to win and to do my best, but at the World Championships there are so many strong guys that you can’t start by saying, “I will win the race.” You have to see how you manage the race, how you keep your own pace. Doing that is very difficult when you see the other runners [gestures with his hand to indicate competitors running taking off ahead].
iRunFar: You’ll see Zach Miller way up at the front?
Pommeret: Yeah, I’m a bit afraid of the Americans at the start of the race because they are always quite fast. There are some parts of the course where you need to be fast because it’s not so up-and-down. So, we’ll see. But then, the race is quite long–85k.
iRunFar: Maybe eight hours?
Pommeret: Yeah, I would say more than eight hours. So it’s 85k and not fast. Not so far but I can only guess. I saw the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile results [where Jim Walmsley set a new course record in 5:51:16] and it’s around the same distance but the speed is incredible.
iRunFar: Yeah, it was less than six hours.
Pommeret: If someone can do less than six hours in this race, I think they’ll be the winner [laughs].
iRunFar: Are your strategy and position in the World Championships informed by the strong French team? Do you strategize as a team?
Pommeret: No, we didn’t discuss it. It’s really difficult to imagine a team strategy because we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Some are really fast on the flats, some are really fast on the downhill. I try to be average. We’ll see. I hope we can stay together because it’s better for the head, mentally, to have that team spirit. But you have to take care to keep your own pace. That’s more important – to reach the finish line.
iRunFar: So you’re feeling that you’re not the best at any one part of the race but strong at all of them?
Pommeret: Yeah, I’m trying to get better on the flats because that was one of my weaknesses, so we’ll see. I didn’t do recognizance on the whole course, but I know there are some parts in the middle that are flat and will be fast. We’ll see.
iRunFar: You’re not afraid to be behind in the race and still do well, as we saw at the UTMB.
Pommeret: No, but this is shorter than UTMB. If you’re one hour behind the lead here, it’s finished for sure. It’s really difficult to let the guys go ahead.
iRunFar: You have to be a little aggressive?
Pommeret: Yeah, but not too much. We saw last year the second-place guy, Cristofer Clemente, finished one minute behind Luis Alberto Hernandez. There was a gap of more than 12 minutes between them in the middle of the race.
iRunFar: Yeah, Cristofer was maybe in 10th position or worse.
Pommeret: So, we’ll see.
iRunFar: So, the French team–you were the champions in Annecy in 2015, the champions in Portugal in 2016. Last year it was Spain.
Pommeret: And now we are in Spain. We’d like to take the team title again but it will be difficult. For sure there’s Spain [to contend with]. They’re at home here. There are other teams at play. I think that the English team is very strong. The U.S. team was strong but two guys dropped out of the race. The French team, we have one guy that will not start as well. I think from these four teams will be the first-place team in the race. But first it’s an individual race. So, you have to do a good race on your own, but you have to think of the team as well.
iRunFar: And do you?
Pommeret: Yes, the team title is very important for me. I’d like us to get one. For me, it’s maybe more important than my own race. We’ll see at the end [laughs].
iRunFar: Before we started talking on-camera, we were talking a bit about why the French team or the Spanish team are so strong, and maybe the U.S. is not as strong. Do you think it comes down to the federation and support, a little?
Pommeret: I think yes, of course. I think in the U.S. you have a lot of very strong runners and could maybe have the most competitive team. But maybe there’s not enough involvement of the federation. For us, at this championship, everything is paid by the federation. Even if we earn or win nothing, I don’t have to spend any [of my own money]. That’s not the case for the U.S. team. I heard that they have to pay half of their travel and so it could be quite expensive.
Another difference is that I think most of the top runners in the U.S., they are professional. So it’s their job to run. If they know they have to spend money [coming to this race] and know that they will not earn any [prize money], it’s more difficult for them. Most of the runners on the French and Spanish teams are not professional and I think they are… I think the American guys have national spirit and are happy to run for their country, but there has to be support.
iRunFar: So for guys like Hayden Hawks, he’s here, but he’s going to run the Ultra-Trail World Tour race, Penyagolosa Trails, where there’s probably support.
Pommeret: Maybe the Ultra-Trail World Tour is supporting him to come here. It’s different for him.
iRunFar: You’ve run at least one race this year, the Trail du Ventoux, and you had a good race there?
Pommeret: Yeah, it was a good race. It’s a local race–a competitive French race, and that’s great. Even if the first one wasn’t French, he was Swiss–Marc Lauenstein [laughs]. He’s a good runner. But almost all of the French runners who are at this World Championship were there, so it was a very nice race to begin [the season with] and to see how you feel after the winter.
iRunFar: And how do you feel now? Do you feel strong?
Pommeret: I will say, just to scare the other competitors, that we are so strong [laughs]. It’s always the same: we don’t know if everything will be fine but we did the right preparation. I hope that it will be fine and that we will enjoy the race. The course will have some hard parts but we will keep the best in mind.
iRunFar: Excellent. Bon chance.
Pommeret: Thank you. Merci.