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2018 UTMB Men’s Preview

Well, summer’s coming to an end and that can only mean one thing, it’s time for UTMB, which once again promises to be the most competitive men’s field for a trail ultramarathon this year… and it’s not even close. From the headline showdown, to the podium contenders, to those 30 or 50 or 100 places back, this is the race of the year. While last year’s champion Francois D’haene isn’t returning, the rest of the men’s top five is as are nine of last year’s top-12 men.

The UTMB’s 170-kilometer/105.6-mile loop around the Mont Blanc massif will bring more than 2,000 runners from France into Italy and, then, Switzerland before returning to the start/finish in Chamonix, France. Those runners who complete the full distance will have climbed more than 10,000 meters/33,000 feet.

A special thanks to Camelbak for making our coverage of UTMB possible!

Thanks also to Altra and Jaybird for their support of our UTMB coverage.

As you’d expect, we’ll be covering UTMB live starting at 6 p.m. CEST (10 a.m. MDT in the U.S.) on Friday, August 31.

Check out our in-depth women’s preview for a look at the other half of the race!

The Two Favorites

Kilian Jornet

While there are plenty of guys who could win this year’s UTMB, any discussion of who will win this year’s race is likely to center around two runners: Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley.

It’s probably not too soon to call Kilian Jornet the trail ultrarunner of the decade. Despite passions that call him to other pursuits in the mountains—namely alpinism and skiing—Kilian is always in the mix to win the ultramarathons he runs. A broken leg this past winter delayed the start of his racing season, but he kicked it off with a win at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc, then, crushed the record for England’s ultra-distance Bob Graham Round, and, earlier this month, won Sierre-Zinal for the sixth time. Kilian already has three UTMB wins (2008, 2009, & 2011), but was beat out for last year’s win by François D’haene. It’s hard to envision Kilian getting beat twice in a row…

Jim Walmsley

But, Jim Walmsley (pre-race interview).  Jim’s been shattering course records from 50km-100km for some years now, but until this year, his 100-mile resume didn’t match up. He had a DNF, other blowups, and, finally, a relatively strong finish with his fifth place at last year’s UTMB after setting the pace for much of the race. Then, this year’s Western States happened. Jim absolutely crushed the race, breaking the course record on a hot-enough day that this shouldn’t have been an option. While thought of as a speedster, Jim’s plenty strong enough in the mountains to give a Western States-like performance at UTMB. Hopefully, he runs his own race from the gun, rather than the run-ahead-and-wait approach that he employed to “run with” François and Kilian early in last year’s UTMB.

The Other Podium Favorites

Without Kilian and Jim, each and every one of the following men would be in the discussion to win… and, since anything can happen in ultras, they still are. They’re also the guys most likely to round out the podium.

Tim Tollefson

With two-straight third-place finishes at UTMB (2016 & 2017 post-race interviews), it’d be foolish to look past Tim Tollefson (pre-race interview) and his methodical racing. So far this year, Tim has a pair of thirds at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and the Speedgoat 50k to go along with a DNF at Transgrancanaria. Cumulatively, these results aren’t quite as strong as his results heading into the past two UTMBs, but I see Tim as one of those runners who’ll only start if he’s 100% ready for the race.

Two-time UTMB champ (2013 & 2015 post-race interviews) Xavier Thévenard (pre-race interview) is back to run UTMB once again. In addition to UTMB, he’s won its sister races: OCC (2016), CCC (2010), and TDS (2014). Last year, in the strongest UTMB men’s field to date, Xavier took fourth. He’s obviously quite fit again this year, as shown by his impressive run at the Hardrock 100 last month before being disqualified at mile 91. Those strong 91 miles do give me a bit of pause regarding how Xavier will do at this year’s UTMB. Personally, I just can’t imagine racing Hardrock and UTMB hard in the same year, especially with the two races being a week closer than in most years.

Luis Alberto Hernando

The three-time defending Trail World Champion (2016, 2017, & 2018 post-race interviews), Luis Alberto Hernando (pre-race interview) has an up-and-down history at UTMB, but that up happens to be a second-place finish behind Thévenard in 2015. Hernando still seems best at and to focus on the roughly the 50-mile/80km distance, but that 2015 UTMB result is enough to show he can handle the 100-mile distance. At least from afar, it seems like he’s raced a lot less year, and if that’s intentional/purposeful rather than due to injury or fatigue, I think that’ll benefit him greatly.

During the past three UTMB festivals, Zach Miller (pre-race interview) has won CCC, taken sixth at UTMB, and, then, ninth, at UTMB… always in his aggressive, go-for-broke style. Just as with Walmsley at Western States, I firmly expect Zach to stick the landing at UTMB one of these years. After wrapping up last year with a second-place finish at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships, Zach ran aggressively at the 85km Trail World Championships in Penyagolosa, Spain this May, leading much of the way before fading to eighth. Sometimes he nails it, sometimes he doesn’t, but it’s always fun to watch Zach race.

Alex Nichols

For whatever reason, I think the UTMB course really suits Alex Nichols. He’s shown he can run fast for a 100 miles in winning the Run Rabbit Run 100 in 2016 and taking second to Sandes at last year’s Western States 100. He’s also shown he can run fast at Mont Blanc, having won the Mont-Blanc 80k in 2015. While a quick look at a results website would suggest Alex has been quiet this year, he’s taken second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100km, easily won a local 50 miler this spring, and, then, crushed the supported Nolan’s 14 record in late June. If he’s recovered from that monster effort (and that’s a big if!), watch out for Alex.

Unless you count his second place at Ultra-Trail Cape Town last December, we’ve not seen much from Ryan Sandes since his win at the 2017 Western States 100. He did run CCC last year, but came in 21st, which pairs up with a couple UTMB DNFs, if I’m remembering correctly. The counterpoint to that lack of success at the UTMB races is his tremendous success at the 100-mile distance in general. He won the Leadville 100 in 2011, was second and fifth at Western States in 2012 and 2014 respectively, was second at Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji in 2014, and was fourth at Diagonale des Fous in 2016.

The Rest of the Favorites

Mark Hammond

The U.S.’s Mark Hammond has some great results at 100 miles over the past two years. Aside from fast times at smaller races, he’s been third at Western States in both 2017 and 2018 as well as being second at the Run Rabbit Run 100 in both 2016 and 2017. Earlier this year, he was eighth at Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji. I’ll admit that UTMF result had me thinking that maybe Mark had raced a bit too much over the past few years, but his Western States finish a couple months later says otherwise.

Lithuania’s Gediminas Grinius has an accomplished resume, including UTMB itself. He was fifth at the race in 2014, second in 2016, and, then, eighth last year. I could be wrong, but that 2014-16 period seems to be at least a temporary high point to his ultrarunning career. During that span, he was also second (2016) and third (2014) at Lavaredo, first (2015) and second (2016) at Transgrancanaria, and fourth (2015) at Western States, just to highlight a few results. Grinius has continued to run well the past year and a half, but his wins are coming in Poland, Austria, and China and there are a few results that aren’t on par with those he ran a few years ago. That said, it’s a mere two years since he was second at UTMB and he continues to run well.

Javi Dominguez

While he skipped last year’s UTMB to go win the Tor des Géants, Javi Dominguez is no stranger to strong runs at UTMB, where he was third in 2013 and fifth in 2016. Earlier this year, he was fifth at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (MIUT).

Long successful on the trails, Michel Lanne looks to be building toward success at UTMB. In 2016, he won the CCC and, last year, he won TDS. Locally, he also won the Mont-Blanc 80km in 2013 and took second at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc in 2014. It looks like he’s run the 100-mile distance at least twice, having taken seventh at the Diagonale des Fous in both 2011 and 2015. This year, he’s run a couple underwhelming (for him) races in Spain.

Sylvain Court of France is another one of the runners in this year’s UTMB with a ton of success around the 50-mile/80km distance, but with less experience in races at or approaching 100 miles. Still, Sylvain’s success at the distances he’s focused on so far is unmistakeable. He was the 2015 Trail World Champ on an 83km course in France and followed that up with a third place on the 2016 Trail World Championships 86km course in Portugal. Court has starting dipping his toes into longer ultras of late, placing fourth at Lavaredo in 2016 and winning the 146km/91-mile Échappée Belle last August. Late this June, he won the Mont-Blanc 90k.

Jordi Gamito has twice run UTMB, finishing 10th last year and 12th in 2015. He’s also twice run TDS, the 119km UTMB sister race, taking fifth in both 2014 and 2016. Since last year’s UTMB, Gamito’s highlights include a fourth at the Ultra Pirineu last September and a third at the MIUT in April.

Andrew Miller won’t be running this year’s UTMB. [Updated 8/22] I’ll admit it’s hard to know where to put the U.S.’s Andrew Miller in this preview. Yes, he won the 2016 Western States 100, as well as the Georgia Death Race in 2015, 2016, and 2018. On the other hand, injuries or the effect they’ve had on his training have caused him to withdraw ahead of important races these past two years, including last year’s UTMB and this year’s Western States. We don’t believe Andrew’s run an international ultra since he really stepped up as an ultrarunner… although he may have run a 50k in England in 2012 as a 16 year old.

I could be wrong, but I think this will be Stephan Hugenschmidt’s debut at the 100-mile distance. However, in 2016, he won the 130km Swiss Iron Trail and was fourth at Lavaredo this year. In the past, Stephan’s had success at Transvulcania, where he was fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2016.

France’s Benoît Cori has twice won the Grand Trail des Templiers (2014 & 2015). He’s also placed as high as fourth at the Trail World Championships (2016) with two more top-15 finishes at the Trail World Championships (13th in 2015 & 14th in 2017). What he’s not done, as far as I know, is run a 100-mile race. It does look like he took a step up in longest race distance and time in winning a 123km, 15-hour race this spring, but UTMB adds another 30% onto that.

Last year, Sebastien Camus DNFed UTMB after taking seventh the year before. In the past year, he’s also DNFed Diagonale des Fous and a few other races, so I’m not sure if he’s run into some problems of late. On the upside, he was fourth at the MIUT this past April.

Scott Hawker was 11th at last year’s UTMB, but this year has DNFed MIUT and been 19th at Lavaredo, a race at which he’s previously placed fourth (2015), fifth (2016) and seventh (2014).

From 2016 to 2017, the U.K.’s Damian Hall improved his UTMB placing from 19th to 12th. Earlier this year, Damian took sixth at MIUT.

Back in 2015, Erik Clavery was sixth at UTMB and, a year later, sixth at Diagonale des Fous. The past two years, he’s placed 15th and 16th at Western States.

It was back in 2013 that Timothy Olson placed fourth at UTMB after winning the Western States 100 for the second-straight year earlier in the summer (2012 and 2013 WS 100 post-race interviews). More recently, Olson won last year’s 116km Penyagolosa CSP two months after taking 10th at Transgrancanaria.

Other Top Runners to Watch

  • Sondre Amdahl (Norway) — 2nd 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 4th 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji; 7th 2014 UTMB
  • Ion Azpiroz (Spain) — 4th 2017 TDS; 13th 2015 UTMB
  • Guillaume Beauxis (France) — 3rd 2017 Diagonale des Fous; 2nd 2018 Mont-Blanc 80km; 7th 2018 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Mathieu Blanchard (France, living in Canada) — 14th 2017 TNF EC 50 Mile – San Francisco; 3rd 2017 Vermont 100 Mile
  • Bertrand Collomb-Patton (France) — 25th 2016 UTMB; 9th 2014 UTMB; 8th 2013 UTMB
  • Sacha Devillaz (France) — 4th 2015 CCC; 5th 2016 Mont Blanc 80km
  • Yeray Duran (Spain) — 2nd 2016 TDS; 14th 2016 Trail World Championships; 5th 2013 CCC
  • Ugo Ferrari (France) — 4th 2016 TDS; 8th 2017 Eiger Ultra-Trail
  • Anthony Gay (France) — 6th 2017 Diagonale ds Fous; 33rd 2017 UTMB; 3rd 2014 CCC
  • Paul Giblin (U.K.) — 9th 2017 & 2018 Western States 100 Mile; 17th 2016 UTMB; 5th 2016 Western States 100
  • Robert Hajnal (Romania) — 15th 2018 Trail World Championships; 5th 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 8th 2015 CCC
  • Michael Jones (U.K.) — 8th 2017 CCC; 1st 2016, 2017 Lakeland 100 Mile
  • Thorbergur Jonsson (Iceland) — 6th 2017 CCC; 15th 2015 CCC; 9th 2015 Trail World Championships
  • Juan Jose Larrotcha (Spain) — 22nd 2017 UTMB; 15th 2016 UTMB
  • Emanuele Ludovisi (Italy) — 8th 2018 Madeira Island Ultra Trail; 9th 2017 TDS
  • Christophe Perrillat (France) — 11th 2017 CCC; 2nd 2014 CCC; 2nd 2018 High Trail Valnoise
  • Petter Restorp (Sweden) — 6th 2016 CCC; 4th 2018 Eiger Ultra-Trail; 10th 2018 Transgrancanaria
  • René Rovera (France) — 5th 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 4th 2014 CCC
  • Sangé Sherpa (Nepal, living in France) — 6th 2018 Eiger Ultra-Trail; 11th 2018 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji; 11th 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Armando Teixeira (Portugal) — 14th 2016 UTMB; 18th 2015 UTMB

Call for Comments

  • Is this really the Jim and Kilian show? If so, who’ll take it? If not, who’s most likely to challenge these two for the win?
  • Who else will end up on the podium?
  • Which runner do you think my be the biggest surprise in this year’s UTMB?
  • Care to give a shout out to a possible top contender who didn’t make our preview?
  • Know of anyone in our preview who’s definitely not racing? Leave a comment to let us know.
Bryon Powell: is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com, which he founded more than 10 years ago. Having spent more than 15 years as an ultrarunner and 25 years as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. These days he calls Moab, Utah and its trails home.

View Comments (154)

  • Hope Jim and run his own race and make it two in a row.

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  • Jim vai ganhar e bater o recorde da prova.
    Abraços de Joinville - Santa Catarina - Brasil.

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  • Wow, that is what I call impressive research! Thank you irunfar.

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  • How is Jim more of a favorite than Tollefson or Hernando? I believe he could win the race, bit even more so Tim or Luis Alberto. Tim has always been on the podium there. Luis Alberto has dominated just about everything rough he's run.

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    • The question is will Tim even try for the win if Kilian runs fast out front? Jim will risk a blow up to push for the win, and will probably run in the lead until he either blows up or crosses the line in first. I just don't see Tim racing in that style.

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    • If we're talking about why Jim's more of a favorite "to win" UTMB, look no further than Western States. Yes, his racing comes with risks of faltering, but I'd see him as more likely to beat everyone in the field than Tim or LAH. It could be argued that Tim's more of a favorite if we're looking a likelihood of a podium finish.

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      • In all fairness, since his breakout year of 2015, how many times has Jim actually blown up? In my opinion, and I know there is a lot of conflicting opinion about this one - 2016 WS was a screw up not a blow up. He blew up at WS 2017 and 2017 Diagonale des Fous but other than those 3 examples he has won everything since 2016 racing in his characteristic style. But then again, he has only nailed 2 (3 if you count WS 2016) 100's - I consider 5th at UTMB a great result, so, he's still relatively new to the distance. But we'll see how it goes on race day.

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        • +1 his missed turn, which prevented what very likely would've been a course record, is too frequently referenced as a blowup.

          I think he's one of the two most talented runners in the field and will certainly bring a lot of knowledge from his 2017 UTMB (not to mention WS)

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          • dang i don't even know if i should debate about this again. i'll just reply once and say my piece and leave it be.

            jim went from crushing the CR to walking in an 18th place finish. just because a missed turn was the catalyst, that's no reason to say he didn't blow up. it was a missed turn, but it could have been a missed gel or a lack of water. whatever the reason, he went from running hard to being unable to do anything but walk it in. he blew up. when I hear "he nailed 2 (3 if you count WS 2016)" I have to scratch my head... you do not count WS 2016 because he did not stick the move that year.
            I think I feel the need to mention this because it's clearly part of what makes his story so compelling and what makes his 2018 WS so special.

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          • He walked it in because he ran two miles in the wrong direction and spent a considerable amount of time figuring out where he was before retracing the 2+ miles back to the course... had he not gone off course and instead ran those two miles in the right direction, he likely could have walked the last 7 and still won.

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        • Agreed, I see it more as a mistake rather than a blow up. Just need to watch his interviews/videos to understand what happened.

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          • A blowup isn't a consequence of a mistake(s) ?

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          • It is but not all mistakes can end in blow ups. Such as missing a turn doesn't cause blowups.

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      • Not sure I agree with you Bryon when you say that Jim is more likely to beat anyone here than Luis Alberto. The man is a reigning triple trail running world champion, has beaten Kilian at mountain ultra races, already finished second at UTMB before and has publicly said that he does not want to come back to race UTMB every year and so he wants to win it as soon as possible. This is finally the year he managed to back off from a too intense spring and early summer racing schedule and comes to Chamonix fresh enough. And in great shape too : end of July he won the 55 k Aneto Posets mountain race in Spain and improved Cristofer Clemente's course record by about half an hour.
        Jim is an exceptional trail runner, no doubt about that, and his limits are still unknown but for me he really lacks credentials on 19-20 hours mountain ultras to be put in the same category as Kilian (triple UTMB winner, 4 times Hardrock winner and so many others). His performance last year was strong but he cracked before La Fouly, which is a long way from the end and even if he recovered afterwards he was clearly outkicked by Xavier on the final climb.
        Kilian looks stronger than ever this year. No Everest expedition and Hardrock in his legs this time ! His recent win at Sierre-Zinal was damn impressive, he dropped the likes of Robbie Simpson and Joe Gray on flattish sections of the course... So I would put him in a special category and Jim together with Luis Alberto and Xavier (double winner, will most probably race to win too if he's fit enough) right behind. Just my (way too long) two cents ! Many thanks for your great preview and everything you do for the community !

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        • Of all these speculations, I agree with Sebas B's the most. We (in America) routinely underrate LAH. Any of these guys could win on a good day, but odds wise, I'd say Kilian wins and LAH is most likely to finish 2nd. The great thing though is that with a field this deep most of these predictions will probably be wrong.

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      • Which WS100 winner has done well at UTMB, other than Kilian?

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        • Nikki Kimball, Rory Bosio (2nd at WS...), Krissy Moehl (2nd at WS...),

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          • I meant among the men, but good point anyway. Still, there seem to be more WS winners that have underperformed at UTMB than success stories, enough to think a great run at States doesn't make you a favorite at UTMB, and viceversa.

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          • It looks like Kilian is the only man to win both races. Tim Olson has a 4th place finish at UTMB, and Francois has a 2nd place finish at WS.

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          • Agreed considering Western States is a different kind of race than UTMB. If you are only looking at winners who are running Jim might pull something off this year. He came 5th in UTMB last year in a max field, also his first 100 mile mountain race?, and won Western States so it's a good start. Also Timothy has good results too at both races but we'll see if he still has that punch. Only two that I know at the moment.

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          • You are right about the men, only Killian has really been able to pull off a win at both. I think a big consideration is that UTMB has roughly 15,000 climbing than WS. So UTMB has nearly twice the climbing of WS over the same amount of time. Jim has definitely put in a lot of work, time will tell if he can put it all together.

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  • The smart money is on Tim. It’s gonna be the year an American wins UTMB!

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    • "It’s gonna be the year an American wins UTMB!"
      -----------------------------------^
      ----------------------------------man

      ;-)

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      • Can't overlook what Rory did!

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        • Or Krissy Moehl or Nikki Kimball. :-)

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          • Thanks for the additions, still new at this! (relatively)

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    • According to Tim's Instagram from less than a month ago, he's had intermittent fatigue issues the past year and was running on empty at Speedgoat. He signed up but didn't start Crow Pass. Not the makings of a good race ahead. I hope he is more worried about taking care of himself than doing well at this point, or is all better somehow.

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    • I'd have to disagree with it being Tims year. in '17 he ran speedgoat faster than he did this year. That could be an indicator of his fitness. Also he has discussed publicly his struggles with his diet and low iron. IIRC. But we shall see, 100 miles is a long way!!

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  • I thought Hayden Hawks was running UTMB this year - has he switched to run TDS? That's a shame, as I was excited to see the Walmsley, Miller & Hawks race to be the first male US winner!

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    • Yes. Hayden switched into and, then, out of UTMB.

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      • I think Hayden just isn't ready to embrace the 100 mile distance. Not that he CAN'T do it. I'm sure he'd crush it. But I've heard him express the desire to flex his fast muscles while he's young.

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  • Great preview, Bryon! Looking forward to watching Jim and Killian push each other. I'm a big cowboy fan, but, Killian has been at this so much longer (and has so much more experience at UTMB) and just has so much cumulative fitness I can't even... I expect Jim to really push Killian on the pace but the danger is, of course, burning too bright too quickly. Jim had a fantastic block in Colorado, after his incredible performance at WS, so I'm really expecting a USA mens #1 at the race, however, if not I expect the pressure Jim puts on Killian to draw out a really career run from Killian and Jim. It's going to be a great, inspiring show regardless.

    All that being said, I'm also a huge Tim Olson fan. We all know how high his ceiling is, and yes, it's been a while since he has nailed a big performance on a big stage but my fingers are crossed! Could he grab a win....?

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  • I'll never, ever bet against Kilian in the mountains. That's a sucker bet right there.

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  • Stacked!!

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  • I like Jim and I really wish him well. But, I hope Zach Miller just destroys at this attempt and gets the win. I think he has it in him. I also think Tim T has proven his power on this course and could (maybe with the smallest bit of luck) pull out a win.

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  • Kilian is unquestionably the favorite to win. Second last year but and a big but it is. He won Hardrock then came to utmb took second. Love the others but unless Kilian has a bad day it’s His to lose

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  • Don't underestimate Xavier. He's got something to prove and is in prime form. He's right in the mix with Jim and Kilian for 1st.

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  • Alex Nichols will be the top american at UTMB

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  • What about Dylan Bowman?

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    • Running TDS

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    • And he finished 6th at the Eiger Ultra Trail 101k ;)

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  • Hello. Sange Serpa also won the Estrela Grande Trail 109k race in Portugal this year. This race is organized by the runner Armando Teixeira.http://www.estrelagrandetrail.pt Thank you

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  • As much as I'm a fan of Kilian I really don't think he can win UTMB this year and Jim is the huge favorite here. Jim has incredible speed he is able to put to good use in all the flat sections of UTMB, he crushes the downhills including technical one and floats in the uphills too.

    Jim's CR on Humphreys Peak a few weeks ago in Flagstaff after spending several weeks in the San Juans is pretty incredible, Humphreys Peak has rocks and roots everywhere.

    Even last year when he had a bad patch at UTMB, he was able to recover and rally strong, it's clear he learned a lot from Western States, UTMB and Diagonale des Fous last year and Western States this year seemed to be just the stepping stone confirming it.

    Last year Kilian admitted he didn't fuel enough and he bonked toward the end so in some way he had a bad patch too, but I do think that Jim is on another level right now. I would still bet on Kilian if he was racing 100mi in Tromso though.

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    • i have all the respect in the world for this viewpoint but just think I should point out that Kilian has... the Kilian Factor. this is his ability to upend your expectations whenever you have even the slightest inclination to bet against him. dislocated shoulder? he will take the HR win. broke his leg 5 months ago? he's having an even better season than last year. he does this stuff all the time. and he still does lose. but still, the man is quite simply made for this stuff. he IS mountain running.
      i am excited to see the race, though, and of course am pulling hard for Walmsley or another American to win. I think I would be most pleased by seeing Zach Miller or Alex Nichols pull out awesome performances.

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      • Why is it so important for Americans that an American wins? What does a country have to do with any of this? It really seems like a misplaced pride and brings strange taste to the event.

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        • to be clear, i do not think it is "so important" for an American to win. these are just some guys who are from where I am from, who have stories I have been able to connect with, and it makes me happy to see them perform well. UTMB feels like the international championship of mountain running, like the Olympics or the World Cup, and an American male has yet to win there yet, so I'd be excited to see one of my countrymen pull it off. but I'm also excited for many other runners too!

          and secretly I think I'm kind of pulling for Kilian... just can't turn off the love for that guy.

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          • As am I, Plub, and not even secretly. Kilian represents everything that is great about sport...and running...and being passionate about a craft. I hope Zack nails it too, and not because he’s American, but because that guy has spirit and passion too, and he freaking drops the hammer every time he races.

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        • The pride that Americans have to get a win is peanuts compared to that of European countries, though. I think it has something to do with America being such a large country and a melting pot. So they don't have as much national pride as a lot of European countries.

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        • It's mostly because an American male has never won UTMB. Kinda is a big deal when you're a American male trying to be the first one. Same goes for any other country with the same situation.

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          • Look, I'm rooting for Jim too. But making it a question of nationality is just wrong. Would you find it natural if people kept bringing up that no Budhist or Muslim won yet? (I think Christians did..., just by odds. Maybe others did too but nobody made a fuss about it.). Same goes for countries. Also, I don't see other countries talking about "bringing it home", and how "proud he is to be American" (like Hawks in all his interviews last year). Frankly, it sounds like "racing for mother Russia) :).

            And it's not a big deal to be an American male when you win the UTMB. It's a big deal to win it. Being American doesn't make it any harder (maybe easier, imagine being from e.g. Palestine).

            So let's just keep it about running.

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          • Well, for one, trail running communities revolve around where people are located, not religions (as far as I have ever seen). So for Americans, Jim Walmsley has the best chance of winning UTMB and also being at a race they do in the US either spectating or participating. Jim is much more so in the fabric of the US trail running community than Killian is (even though he races maybe once or twice a year in the US). So it seems natural to root for people in your own community.

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          • Are you a fan of the Olympics (Y/N)?

            Are you a fan of the World Cup (Y/N)?

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          • I guess we maxed out on the depth of the thread...

            @EZ: What you wrote explains why Americans are more likely to cheer for Americans. It doesn't explain, however, why being American is sufficient to be championed by Americans. To root for any American, as long as they're American, is not the same as what you tried to explain. Just read the Plub's original post to see what I mean (~"Jim or another American").

            @Sam: Yes and Yes. And I'm also a fan of UTMB, Jim, etc. But that doesn't mean I like all aspects of these things/people. Olympics: all sports having the same event - brilliant! Quotas by countries? Anthems for the winners? I'm not so sure.

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          • Jakub - just to clarify, I think you read my comments as being more aggressively nationalistic than I intended. While I like guys like Tim Tollefson and root for them, I am still ultimately a bigger Kilian fan and would rather see him win (sorry, Tim!). So nationalism is really not the ultimate factor for me, but just a little part.
            Spectating is fun for a variety of reasons, one of which is a kind of voyeurism/fantasy. When the story is compelling you feeling like you are right there with them and part of you can dream you are living their experience, which spurs you on to do more in your real life, etc. I think it's natural that people are more inspired when they see people who are from their own walk of life perform well. They feel that much closer to the story and that much more excited / present with the champion. People like Kilian have a way of inspiring that kind of allegiance across all boundaries, I think because of the purity of style with which he does his sport. Honestly, there have been American runners who don't inspire me and ultimately I don't root for them. But the American guys contending for the win this year don't fit that description.

            So yeah, nationalism can often leave a bad taste in my mouth too, but I think there is actually something healthy about a certain amount of it. Maybe that's something on which we will have to disagree!

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          • @Plub, I see how it seems like I'm hammering at you about that little "American win" side comment you made earlier. Apologies, I saw your previous response already and didn't mean to have a go at you again -- I just used your post as an example for EZ who (I think) misunderstood my complaint.

            That said, I didn't object to the literal meaning of your comment. It's the culture it contributes to that worries me. Even though your comment may have been innocent and in itself harmless, in the context of all other "American win" talks going on this nationalism is just too much (like the French and the Tour de France). Just watch interviews with every American male (and some females and some non-Americans) about UTMB. It comes up all the time. And to illustrate why any amount of "nationalism" is undesirable, see Kip's comment just below: "In fact, you are nothing else, but an Eastern European being rigged with corruption and pride backed by nothing ;)". At the core, it's tribal and excludes others based on an inherited advantage. And Kips of this world misunderstand it and there we go.

            BTW, I do like what the fast track guys brought to the sport. It's fresh and interesting. I'd like to see Jim race Sierre-Zinal for instance and I think he'd be my favourite.

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        • @Jakub, why is it so important for a Czech or Slovak to be thought of an European. In fact, you are nothing else, but an Eastern European being rigged with corruption and pride backed by nothing ;)

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    • To say he is a huge favourite is a bit overkill. Although Walmsley came back from the dead to finish strong, Kilian didn't have a perfect race either and still finished an hour ahead. Couple that with the fact Kilian was coming off the back of Hardrock and probably had too much on his plate last summer. This summer they both seem better rested since WS and BG, although Kilian has been playing catch-up on the trail running scene with some short but intense trail races. Jim cruises on the flats, but UTMB is so much more than that. it's a 20hr race, with big climbs, which is a big difference from 14.5hrs, where more factors come into play. Jim hasn't dominated a hilly 100 miler so cannot be a huge favourite. It all depends on who is the strongest on the day. If they are both fresh, strong and have no issues, it will be one heck of a race!

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  • My bet : Kilian for the win.
    Surprise : Sylvain Court on the podium

    By the way Bryon, do you know that l'Échappée Belle is the hardest trail running competition in France ? Way harder than UTMB and Diagonale des Fous. Court won in 27 hours last year. Very rock, very technical for an ultra.

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    • I've not been to l’Échappée Belle or personally seen the course, but I've previously been in contact with its organizers. It sounds like a beautiful and challenging race. Probably too hard for me! :-)

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      • BP- I can give you the run down on l’Échappée Belle on the Sunday night after UTMB over a beer in Chamionx!
        I'm running this year....

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    • Faudra un jour arrêter le concours du "c'est moi qui fait le trail le plus dur !".

      Parce que si on veut jouer à çà, c'est la PICaPICA qui gagnera ! ;-)

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  • Kilian is on a mission this year,after his injury, to prove why he's the best. Listen to him talk, he sounds reinvigorated and full of fire.
    Kilian for the win, new CR. Anyone doubting Kilian can't be a speedster may want to look at his 6 sierre zinal wins and the fact he set a personal best this year.

    Tollefson second.

    Jim has had some great training for UTMB, he may do great but part of me says there's a good chance he runs into problems too.

    Would liked to have seen David Laneys name, he'd be a stout contender for podium too.

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  • Beyond the battle between athletes, I personally feel like the weather conditions will be a determining factor in the final rankings this year.

    A hot/sunny journey will favor those who have faster leg speed (Jim/Tim) and used to run in such conditions (ie Flagstaff)
    A rainy and cold journey, then true mountain people (Kilian/Xavier/Alex/Luis Alberto) will sure have a laugh when the trails will become slippery and muddy...

    I'll be hoping for rain ;-)

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    • I second this

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