2018 UTMB Men’s Preview

CamelBak Ultra Pro VestWell, 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.

Altra logoA 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 - 2016 Hardrock 100

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 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon champion sq

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.

2016 UTMB - Tim Tollefson

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 - 2015 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

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 - 2015 Les Templiers

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.

Javier Dominguez - 2013 TNF UTMB

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.

2016 Western States 100 - Andrew MillerAndrew 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.

There are 154 comments

  1. Nelson

    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.

    1. Will

      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.

    2. Bryon Powell

      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.

      1. blowup?

        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.

        1. Paul

          +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)

          1. Plub

            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.

            1. paul

              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.

        2. Daniel Burke

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

      2. Sebas B

        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 !

        1. Carey

          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.

          1. Nelson

            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.

            1. Will

              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.

            2. Daniel Burke

              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.

            3. Sam

              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.

    1. Lightning

      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.

    2. Carson

      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!!

  2. Joe S.

    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!

      1. Aaron Davis

        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.

  3. Sam

    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….?

  4. Aaron Davis

    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.

  5. Withrow

    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

  6. The Woodsman

    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.

  7. IDoNotRunVeryFar

    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.

    1. Plub

      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.

      1. Jakub

        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.

        1. Plub

          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.

          1. Wesley Hunt

            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.

        2. Ling

          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.

        3. Daniel Burke

          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.

          1. Jakub

            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.

            1. EZ

              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.

            2. Jakub

              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.

            3. Plub

              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!

            4. Jakub

              @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.

        4. Kip

          @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 ;)

    2. IDontRunThatFarEither

      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!

  8. Alex

    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.

    1. Bryon Powell

      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! :-)

      1. Grant Guise

        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….

    2. Yvan

      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 ! ;-)

  9. Michael

    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.

  10. Martin GAFFURI

    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 ;-)

  11. Bethany

    To say that anyone other than Kilian is the favorite seems crazy to me. I think there will be a bunch of guys that will make him work for it. If Jim can get his nutrition woes figured out, he will definitely be a factor, but to call him a favorite before he’s proven himself there is a little premature.

        1. Frank

          AND Kilian and Francois have way better attitude ! For example, Kilian never complained that he “had to wait for people”…. (https://youtu.be/nzNIeT5QPHc?t=320).
          It’s obvious when reading/viewing interviews of them, Kilian and Francois always sound humble, without any pretention and that’s priceless. I don’t recall anytime Kilian being pretentious EVEN after his 4 wins at hardrock (course record the first year (2014) and win with a dislocated shoulder in 2017).
          I bet on Kilian (would be foolish not to!). He’s going to hike the first 2/3 just like in 2011, where he literally harvested some berries with Iker, Seb and Miguel. And beyond that, it will be “ADIOS MUCHACHOS!” (https://youtu.be/Ze-h5ZEI4fY?t=241)
          Or even better, Kilian might respond to Jim what he said to Mike Foote and Luke Nelson HA! https://youtu.be/1vA-IngH-k0?t=508

          I read all those comments “But Jim crushed WS so he will crush UTMB… blablabla” Let’s not forget that WS and UTMB are comparing apple to elephants.
          UTMB : No pacer, limited crew, HUGE list of mandatory gear, almost 1/2 the time at night….

          It’s going to be a great show, cant wait!

          1. Daniel

            Well everyone has different attitudes and Jim is just a confident guy which helps him mentally prepare for races. And of course he would comment on the field being slow because he is probably used to running fast (non mountain ultra) races. Much like how Kilian said Western States doesn’t have enough vert for his liking. No doubt Kilian can crush UTMB this year but anything is possible.

          2. Daniel

            Well everyone has different attitudes and Jim is just a confident guy which helps him mentally prepare for races. And of course he would comment on the field being slow because he is probably used to running fast (non mountain ultra) races. No doubt Kilian can crush UTMB this year but anything is possible.

            1. Lee

              I don’t think you are interpreting Jim’s comment or the context accurately. I just watched it, and he was referring to how the Western States course is laid out and why it sucked (READ: was unfortunate) for Francois. He meant that Francois’ strengths were in the first quarter of the race; therefore, Francois would likely want to play to his strengths at that point (i.e., likely go out in the lead to capitalize on what he’s best at — the high country climbing). Jim was implying that it sucks (Read: was unfortunate) for Francois because his own (Jim’s) strengths are in the latter half, so he will not be as tempted as Francois to go out hard (perhaps because his (Jim’s) main strength is in the flat, fast later half and not in the early high country, like Francois’ are). Anyhow, I’m neutral when it comes to Jim, and I think Killian will win UTMB, but I don’t think that comment in Jim’s Western States interview should be construed that way.

        2. Daniel Burke

          Aren’t they more used to the mountains than Jim? I don’t know them too well but this was Jim first mountain race against the best mountain/ultra runners in the world.

          1. Sebas B

            That’s a good point Daniel Burke. On the other hand, Jim’s frequent canyon runs near Flagstaff can be considered excellent training for mountain ultra trail races. He also spent plenty of time on the Hardrock course and in Chamonix before UTMB last year. But its true that Kilian, Xavier and François certainly do have the advantage of having started to run in the mountains from a much younger age.

  12. Jules

    “But I have to question why Jim would enter a useless mid-summer, middle of the day 10k in Phoenix (it ended up being very cool for this time of year), and lay down 5 min miles en route to a 31 minute time.”

    Is no one going to mention that Killian is going to run Trofeo Kima (Distance: 52 km. Vertical climb: 4,200m ascent and 4,200m descent, over seven passes above 2,500m altitude) this weekend? Doesn’t look like he’s tapering for UTMB, maybe he thinks it’s next month.

    1. Patrick

      Is he really running that this weekend? Both Kilian and Jim scare the hell out of me! It’s going to be a fun race to watch!

  13. FB

    One factor I believe noone has really considered is attrition. Its the most obvious and deciding factor in ultrarunning, mountain running, any sport that requires high intensity pushes. Mr. Walmsley has the speed and now recently, proven committment to push his limits to the 100 mile mark, but I dont believe anyone has higher attrition than Kilian Jornet. I have personally seen this man come back from third/second place and “wait” patiently to the last climb/push and win outright. He seems to only get stronger as the distance and grade get harder. Lets face it, hes THE mountain runner. Arguments can be made for other distances, say 50 ks or even 100 ks, but a long, mountainous pursuit is his exploit to lose. I have read the recent comments about certain training runs done recently on very mountainous terrain with vertical gain that the average ultrarunner does not committ to…well, Kilian Jornet has been doing this day in day out for years now. He will be out training for 8 hours at a time. Attrition. Thats all I will say about that. I wish everyone the best at UTMB; it would bring a smile to my face to be proven wrong, as no human is invincible, but it will take a very special day to accomplish this very thing. I wish everyone running the best of luck.

          1. Nelson

            UTMB was François vs. Kilian, with Jim as wildcard. Everyone else were running a different race. Zegama has more real depth, more runners at the pointy end.

            1. Sebas B

              But what is harder if you want to win the race : beating Stian Angermund and Rémi Bonnet at Zegama or Kilian and François at UTMB ?

            2. GIRIDAR GAJAPATHY

              Elevation plays a role. UTMB has like 2 to 3K meters elevation and sea level runners will have trouble. Stian had a tough time in Pikes peak. So this is going to be an intricate mix of weather, and the best man’s effort on that day to deal with various factors winning the race

  14. WeiDe

    I think i have read countless roreviews of races and numerous times that Kilian is either doing too much beforehand or soneone else is fitter. Then he always wins. I think it was in an interview with Anton Krupichka where he said that Kilian has the perfect combination of never gerring an overuse injury (huge base), has amazing talent and the absolute will to win. I think last year he wasnt quite on after concluding his summits project. Also he is great with poles uphill (not sure he will use them), but the shoulders didnt allow hin to use his skimo pole strength. My feeling is, that thw obly reason he races UTMB again this year is cause he really wants that win. I doubt he can be beat by anyone in the mountains if he really puts in all his focus.

    1. Sam

      Anton also emphasized Kilians unparalleled ability to recover after either a race or during training. An important thing to consider given Kilian is apparently racing this weekend as well. Something gained over a life time of endurance activity in the mountains.

  15. Aaron Sorensen

    Gotta say, I hope Xavier crushes it.
    After Hardrock, that want has got to be strong.
    Of course him crushing it, would probably be 3rd with this line-up.
    Go Jim!!!

  16. Greg

    Anything can happen in a race of this length and difficulty, but if it goes to form, it is a two man race. Killian’s injuries and surgery appear to have actually helped him this season by forcing some off season recovery on him. Walmsley is truly in another league that anybody else in the world right now on any “runner’s course.” If both are feeling good and running well, they’ll be two hours ahead of the field. If forced to pick, I give it to Jim based on his ability to run faster the last 20k.

    1. Steve

      Popular to say Kilian doesn’t have much leg speed, but does Walmsley have THAT much more leg speed than Robbie Simpson (2:15 marathon PR), who Kilian dropped at Sierre Zinal? And did it before the downhill to the finish. No doubt Walmsley has a bit of an advantage there, but is it bigger than Kilian’s advantages in other areas?

      1. Lightning

        Not Brit, so I don’t know Simpson, but yes, Walmsley is way faster than Simpson.

        https://www.thepowerof10.info/athletes/profile.aspx?athleteid=32493

        Here’s Walmsley in his PR 5000. He ran most of it in lane 2 (costing about 9 seconds), and it was paced at about 14:15 pace most of the race before he blew away the field (including future Olympic marathon 6th pacer Ward and other track studs). He was in shape to run about 13:30 that day if it had been even paced that fast.

        https://www.flotrack.org/events/5006294-2012-stanford-invitational/videos?playing=5378080

          1. Lightning

            It’s makes much more sense to look at the best performance when looking at track talent. The opportunity to do equal performances at multiple distances usually does not happen in college (you choose an event to try to focus on at your best fitness). That half marathon performance was when he wasn’t training (1:08 is laughably easy/slow for a runner of his caliber in college, training effort). That 5000 had 13:30 fitness (-13 seconds if even splitted using a calculator, and another -9 seconds if he wasn’t in lane two for more than half the race), which 28:19 10000 ability on that day. There is not that much difference between 5000 and 10000 ability. That’s why you often see the same people on the podium for those two races at the Olympics and World Championships.

          2. Lightning

            Simpsons PR’s basically are similar to Sage Canaday’s. 14:25/29:22 is a long, long way from the running ability shown by Walmsley in that 5000. He made other sub-14 5000 studs in that race look like chumps.

            In discussion elsewhere, someone pointed out a 10000 that Walmsley ran two weeks later, also on Flotrack video https://www.flotrack.org/events/5006299-2012-mt-sac-relays/videos?limit=42&playing=5380149 . He asked why, if I think Walmsley was really a 28:low runner, did he only run 29:08 in that race. I watched that race and it was obvious. He got third, totally outclassed by Sambu (26:54 future PR), and Kithuka (several months from winning NCAA D1 cross country, arguably the top college runner in the US that year). He beat guys like Fauble (28:00 PR now) and future Olympic stud Ward again. He didn’t run 28:19 like the fitness he likely had for the same reason that Sambu didn’t run 26:54 or Fauble didn’t run 28:00 that race – it’s just the way the race played out (surges, tactics). Make no mistake. Walmsley, if he stuck with track, would be a track stud too. No reason to believe he wouldn’t still be beating Fauble and progessing to sub-28.

            1. Sebas B

              That’s a lot of speculation… It would interesting to see what Jim could achieve now at the HM and marathon distances if he decided to specifically train for it.
              By the way, Kilian did not only drop Robbie Simpson at Sierre-Zinal on the flatter parts of the course but also Joe Gray (28:18 PR for 10k)…

            2. Stephen Goldstein

              I believe Jim is faster than Robbie Simpson. My point was and is that he’s not SO much faster than he can run Kilian into the ground in a 100 mile race without destroying himself, and that Kilian’s speed is underrated given that he comfortably gapped a very fast lead group at Sierre-Zinal. I absolutely believe Jim can win this race, and I won’t be super surprised if he does. But if Kilian has a strong day, I don’t think he will be beaten. I’ll also note that as Bryon Powell said after last year’s UTMB, no one in the world suffers as well as Kilian. That is a huge factor in a race like UTMB. Jim showed he could suffer and rebound last year, but what it took to rebound knocked him off the podium. He faced no adversity at Western States this year.

            3. Lightning

              It’s really not too much speculation if you know running/track well as a track fan, having been a coach. If Walmsley had been training for years after college for track and only had his current PRs, that would be a different thing, and more along the lines of Simpson. He basically had a couple good track seasons in college, had races (two of which I linked to) that showed obvious talent well beyond the times actually run in those races, and then didn’t run a track race after college.

              It’s not just my speculation. Northern Arizona Elite coach Ben Rosario says Wamsley is a 2:11 guy. Walmsley’s done workouts with NAZ Elite guys like Fauble and former team member) Llano, so he has seen the talent.

              Just look at Walmsley’s race times compared to others at Lake Sonoma 50. That’s a 2:10-11 fitness guy racing 2:19 fitness guys.

  17. BobKedsky

    1 Killian
    2 Xavier /Luis Alberto
    3 Luis Alberto /Xavier

    JW is fast xc runner but hasn’t proved himself in Alpine, technical terrain. He is not mountain goat like KJ, XT, LAH. Best of luck to him and all the runners, it’s going to be great show!

      1. Sebas B

        Jim is actually a great mountain climber (just check all his CR’s on Strava) and a very good descender on technical terrain too. What he has not proven yet is his ability to sustain François’ and Kilian’s pace over 18-20 hours on such a terrain.

        1. Steve

          And Kilian’s leg speed is underrated. With a bit of flat training before Sierre Zinal he blew up the lead pack on the flats then outran 2:15 marathoner Robbie Simpson to the finish.

          1. Sebas B

            Good point Steve. Kilian dropped everyone on flattish parts of the Sierre-Zinal course this year. Guys like Robbie Simpson, Joe Gray (who has a better 10k PR than Jim), Juan Carlos Carera… Keeping up with Jim’s 100 mile pace on the flatter parts of UTMB should not be a problem for him if he chooses to do so, unless Jim wants to commit suicide early on !

            1. Steve

              Agreed. I think Jim is capable of running away from Kilian early, but only at a pace that will put the risk of blowing up very high. Kilian is known for incredible surges late in long races, like Hardrock 2017 when he put 22 minutes on Mike Foote in 11 miles. If Jim sprints away early he will open himself up to that exact kind of scenario.

        2. Sebas B

          Yes the tactical aspect will be very interesting. Running away from everyone right from the start and holding on might be Jim’s best option to win it. Very hard to execute though…
          But I don’t see him dropping Kilian after 140-150 km of high pace mountain ultra racing. Especially if you see what Xavier did to Jim on the last climb last year (there’s a good Youtube video showing this part of the race).

          1. Yvan

            i was looking for this video on last days, and didn’t find it.
            Could you share the link, please ?
            (that was my best moment of UTMB 2017 ! )

  18. Chris

    My bet is that Jim will have a great day, race smart and strong, not blow up, and… come in second to Kilian, who is still the best here. Xavier and Luis will duke it out for 3rd. Zach will be strong but go for the hero run and fade. Tim is suffering from some iffy training, and will not fare as well as his potential. [Sorry, Some of the other awesome local French and others will definitely be high up there but I confess I don’t know about them! ]

  19. Mario

    Kilian is the best moutain runner of the history and the number one during teh last 10 years, so if he prepare UTMB like the goal of the year he would win by far. But this is not the case. He is runniing Kima this weekend!…UTMB is one race more. But if there is someone that can run Kima (52kms and +4.200) and 6 days later run and win UTMB is kilian.

    4x Hardrock
    7x Zegama
    6x Sierre Zinal
    3x UTMB
    FKT to climb Everest
    and a big etc..

    Jim is fast and he can win if he has a good day and Kilian a bad day but if both are 100% Kilian is the man

    1- Kilian
    2- Jim
    3- Miller

  20. Greg

    I’m requesting a full Week of Walmsley on irunfar. Take down all articles. I request full page Jim photos, link his Strava to the homepage, Bryon and Meghan take shifts stalking Jim around Cham, paparazzi style—-provide minutes by minute updates of Jim’s prerace activities—-reality show style is fine with me. Embrace the hype, succumb to the fanboys and girls. Recognize this event for what it is: ultrarunning’s Ali vs Frazier. It’s not Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle (vs Foreman). It’s bigger! Walmsley vs Killian is the Melee in the Mountains, the Altercation in the Alps, the Fracas in France, the Tussle on the Trails—-give us something, Bryon and Meghan!

    Stop AJW from writing about Anton’s 2007 win at Rocky Racoon this week. I want to know what Jim is having for breakfast. Which shoe did he put on first this morning? Sugar in his espresso? 600 thread count sheets?

    I am a yuuge fan of Killian Jornet, but this week nothing would make me happier than having Jim Walmsley bite off his ear and eat Killian’s (nonexistent) children. Of course I mean this metaphorically (I felt I needed to close with a Mike Tyson boxing reference).

    #MIGTW (Make irunfar Great This Week)

  21. Jorge

    I think that KJ is coming really hungry at this UTMB.
    Last year was the great year, Kilian knew that and really wanted to win, but lack of specific training (he never trains for a concrete distance or kind of race), problems with his shoulders (really disadvantage not being able to use poles in such a race) and stress from Everest made him loose to a man who is the best specific ultra runner (he only runs and prepares for long distances) and who was training for several weeks with the salomon team in the mont-blanc area.
    And as this year Francoise is not ther to defend his title, the only way that Kilian has to prove his reign is beating Francoise’s course record.
    And yes, having Jim pushing him all over the race (or at least in the begining) will help to this.

    1. Frank

      Unless he changes his gender (which I doubt), his name is Francois, not Francoise.

      I predict that Zach and Jim will go “medieval style”, attack from mile 0.0 clicking 5 min/mile and blow up around Courmayeur

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