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2019 UTMB Women’s Preview

The women's podium of UTMB 2018 (l-to-r): 2. Uxue Fraile, 1. Francesca Canepa, 3. Jocelyne Pauly. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Well, it’s here again. The 2019 UTMB is upon us and that means the deepest women’s field we’ll cover at a race this year. The 2,300 competitors will travel 170 kilometers (105.6 miles) with more than 10,000 meters (32,800 feet) of climbing as they make a counterclockwise loop around the Mont Blanc massif starting in Chamonix in France, passing through Italy and Switzerland, and ending back where they started in Chamonix.

The 2019 women’s race has multiple past champions including last year’s victor Francesca Canepa, a slew of top women who could run really well but who carry question marks on their ability to perform at this particular race, some up-and-comers with a great shot at impacting the front of the women’s race, and a number of other cool storylines. Suffice it to say, there is an abundance of action to follow.

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

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

Of course, we’re covering UTMB live starting at 6 p.m. CEST (10 a.m. MDT in the U.S.) on Friday, August 30. Join us and follow along.

You’ll want to read our comprehensive men’s UTMB preview, too, to see how that race stacks up.

Queens and Question Marks

Courtney Dauwalter

While a hip injury took her out of this year’s Western States 100, it’s hard not to see American Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race interview) as the favorite for this year’s UTMB. Since the start of last year, she’s won the 2018 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji, the 2018 Western States, the 2019 Tarawera Ultramarathons 100k, and the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail to name a few of her accomplishments. Of course, her success at UTMB is contingent upon her being healthy again.

Even with her decade of strong results, I’ll admit I wouldn’t have predicted Italy’s Francesca Canepa (pre-race interview) to win last year’s UTMB, but that’s exactly what she did. Since then, she’s been third at last year’s Cappadocia Ultra-Trail, DNFed last year’s Ultra-Trail Cape Town, and took 17th at the 2019 Western States, to go along with a few wins and podium finishes closer home. With her breadth of experience and local knowledge, expect for her to perform well here.

Uxue Fraile

Having missed the 2017 UTMB, Spain’s Uxue Fraile’s (pre-race interview) been second, third, and second in her past three goes at the race in 2015, 2016, and 2018, respectively. Last year, she finished less than five minutes behind winner Canepa. Might this be the year that Fraile finally wins UTMB? Since last year’s UTMB, she won last November’s Ultra Tour Mt Siguniang (110k) and taken 18th at the 2019 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon.

After a few years of success on her home trails of China, Miao Yao made herself known to the world last year with her wins at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, Yading Ultra Kora, and CCC and second at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. While Yao has won at least three races in China this year, she’s also DNFed at Transgrancanaria in February and the Mont-Blanc 90k (after receiving a 45-minute time penalty for lacking a required whistle) in June.

Mimmi Kotka

Having won the CCC in 2016 and the TDS in 2017–both are UTMB festival races–Sweden’s Mimmi Kotka went into last year’s UTMB as one of the favorites to win before dropping out. That ended a run during which she seemed unbeatable in mountain ultramarathons. Since then, she’s been strong but not up to her former level in taking sixth at last year’s Diagonale des Fous, third at last year’s Ultra-Trail Cape Town, and 13th at this year’s Madeira Island Ultra-Trail.

Since the start of 2017, the U.K.’s Beth Pascall (pre-race interview) has been fourth at UTMB in 2018, fourth at Western States this year, second at Madeira Island Ultra-Trail in 2017, fourth at Transgrancanaria in 2018, and 11th at the Trail World Championships (85k) in 2018–and those are just a few of her highlights. That said, Pascall’s had her hiccups as well, with a DNF at UTMB in 2017 and an 18th at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail last year.

Katie Schide

An American living in Switzerland, Katie Schide’s star continues to be ascendant. She followed up a strong 2017 with an even stronger 2018 that included taking second at CCC, a half hour back of champ Miao Yao. This year’s she’s been second at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail behind winner Courtney Dauwalter and she won the Mont-Blanc 90k.

Will this be Spaniard Maite Maiora’s first UTMB and, indeed, her first attempt at a 100-mile race? Having seen her race so well for so long, I’d just have assumed it’d happened. Still, she’s increasingly added races in the 100 to 130k range over the past few years with success. For example, she won the 2016 Swiss Irontrail T121 (130k), the 2017 Ultra Pirineu (109k), and last year’s Hiru Haundiak (101k). This year, Maiora’s been fourth at Madeira Island Ultra-Trail and fifth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail to go along with an 11th place at Zegama.

Núria Picas

In a race seemingly filled with uncertainties, we can add Núria Picas to the list. The Spaniard raced constantly from 2012 through 2015 before easing off a bit starting in 2016. That’s not a bad thing as the previously two-time UTMB runner-up in 2013 and 2014 moved up to win UTMB in 2017. As far as I can tell, she’s raced two ultras since that win, taking second at Ultra Pirineu in 2017 and third at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira last June.

The U.S.’s Rory Bosio (pre-race interview) is no stranger to the Alps or the UTMB course. After taking fourth at UTMB in 2012 she ran what might still be the best-ever women’s effort at UTMB in her seventh-place-overall finish in winning in 2013. She followed that up with a repeat win in 2014 before taking sixth at the 2017 OCC and second at last year’s TDS, both UTMB festival races. While she’s racing a lot less these days, Bosio was third at last year’s Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k and won this year’s Ushuaia by UTMB (130k).

More Top Women for the Top Ten

I’ll kick off this section with a few women who’ve seen recent success at UTMB.

Katia Fori has decided not to run UTMB. [Updated August 28] First off, there’s Katia Fori from Italy who was fifth at last year’s UTMB to go along with previous top UTMB finishes of fourth in 2013, fifth in 2012, and seventh in 2011. Last year, she was also fifth at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail.

Juliette Blanchet

One spot behind Fori last year was France’s Juliette Blanchet who was sixth at last year’s UTMB to follow up her fourth place in 2016 and a DNF in 2017. Going back a bit further in UTMB history, she was ninth at UTMB in 2013, as well second and third at TDS in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Blanchet’s also been second at the Diagonale des Fous three times, in 2014, 2016, and 2018.

Hungary’s Ildikó Wermescher, currently age 54, took seventh at last year’s UTMB and that performance is far from an outlier for her as she seemingly improves as the years go on. Last year, she was also fifth at Transgrancanaria. Back in the Alps, she was third at the 2017 TDS, seventh at the 2016 UTMB, and sixth at the 2014 UTMB.

Going back to 2017, Australia’s Kellie Emmerson was fifth at UTMB before taking 11th at TDS last year. In 2018 she was also fourth at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail and first at Ultra-Trail Australia. This year, Emmerson was fourth at the Canyons 100k and 17th at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.

Alissa St Laurent

In 2017, Alissa St Laurent of Canada was sixth at UTMB ahead of taking fifth at TDS last year. This year, she was 22nd at Western States, while she was fifth at the same race in 2016. She’s had a strong block of mountain training in Colorado’s San Juans this summer that included an overall win at the Silverton Ultramarathon 100k.

Is this Poland’s Magdalena Łączak’s  first time back at UTMB since taking sixth in 2012? Regardless, she, too, seems to be on an ascendant path in mountain ultras as she’s won Transgrancanaria in both 2018 and 2019, been sixth at the Trail World Championships (85k) in 2018, and taken second at Ultra Pirineu also in 2018.

It looks like Stephanie Violett has switched to running the CCC. [Updated August 23] I’m honestly shocked to see the U.S.’s Stephanie Violett crushing her training in the Alps right now. Why? She had Achilles surgery in late April. But, yeah, she’s crushing it over there. For all her success elsewhere, Violett’s yet to nail UTMB having been eighth in 2015, 16th in 2017, and DNFed last year. With no race results yet this year, her most recent race was an eighth at last year’s Ultra-Trail Cape Town. She was also sixth at Western States last year.

Kaci Lickteig

I’m putting American Kaci Lickteig right here with Stephanie, as both have amazing results without corresponding success at UTMB. Lickteig was 18th at UTMB in 2017 and 10th at last year’s UTMB. Of course, those weren’t her best overall years either and she’s been much stronger in 2019, winning the Black Canyon 100k, taking third at the Western States, and having a strong tune-up in winning the Pikes Peak Ultras 50 Mile late last month.

Be on the lookout for China’s Fu-Zhao Xiang at UTMB and beyond. Over the past three years, she’s improved from fourth to third to second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k before winning the Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji this year. Xiang has raced in Europe, taking 20th at last year’s UTMB and 11th at the Livigno Skymarathon in June. These results go along with a slew of wins and podiums in China over the past few years.

Bulgaria’s Mariya Nikolova was ninth at UTMB in both 2017 and 2018 as well as 16th in 2015. She’s DNFed both the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Ronda dels Cims this year.

Fernanda Maciel

After a couple years away from top UTMB finishes, the Brazilian living in Spain Fernanda Maciel returned to take 11th last year. As a reminder, she took fourth back in 2014. More recently, Maciel was sixth at Transgrancanaria in 2018 and third at there this year.

There’s good reason to believe that Delphine Avenier could do well at UTMB. The Frenchwoman won TDS in 2016 and was sixth at CCC in 2017, but she also DNFed UTMB last year.

Between taking ninth at least year’s Western States and placing tenth this year, the U.S.’s Corrine Malcolm was fourth at last year’s TDS. This year, she DNFed the Vibram Hong Kong 100k before finishing 12th at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.

Ekaterina Mityaeva

I believe Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva will be making her 100-mile debut at this year’s UTMB. So far this year she was eighth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k and fourth at at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon to follow up her strong 2018 when she was third at Transgrancanaria, fifth at Transvulcania, and won Ultra Pirineu. Mityaeva has previously raced near Mont Blanc, including finishing third at the Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2016 and at the Mont-Blanc 90k in 2017.

In 2018, France’s Emilie Lecomte was just outside the top ten at a few big races including 12th at Transvulcania, 11th at Western States, and 13th at UTMB. A year earlier, in 2017, she DNFed UTMB but was second at Diagonale des Fous and fourth at the Marathon des Sables.

Kristin Berglund

A Swede living in Austria, Kristin Berglund has previously shown her strength in taking fifth at this year’s Transvulcania, 11th at the 2017 CCC, and fourth at the 2017 Transgrancanaria.

Federica Boifava is no longer on the entrants list. [Update August 29] Italy’s Federica Boifava was a frequent racer between 2013 through 2015 with plenty of strong finishes, particularly between the marathon and 50-mile distances in the mountains, such as a second at the 2013 Lavaredo Ultra Trail (85k that year), ninth at the 2014 Transvulcania, sixth at the 2014 Mont-Blanc 80k, and fifth at the 2015 Zegama. She’s raced much less frequently (at least at races in international databases) since then with more focus on longer events. She was second at the 100 Miles of Istria in April.

After running her way into this year’s Western States with a win at the Georgia Death Race, a Western States Golden Ticket qualifier race, Switzerland’s Luzia Bühler took 11th at the iconic California race. Last year, she was also 11th at Transgrancanaria before DNFing at UTMB. Bühler was sixth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2017.

Even More Women to Follow

  • Claire Bannwarth (France) – 13th 2019 Transgrancanaria; 11th 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail; 12th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Yulia Baykova (Russia, lives in Italy) – 14th 2017 UTMB; 6th 2016 CCC; DNF 2018 UTMB
  • Chiara Bertino (Italy) – 11th 2016 CCC; 4th 2017 TDS; 8th 2019 Mont-Blanc 90k
  • Naomi Brand (South Africa) – 6th 2018 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail; 3rd 2016 & 2017 Ultra-Trail Cape Town
  • Sylvaine Cussot (France) – 8th 2018 TDS; 4th 2019 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji; 6th 2018 Grand Trail des Templiers
  • Basilia Förster (Italy) – 13th 2017 UTMB; 7th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Nathalie Henriques (France) – 9th 2017 TDS; 14th 2018 UTMB; 7th 2017 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail
  • Sarah Keyes (U.S.) – 8th 2018 Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k; 2nd 2018 Cayuga Trails 50 Mile; 1st 2017 Ultra-Trail Harricana; DNF 2018 UTMB
  • Marie McNaughton (New Zealand, lives in Hong Kong) – 7th 2018 Eiger Ultra Trail; 4th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; DNF 2017 & 2018 TDS
  • Sally McRae (U.S.) – 26th & 24th 2015 & 2016 UTMB
  • Jo Meek (U.K.) – 2nd 2016 CCC; 19th 2018 UTMB; 9th 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Maija Oravamäki (Finland) – 11th 2017 Trail World Championships (49k); 5th 2018 CCC; 12th 2019 Livigno Skymarathon
  • Géraldine Prost (France) – 7th 2019 Mont-Blanc 90k; 9th 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail
  • Eva Sperger (Germany) – 5th 2018 TGC, 17th 2018 TWC (85k), 2nd 2018 Eiger Ultra Trail; 9th 2019 Transvulcania

Previously Entered But Not Running UTMB

  • Cat Bradley (U.S.) – Just finished second at the Leadville Trail 100 Mile
  • Caroline Chaverot (France) – Retired from competitive running
  • Cecilia Flori (Italy, lives in New Zealand) – Running MCC instead
  • Kaytlyn Gerbin (U.S.)
  • Andrea Huser (Switzerland) – Bone stress injury
  • Martina Kirschner-Trimmel (Austria)
  • Anna Straková (Czech Republic)

Call for Comments

  • So, how do you see the front of the women’s race shaking out?
  • Who else should the world be watching out for at this year’s UTMB?
  • Do you know for certain that someone we’ve listed won’t be running? Leave a comment to let us know!
Categories: Races
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 <a href="https://www.irunfar.com/rfp">Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons</a> and co-wrote <a href="https://www.irunfar.com/where-the-road-ends-a-guide-to-trail-running">Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running</a>. These days he calls Moab, Utah and its trails home<a href="https://plus.google.com/110912864360970371436?rel=author">.</a>

View Comments (24)

  • Just Read the life story of Miao Yao on runners world, what an incredible woman and athlete!

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  • Wow I can't wait to follow!!! Another GREAT preview irunfar :-)

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  • Hello, just to say that Katia Fori won't run UTMB due to a previous injury but she is in Chamonix. This is what she wrote a few days ago on her FB account.

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    • Claudio, sorry to hear that but thanks for letting us know. We've updated the preview.

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      • So many runners and so many last minute changes... you made a great work, keep going!

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  • I'd love to see Courtney and Rory at their best and challenging each other at the front!

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  • Great preview, but from what I can see Stephanie is currently registered for the CCC!

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    • Looks like she's switched races since I started writing the preview a week ago. Thanks for the update.

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  • Steph Howe's recent training reminds me of Rory a few years back. This is gonna be a good race to watch.

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  • No idea Bosio was racing this year, I’m putting her in for the win

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  • Really unfortunate to see Courtney jumping into a race with 30k+ climb/descent so soon after a hip injury. Likely a DNF, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

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    • Yep, looks like Courtney really did not need any mansplaining on whether or not she should be racing. Winning by over an hour on that “injured hip”...

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    • Yeah I’m never betting against Courtney. If she’s at 85% she still wins this. I’m sure she knows her body well enough to know whether she should be racing without needing any advice from us in the peanut gallery...

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  • Thanks for the review Bryon. See you next week in Chamonix for our annual rendezvous

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  • Great written but one little mistake about Miao Yao. She was 2nd at Lavaredo last year.

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    • Thanks for the correction. With 100s and 100s of facts in an article like this one, I’m sure to slip up on a few! :-)

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  • Really rooting for Courtney to take the whole thing!

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  • Was there an article or social media post announcing/explaining Caroline Chaverot's "retirement from competitive running"? If that's true, she will be missed. Such a classy and outstanding runner. Best wishes to her!

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    • Yes, she said so on her Facebook profile. After DNFing in Lavaredo she said there would be "no comeback, she retires from racing". A pity indeed. Undiagnosed Lyme disease during more than a year has brought her carreer to a halt.

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      • Wow. That's truly a sad end to an impressive career, and hopefully she doesn't have to deal with any lingering health issues from that.

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  • Thanks for this exciting overview. We met Federica Boifava last month in the Dolomites, and were deeply impressed by her humility and her passion for running in the mountains. She is an inspiring human being!

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  • This list is phenomenal, I can not wait for this race to go down. Dauwalter, Picas, Kotka and RORY BOSIO o_O!!! I want them all of these ladies to win, but in an uncoordinated tie!

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  • hoping my favorite...KACI !....does it. Great to see her cap off her year with ANOTHER GREAT result. Go Gettum Kaci !!!

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  • Thanks for this nice little overview. I am certainly going to follow Germany‘s Eva Sperger very closely because I know her personally. By the way, she just won the Großglockner Ultra Trail (GGUT) in Austria (110 km) and was 3rd overall, ie. among the men.

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