2020 Transgrancanaria Preview

A preview of the 2020 Transgrancanaria Ultramarathon.

By on March 2, 2020 | Comments

Transgrancanaria logoThe 2020 Transgrancanaria (TGC) starts at 11 p.m. this Friday evening (4 p.m. Mountain Time on Friday in the U.S.), March 6th on the northwest coast of Spain’s Gran Canaria. Hundreds of runners will spend the next 13-to-30 hours traversing 128 kilometers across the entire island before finishing on the southern coast. In those 79.5 miles, runners will climb more than 7,500 meters (24,500 feet) up the forested north side, over the volcanic heart of the island, before crashing to the sea on the island’s desert south. Among those hundreds of runners will be some of the world’s best. Read on below for full previews of the women’s and men’s fields.

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After a two-year hiatus, iRunFar will be reporting live from the race to kick off our 2020 race-coverage season! Stay tuned for interviews with top contenders ahead of the race.

2020 Transgrancanaria Women’s Preview

The front of the women’s race at Transgrancanaria 2020 will assuredly be an interesting one with a collection of returning past top performers, folks who’ve faced challenges in recent years following dominant success, and some real wild cards.

Kaytlyn Gerbin

Kaytlyn Gerbin

With last year’s winner, Magdalena Laczak, not defending her title this year, the U.S.’s Kaytlyn Gerbin (pre-race interview) is the top returning woman from last year’s Transgrancanaria, where she took second. Gerbin ran two other Ultra-Trail Word Tour (UTWT) races last year, taking sixth at both Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (MIUT) and the Western States 100. Looking back a bit further, she was second at Western States in 2018 and fourth in 2017, while taking 10th at the 2018 Trail World Championships (85km) at Penyagolosa. Her strength and consistency in recent years make her a favorite for another top performance at TGC, especially as she just looked strong in winning the 2020 Coastal Challenge in the Costa Rican heat.

While France’s Audrey Tanguy (pre-race interview) saw success on the trails from 2015 through 2017, she really broke out in the second half 2018 and last year. In (roughly) the second half of 2018, she was second at the Mont Blanc 90km and Diagonale des Fous along with winning TDS. Last year, she was third at MIUT, second at Lavaredo Ultra-Trail, and repeated as the TDS champ. She kicked off this year with her second-straight win at the 47km Trail de la Galinette.

2017 Transgrancanaria - Azara Garcia

Azara García

I think of Spain’s Azara García as a dominant force in trail races from the marathon (or below) up to 50 miles. Indeed, she won the Zegama Marathon in 2015, took second at the 2016 Trail World Championships (86km), won Les Templiers (78km) in 2018, and took forth at last year’s Trail World Championships (44km). However, she has raced two 100km or longer races on big stages. One was a DNF at CCC in 2018. The other? A win here at Transgrancanaria in 2017. Can she do it again?

From 2016 through the middle of 2018, few women were as dominant from 50 to 100 miles as the Swede who lives in France, Mimmi Kotka. In that span, she won CCC (2016), the Mont Blanc 90km (2017 and 2018), TDS (2017), and MIUT (2018) to name just a few of her victories. Since that 2018 win at the Mont Blanc 90km, she’s not raced to the same level. In August 2018, she dropped out of Sierre-Zinal and UTMB back-to-back, before finishing sixth at Diagonale des Fous and third at Ultra-Trail Cape Town. Last year, she was 13th at MIUT and 20th at UTMB. If the new year sees Kotka return to her previous form, she’ll be in the mix for the win. If she’s more in line with her past year, look for her to finish in the middle of the top ten.

2019 Vibram Hong Kong 100k - Fuzhao Xiang

Fuzhao Xiang

I might have to call China’s Fuzhao Xiang (pre-race interview) a quiet favorite for this year’s Transgrancanaria. One of the best untold stories at the front of the ultrarunning pack might be her linear improvement from fourth to third to second to first over the past four Vibram Hong Kong 100kms with her 2020 win also being her fastest time at the race. She’s run UTMB the past two years, improving from 20th to 11th. She also won Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji last year. Certainly, she’s an up-and-comer in the sport! My biggest concern with Zhang might be with how much she races with 15 races in 2019 in ITRA’s database alone, with more likely in China.

Kaci Lickteig’s most prominent successes have come at the Western States 100, where she won in 2016, took second in 2015, and third just last year along with three other finishes there. The American is no slouch in more mountainous races like UTMB, but she’s not seen the same level of success there, having taken 18th in 2017 and 10th in 2018. With Transgrancanaria running more like UTMB than Western States, look for Kaci to run in the middle of the top ten with a podium spot possible on a good day.

If you’ve been following international ultras for any length of time, then you know Brazil’s Fernanda Maciel. The same would hold true if you only follow Transgrancanaria, as she won the race in 2012, was third in 2014, sixth in 2018, and third last year. That third place at TGC was likely Maciel’s best performance from 2019. A year earlier in 2018, she had a better overall season with wins at the Penyagolosa CSP and Cappadocia Ultra-Trail, a sixth at Lavaredo, and an 11th at UTMB.

2017 Transgrancanaria - Andrea Huser

Andrea Huser

Switzerland’s Andrea Huser has plenty of experience at Trangrancanaria. She was fourth in 2015 before taking second in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, the normally very frequent racer wouldn’t run another race that I know of until 2019 due to injuries. In 2019, Huser did return to racing less prominent races, but only up to 50k and not up to her former level. She also didn’t race after July, again due to injury. From 2015 through 2017, Huser raced a ton of ultras at an amazingly high level (along with lots of other sorts of races), with highlights including taking second at UTMB in 2016 and 2017, winning Diagonale des Fous in 2016 and 2017, and winning MIUT in 2017.

Nathalie Mauclair’s accomplishments between 2013 and the middle of 2017 are staggering. A few highlights include winning UTMB (2015), winning the Trail World Championships twice (2013 and 2015), and winning Diagonale des Fous twice (2013 and 2014), along with podium finishes at the Western States 100 (interview), Hardrock 100 (interview), Lavaredo, and the Marathon des Sables. However, the Frenchwoman struggled in late 2017 through 2018 with DNFs at CCC (2017), Diagonale des Fous (2018), and Ultra-Trail Cape Town (2018). She finished at least one ultramarathon last year, winning the Ultra Marin Raid Golfe du Morbihan (176km) in June.

Ildiko Wermescher - 2018 UTMB

Ildikó Wermesche

Ildikó Wermescher of Hungary is still crushing it at 55 years old. Just last year, she was fifth at Transgrancanaria, won the Annecy Maxi-Race (127km), and was ninth at UTMB. None of that should come as a surprise as the year before, she was seventh at UTMB as well as 10th at TGC and Lavaredo. Wermescher has run TGC at least two other times, taking fourth in 2014 and fifth in 2017.

Leire Martinez has raced nearly exclusively within her home country of Spain with great success, but primarily in races that don’t see global competition. Her most telling finishes might be her 12th at CCC in 2017, fifth at Ultra Pirineu in 2014, and third at Penyagolosa CSP in both 2017 and 2018. As far as I can tell, Martinez has only run one of the TGC races once, taking fifth in the TGC advanced (83km) in 2015.

France’s Claire Bannwarth spent 2019 just outside of the top ten at a bunch of UTWT events, taking 13th at Transgrancanaria, 11th at MIUT, and 12th at Lavaredo. This January, she pushed through that barrier to take ninth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. Look for her to again make a run at the top ten at this year’s TGC.

Other Women to Watch

  • Roxane Ardiet (France) – 6th 2017 Penyagolosa CSP; 8th 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 10th 2017 TDS; 14th 2019 Mont Blanc 90km
  • Eszter Csillag (Hungary) – 6th 2020 Vibram Hong Kong 100km [Added March 3]
  • Alyssa Clark (U.S.) – 7th 2019 Eiger Ultra-Trail; 12th 2018 Ultra Pirineu
  • Claire Gadrow (U.S.) – 12th 2018 JFK 50 Mile; 3rd 2019 Umstead 100 Mile
  • Sandra Moreno (Spain) – 14th 2019 Transgrancanaria; 4 Transgrancanaria finishes; Gran Canarian
  • Raquel Rivero (Spain) – 9th 2015 and 12th 2017 Transgrancanaria; 2nd 2014 Ultra Pirineu;  8th 2013 and 12th 2014 Transvulcania Ultramrarathon
  • Claudia Tremps (Spain) – 8th 2019 Transgrancanaria; 5th 2019 Penyagolosa CSP; 7th 2019 Ultra Pirineu; 18th 2019 CCC

2020 Transgrancanaria Men’s Preview

Pau Capell - 2019 UTMB champion

Pau Capell

Pau Capell (pre-race interview) is so hot right now! I’m not going to list all of his victories from 2019, but those most relevant to this article are his win at least year’s Transgrancanaria and UTMB. Oh, and the Spaniard won TGC in both 2017 and 2018 after taking third in 2016. A year before that, Capell won the Transgrancanaria Advanced (85km). I think it’s safe to say that he’s the favorite to win here.

Look for Spain’s Pablo Villa (pre-race interview) to chase Capell once again, as he took second to his countryman at last year’s Transgrancanaria. Villa had a busy race schedule in 2019, but with only two races that I know of over 62km. His other long ultra? The 145km TDS, which he won, after DNFing the race the two previous years. In 2018, Villa won the Transgrancanaria Advanced (64km) and took 13th at the Trail World Championships (85km).

Jared Hazen - Post 2019 Western States 100

Jared Hazen

So, American Jared Hazen (pre-race interview) had what could be called a great 2018 in which he was second at the Way Too Cool 50k and the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile before winning the JFK 50 Mile in a blazing time. But if that was a great year, what do you call his 2019? Last year, he was second behind Jim Walmsley at Santa Barbara Nine Trails (35 miles), won Lake Sonoma in a stellar time, and then took a close second to Walmsley again at the Western States 100, where he ran the second fastest time in course history. He did DNF the Leadville 100 Mile later in the summer. Hazen kicked off his 2020 season with a fifth-place finish at the Vibram Hong Kong 100km.

The USA’s Dylan Bowman closed out what had been a rough 2019 with a sixth place at the TNF 50 Mile Championships in November. However, if we go back only one more year, he won both the Tarawera 100km and Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji as well as taking second at TDS in 2018. In 2017, he was seventh at UTMB. Last month, Bowman had a good tuneup in winning the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. I think TGC suits him well and that he’ll go into it with focus, as he does with so many races he runs.

Diego Pazos - Post-2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail

Diego Pazos

Switzerland’s Diego Pazos has twice run Transgrancanaria, finishing third in 2016 and eighth in 2017. That third place in 2016 coincided with what might be his best year when he also won the Mont Blanc 80km and Eiger Ultra-Trail along with placing sixth at the Trail World Championships (86km). Last year, Pazos took second at MIUT and fifth at Transvulcania before finishing 19th at Diagonale des Fous. He started 2020 off with a DNF at Trail de la Galinette.

Romania’s Robert Hajnal runs a bit hot and cold. In 2017, he was fifth at both Lavaredo and Ultra-Trail Cape Town, while taking 96th at Transgrancanaria and DNFing UTMB. In 2018, he was second at UTMB and 15th at the Trail World Championships, while DNFing Cappadocia Ultra-Trail. In 2019, he took fourth at MIUT, while taking 73rd at the Trail World Championships (44km) and DNFing UTMB. If Hajnal has a good day, he’ll be fighting for a podium spot.

It’s tricky trying to predict how Chinese runners, such as Peiquan You, who’ve seen the vast majority of success within mainland China, will do abroad until they’ve amassed some international-racing experience. We do know that Peiquan won the Vibram Hong Kong 100k this year, but in a field that had less international depth than in some recent years. From the results I can find from within China, it seems he rarely races over 100km, with the 111km Ultimate Tsaigu in 2019 (he was second) as possibly his longest race to date, which would make TGC his longest race so far. I look forward to seeing what You can do here.

Gediminas Grinius - 2017 UTMB

Gediminas Grinius

It’s been some years, but Gediminas Grinius of Lithuania is back and running Transgrancanaria! Gediminas ran this race several years in a row, the last time in 2016 when he took second. He was also the 2015 champion. Last year, Gediminas spent a bunch of time in the USA running the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, wherein he took sixth at the Western States 100, won both the Vermont 100 Mile and Wasatch Front 100 Mile, and took seventh at the Leadville Trail 100 Mile. [Added March 2]

The U.K.’s Harry Jones had a solid 2019, when he was third at the Tarawera 100km, fourth at Penyagolosa CSP (109km), and seventh at Lavaredo before finishing 15th at UTMB. Looking back a year further, her was fifth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100km, third at Ultra-Trail Australia, and eighth at CCC in among other results in 2018.

Last month, Canada’s Mathieu Blanchard ran one of his best ultras in taking second at the Tarawera 100km. He’s previously seen success on more mountainous courses like he’ll see at TGC in taking 13th at UTMB in 2018 and 10th at CCC in 2019.

At least two Portuguese runners could make a run for the top ten: Luís Fernandes and Hélio Fumo. Last year, Fernandes improved on his 13th place performance at TGC 2017 by taking eighth. In 2018, the Madeiran runner was 11th at MIUT and 18th at UTMB. Perhaps a bit better from 50k to 50 miles, Fumo twice took second at Transgrancanaria-Advanced (2017 – 81km and 2018 – 64km). At the past two relatively shorter distances Trail World Championships, Fumo was 13th in 2017 (49km) and 10th in 2019 (44km).

Two French runners who should add to the mix up front are Lambert Santelli and Nicolas Riviere. Santelli was fifth at last year’s MIUT, while previously taking fifth at Mont Blanc 90km and sixth at Ultra Pirineu in 2018 as well as 10th at Les Templiers (76km) in 2017. Heading into last autumn, Riviere has ultra career highlights of 19th at Diagonale des Fous in 2018 and 17th at MIUT in 2019. Then, he went and finished second at last year’s Diagonale des Fous. Was that a fluke or a breakout performance?

I’ll admit to not having heard of Dutch runner Peter van der Zon until researching this preview. He’d run strong, but unremarkably at plenty of ultras from 2015 through mid-2018, when he broke out with a third place at Eiger Ultra-Trail. He followed that up with a fifth-place finish at last year’s Transgrancanaria. He did drop at what might be his two most recent ultras, the Eiger Ultra-Trail and CCC in the second half of last year.

Other Men to Watch

  • Victor del Águila (Spain) – 6th 2019 Ultra Pirineu; 1st 2019 Andorra Ultra Trail – Mitic
  • David Calero (Spain) – 11th 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail; 2nd 2019 Ronda del Cims; 47th 2017 Transgrancanaria
  • Gonzalo Calisto (Ecuador) – 3rd 2019 Ushuaia by UTMB; 15th 2019 Ultra Pirineu. From 2016 to 2018, Calisto served a two-year doping ban from the IAAF after testing positive for EPO at the 2015 UTMB.
  • Martin Halasz (Slovakia) – 2nd 2019 Transgrancanaria – Advanced (64km); 19th 2019 CCC; 11th 2018 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Arthur Joyeux-Bouillon (France) – 9th 2018 CCC; 9th 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail; 7th 2018 Ultra-Trail Cape Town
  • Kamil Leśniak (Poland) – 21st 2018 Trail World Championships (85km); 27th 2017 Trail World Championships (49km); 6th 2019 Transgrancanaria Marathon; 9th 2016 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail
  • David Lutzardo (Spain) – 5th 2018 Transgrancanaria; 3rd Penyagolosa CSP; 3rd 2013, 2nd 2015, and 2nd 2016 Transgrancanaria- Advanced (81-85km)
  • Luca Manfredi (Italy) – 15th 2019 Transgrancanaria; 8th 2019 Ultra-Trail Cape Town. From 2010 to 2012, Luca Manfredi served a two-year doping ban from the Italian National Olympic Committee for testing positive for amphetamine and ephedrine at the 2010 Gran Fondo delle Alpi cycling race.
  • Ionel Cristian Manole (Romania) – 20th 2019 Transgrancanaria; 7th 2019 Tor des Geants; 14th 2019 Eiger Ultra-Trail
  • Paul Ogier (France) – 7th 2019 Transgrancanaria – Advanced (64km); 18th 2019 CCC; 7th 2019 Le Saintelyon
  • Luca Papi (Italy) – 1st 2017, 3rd 2018, and 1st 2019 Transgrancanaria 360* (~265km); 1st 2019 Tor des Glaciers (453km); finished 2019 Transgrancanaria after winning TGC 360* (tried same double in 2017 & 2018, but failed)
  • Marcos Ramos (Spain) – 13th 2018 Transgrancanaria; 14th 2017 Ultra Pirineu
  • Estanislao Rivero (Spain) – 11th 2018 Transgrancanaria; 11th 2018 Ultra Pirineu
  • Santos Gabriel Rueda (Argentina) – 9th 2019 TDS; 4th 2019 Eiger Ultra-Trail; 1st Riaño Trail Run; 5-straight wins at 4 Refugios
  • Sange Sherpa (Nepal) – 17th, 18th, 26th, 22nd, and 28th 2015-19 Transgrancanaria; 11th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 6th 2018 Eiger Ultra-Trail
  • Carl Johann Sörman (Sweden) – 5th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 6th 2019 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji; 9th 2019 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 20th 2019 CCC
  • Alberto Vinagre (Spain) – 10th 2019 Transgrancanaria; 12th 2018 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail; 29th 2018 UTMB

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will win for the women and the men this weekend?
  • Do you think any of the above runners will surprise the world this weekend?
  • Who else do you think the world should know heading into this year’s Transgrancanaria?
  • Do you know of anyone we’ve listed who definitely won’t be racing TGC this year?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.