The 2020 Transgrancanaria crowned a new champion in the women’s race with the USA’s Kaytlyn Gerbin, who improved upon her second-place finish from last year. The women’s race for the podium was tighter than the men’s, with China’s Fuzhao Xiang arriving in a strong second and Spain’s Azara García in third, all three finishing within 17 minutes of each other.
The men’s race saw a tie for the win between Spaniards Pau Capell and Pablo Villa. For Capell it was his fourth-straight win at Transgrancanaria and for the pair it was a finish that mirrored a race they spent running together for the most part. The USA’s Dylan Bowman worked his way up throughout the race, eventually onto the men’s podium in third.
This year’s 128-kilometer route was quite different from years past due to a couple necessary course changes, including because of damage to the previous course by a 2019 wildfire. What was the same, however, was the 11 p.m. local time Friday night start and the Saturday afternoon finish for the leaders. The weather was also quite typical for spring on the Canary Islands, with cool temperatures at night (we saw temperatures as cold as 4 degrees Celsius [39F] just before dawn) and, then, full sun and warm temperatures by day. And, you can’t forget that always-present island humidity.
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2020 Transgrancanaria Men’s Race
A tie for the win! Pau Capell (pre-race and post-race interviews) was simply the favorite among the group of top runners, with his three previous victories here plus the last couple years he’s had in mountain ultramarathons in general. But what’s so great about ultrarunning is that… it’s ultrarunning. There are hours and mountains and the night and the sun and so many variables that come into play. Oh, and there’s Pablo Villa (pre-race and post-race interviews), too. The pair of Spaniards went off the start line and stuck among the lead group right away, at times setting the group’s pace. Also in that lead group was the USA’s Jared Hazen (pre-race interview) and China’s Peiquan You. This foursome remained together until somewhere after the race’s marathon point, while a long string of men trailed behind them.
At the race’s halfway point distance-wise, 64 kilometers in, Capell and Villa arrived as a pair in the lead, but only by two minutes because Hazen was still giving close chase. You was now out of the picture and he’d drop not long later. Unfortunately, the next 10 kilometers would take their toll on Hazen as he got off course and lost contact with the lead. From there, Hazen only fell back further in the field before ultimately dropping not long after.
From 64 kilometers until the 128-kilometer finish, it was Capell and Villa running basically with or near each other. Here and there the pair separated by up to a few minutes, but they always seemed to come back together again. At the 110-kilometer aid station, when Capell was ready to leave a bit sooner than Villa, he waited. Clearly, they were now traveling as a unit and that’s how it would go all the way to the finish.
Dylan Bowman (post-race interview) of the USA was the comeback kid of this race. After a rough year-plus health-wise with injury and physical issues, he’s back. He seemed to take things out a bit conservatively, but wanting to remain not too far off the leaders. It looked quite intentional, thus, that he hovered just outside the race’s top five for its first half. Bowman has raced Transgrancanaria before, and so he knows the difficult terrain that’s presented to runners about two thirds of the way through the race, the rough-and-tumble high volcanic section plus a long descent afterward. It was in this difficult stuff that Bowman moved up into third place, a position he’d hold until the finish.
Like Dylan Bowman, the U.K.’s Harry Jones hovered in relative contact with the leaders for many of the race’s early kilometers. Bowman and Jones even looked to have teamed up for some time mid-race. On the long descent from the high country, though, the pair spread out and Jones settled into fourth position. France’s Lambert Santelli also had a strong race, like Bowman and Jones running a bit back from the lead but right around fifth position from very early on–and a position he’d be in at the finish.
2020 Transgrancanaria Men’s Results
- T-1. Pau Capell (The North Face) – 13:04:10 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- T-1. Pablo Villa (adidas Terrex) – 13:04:10 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- 3. Dylan Bowman (The North Face) – 13:40:28 (post-race interview)
- 4. Harry Jones (Hoka One One) – 13:57:32
- 5. Lambert Santelli – 14:25:23
- 6. Diego Pazos (Compressport) – 14:38:45
- 7. Gediminas Grinius (Vibram) – 14:41:57
- 8. Luís Fernandes – 14:53:41
- 9. Estanislao Rivero (Dynafit) – 14:56:36
- 10. Marcos Ramos – 15:11:41
2020 Transgrancanaria Women’s Race
Last year, the USA’s Kaytlyn Gerbin (pre-race and post-race interviews) took second at Transgrancanaria. This year, she improved a spot to take the win and finished at the front of a relatively tight race for the podium and a fascinating race dynamic. Let’s dig in. It was actually Spain’s Azara García (post-race interview) who led out the women’s race with what felt like a quiet confidence. She was calm and direct in her aid-station stops with her crew, which made it look like the race was coming easy to her. The same seemed almost certain to be true for Gerbin, too, perhaps even more so. Here we also add to the mix France’s Audrey Tanguy (pre-race interview), who was helping to pace set near the front of the women’s race early on.
So, we had García off the front pretty much straightaway, with Tanguy playing immediate chase through at least 27 kilometers into the race, where the pair passed through the aid station one-two and within one minute of each other. However, over the next 13 kilometers, García opened things up and no one was within 6.5 minutes of her at 40 kilometers in. As it turns out, this would be about her biggest lead because over the next 24 kilometers or so, Gerbin reduced her 11.5-minute time gap to García to just 1.5 minutes. A chase was on.
Around this same time, the race’s halfway point, Tanguy began to drop back from the very front of the race and Fuzhao Xiang (pre-race and post-race interviews) of China started to move up from her earlier position just outside the top five. However, there was a lot of racing to go as the women climbed up into, around, and down from Gran Canaria’s volcanic highlands, often where races are made or lost at Transgrancanaria.
When the women came off the highlands, the race had a new leader in Gerbin, a position she’d hold through the finish line. And the podium race wasn’t yet decided either, as on the long descent to 110 kilometers, Xiang and García switched spots, into second and third positions, which they’d keep until the finish. As much as Gerbin, Xiang, and García kept a relatively tight race between them, they also blew apart the rest of the women’s field. With 20 kilometers to go, the lead-three women had had already created an hour-plus gap on fourth place and the rest of the women’s field, and they’d widen it to 90 minutes by the finish. This trio was certainly in their own performance universe today.
Tanguy slowed significantly in the race’s second half, but clearly used her strength to stay in the top five, ultimately taking fourth. Spain’s Clàudia Tremps finished fifth while running evenly within the middle to the back half of the top 10 all race long. With this finish, Tremps continues her ascendent efforts at mountain ultras over the last few years.
Sweden’s Mimmi Kotka factored into the first half of the race when she was running just inside the top five. However, she would DNF following a painful fall.
2020 Transgrancanaria Women’s Results
- Kaytlyn Gerbin (The North Face) – 15:14:39 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Fuzhao Xiang (Hoka One One) – 15:25:40 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Azara García (Sport HG) – 15:31:36 (post-race interview)
- Audrey Tanguy (Hoka One One) – 16:59:15 (pre-race interview)
- Clàudia Tremps (Columbia) – 17:21:29
- Kaci Lickteig (Hoka One One) – 18:39:51
- Andrea Huser (Hoka One One) – 18:44:02
- Leire Martínez (Sport HG) – 18:46:38
- Ildikó Wermescher (Hoka One One) – 19:44:36
- Myvanwy Hanna – 19:51:59
Thank you so much to Miguelito Rodríguez, Foncho Clemente, Texenery Diaz, and Inmaculada Martel. We couldn’t have covered Transgrancanaria without their Canarian expertise!