2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Preview

An in-depth preview of the 2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail.

By on November 15, 2021 | Comments

The Madeira Island Ultra-Trail is back, this time with a unique autumn date due to a COVID-19 postponement from earlier in the year. This 115-kilometer (72 miles) race is held on a small Portuguese island almost 700 miles from mainland Portugal and 400 miles from the coast of Morocco. The Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (MIUT) consistently draws some of the most competitive ultramarathoners in the world to traverse the lush archipelago from northwest to southeast, from the tiny village of Porto Moniz, through nature preserves, across peaks and plateaus, and eventually to the finish line in the town of Machico.

The course features 7,200 meters (23,600 feet) of climbing and starts at midnight Western European Time on Saturday, November 20. That’s 5:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Friday, November 19 in the U.S.

The last event, held in April of 2019, saw Courtney Dauwalter and François D’Haene win, each about 30 minutes ahead of their runner-up competition. The previous women’s and men’s course records remained intact, set by Caroline Chaverot in 2016 at 15:00:55, and François D’Haene in 2017 at 13:05:44. No one from the 2019 men’s or women’s podium is returning for this year’s running.

iRunFar is covering the race live, so be sure to follow along on our live race-day coverage!

2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Men’s Preview

Headliner Men

It looks like a few of the top men from last month’s Diagonale des Fous on Réunion Island are switching islands for another island traverse. They’ll face stiff competition from a number of ultramarathon giants, some with previous Madeira experience and some looking for a new adventure.

Pau Capell - 2020 Transgrancanaria

Pau Capell

Pau Capell has decided to race the 60k distance, as he continues to recover from surgery. [Updated: November 18] Former soccer player Pau Capell (pre-race interview) was prescribed mountain running after he sustained a knee injury in 2012 — and he’s never looked back. The Spaniard raced a bunch of times back in 2019, and it looks like he won all of his races but one, including winning the 2019 UTMB. In 2020, he won Transgrancanaria in a tie with Pablo Villa. His race schedule has been quieter since then, in part due to knee surgery this summer. Capell placed second at MIUT in 2017. We’re curious his post-surgery fitness, but expect that if Pau starts, he’ll be ready to run for the win.

Dmitry Mityaev

Dmitry Mityaev

Russian runner Dmitry Mityaev has finished in all three podium spots and experienced one DNF among his races this year, the last of which was at the 2021 UTMB — potentially due to a stomach issue, which he mentioned in his pre-race interview. Other than that struggle, Mityaev has been on an upward trajectory for years, finishing on the podium for the majority of his races since 2016, including a second place at the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Often seen smiling his way up mountaintops, Mityaev has raced on Madeira before, placing third at both the 2017 and 2018 Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, a distinct event from MIUT that’s 55k long. Let’s see what he can do in this longer event.

Hannes Namberger (pre-race interview)! I feel like I’ve seen this German’s name everywhere this year, and it’s probably because he’s doing so well. Namberger was top 10 at the 2021 UTMB, coming in sixth, and he won the 120k Lavaredo Ultra Trail a couple of months before that. Back in 2020, he topped the podium at least three times, including at the high and snowy 105k Pitz Alpine Glacier Trail. Can he keep up that speed on a volcanic island, too? The chances are good, considering he’s done well at Transvulcania in placing 10th in 2019 and eighth in 2018.

2018 UTMB - Robert Hajnal

Robert Hajnal

Romanian Robert Hajnal has had some solid finishes over the past few years, interspersed with some rough races. For example, he finished second at the 2018 UTMB, where he also DNFed in both 2017 and 2019 and finished off par in 2021. As far as previous MIUTs go, he just missed the podium at MIUT in 2019, finishing fourth. His recent third-place finish at the 2021 Penyagolosa Trails 110k just a few weeks ago shows he’s ready to race, so long as he’s recovered.

Norwegian Erik-Sebastian Krogvig has only raced a couple of times this year, but both were high-profile competitive races. He won the 2021 TDS and placed third at the 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail, the latter of which was his second time doing so. This will be his first time at MIUT, but he’s spent time prepping for the race, so he’ll be familiar with the island and the course.

Daniel Jung might have a tough time coming into MIUT, simply because he won (in a tie with Ludovic Pommeret) Diagonale des Fous just a few weeks ago! I can’t imagine he’s truly recovered from that heinous course. The Italian Jung has had a pretty good year, with three other victories other than DdF. He did, however, drop out of both Transgrancanaria and TDS in 2021. There are exactly four weeks since DdF, which could be enough time to recover, and Jung raced MIUT back in 2017, placing sixth — let’s see if he can break into the top five.

Ryan Sandes - 2019 Western States 100

Ryan Sandes

South Africa’s Ryan Sandes (pre-race interview) has been specifically training for MIUT to be more proficient with poles, so he’s preparing for a very different race than, say, his 2017 win at the Western States 100. Sandes has kept things pretty quiet in 2021. He won the 171k Ultra-Trail Drakensburg back in April, but he DNFed at the 2021 UTMB, stopping after only four hours. He’s never raced MIUT.

Another Russian running MIUT this year is Aleksei Tolstenko, and he’s had a good year! He placed 13th at UTMB this year, a huge improvement on his previous showings in the race, and won the Penyagolosa Trails 110k a couple of weeks ago. So though it’s hard to say; he may be a little tired coming into MIUT. He raced at MIUT back in 2016 and didn’t do so well. Maybe he can return and move up in the rankings since he’s shown so much improvement this year.

Switzerland’s Jean-Philippe Tschumi tends to race mostly in his home country, and this will be his first year at MIUT. Tschumi has some good finishes under his belt, including winning the Eiger Ultra-Trail 52k this year. While he has run a few races over 100k, he tends to have more success at races under that distance. He DNFed at Diagonale des Fous twice, in 2018 and 2019, but did win the 111k MXTreme at the 2020 Montreux Trail Festival.

Sam McCutcheon Pre-2018 Tarawera Ultra

Sam McCutcheon

I really want to meet Sam McCutcheon because he’s a New Zealander living in Scotland — he’s got to have one of the best accents out there. Before moving to Scotland, he placed third at the Tarawera Ultramarathons 100k in his home country in both 2017 and 2018. While it looks like the only big race he’s run in 2021 was the Mozart 100k where he placed second, along with some local races across the Munros (the mountains of Scotland that are over 3,000 feet), he had a good year in 2019 placing third at the very competitive Lavaredo Ultra Trail. McCutcheon is also a newcomer to MIUT.

Harry Jones of the United Kingdom has had a quiet couple of years, but has a good variety of distances under his belt from 30k to 170k, and tends to place in the top 10 in the majority of races he enters. His recent win at the 50k 2021 Ultra Trail Snowdonia proved he can hold his own on a variety of terrain. It will be Jones’s first time at Madeira.

At 23 years old, we believe Hugo Deck of France is the youngest runner on this list — but he’s very likely going to be near the top at MIUT. He started racing in 2017, but really started filling up the calendar in 2019, and has steadily improved as a runner since then. One of his most impressive performances so far was fifth place at the 2021 CCC. He has raced mostly shorter distances, but did place second at the 111k Swiss Canyon Trail this year in Switzerland.

Romain Olivier is no longer on the entrants list. [Updated: November 18] France’s Romain Olivier did well the last time he raced MIUT in 2019 — he placed eighth. He’s back at it in 2021 with a fifth-place finish at the 108k distance at Les Templiers. He’s also done well on island-traverse races in the past, placing in the top 10 at both Diagonale des Fous (sixth in 2018) and Transgrancanaria (eighth in 2019).

Petter Restorp placed third at the Tor des Géants in September of this year, and I’m shocked anyone who ran that beast of a race would want to toe the line again anytime soon — but here he is! The Swedish runner living in Chamonix, France, races everything from vertical K races to the 330k TdG, so his wide variety of experience will be helpful here, including the fact he raced MIUT in 2019 and placed 10th.

Another French runner with a great finish at Diagonale des Fous this year is Beñat Marmissolle — he came in third about 45 minutes behind Pommeret and Jung. If he’s recovered or not yet, however, remains to be seen. Marmissolle tends to stick to sub-100k skyrunning-style races, but of the three times he raced this year, they were over 100k and he made the podium at each. He’s raced on Madeira before, but not MIUT; he ran the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira in 2017 and placed fourth.

More Men to Watch

  • Avery Collins (USA) – 15th 2021 CCC; 1st 2018 HURT 100 Mile; 1st 2017 Grindstone 100 Mile
  • Francisco Freitas (Portugal) – 12th 2021 TDS; 9th 2018 MIUT
  • Cedric Golea (France) – 1st 2021 Abbots Way Ultra; 18th 2018 MIUT
  • Maxime Grenot (France) – 4th 2019 MIUT 85k; 7th 2019 TDS
  • David Quelhas (Portugal) – 1st 2021 Ultra-Trail Serra da Freita; 4th 2019 Ronda del Cims
  • Peter van der Zon (Netherlands) — 4th 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 9th 2021 Canyons 100k

On the Entrants List but Not Racing

  • Robbie Britton

2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Women’s Preview

Headliner Women

The headliners of the 2021 MIUT race read like a UTMB festival rerun: several of the women listed here ran this year’s UTMB and TDS. Some did well; some are looking for redemption.

Sabrina Stanley

Sabrina Stanley (pre-race interview) has been at the front of some of the toughest long ultramarathons in the world for years. She was the champion of the 2018 and 2021 Hardrock 100, 2019 Diagonale des Fous, and the 2019 HURT 100 Mile. She was also third at the 2017 Western States 100. The American prepares strategically for everything she does, this race included: she’s been in Madeira for two months already, running on the trails and getting to know the course ahead of her first run at MIUT.

2019 Vibram Hong Kong 100 - Ekaterina Mityaeva

Ekaterina Mityaeva

Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva is nearly always at the front of the pack. She traditionally does her best at skyrunning-style races, including two previous showings at the 55k Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, while she’s not raced MIUT before. This year, Mityaeva placed fourth at TDS, though she was in podium position for much of the race.

Marion Delespierre (pre-race interview) is having a great year. The French runner just missed the podium at the 2021 UTMB, placing fourth, running a very strong race throughout the day, and won the 2021 Trail des Passerelles du Montenyard 62k. She’s never raced at MIUT, but she placed second at the 2019 Diagonale des Fous, so she’s previously done well on an island traverse. If UTMB is any indication, Delespierre knows how to run a smart and measured race to move up throughout the day.

France’s Elise Delannoy has been racing since 2013, amassing a wide variety of distances and finishes, from fourth at the 32k Sparnatrail in 2018 to 18th at the 239k Marathon des Sables in 2016. She’s a multisport athlete, including cross-country skiing and winning bike races as often as running through the mountains. She placed eighth at the 72k Le Porte di Pietra in Italy this year, but was previously seventh at UTMB in 2019.

Hillary Allen - The Rut Hillygoat bib

Hillary Allen

Hillary Allen (pre-race interview) has been rehabbing a foot injury this year. She tested her foot UTMB this year, but dropped out before halfway. She recently tripled at the Broken Arrow Skyrace series, placing second in the vertical K, third in the 48k, and 10th in the 26k — all in the same weekend.

From Brazil but living in Spain, Manu Vilaseca has been having a solid year racing, winning the 168k TransPenedaGeres in Portugal and the 38k Marathon Rocacorba. She had even more solid results in 2019, placing fifth at TDS, and second at the Everest Trail Race. Vilaseca raced MIUT back in 2017 and placed ninth.

Nicole Bitter

Nicole Bitter

American Nicole Bitter qualified for the 2021 Western States 100 after a win at the 2020 Javelina Jundred Mile in her own backyard, but dropped out of Western States in June, a race at which she placed seventh back in 2019. Bitter came back with a sixth-place finish at the 2021 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile. Bitter has had a handful of wins on a variety of terrain, but this will be her first time at MIUT.

It looks like Portuguese runner Lucinda Sousa is no longer on the entrants list. made the podium at all her races in 2020 and 2021, and the majority of them in 2019, including taking 10th at TDS in 2019. She’s a two-time MIUT veteran, winning the race in 2014 and placing sixth in 2017.

Kelly Wolf - 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile

Kelly Wolf

Kelly Wolf is not racing. [Updated: November 16] Another American runner to watch for is Kelly Wolf. She recently had a great showing at the 2021 Broken Arrow Skyrace, placing fifth in both the vertical K and 26k. Wolf trends toward shorter and faster races, but she’s done really well at both types — winning the 19k Kendall Mountain Run in 2020, the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2019, and the 100k Tarawera in 2018. She did drop out of this year’s UTMB at just over halfway. This will be her first time at MIUT.

More Women to Watch

  • Kirsten Amundsgård (Norway) – 4th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 1st 2017 Ultra-Trail Cape Town 65k
  • Sophie Grant  (New Zealand, lives in Europe) – 5th 2021 TDS; 12th 2019 MIUT; 9th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
  • Noélie Monney (Switzerland) – 1st 2021 Tot Dret; 5th 2021 Swiss Canyon Trail
  • Emily Vaudan (Switzerland) – 1st 2021 X-Alpine; 3rd 2020 Swiss Peaks Trail

Call for Comments

  • Who are your favorites to place highly?
  • Who else should everyone be watching out for?
  • Do you think there will be any surprises?
Alex Potter
Alex Potter is a contributor and former editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.'