When it comes to UTMB and its group of races, even a shorter distance 55k crosses countries. OCC, named for its Orsières, Champex, Chamonix linkup, raced from Switzerland to France and the common finish in crowd-filled Chamonix. And while only 55k (34.2 miles), OCC doesn’t lack for challenge at all. The race course gains an impressive 3,500 meters (11,480 feet) on its point-to-point path.
Jonathan Albon (U.K.) escaped Robbie Simpson (U.K.) for the win in 5:02, a new course and event record. Simpson was less than three minutes back at 5:05 for runner-up honors.
It was quite a comeback for Albon, though certainly not a surprise given his earlier Skyrunning success. The obstacle-course-racer-turned-mountain-runner had been away from the sport for almost two years, enduring a foot surgery and moving into the Norwegian mountains. He did however win the 45k Fjällmaraton race in Sweden just weeks ago as part of his prep for OCC.
In second, Simpson, a longtime mountain runner who crosses over into road marathons too, matched his finish place from Sierre-Zinal earlier this month.
Petter Engdahl (Sweden) was third in 5:08 and Thomas Cardin (France) was fourth in 5:14. All of the top-four finishers bettered Stian Angermund’s 2019 winning time.
Currently listed as fifth, Hayden Hawks (USA) entered an aid station from the wrong direction, possibly after a wrong turn, and there was some speculation that this may result in a time penalty. It was mentioned that the same situation may impact other runners. However, it appears no penalties were given. The rest of the men’s top 10 includes:
5 – Hayden Hawks (USA) – 5:20
6 – Nicolas Martin (France) – 5:21
7 – Peter Fraňo (Slovakia) – 5:27
8 – Antoine Charvolin (France) – 5:28
9 – Kevin Vermeulen (France) – 5:29
10 – Moritz Auf Der Heide (Germany) – 5:33
The men’s race might’ve been close, but Blandine L’Hirondel (France) greatly outclassed the women’s field. Two hours into the race she was already eight minutes ahead of eventual second-placer Mathilde Sagnes (France). L’Hirondel’s 5:45 finish was a five-minute improvement on Ruth Croft‘s winning time from 2019 and is the fastest time in the race’s history.
L’Hirondel has been an active racer in recent years and was fourth at Sierre-Zinal earlier this month. Fun fact, both L’Hirondel and Albon were 2019 Trail World Champions together too.
A full 22 minutes back of the race winner, Sagnes finished second in 6:07. Third-place Caitlin Fielder (New Zealand) closed hard for a 6:10 finish, making up five minutes on Sagnes in the final section.
The rest of the top 10 included:
4 – Anna Comet (Spain) – 6:12
5 – Elisa Desco (Italy) – 6:18
6 – Henriette Albon (Norway) – 6:27
7 – Candice Fertin (France) – 6:28
8 – Jasmin Nunige (Switzerland) – 6:33
9 – Taylor Nowlin (USA) – 6:33
10 – Virginia Pérez (Spain) – 6:34
From 2010 to 2012, Elisa Desco served a two-year doping ban from the IAAF after she tested positive for EPO at the 2009 World Mountain Running Championships.