Once again, UTMB is, without a doubt, the most competitive trail ultramarathon men’s field in the world. In fact, we’d venture a guess that it’s more competitive than any two other race fields put together. While that’s nothing new, it’s still something to get excited about. On top of that, it’s incredibly internationally diverse, with top competitors from across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania. The two men generating the most excitement for this year’s race are Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley, while a who’s who of trail ultrarunning will have the chance to show us just how strong they are.
As a reminder, the picturesque course covers 171.5 kilometers (106.5 miles) with over 10,000 meters (32,800 feet) of climbing as it circumnavigates the Mont-Blanc massif in a counterclockwise direction from Chamonix, France, through Italy and Switzerland, before finishing back in Chamonix. While the UTMB Mont-Blanc festival has expanded into a week with eight races, two of which — the CCC and TDS — are themselves among the most competitive trail ultras in the world, UTMB remains the queen race of the festival and the crown jewel of the trail ultramarathon season.
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Tune in to our live coverage of UTMB starting at 6 p.m. CEST (10 a.m. MDT in the U.S.) on Friday, August 26. You’ll be able to follow our UTMB live coverage right here on iRunFar!
Be sure to check out our in-depth UTMB women’s preview for a look at the women’s race!
The Favorites to Win the 2022 UTMB
The competition at the front of the men’s UTMB field will be as strong as ever, featuring both household names and a few runners you might not know so well. Here are the five runners with the best chance of finishing atop the podium.
One could name Kilian Jornet the favorite to win this year’s UTMB on the basis of him having more wins than any other man in the field with his victories in 2008, 2009, and 2011. On the other hand, one could counter that he’s only run the race twice in the last decade, taking second to François D’Haene in 2017 and DNFing in 2018. I’d suggest putting that to the side and looking at the fact that in mid-July, Kilian beat François, the best mountain 100-mile runner of the past half-decade, head-to-head at the Hardrock 100, as a reason he’s the man to beat. That’s not the only exclamation point in Kilian’s season to date, as he set a nine-minute course record at the Zegama Marathon in his 10th win of the race. Now, it’s time to remember that Kilian’s run UTMB five times with great success in four of those runnings. He did suffer his only hiccup on the season in taking fifth while battling cramps at Sierre-Zinal in mid-August.
Two days ahead of UTMB, Kilian reported that he tested COVID-19 positive, but without symptoms, suggesting that he may have had COVID (despite testing negative) when he ran Sierre-Zinal two weeks earlier. On Friday afternoon, Kilian confirmed that he continues to lack symptoms and has received medical clearance to run the race, and so he will. [Updated: August 26, 2022]
But — and it’s a big but — if there are two guys in the world with a chance to outrun Kilian at UTMB, one of them is American Jim Walmsley (pre-race interview) and he’s running the race. (The other being François.) Jim’s shortcomings at UTMB are well known. His best finish is fifth place in 2017, which he followed up with DNFs in 2018 and 2021. That said, anyone who says Jim isn’t capable of winning UTMB is, well, wrong. Yes, Jim’s best known for his success as “faster” races than UTMB, such as his wins and course record at the Western States 100, but just this year he won the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 115k (MIUT), a race that well approximates running three-quarters of UTMB. Jim’s spent the entire summer living in the French Alps, so he’s fully invested in this year’s UTMB and will be plenty familiar with the terrain he’ll be running on race day.
While it would have been amazing to see France’s Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz (pre-race interview) race Kilian and François at this year’s Hardrock 100 as he was slated to do, Aurélien was instead celebrating becoming a father. After Kilian and Jim, Aurélien and the next two men make this a fascinating favorites section to write, as an argument could be made for slotting each of these other three men into this third position. I place Aurélien here on the recency and strength of his 2021 campaign highlighted by his second-place finish at last year’s UTMB. Last year, he also won the Transgrancanaria 126k and took third at the Ultra Pirineu 100k. One shouldn’t say that his 2021 came out of nowhere, but it’s by far his best season to date and could indicate an upswing for a runner still on the younger side of 30. Aurélien DNFed his only other UTMB festival race, TDS in 2018, but took second at MIUT in 2018 and third at the Ultra Pirineu 110k in 2017.
If you want to hitch your cart to a rising star, check out Germany’s Hannes Namberger (pre-race interview). He’s been strong since getting into ultras in the second half of 2015, but over the past 18 months, he’s won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120k … twice, won the 2021 MIUT, won the 2022 Penyagolosa CSP 110k, and taken sixth at last year’s UTMB, his first race longer than Lavaredo’s 120 kilometers. What’s more, Hannes has a controlled approach that has largely prevented any disappointing performances in his races. Keep your eye on Hannes.
Even if you might not know Aurélien or Hannes at this point, you probably know Spain’s Pau Capell (pre-race interview) for his many ultramarathon successes, including his UTMB win in 2019 and a sixth-place finish at the race in 2017. He’s also won TDS in 2016 as well as taken third and sixth at CCC in 2018 and 2015, respectively. That said, one has to wonder whether Pau is completely back after his knee surgery last summer. Yes, he’s won and been on the podium at some smaller races over the past year, as well as taking second to Pablo Villa at Transgrancanaria in March, but he DNFed at both the Ultra X Azores last November and Lavaredo this June. Still, his most recent run at UTMB is his win just three years ago.
More Top 2022 UTMB Men’s Runners
A podium at UTMB can be the pinnacle for an ultrarunner’s career and, to date, such would seem to be the case for Mathieu Blanchard, who was third at last year’s UTMB. Over the past half-decade, Mathieu has run consistently strongly at UTMB races, having also been 13th at UTMB in 2018 and 10th at CCC in 2019. This Frenchman living in Canada had a good first half of 2022, including placing fourth at MIUT and fifth at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.
Spain’s Pablo Villa is a very up or down runner on the biggest stages. He’s been running UTMB Mont-Blanc races for a decade and in that time has been fourth at TDS in 2012 early in his ultra career, DNFed TDS in 2017 and 2018, won TDS in 2019, and DNFed UTMB in 2021. That pattern was mirrored by his recent running at Transgrancanaria, where he tied with Pau Capell for the win in 2020, DNFed in 2021, and beat out Pau to win earlier this year. Which Pablo will we see at UTMB?
Still only 31 years old, France’s Thibaut Garrivier has already been running ultras for a decade. During that time, he’s found success at shorter UTMB races, taking sixth at OCC in 2017, second at CCC in 2019, and winning CCC in 2021. These results are no outliers. He’s also won Transvulcania 73k in 2019, taken third at The North Face 50 Mile Championships in 2019 and Transvulcania in 2018, and second at Trail du Ventoux 46k in 2019. So far this year, Thibaut’s run well, placing fourth at Trail du Ventoux and second at MIUT behind Walmsley and ahead of Blanchard.
After a big year in 2018, Tom Evans (pre-race interview) of the U.K. has raced more sparingly on the world ultrarunning stage since then. That 2018 season included a win at CCC and a third at the Trail World Championships, after a fourth at CCC a year earlier. Since then, he was third at both the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and Western States 100 in 2019 and won the Tarawera 100k in 2020. Evans has a pair of victories so far this year, winning the second-longest distance races at the MIUT (85k) and Transgrancanaria (60k) festivals, as he returns from knee surgery in 2021.
Excepting a DNF at UTMB in 2018, New Zealand’s Scotty Hawker seemingly keeps getting better and better at the UTMB Mont-Blanc races. He was 58th at UTMB in 2014, 11th at UTMB in 2017, third at UTMB in 2019, and second at CCC in 2021. Anyone know what Scotty’s been up to this year?
Until last year, Erik-Sebastien Krogvig’s best ultra performance was likely an outlier third place at Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2017. Then, the Norwegian stepped things up last year, not only equaling that third place at Lavaredo, but adding a win at TDS to his resume. So far this year, Krogvig has DNFed MIUT and taken second at Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB 100k.
As far as we can tell, France’s Germain Grangier ran what might have been his first ultra at OCC in 2015, where he took third. He’s returned to the UTMB races nearly every year since, DNFing CCC in 2017 and taking fifth at CCC in 2018 before moving up to UTMB, where he was ninth in 2019 and fifth last year. Last year, Grangier was also third at Trail du Ventoux, DNFed Lavaredo Ultra Trail, and was third at the Swiss Alpine 68k. This year, he’s won the 41k SkyTour Matheysin and Swiss Canyon Trail 83k.
Last year, Benoît Girondel took second at TDS to Krogvig in a close race. The Frenchman has experience at the highest level, having won the Diagonale des Fous 164k on Réunion Island in both 2017 and 2018, before DNFing the race in 2019 and 2021. Prior to his success at TDS last year, Girondel had DNFed CCC in 2019. He’s won his only long race we know of so far this season, the Swiss Canyon Trail 115k, which he also won last year, but in a time of 11:02 last year versus 11:49 this year.
Daniel Jung won’t be racing UTMB this year, as he’s still recovering from running Hardrock. [Updated: August 16, 2022]
Last month, Italy’s Daniel Jung brought his infectiously positive attitude to the Hardrock 100, where he took fourth behind Jornet, D’Haene, and Dakota Jones. That run certainly shows he’s in top form, but the Hardrock/UTMB combination is one heck of a double unless your name is, well, Jornet or D’Haene! Of course, maybe Dani will show us he’s one of those superhumans. His fourth at Hardrock isn’t Dani’s only top run of late, as he won Diagonale des Fous last October and was second at Penyagolosa CSP in April behind Namberger.
It’s not a stretch to say that Tyler Green is at the top of his game at the moment. The American was second at last year’s Western States 100 and fourth this year. In 2021, he also won the Black Canyon 100k. Back in 2019, he won the Bandera 100k, won the Cascade Crest 100 Mile, and took second at the Javelina Jundred Mile. Last year, Tyler got his first taste of the UTMB Mont-Blanc races in taking 10th in TDS.
Tim Tollefson of the U.S. has two UTMB podiums to his name, having taken third in both 2016 and 2017. Since then, he’s DNFed the past three runnings of the race in 2018, 2019, and 2021. This year, despite a strong build-up, he had a subpar finish at the Western States 100 after finishing fifth at the race last year.
The last time Scot living in France Andy Symonds was at UTMB, he was fifth in 2019. He ran the race two years prior, placing 16th in 2017. After taking fourth at Trail du Ventoux and winning the Matterhorn Ultraks 50k in 2021, he’s won a pair of less familiar races in France so far this year.
In 2021, Switzerland’s Mathieu Clément finished ninth at UTMB, the Mont-Blanc 90k, and Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k. While only 27, Mathieu started racing UTMB events with the OCC in 2016, when he was 19th, while continuing on to take 13th at OCC in 2017, 24th at CCC in 2018, and 16th at CCC in 2019 before that top-10 UTMB finish last year. This year, he’s DNFed MIUT and taken fourth at the Mozart by UTMB 105k.
It’s not that long ago when Luis Alberto Hernando was a top candidate for a podium spot at the world’s biggest trail ultras. Heck, the Spaniard won three-straight Trail World Championships in 2016, 2017, and 2018 … after being second in 2015. Oh, and he was second at UTMB in 2015. In 2019, he ran CCC, and won, but DNFed it last year. He’s run mostly smaller races and hasn’t always won the past few years, but maybe he’s saved a little magic for another run at UTMB.
To date, Norway’s Hallvard Schjølberg has run four UTMB races. On the upside, he was fourth at UTMB in 2018 and fourth at TDS in 2019. On the downside, he was 28th at UTMB in 2017 and DNFed UTMB last year. Last year, Hallvard also DNFed the Lofoten 100 Mile, while he won the Pirin Ultra 100 Mile.
Romania’s Robert Hajnal surprised many when he finished second at UTMB in 2018. That’s by far his best race at UTMB as he DNFed in 2017 and 2019 and was 39th in 2021, while he was eighth in CCC in 2015. Since his go at UTMB last year, Hajnal’s been on an upswing, taking third at Penyagolosa CSP and fifth at MIUT late last year, ahead of winning the Istria by UTMB 100 Mile, taking fifth at Transgrancanaria, and placing seventh at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail so far this year.
Still More 2022 UTMB Men to Watch
Ho-Chung Wong of Hong Kong returns to UTMB having placed in the top 10 in the past two runnings, finishing 10th man in 2021 and sixth in 2019. Racing’s been largely limited in Hong Kong and China over the past few years, with his most notable other result since the start of 2020 being a fourth place at the 2020 Vibram Hong Kong 100k.
While it’s been a while since his best UTMB performances, a third in 2015 and a fourth in 2016, don’t go counting David Laney out. Just last year, the American was fourth at the Canyons 100k, was third at the Ultravasan 90k, and ran a 12:34 100 miler on the track. So far this year, Laney’s won his local Gorge Waterfalls 100k and Siskiyou Our Back 50 Mile in preparing for UTMB.
Long a strong runner in shorter distance trail races, Beñat Marmissolle of France upped the distance in 2021, taking on what looked to be his first four races over 100k. That included taking seventh at MIUT after finishing third at Diagonale des Fous, his 100-mile debut.
A four-time podium finisher at the Ultratrail Ehunmilak 168k, including winning in 2019, Spain’s Jon Aizpuru ran its 91k sister race this year, placing sixth. After DNFing UTMB in 2019, Aizpuru was 14th man at last year’s UTMB.
Arthur Joyeux-Bouillon of France sure brings his best self to the UTMB races, with his third at TDS last year and his ninth at CCC in 2018 being two of his best runs from his many ultramarathons. Another top performance of his would be his ninth at MIUT in 2019, a race at which he was 13th man earlier this year.
Finishing just one position behind Joyeux-Bouillon in taking fourth at TDS last year was his fellow Frenchman Alban Berson. Alban has also placed seventh at the 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail and 14th at the 2019 Mont-Blanc 90k.
Polish runner Marcin Świerc improved from second at CCC in 2017 to winning TDS in 2018. I guess that numerical progression continued to zero, when he DNFed UTMB in 2019. He’s had some hit-or-miss racing in Poland since then.
Japan’s Masatoshi Obara has run UTMB three times and has improved each time. He was 41st man when he ran in 2014, 16th in 2016, and eighth in 2019. Can he improve again?
The earlier 2010s saw Seth Swanson of the USA crush it nearly every time he raced, with performances like a pair of seconds at the Western States 100 in 2014 and 2015 and a fourth at UTMB in 2015. In more recent years, his results have been a bit more up and down, but in the past five years he’s been second at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2017, third at Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji 100 miler in 2018, and won the Bighorn 100 Mile in 2019. Last year, Swanson returned to the UTMB races, where he was seventh at TDS.
Zach Miller’s had both some success and disappointment at the UTMB Mont-Blanc races, having won CCC in 2015, taken sixth and ninth at UTMB in 2016 and 2017, and having DNFed UTMB in 2018 and 2019. Zach’s battled injuries the past few years, but managed to run some shorter races in 2021 and won the Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB 100k in late June, beating Erik-Sebastien Krogvig and Ionel Cristian Manole.
China’s Can-Hua Luo ran UTMB in 2019, taking 11th. His finishes in China have mostly been on the podium before, during, and after that 2019 season. We’re not sure if he’s spending a prolonged time in the Alps ahead of UTMB, but Luo was second at the 72k race in the Montreux Trail Festival a few weeks back.
France’s Julien Chorier has four top-10 UTMB finishes on his resume, with the latest being an eighth place in 2016. Since then at the UTMB festival of races, he’s been 17th at UTMB in 2017, ninth at TDS in 2018, and 33rd man at OCC last year, while DNFing UTMB in 2019. Still, Chorier is putting up solid results, with a fourth at the Hardrock 100 and a sixth at the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile in 2021 along with an 11th at the Eiger Ultra-Trail 100k and 12th at Transgrancanaria this year.
The U.S.’s Jason Schlarb was fourth at UTMB back in 2014, but more recently finished as 46th man in 2017 and 19th in 2019. Since then, he’s won the IMTUF 100 Mile in 2020 and been eighth at the Eiger Ultra-Trail 100k last month.
Going back a few years, Lithuania’s Gediminas Grinius had three top-10 finishes at UTMB: eighth in 2017, second in 2016, and fifth in 2014. Over the past few years, his top finishes might be taking seventh and ninth at Transgrancanaria in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Even More 2022 UTMB Men to Watch
- Gautier Airiau (France) – 6th 2021 TDS; 10th 2018 & 8th 2017 OCC; 2nd 2022 Skyrace des Matheysins
Pere Aurell (Spain) – 10th 2021 CCC; 3rd 2022 Transgrancanaria[Updated: August 25, 2022]
- Rémi Berchet (France) – 1st 2019 Endurance Trail des Templiers 106k; 2nd 2019 Échappée Belle 150k
- Jonas Buud (Sweden) – 16th 2021 Ultravasan 90k; 2nd 2012 UTMB; 5-time podium finisher of the IAU 100k World Championships; 1st 2021 High Coast Ultra 130k
- Sage Canaday (U.S.) – 2nd 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon; 1st 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (Sage’s placement in this preview reflects his return from a pulmonary embolism suffered in May 2021)
- Maxime Cazajous (France) – 4th 2019, 3rd 2018, & 5th 2016 Diagonale des Fous
Avery Collins (USA) – 11th 2021 MIUT; 15th 2021 CCC; 6th 2017 Western States 100; 1st 2022 Scenic Trail 119k[Updated: August 26, 2022]
- Sylvain Court (France) – 1st 2022 Ultra Tour des 4 Massifs 151k; 1st 2018 Mont Blanc 90k; 3rd 2016 & 1st 2015 Trail World Championships 85k
- Francesco Cucco (Italy, lives in France) – 5th 2021 & 2018 Diagonale des Fous; 4th 2021 Transgrancanaria; 14th 2021 CCC; 12th 2022 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
- Mark Darbyshire (U.K.) – 3rd 2022 Penyagolosa CSP; 1st 2021 Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 100k
- Guo-Min Deng (China) – 3rd 2020 & 4th 2019 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 6th 2019 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Ji Duo (China) – 3rd 2020 Panda Trail by UTMB 160k[Updated: August 22, 2022]
- Jimmy Elam (U.S.) – 5th 2022 Bandera 100k; 1st 2020 Bear 100 Mile
- Rod Farvard (U.S.) – 4th 2022 Canyons by UTMB 100k; 4th 2022 Bandera 100k
Luís Fernandes (Portugal) – 13th 2022, 8th 2020, 6th 2019, & 8th 2018 Transgrancanaria; 9th 2022 & 7th 2019 MIUT; 18th 2017 UTMB[Updated: August 25, 2022]
- Ugo Ferrari (France) – 16th 2021 UTMB; 11th 2022 Transgrancanaria; 4th 2016 TDS
- Maxime Grenot (France) – 9th 2021 MIUT; 7th 2019 TDS
- David Hedges (U.S.) – 1st 2022 Monte Rosa Walter Waeg 93k; 1st 2021 Ultra-Trail Harricana; 2nd 2022 Breakneck Point Trail Runs Marathon
- Didrik Hermansen (Norway) – 7th 2022 Transgrancanaria; 3rd 2018 Ultravasan 90k; 13th 2017 UTMB; 2nd 2016 Western States 100
- Moisés Jimenez (Venezuela, lives in France) – 9th 2022 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 16th 2019 UTMB; 10th 2018 TDS
- Harry Jones (U.K.) – 1st 2022 Mozart 100 by UTMB, 4th 2020 Transgrancanaria; 15th 2019 UTMB; 8th 2018 CCC
- Arnaud Lejeune (France) – 10th 2021 Mont-Blanc 90k; 8th 2013 & 2012 UTMB
- Ionel Cristian Manole (Romania) – 1st 2021 Val d’Aran by UTMB 160k; 6th 2019 Tor des Géants 360k
- Walter Manser (Switzerland) – 7th 2021 Mont-Blanc 90k; 3rd 2019 Eiger Ultra-Trail 100k
- Thibault Marquet (France) – 1st 2021 Échappée Belle 150k; 6th 2021 Mont-Blanc 90k
- Jérôme Mirassou (France) – 6th 2018 TDS
- Jeff Mogavero (U.S.) – 3rd 2022 Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k; 3rd 2019 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile; 6th 2020 Bandera 100k
- Ryan Montgomery (U.S.) – 2nd 2021 Javelina Jundred Mile; 2nd 2019 Tahoe 200 Mile
- Hirokazu Nishimura (Japan) – 1st 2022 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji
Cody Reed (USA) – 1st 2019 Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k; 2nd 2019 & 2018 Tarawera 100k; 7th 2018 Western States 100[Updated: August 17, 2022]
- Petter Restorp (Sweden, lives in France) – 3rd 2021 Tor des Géants; 4th 2019 Mont-Blanc 90k; 11th 2018 UTMB
- Lluis Ruiz (Spain) – 6th 2021 Ultra Pirineu 100k; 14th 2019 UTMB
- Jonas Russi (Switzerland) – 6th 2022 Lavaredo Ultra Trail; 6th 2021 Endurance Trail des Templiers 111k; 2nd 2021 Tor des Géants
- Eric Sorenson (U.S.) – 2nd 2022 Speedgoat 50k; 1st 2017 Marin Ultra Challenge 50k; 8th 2018 The North Face 50 Mile Championships; 1st 2022 John Cappis 50k
- Sean Van Horn (U.S.) – 4th 2021 JFK 50 Mile; Nolan’s 14 finisher (45:57)
- Yan-Qiao Yun (China) – 6th 2019 & 10th 2018 TDS; 1st 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Jia-Ju Zhao (China) – 11th 2019 CCC; 7th 2020 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Fotis Zisimopoulos (Greece) – 1st 2021 Spartathlon 250k; 3rd 2021 Transgrancanaria; 10th 2021 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
On the Entrants List, But Not Racing the 2022 UTMB
- Jared Hazen (U.S.)
Previously, But No Longer on the 2022 UTMB Entrants List
- Dylan Bowman (U.S.)
- Anthony Costales (U.S.)
- Hugo Deck (France) – Now entered in TDS
- Jordi Gamito (Spain) – Now entered in CCC
- Dmitry Mityaev (Russia)
- Min Qi (China) – Now entered in TDS
- Ryan Sandes (South Africa)
- Xavier Thévenard (France)
- Aleksei Tolstenko (Russia)
Call for Comments
- Who would you pick as your favorite to win from Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley? Who else would you pick to win?
- Who will end up on the podium?
- Which runner do you think may be the biggest surprise in this year’s UTMB?
- Care to give a shout out to a possible top contender who isn’t in this preview?
- Know of anyone in our preview who’s definitely not racing? Leave a comment to let us know.