NEPAL – The second season of the Golden Trail World Series (GTWS) will culminate with the Grand Final this Saturday, October 26 at the Annapurna Trail Marathon in Nepal, where the GTWS champions for men and women will be crowned. The top-10 men and women in the points standings earned the right to take on the best amid the high elevation of the Himalayas in this 42 km race that includes 3,560 meters of elevation gain and reaches to 3,753 meters.
The best “short distance” trail runners on the planet will be there. On the men’s side that includes several established veterans, one legend of the sport and a number of rising stars. In the women’s race, three clear favourites are joined by an international cast of runners with the potential to seize the moment. Like in 2018, the top-10 men and top-10 women who qualified for the Grand Final represent 11 different nations—France, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
In 2019, the GTWS touched down at the Zegama Mountain Marathon in Spain’s Basque Country, the Marathon du Mont Blanc in Chamonix, the Dolomyths Run in the Italian Dolomites, Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland, Pikes Peak in Colorado and the Ring of Steall in the Scottish Highlands. The title of season-long champion will be determined by each athlete’s top three performances in the first six races of the series, plus his/her result at the Annapurna Trail Marathon.
Spain’s Kilian Jornet (Team Salomon) is the heavy favourite in any race he enters, and that will be the case in Nepal. Jornet has plenty of experience at elevation. He has summited Everest twice and recently returned from a family vacation in the area where he was exploring above 8,000 meters.
“After a long expedition the body takes a big toll,” Jornet said. “The fatigue is big. I had one week home to train and recover a bit and feeling the running shape is coming along.”
His lungs should be ready, but Jornet has not raced since August, when he won at the Pikes Peak Mountain Marathon in Colorado. Two weeks prior to that he shattered the course record at Sierre-Zinal. He also won at Zegama in early June. If he wins this week, Jornet will have won all four trail races he entered in 2019.
“The level on every single race of the Golden Trail World Series has been extremely high, and this will be the top 10 men and women of those races, so nobody in the field is slow and it’s a mix of some very experienced runners and very strong young athletes,” Jornet added. “The race isn’t particularly high for Nepal, but anywhere else in the world that would be really high elevation. It goes up to 4,000 meters and for sure that affects our performance when running, but all the athletes competing are used to training and racing at altitude.”
The other nine finalists will be doing their best to ruin Jornet’s perfect season record. Rising star Davide Magnini (Team Salomon) of Italy won the Marathon du Mont Blanc and the Dolomyths Run earlier in the season and 2019 has been a sort of coming-out party for the 22-year-old. He excels at climbing and the up-and-down course in Nepal could suit him well. The same is true for fellow Italian Nadir Maguet (Team La Sportiva), another established ski-mo racer who is coming off a win at the Ring of Steall in Scotland in September. He was also 2nd at the Marathon du Mont Blanc and the Dolomyths Run.
Poland’s Bart Predwojewski (Team Salomon) is 4th in the Golden Trail World Series standings and he won last year’s Grand Final race at the Otter Trail in South Africa. A prolific climber with a long list of podium finishes, Norway’s Stian Angermund-Vik (Team Salomon) is another one to keep an eye on. He’s fifth in the standings and won the inaugural GTWS season-long title in 2018. His Salomon teammate, France’s Thibaut Baronian, is a consistent racer and showed his potential against a top field when he finished 3rd at Zegama earlier in the season. He enters the final ranked 6th.
One guy who may not mind the altitude is American runner Sage Canaday (Team Hoka), who does a fair amount of training in the mountains of Colorado. Canaday proved his strength at altitude when he finished 2nd to Jornet at Pikes Peak, a result that turned around his season. Spain’s Aritz Egea (Team Salomon) and Switzerland’s Remi Bonnet (Team Salomon) are always at the front of the pack and should be nipping at the heels of Jornet on race day. Another Swiss, Marc Lauenstein (Team Salomon), snuck into the Grand Final in 10th position with two great results in the final two races at Pikes Peak (3rd place) and Ring of Steall (2nd) after a foot injury robbed him of the first half of the season. A former orienteer who excels on technical downhills, look for Lauenstein to pick off runners over the second half of the race.
In the women’s race, there looks to be three clear favourites who have been a step ahead of the rest whenever they have laced up their running shoes in 2019. Defending GTWS overall champion Ruth Croft (Team Scott) of New Zealand won at Marathon du Mont Blanc, was 2nd at the Dolomyths Run and was 4th at Sierre-Zinal. She is ranked 3rd going into the final behind a pair of Swiss athletes from Team Salomon, Judith Wyder and Maude Mathys.
The up-and-down nature of the race would seem to suit the two Swiss women. Mathys, winner in record time at both Sierre-Zinal and Pikes Peak, is often unmatched on long climbs. Wyder, a former orienteering star, won at both the Dolomyths Run and the Ring of Steall in record time, and was 2nd at Sierre-Zinal. She has been in excellent form of late. At the Ring of Steall, Wyder finished 10th overall while winning the women’s race. Together, Mathys and Wyder broke course records at every race they ran in the GTWS.
“I raced in Nepal five years ago, so I’m stoked to have the opportunity to compete there again,” Croft said. ”All the Golden Trail World Series races have been really competitive and I’m looking forward to toeing the line with the top women. It’s always more exciting to race on a course that none of us have done before. It levels everyone out and this time there will be the altitude and dealing with that component. And, beyond the race, I’m really looking forward to the experience of Nepal.“
Currently 4th in the season-long standings is Norway’s Eli Anne Dvergsdal (Team Salomon), who certainly has the potential to shake up the top three. Dvergsdal started the season on fire, winning Zegama in her first marathon distance race ever and then finishing 3rd at Marathon du Mont Blanc. She will be looking to regain her early-season form in Nepal after struggling with two DNFs and then a 10th place finish at the Ring of Steall. Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo (Team Scarpa/Tornado) has had an impressive season, with her best finishes coming in Chamonix (2nd) and Sierre-Zinal (3rd). She is racing in her second Golden Trail Series Grand Final and finished tied for 5th in the 2018 GTWS. Fellow Italian Elisa Desco (Team Scarpa/Compressport) was 2nd at Zegama, 5th at the Dolomyths Run and 7th at Sierre-Zinal.
South Africa’s Meg Mackenzie (Team Salomon) ran four races in the GTWS and saved her best results for the end of the season, finishing 3rd at Pikes Peak and 4th at Sierre-Zinal. A solid climber, Mackenzie also qualified for the Final last year when it was held a little closer to home at the Otter Trail. Norway’s Yngvild Kaspersen (Team Adidas Terrex) certainly has the talent to challenge for the podium and potentially the win. Her best GTWS result of the year was a 2nd place finish at Pikes Peak.
France’s Amandine Ferrato (Team Hoka) ran in five of the six GTWS races, skipping only the Ring of Steall. She finished 2nd at Zegama to start the season and then 4th at Pikes Peak. Finally, the UK’s Holly Page (Team Adidas Terrex) nabbed the 10th and final spot on the women’s side with a 2nd place finish at the Ring of Steall to conclude the season. She won the Grand final race last year at the Otter Trail and will come in looking to steal the show again.
The GTWS standings look like this heading to the Grand Final at the Annapurna Trail Marathon:
1. Kilian Jornet (Team Salomon)
2. Nadir Maguet (Team La Sportiva)
3. Davide Magnini (Team Salomon)
4. Bartlomiej Predwojewski (Team Salomon-Suunto)
5. Stian Angermund-Vik (Team Salomon)
6. Thibaut Baronian (Team Salomon)
7. Sage Canaday (Team Hoka)
8. Aritz Egea (Team Salomon)
9. Rémi Bonnet (Team Salomon)
10. Marc Lauenstein (Team Salomon)
1. Judith Wyder (Team Salomon)
2. Maude Mathys (Team Salomon)
3. Ruth Croft (Team Scott)
4. Eli Anne Dvergsdal (Team Salomon)
5. Silvia Rampazzo (Team Scarpa/Tornado)
6. Elisa Desco (Team Scarpa/Compressport)
7. Meg Mackenzie (Team Salomon)
8. Yngvild Kaspersen (Team Adidas Terrex)
9. Amandine Ferrato (Team Hoka)
10. Holly Page (Team Adidas Terrex)
ABOUT THE GOLDEN TRAIL SERIES:
The athletes must have participated in three of the six races during the series in order to be eligible for the final. The top-10 men and women with the most points in their three best races have earned a trip for themselves and a person of their choice to the Grand Final. The overall final standings (and the men’s and women’s champions) of the Golden Trail World Series will be determined by the runners’ three best finishes during the season, plus their result at the Grand Final.
For photos and more, visit www.goldentrailseries.com