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All eyes on Val d’Aran, UTMB’s European Major

It’s one big trail race after the other these weeks, with this weekend, July 5-7, 2024 Hoka Val d’Aran, the European Major of the UTMB in the heart of the Pyrenees in Vielha, Spain. 6.200 athletes are lining up, all hoping to secure a spot in the UTMB Mont-Blanc final of next year. In France there’s also an UTMB race on the schedule: Restonica.

Val d’Aran isn’t the only UTMB race happening this weekend. In Switzerland trail runners are meeting up in Verbier for the Trail Verbier St. Bernard. In France the ultra runners are racing on Corsica; the Restonica Trail. The races of the Trail Verbier are adjusted due to the bad weather. 

The longest race is the 100 miles (10.000m+) VDA, starting and finishing in Vielha. It promises to be an interesting battle between Emily Vaudan (Swiss, UTMB Index 694), Wenfei Xie (China, 687), the winner of 100 miles (7.000m+) Mount Yun race earlier this year, and Elisabeth Rios (Bolivia, ), who finished second on the 100k (2.823m+) at Val d’Aran last year.

The biggest names on the men’s starting list, are those of Santos Gabriel Rueda (Argentina, UTMB Index 849), who won Valhöll Argentina, the 125k (5.000m+) race in Argentina earlier this year, Roman Ficek (Poland, 824) Daniel Colom Masip (Spain, 824) and Nelson Santos (Portugal, 823), the number four of the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 116km (7.090) of this year.

CDH 110k

The CDH, 110k (6.400m+), already starts today. Andreu Simon Aymerich (Spain) is defending his title. The Asics trail runner showed his good form earlier this year, by finishing third at the Tenerife Bluetrail 47k (2.600) race. He is up against Raul Octavia Butaci (Romania, Team BigK), who won Transgrancanaria 127k (6.790m+) race this year, and the British ultra runner Luke Grenfell-Shaw, Riccardo Montani (Italy, Vibram), Sebastian Krogvig (Norway, Dynafit) and Borja Fernandez Fernandez (Spain, Scott).

The women’s race has an interesting international field as well, with Allison Baca (USA), Silvia Puigarnau and Maite Maiora Elizondo (both Spain), Dominique van Mechgelen (Belgium), Yuanyuan Wu (China) and Kirsten Hindhammer Amundsgard (Norway).

Double amount of Running Stones

Val d’Aran is going to be an international race anyway, with a 50-50 split between Spanish and international entrants. A lot will be there for the Running Stones. A UTMB Major will give trail runners double the amount of Running Stones compared to other UTMB World Series Events. Plus, all age-group category winners and the top ten male and female runners in the 100M, 100K and 50K categories will directly qualify for the UTMB World Series final in Chamonix.

RELATED: A guide to UTMB Running Stones

Route modifications Trail Verbier

Due to the bad weather of the last couple of weeks, and the predicted bad weather of this weekend in Switzerland the routes and racing times of the Trail Verbier St-Bernard have been modified. The terrain is full of water and the organisation fears mudslides. The weather forecast predicts more rain between Saturday noon and Sunday 2 am. To make sure all runners are safe, the races will now happen between Friday 10 pm and Saturday 1 pm and from Sunday 8 am onwards.

The longest race, the X-Alpine will now be 61 kilometres with 3.900 metres of elevation, instead of 140 kilometres. The race will end in La Fouly and the runners will be transported back to Verbier by bus.

Restonica Trail Corsica

On Corsica the longest race is the l’Ultra Trail di Corsica; 108 kilometres with 7.200 metres of climbing. The Restonica Trail is 68 kilometres long, with 3.899 metres of climbing. Lambert Santelli (France, UTMB Index 855) won the Ultra Trail last year. This year he will be racing the 68 kilometers. The women’s race could be a battle between Angels Llobera (Spain, 706) and Axelle Henry (France, 704).

Louison Coiffet (France, 881) is the big favourite for the ultra in the men’s race. Jennifer Lemoine (France, 719) is the favourite in the women’s race.

The 33k long Tavignanu Trail has some interesting runners on the start as well: Remi Bonnet (Swiss, 940), who ran last weekend the Marathon du Mont-Blanc, starts, just like Sara Alonso (Spain, 773) and Blandine l’Hirondel (France, 804). Although l’Hirondel doesn’t have any aspirations: “I wanted to take advantage of a trip to Corsica to visit my friend and coach, Lilian Gugliero, who is native from the island. It is a great opportunity to complete a block of training in preparation for my next big goal: the UTMB. So I’m here to enjoy the run and to run to my full potential in my current shape.”

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