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South Downs, Swiss Canyon, Blue Trail; a packed weekend

It’s a double for the Gran Canaria World Trail Majors this weekend: The South Downs Way 100 and the Swiss Canyon Trail. But that’s not all that’s happening in the trail and ultra running world this weekend of June 7-9 2024, because on Tenerife the Blue Trail makes its UTMB debut. 

The South Downs Way 100 has a special place on the European agenda, as it’s one of the few races that allows pacers (on the last 50 miles). Besides that, the race has 13 aid stations and 2 drop bag points. At all 13 stations a crew is allowed to help their runner. The trail follows the historical South Downs Way, passing Iron Age forts such as Old Winchester Hill, Cissbury Ring and Ditchling Beacon.

Favourites South Downs Way

Cat Simpson (Great Britain) is back on the starting line. Last year Simpson finished second. She will have to beat Nicole Bitter (United States, Altra), who won this year Rocky Raccoon 50, a 81 kilometres race, with 992 metres of altitude.

Bitter is not the only fast American starting. Karen Benway will be starting as well. Last year she finished fifth at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler and second at the Blood Root Ultra 50 miler. The time to beat for the women is 16 hours, 49 minutes and 57 seconds, a time set by Bethan Male in 2022. The year Male won as well the South Downs Way 100, in november, and the South Downs Way 59, in september.

The men’s record is still in the hands of Mark Perkins, who ran the 161 miles in 2014 in 14 hours and 3 minutes. Since then nobody has even come in range of the record. However, there are some British hot shots at the start this year: Geoff Cheshire has been a stones throw from nailing this race twice and is hungry to get it right this time. Peter Windross (Great Britain) knows what it is to win this race. He did it in 2021. In 2022 he was second.

Dan Lawson might be 51, but he recently finished second at the Centurion South Downs Way 50. UTMB Legend Jez Bragg starts as well. He won the famous race around Mont Blanc in 2010. Other big names are: Rob Payne, Matt Hammerton, the winner of Endurancelife Sussex Ultra Marathon in 2023, James Turner and Dave Phillips.

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Swiss Canyon Trail

Swiss Canyon Trail In Switzerland the hopes are not so much on a great race, but on showcasing a great organisation, as the Swiss Canyon Trail wants to become the European Trail Running Championships race in 2026. Yet, there are some strong runners lining up for the main event of 111 kilometres (5.350m+). For starters Guangfu Meng (China, Hoka). The number 8 of last year’s UTMB started the World Trail Majors with a win in the Hong Kong 100. If he wins the Swiss Canyon Trail, the victory in the World Trail Majors is in his hands, as the best two results count.

If he wants that victory, he has to fight hard for it, because competition is fierce. Miguel Heras (Spain, Joma) wil start, he was second this year at Transgrancanaria. Ionel Cristian Manole (Romania, BigK/Joma) starts as well. He was the number 3 at Transgrancanaria. Miguel Arsenio (Portugal, SportHG/AmlSport), the winner of MaXi-Race du Lac d’Annecy of 2023 is there. Just like Aleix Toda Mas (Spain, Compressport), who won this year already the Chianti Ultra Trail 73k.

In the women’s race all eyes will be on Manon Bohard (France,, Hoka/Naak), who won the MIUT in 2023. She has to deal with Marianne Hogan (Canada, Salomon), who won this year’s Trail Cap de Creus and finished second in Transvulcania La Palma Island (73k). Another big name is Audrey Virgilio (Switzerland, Hoka), the winner of last year. She showed her good form in April by winning the Jura Swiss Trail 50k.

Bluetrail makes its UTMB debut

Blue Trail TenerifeOn Tenerife the trail and ultra runners will be racing in the Teide National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hundred miles and hundred kilometres races of the Bluetrail will start at sea level in Los Cristianos and climb up to the top of Mount Teide, the third-tallest volcanic structure in the world when measured from its base on the ocean floor. The finish will be at Martianez beach. It’s the first time the Bluetrail is part of the UTMB World Series.

Big favourite to win the women’s 100 miles (6.250m+) race is Azara Garcia, who already won the 100k Chianti Ultra Trail this year and who won the 110k at Val D’aran last year, just like the 85k at Transgrancanaria.

The men’s race might be a close call, with Manuel Anguita (Spain), Franco Colle (Italy), Cristofer Clemente Mora (Spain), last year’s winner of the 100k Bluetrail and the number five of last year’s UTMB, Jordi Gamito Baus (Spain), third at MIUT 100k this year, Kamil Lesniak (Poland), Davide Prades Monfort (Spain) and Sange Sherpa (Nepal).

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