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What a weekend: Zegama and MUT South-Africa

It’s Zegama time. If you ask me, the most epic trail marathon in the world. And it’s happening this weekend. So all eyes of the Golden Trail World Series fans will be on Spain. At the same time the UTMB fans are focussing on South Africa, for the Mountain Ultra-Trail. What will you be watching?

If you haven’t decided yet, this might make up your mind; Kilian Jornet is racing in Zegama. Jornet hasn’t been focussing a lot on his own projects in the last couple of months: his Nnormal brand, his foundation to restore nature. However, for Zegama (and Sierre-Zinal, plus some local races in Norway and Sweden) he’s making an exception.

Kilian Jornet big favourite

It will be the 12th time the Spanish super athlete is racing Zegama. It also means he is the top favourite, as he has won the race 10 times. He will be up against Manuel Merillas (Spain, New Balance) who won the race last year, when it was pouring with rain. Marillas beat Elhousine Elazzaoui (Morocco) last year by just a few seconds, so the Nnormal athlete is out on revenge.

Other contenders are: Robert Pkemoi (Kenya, Joma), Robbie Simpson (Great Britain, Adidas) and Kevin Kibet (Kenya, Milimani Runners).

Alonso versus Osa

In the women’s race there is not a clear favourite. Daniela Oemus (Germany, Nike), last year’s winner, is back, but so is Caitlin Fielder (New-Zealand, Salomon) who finished second last year, and Theres Leboeuf (Swiss, Compressport), the number 3 from last year.

And what to think of Malen Osa (Spain, Salomon), Dani Moreno (United States, Adidas), Sunmaya Budha (Nepal, Kailas Fuga) and Sylvia Nordskar (Norway, Hoka).

Last, but not least, is Sara Alonso (Spain, Asics), who holds 3th place, after the first two Golden Trail World Series races: “Obviously, my aim is to win Zegama. I see myself jostling for victory with Malen, Dani Moreno and Theres Leboeuf. I think Malen knows the terrain better than anyone, but it will be her first ever marathon. Last year, following my injury, she was ahead of me in all the races. This year, I beat her in Japan, and then she beat me in China. We’re really very close, so whoever manages her race best will win. The fact that we are both locals obviously adds spice to the battle.”

Mountain Ultra Trail

The big event at the Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) in South-Africa is the MUT Miler; the 163 kilometres long race, with 8.088 metres of climbing. It will probably be a local fight for the victory, because all the highest placed runners of the UTMB ranking are South-African.

In the men’s race Douglas Pickard (791 UTMB score), has bib-number 1, Christiaan Greyling (770) number 2 and Gabriel Kriel (747) starts with number 3. Brandon Hulley, bib 4, is the only other athlete with a UTMB score higher than seven hundred; 728.

In the women’s race Sveta Becker (UTMB score 601) is the highest placed athlete, followed by Maria Marincowitz (577) and Anna Andersson (567). Hendrik Coetzee (557) also has a UTMB score of more than 550. Except Anna Andersson who is Swedish, all the high ranked female athletes are also South-African.

Stricter doping protocol UTMB

The UTMB announced this week that it strengthens its commitment to have a doping free sport by investing 100.000 euros in anti-doping tests. These tests will be done by the International Testing Agency (ITA) and will be done more frequently then was happening now by the national anti-doping agencies.

Furthermore the UTMB have created a series of anti-doping rules in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). To help the top athletes to race clean, the UTMB has set-up a training program for them and their management, so they know which medicine and supplements they can and can’t take.

Stepping it up

Frédéric Lenart, UTMB Group Managing Director: “As a major player in trail running worldwide, we have a responsibility in the fight against doping in our sport. We take this responsibility very seriously. The commitments we made in 2023 were necessary. We’re stepping it up this year.”

In February the trail running world got shocked by the announcement of Stian Angermund that he had tested positive for doping, after winning the Mont-Blanc OCC. The Norwegian athlete swore that he had not used anything illegal, and that he was going to take steps to prove his innocence.

Photo Martina Valmassoi

 

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