Written and translated to English by Alex Scolari for corsainmontagna.it. Three American World Mountain Running Champions in a first class elite field with multiple U.S. national team members. Joe Gray (2016 World Mountain Running Champion), Stevie Kremer (2012 Long Distance Mountain Running Champion) and Max King (2011 World Mountain Running Champion) joined by Americans Jodee Adams-Moore, Megan Kimmel (2015 Long Distance Mountain Team), Stephanie Howe Violett (Western States 100 winner), Corrine Malcolm (2017 U.S. Trail Team), Emily Schmitz, Matt Flaherty, Zach Orenlas (2018 U.S. Trail Team) and Cole Watson (2017 Long Distance Mountain Team).
“Jour-J” is approaching at great speed, as organizers and official media close to the organization like to call it. On Sunday, Sierre-Zinal will write the 45th chapter of his exceptional story made of great stories, champions, but also of impressive numbers for an event that for good reason has repeatedly made the “Course des cinq 4000” as the New York Marathon of the Mountain.
IAAF-WMRA Mountain Running World Cup and Salomon Golden Trail Series: both at the stage number 3 of their calendar, are the underlying reason why all the fans and off-road running insiders cannot wait and want to know names and forecasts of those that could be the themes of the 2018 edition.
We try, even if the long and demanding road that leads to Zinal has teached us that on those 31 km between Chandolin, the Weisshorn and Barneuza everything or almost everything can happen .
Start List Elites Men 2018: https://services.datasport.com/2018/lauf/zinal/start001.htm
Start List Elites Women 2018: https://services.datasport.com/2018/lauf/zinal/start011.htm
Start List Veteran I Men 2018: https://services.datasport.com/2018/lauf/zinal/start002.htm
Start List Veteran I Women 2018: https://services.datasport.com/2018/lauf/zinal/start012.htm
Let’s start by underlining that the lists released by DataSport, although official, in most cases carry some informations that could find changes to the immediate eve of the competition, this is because some athletes are in these hours deciding whether to actually start a race that is very demanding from a physical, technical and competitive point of view and not everyone is in the same condition of a few weeks ago when they confirmed their eligibility for the elite starting-list.
Net of this, we can now state that few times in the history of the great mountain-running races there has been such a concentration of talents and champions. Who will be in high Val d’Anniviers Sunday 12 August will have fun and beyond the 30th or 40th place they will still see runners of the highest level cross the finish line.
The central theme, the proscenium and the virtual “maillot jaune” go mandatory on the shoulders of Catalan Kilian Jornet Burgada, 5 times winner and back from another incredible miracle. This time it does not come back from the Everest but from a serious injury like the double fracture suffered on skis.
This did not prevent him from winning the Marathon du Mont Blanc (2nd stage of the SGTS) and to come back here with the favors of the prediction. The other real big in the race for the final victory however, in our opinion, is not inferior today in the technical consideration of the eve: Robbie Simpson in Zinal arrived 2nd and 3rd, never 1st, but this year the Scottish defined himself as “a single SZ brain” perfecting the preparation and selection of competitions between May and August only and solely according to this appointment, on which it seems to rest the keystone of the whole season of an authentic phenomenon that really miss this victory in order to exhibit a very complete palmares.
The third name we want to announce is that of the American Joe Gray, who was already a protagonist but never a winner at Zinal, also determined to bet hard on this race to launch the decisive phase of his agonistic agenda that perhaps aims to the world championship of Canillo.
Still in the very first place in the starting grid we find certainly the Norwegian Stian Angermund, excellent in Zegama and winner in Canazei this year, as well as the British Andrew Douglas and Jacob Adkin, the latter a surprise and new national mountain running champion only one week ago and already in evidence at Neirivue Le Moleson.
The elite list of athletes flying the Swiss flag is very rich, among them Pascal Egli, Stephan Wenk (5th in the Salomon GTS ranking), Daniel Lustenberger and François Leboeuf. Super armored team of France and the Italian team: Thibault Baronian (today 3rd in the golden trail series), Julien Rancon, Arnaud Bonin, Adrien Michaud, Raymond Fontaine and Alexis Savennec are certainly the most prominent names, while among the Italians the star is Francesco Puppi, leader of the WMRA world cup after two great results at Grossglockner and PizTriVERTIKAL. In addition to the long distance world champion 2017 there will also be Hannes Perkmann, Luca Cagnati and Manuel Bortolas.
But it does not end here: the Mexican Juan Carlos Carera, the Spanish Oriol Cardona, the Basque Aritz Egea (king of Giir di Mont and Livigno), the Finnish Henry Ansio (8th in SGTS), the Colombian William Rodriguez (epic his 2nd place here in 2015 when he leaded the race for many kilometers), the Americans Andy Wacker and Max King, the Polish Bart Przedwojewski and the Kenyan/Austrian Isaac Toroitich Kosgei are all athletes to underline with the red circle and capable to deserve an important final position. Without doubt rich in experience at a high level and connoisseurs of this type of races are also the Ethiopian Tefera Mekonen and the Kenyan Francis Maina and Japhet Mutwiri, or the super veterans who really deserve a chapter apart for the load of glory that carry with them: Marco De Gasperi, Cesar Costa, Robert Krupicka are part of the myth of Zinal and will end up hopelessly in front of most of the athletes already mentioned, we could bet on this.
Scrolling through the lists also emerge names of some young champions of whom we have no absolute certainty about the actual presence but that if they are at the start they could steal the center of the scene. We speak first of the Spaniard Jan Margarit and Italian Davide Magnini but also of the Kenyan Timothy Kimutai Kirui, at the first European campaign of his career.
In the women’s field the spotlight is on Lucy Wambui Murigi, twice Queen of Zinal (last in 2017), defending world champion in mountain running and recently winner of Thyon-Dixence where she defeated the competitors and swept away doubts about the recovery from the injury that had stopped her in the spring. Kenyan is an athlete capable of undermining the legendary Pichrtova record (which will also be at the start as veteran femmes). The main outsider could be again Michelle Maier who won here in 2016 but who is struggling to find continuity at the highest level this season. Much more dangerous at first sight the Italian Silvia Rampazzo, 2017 long distance World Champ and bronze in 2018 as well as triumphing in the last Giir di Mont, or the stellar Ida Nilsson, undisputed protagonist of the sky running scene in 2018 and firmly at the head of the golden series. If the Swedish athlete is “at Zinal level” we will know only Sunday evening, certainly she will be among the protagonists like the New Zealander Ruth Croft, the Spanish Eli Gordon and Laura Orgue and the American Megan Kimmel, another great affectionate of the Valais race where several times was in or near the podium.
In the World Cup Wmra definitely the result of Zinal could revive the chances of several athletes, primarily the Irish Sarah McCormack who gained heavy points in Malonno, or Gloria Giudici who will run his 3rd consecutive cup-race and in case of sensational result could be projected in the top position of the ranking (now she has 145 points against the 210 of leaders Andrea Mayr who will not be in Switzerland this weekend). Italy hopes also very strong on Elisa Desco, winner of the 2013 edition and then again on the podium in 2015 and 2016. Great attention for the British Sarah Tunstall, focused for months on this goal and on the French Adeline Roche, world champion of Trail 2017 and athlete of the highest versatility. The list also includes the American Stevie Kremer, the South African Megan McKenzie, the Spanish Sheila Aviles and the French Celyne Lafaye, all athletes who for class, technique and experience can aspire to an important result.
As for men also applies here the need not to neglect the start-list of the Veteran I category, where we find the names of Ivana Iozzia (4th at Grossglockner, first world cup stage), Victoria Wilkinson and authentic legends like Angela Mudge, Anna Strakova Pichrtova and Aline Coumboulives.
The result of the SIERRE-ZINAL 2018 could direct the season of some athletes on the two important circuits in progress, where a good result could indicate the possibility of entering the fight at the top of the World Cup or the Golden Series that will continue after this race respectively with the Bergen Hochfelln Berglauf and the Smarna Gora Race for WMRA-IAAF and Pikes Peak and Ring of Steall for the Salomon series (with the final act at The Otter Trail).