Course Records and Category Podium Shakeups at Zumaia Flysch Trail

Written by Alexander Beaven for the American Trail Running Association (WMRA). Above photo: Mayayo – ATRA founder Nancy Hobbs is a member of the World Mountain Running Association Council.

Zumaia Flysch Trail held its 13th edition this weekend under a radiant sun, blue skies and the sheer beuaty of the seaside cliffs and rolling green hills that form the Geoparkea natural park. This unique landscape is among the few geolocial heritage sites in the world, no wonder it has starred in several movies and series, from “Game Of Thrones” to “Ocho Apellidos Vascos.”

The 8th and final Long category race in the 2022 Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, Zumaia Flysch Trail served up thrilling racing and lightning fast times on a perfect day for mountain running the Basque Country.

In addition to deciding the Long category podiums, as a Gold Label event offering 50 valuable points to the winners it would go a long way to determining the shape of the Overall standings as the World Cup moves towards its conclusion.

Photo: Ruben Fueyo.

All to Play For

In stark contrast to the deluge we experienced when the World Cup came here in 2021, athletes were greeted with clear skies this morning as they set off from Gurrutxaga Square at 10 a.m to tackle 22km of punchy climbs along the Basque Coast.

Among the starters were 2 time World Champion Lucy Murigi, looking to go one better than the 2nd place she got here last year, and Camilla Magliano, running her 10th World Cup race of the season so far. Sitting 2nd and 3rd in the Long category standings and 3rd and 2nd in the Overall Valsir World Cup standings, there was a huge amount on the line for these athletes!

Among those keeping them on their toes would be the Basque pair of Leire Fernández Abete and the legendary Oihana Kortazar.

In the men’s race, Loic Robert was in the hunt for a repeat of the Gold Label win and course record that he took at Canfranc-Canfranc last month, a result which would see him move onto the Long category podium, while Raul Criado was racing on familiar ground, having taken the win in the 42km race here last year. Again, a strong Basque contingent would push them all the way, including Ismail Razga and Hassan Ait Chaou.

Photo: Ruben Fueyo.

Basque fans provide a unique atmosphere

Once again, as the runners took on the last km to the finish line, lungs burning, legs aching, upon taking on the last steep climb at the Ermita the San Telmo there were met there by thousands of fans cheering them on relentlessly by their name each.

As the World Champion from Kenya Lucy Murigi said: “I was pushing myself to the limit to beat the record, and when I tackled that strenous climb…I hardly noticed it as the crowd cheers just made me fly through it”

Photo: Ruben Fueyo.

Fast Starts, Faster Finishes

Robert and Murigi set their stalls out early, pushing the pace while Criado, Magliano and Kortazar chased hard. Despite the efforts of those behind, both athletes would only increase their advantage, making the most of the conditions to come home in impressive new course records.

Robert’s 1:28:41 was 8 minutes faster than Geoffrey Ndungu’s winning time from last year and over 4 minutes clear of Raul Criado who high-fived his way into the finish to take a jubilant 2nd. Hassan Ait Chaou ran a strong second half, overtaking Borja Fernandez and even gaining ground on Criado, finishing 49 seconds back in 3rd. Fernandez held on for 4th ahead of Asier Labairu in 5th.

Murigi’s winning margin was smaller, but not by much. She crossed the line in 1:39:59, wrapping up a dominant performance which saw her win by almost 4 minutes. Behind, having run more or less together for most of the race, Kortazar was able to find some seperation from Magliano in the later stages, claiming 2nd place with an 18 second margin. Charlotte Cotton took 4th while Ainara Uribarri was 5th.

Photo: Ruben Fueyo.

Long Category Shakeup

Murigi’s win was enough for her to leapfrog Joyce Njeru and take overall victory in the Long category. Magliano came tantalisingly close to also overtaking Njeru, falling just 2 points short but taking the third step of the category podium as a first reward for a long season’s racing.

The overall category win was always out of reach for Robert, trailing Petro Mamu by 55 points before the race, but he did manage to climb the standings from 4th to 2nd, overtaking the Run2gether pair of Patrick Kipngeno and Philemon Kiriago who have been so prolific this season. Kiriago finishes 3rd.

All eyes now turn to the Valsir World Cup Final, Saturday’s KV Chiavenna-Lagunc! Joyce Njeru and Patrick Kipngeno already have the overall titles sewn up, but with podium spots available and bonus points on offer, the racing will be frantic!

Murigi sits 2nd with a narrow lead over Magliano, the ominous figure of Andrea Mayr, who just won Smarna Gora, waiting to pounce in 4th. Robert remains 5th but closes the gap to those ahead and could even move onto the podium if he races in Chiavenna and results go his way.

Full results:

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