Announcement from the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA). The American Trail Running Association is a WMRA media partner and will be providing coverage of all sixteen events in the 2021 Mountain Running World Cup. ATRA founder Nancy Hobbs is a member of the WMRA Council.
On Saturday, August 7th, the Mountain Running World Cup heads to Switzerland for the biggest mountain race in Europe, Sierre-Zinal! This is the second long distance mountain running race in the World Cup, at 19 miles with 7,200 feet of ascent, and it traditionally attracts the most competitive field of all the World Cup races. This year is no exception.
So what makes Sierre-Zinal such an iconic race? Most mountain running races have a lot of history behind them but this is the 48th edition of this race. Since its inception in 1974 men and women have raced over the same distance here, and the results list reads like an international who’s who in the history mountain running.
The route itself is iconic. It’s known as “la course des cinq 4000” because the runners get to enjoy views including 5 peaks over 4000 meters along the way – Weisshorn (4506m), Zinalrothorn (4221m), Obergabelhorn (4073m) Matterhorn (4478m) and Dent Blanche (4357m). Athletes start in Sierre at 1,870 feet and then climb up, up, up to the highest point at 7,950 feet at Nava over the first 14 miles. Then the final 4 miles is downhill, culminating in a frantic sprint through Zinal to the finish line at 5,500 feet above sea level. It’s a tantalizingly runnable, fast course, which results in some very exciting racing.
Sierre-Zinal draws top international runners back year after year, in pursuit of one of the biggest accolades in mountain running. From 1979 to 1982 Pablo Vigil (USA) won 4 in a row. In the women’s race Veronique Marot (GBR) won 3 out of 4 between 1984 and 1987, then Isabella Crettenand-Moretti (SUI) was unbeaten between 1995 and 1997. In 2001 Ricardo Mejia (MEX) won his first of 3 races, but his dominance was interrupted by Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) in 2002 and 2003, who set the record of 2.29.12 which was unbeaten for 16 years. In 2006 Anna Pichrtova (CZE) began her 4 year reign, setting the women’s record of 2.54.26 in the process. This record would also endure for 11 years.
But by far the most dominant male athlete here has of course been Kilian Jornet (ESP) who has won an incredible 8 times. He finally beat the record set by Jonathan Wyatt at an unbelievably exciting 2019 race, running 2.25.35. Lucy Wambui (KEN) has won 3 times in recent years (2015, 2017, 2018) but it was Maude Mathys (SUI) who finally smashed Anna Pichrtova’s record with a stunning run of 2.49.20, also in 2019.
As the winner in 2019 and 2020 Maude Mathys (SUI) has to be the favorite. In 2019 she broke the course record which had stood for 16 years. She has won the Mont Blanc Marathon and Olla de Nuria this year and she was also the winner of the 2019 European Mountain Running Championships. She’s 4th in the current World Mountain Running Ranking.
Lucy Murigi (KEN) is our current leader in the women’s World Mountain Running Ranking. World Mountain Running Champion in 2017, 2nd in 2019 Mountain Running World Cup final standings, she’s won La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and been 3rd at Grossglockner this year. She has won here 3 times – in 2015, 2017 and 2018 – so has to be one to watch.
Judith Wyder (SUI) was 2nd here in 2019 and also went under the long-standing course record. She is a two-time winner of DoloMyths, most recently this year, and will definitely be another ‘local’ to keep an eye on, as will Simone Troxler, 3rd here in 2018.
Anaïs Sabrié (FRA) was 2nd in last year’s more low-key event and 5th in 2019. She recently came 3rd at La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and 2nd at the Marathon du Mont Blanc a couple of weeks before that. Compatriots Blandine L’Hirondel and Elise Poncet could also do well. L’Hirondel was 3rd at this year’s Marathon du Mont Blanc, won the 2020 French Mountain Running Championships and was 3rd at the 2019 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Poncet was 6th at La Montee du Nid d’Aigle this year, 3rd at Trofeo Vanoni in 2020 and 2019 and 2nd in the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships.
We’ve seen a number of the runners taking part already do well in Mountain Running World Cup races in the last couple of months. Charlotte Morgan (GBR), our current World Cup leader, who was 11th here in 2019 will be taking part and is clearly in form. Marcela Vasinova (CZE), 2nd in our current World Mountain Running Ranking, was our winner at the recent Tatra SkyMarathon and was 2nd at this year’s DoloMyths race.
Lorenza Beccaria (ITA) was 5th at Grossglockner and 4th at Tatra Race Run. She was also 2nd at the 2020 FlettaTRAIL and 10th at last weekend’s Piz Tri Vertikal. Alice Gaggi (ITA) finished 2nd at Tatra Race Run and 7th at Grossglockner Berglauf and has finished in the top 10 of most top Italian races during last couple of years. She’s lying 6th in our current World Mountain Running Ranking. Lucie Marsanova (CZE) has taken part in 3 out of 4 World Cup races this year, with a best result of 5th at Tatra Race Run. She was 5th in the 2019 World Cup final standings. Lastly, Timea Merenyi (HUN) has also taken part in 3 out of 4 of this year’s World Cup races, with a consistent showing of 10th, 11th and 12th. She was 10th in the final 2019 Mountain Running World Cup standings.
Our current women’s World Cup reigning champion, Sarah McCormack (IRL), will be starting a World Cup race for the first time this year. She was 13th here in 2019 and will be looking to build on that. Other runners to watch include British runners Holly Page, who is always a strong performer at any distance and was 8th here in 2019, and Emma Pooley, 3rd at last year’s race and former elite cyclist, turned runner, duathlete and triathlete.
There are some strong runners from the United States including Katie Schide, who lives in Switzerland and has won the Mont Blanc 90k, and been runner up at the CCC. She’s joined by Brittany Charboneau, winner of the 2020 Pikes Peak Marathon, and has a road marathon PR of 2.33.
From Spain we have Oihana Kortazar, a former Skyrunning European Champion and World Series winner who won Canfranc Marathon and Marathon Pirineu last year, and Sara Alonso, 2nd at 2020 Canfranc Skyrace. Julia Bleasdale (GER) was 4th at last year’s Sierre-Zinal and Julia Combe (FRA) 8th at this year’s La Montee du Nid d’Aigle.
8-time winner and record holder Kilian Jornet (ESP) returns and must be the men’s favorite. But he will face significant competition from a very deep field. There are many returning runners who have already performed well here. Petro Mamu was 2nd here in the highly competitive 2019 race and he just showed that he’s in form by winning FlettaTRAIL last weekend.
Juan Carlos Carera (MEX) was 4th here in that 2019 race, in a time that would have won it many years. Andrew Douglas (GBR), our reigning World Cup men’s champion (from 2019), was 6th here in 2019 and will be looking to improve on that. Fellow Brit Robbie Simpson is always one to watch here, having finished 2nd in 2018 and 5th in 2019, as well as coming 3rd in the World Championships in 2015 and 2nd in the European Championships in 2014, showing real consistency.
Marc Lauenstein (SUI) is a former winner (from 2013) and this distance suits the strong uphill runner. He won Pikes Peak in 2014, Marathon du Mont Blanc in 2015, and showed his versatility by winning the 3 Peaks Race, Giir du Mont and Matterhorn Ultraks in 2016. He’s also won 4 consecutive Trail de Ventoux races. Can he regain that form this year? Davide Magnini (ITA) was winner of this year’s Italian National Mountain Running Championships (Up and Down) and was also 2nd at Mont Blanc Marathon. Has been 4th at Sierre-Zinal in 2020 and 10th in 2019. Rémi Bonnet (SUI) achieved a 3rd place here in 2020 and an 8th place in 2019. He was recently 4th at Marathon du Mont Blanc. Stephan Wenk (SUI) was 5th last year and 13th in 2019.
As ever, there is a very strong contingent of runners from Italy in both the men’s and women’s races. Henri Aymonod is our current leader of the men’s World Ranking and the World Cup standings, having finished 3rd at La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and 3rd at Tatra Race Run. He was the winner of last weekend’s Piz Tri Vertikal (and many other vertical races during the last couple of years). Francesco Puppi is fresh from a 2nd place at La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and currently lies 2nd in the World Ranking. Our runner up in the 2019 Long Distance Mountain Running Championships will be looking to improve on his 16th place in 2019, after having finished 4th in 2018.
We know that Xavier Chevrier is in form because he won La Montee du Nid d’Aigle a few weeks ago. He’s also been 9th at the World Championships in 2019 and 3rd in the European Championships. Cesare Maestri was 5th at this year’s Grossglockner Berglauf, 2nd in our World Championships in 2019 and men’s winner of Challenge Stellina in 2020. In addition, Alex Baldaccini was 7th at Grossglockner Berglauf and 3rd at the Italian National Mountain Running Up and Down Championships. Italy could well feature on the men’s podium.
There are some strong French runners on the start line too. Sylvain Cachard had a very successful 2020 with wins at Smarna Gora and Trofeo Nasego and 2nd places at Challenge Stellina and FlettaTRAIL, putting him 4th in the current World Ranking. Thibaut Baronian won Canfranc Marathon in 2020 and other results include a 6th place at this year’s Marathon du Mont Blanc and a 3rd at Zegama in 2019 and Julien Rancon finished 4th at the recent La Montee du Nid d’Aigle. Lastly, Germain Grangier could surprise people here. He is better known for longer races (he won Madeira 85k Ultra in 2018 and Annecy MaXi Race in 2018 and 2019) but he’s fast over technical ground and came 4th in a very competitive Speedgoat 50k in 2019.
As in the women’s race, it’s great to see some great runners from the United States on the start list, particularly after Jim Walmsley had such a great Sierre-Zinal race in 2019. Hayden Hawks finished 6th at the 2019 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships and he’s been winner of the 52k race at Broken Arrow (and many others at the 50k – 100k distance). Compatriot Andy Wacker (pictured top of page) was 3rd at Pike’s Peak Marathon last year and was the 2019 NACAC Mountain Running Champion and has achieved top 10 finishes at Mont Blanc Marathon and Zegama in 2019. They should both be really interesting to watch.
Other runners to watch will include Lengen Lolkurraru (KEN), winner of this year’s Grossglockner Berglauf, William Rodriguez Herrera (COL), 2nd here in 2015, Jacob Adkin (GBR), 10th in 2018 and European Champion in 2019, and Zak Hanna (IRL). This will be Hanna’s debut at Sierre-Zinal but he’s had a string of top 10s at races like Grossglockner, Trofeo Vanoni, Chiavenna Lagunc and last weekend’s Piz Tri Vertikal.
The elite start lists are subject to change due to possible COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Women’s elite race: 10.30am (CET)
Men’s elite race: 10.45am (CET)
Race website: https://www.sierre-zinal.com/
About the WMRA Mountain Running World Cup:
Races take place between June 2021 and October 2021 in 8 countries. There are 12 event locations and 16 races in 3 categories: short uphill; classic mountain race; long mountain race. Runners can take part in as many races as they want, and they get points for their finishing positions. Their best 7 results in the World Cup races count towards their final ranking. The points scoring format is cumulative. Finishing positions in a WMRA World Cup race range from 100 points for first to 1 point for 30th. There are separate competitions for men and women and athletes must compete in at least two races in order to be considered in the final rankings. See full calendar for World Cup races at: https://www.wmra.info/calendar/2021-major-events
The current, reigning World Cup champions are Sarah McCormack and Andrew Douglas.
About the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA):
Formed in 1984, we are the global governing body for mountain running and we have the goal of promoting mountain running for all ages and abilities. As well as the World Cup we organize Masters, U18 and regional championships and this year we will work in partnership with the World Athletics, International Trail Running Association (ITRA) and the International Association of Ultrarunners IAU to deliver the first World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand. More information at: www.wmra.info