Written by Alex Scolari for corsainmontagna.it, World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) media partner for the 2018 Mountain Running World Cup. Photo Credit: Alexis Courthoud. 2016 World Mountain Running Champion and Colorado Springs resident Joe Gray is also scheduled to race Sierre-Zinal where he finished 2nd at the 2014 event.
The mini tour of the mountain running world cup 2018 goes on, and after the emotions of the “ice giant” Grossglockner (austria) and the brand new Vertical K in Malonno (Italy) it is already time for the third round, next Sunday, on the” highlands d’anniviers” for the exciting and always very prestigious Sierre-Zinal.
The great classic of the Valais has already hosted WMRA events when in 2004 it was the theater of the first edition of the Long Distance Mountain Running World Championship, won at the time by the Mexican Ricardo Mejia and the Swiss Angeline Joly.
The flag of the IAAF officially returns to Zinal 14 years later for a stage of the renewed world cup, proposing the big news of 2018 edition, in the “pivot” race (Zinal will be the 3rd race out of 5 total) of the world competition.
In the two stages so far disputed to emerge were the figures of the Austrian Andrea Mayer, great dominator both at Grossglockner and PizTriVertikal, and that of the Italian Francesco Puppi, 3rd at Heiligenblut and then winner at Malonno. But other athletes have run both tests and could return to the race for the final victory thanks to Sierre Zinal, while many others could enter the world series just starting next Sunday.
A big theme of interest in view of the 45th edition of Sierre-Zinal is also the meeting between two offroad worlds. In fact, the 2018 edition will also host a stage of the Salomon Golden Trail Series, and then some veterans from Zegama and the Marathon du Mont Blanc will be face face to face with the protagonists of Grossdglockner and PizTri for a memorable challenge.
The Course-track of Sierre-Zinal is the same as ever, which has built the mystique and myth: 31km with 2200 meters D + and 1100 D-, a very demanding first part with the rise from Sierre to Chandolin and then a long and spectacular Ride on the heights of val d’Anniviers, under the eyes of the “5 four-thousand” that crown them: Weisshorn (4506 m), Zinalrothorn (4221 m), Obergabelhorn (4073 m), Matterhorn (4478 m) and Dent Blanche (4357 m). After the passage to the Weisshorn hotel, one of the symbols of the race, the beating descent to Zinal that welcomes the athletes in a blaze of public, always exceptionally numerous and enthusiastic.
The race record belongs to Jono Wyatt, the current president of the WMRA and 6 times world champion in classic mountain running. In 2003 the kiwi stopped the chronometer on an incredible time of 2h29’12 “. Wyatt is also the only athlete able to stay under 2h30 while only in 3, Wyatt, twice Marco De Gasperi, and Ricardo Mejia, managed to stay under 2h31′.
The female record is dated 2008 and belongs to the legend of Rep. Ceka Anna Pichrtova (today Strakova after marriage with Samuel Straka) with the time of 2h54’26″, also in this case there is a small elite club of athletes who in 45 editions were able to run under the 3h wall, a club which includes only Anna Pichrtova Strakova (4 times), the Swiss Angeline Joly, the German Michelle Maier, the Kenyan Lucy Wambui Murigi, the Scotswoman Angela Mudge and the Italian Elisa Desco.
The greatest multi-winners of Sierre Zinal are Rica Mejia and Kilian Jornet Burgada with 5 victories among men, and always Anna Pichrtova Strakova with 4 among women.
After the great Swiss race the world circuit will take a break to allow the World Championship to take place in Canillo (Andorra) on September 15th but will come back at the end of September with the final appointments, the Hochfelln Berglauf in Bergen (Germany) and the Smarna Gora Race in Liubljiana (Slovenia).