Greetings. We’re just getting-in some quick picks and (very) brief descriptions of the runners most likely to make some noise trotting around the Mont Blanc massif in a day or so. Footfeathers (Tim) is on the road this very minute to new residence, so this week has been a little hectic. Pardon the lack of sensory detail, the vivid verbal pictures of Chamonix or some of the UTMB trails where coveys of mountain runner are attempting to tip-toe into those last moments of late summer tapers before the BIG DANCE.
Kilian Jornet: He’s the two-time defending champ, so he seems like the natural favorite here; if Vegas had odds (actually, do they?), he’d be the pick, no doubt. What more can we say except to clarify that he’s running well and seems to be enjoying himself in the Alps. Though he finished 3rd at Sierre-Zinal just two weeks ago, first and second raced very well that day; and the 2011 Western States 100 winner actually posted his best SZ finish. His June win at the Auburn track meet adds to the likability of this guy extending his UTMB win streak.
Furthering the line of thought we started in the Sierre-Zinal post last week, we may as well underscore that he’s raced a lot. He won a 100k in Australia in May, WS100 in June and then trained for and raced vertical SZ. Perhaps more specifically is whether he got himself back into 100 mile fitness for the UTMB.
Geoff Roes: Hard to believe this guy is a dark-horse; I’m sure some people think that’s out of line. But realistically, he just hasn’t been himself in 2011. Even recently he’s shared some of his concern about fatigue, about not recovering from bigger runs. Having said that, this might be the only guy (on a good one) who can go with and beat Kilian, especially late. Let’s not forget this guy’s closing speed. I think he’s healthy again and wants to RUN.
Jez Bragg: This is a guy to watch. Sneak a peek at some of his recent posts. Summarily, he was disappointed at his lack of an extra gear at WS100; through 80 miles he was in striking distance, but just didn’t seem to have that ability to stay with Jornet. But, he specifically addressed that in his subsequent training, and has had some big blocks that have included specific UTMB work including some Mont Blanc recon with his TNF team. Think he might want to certify last year’s asterisked win? I do.
Miguel Heras: This talent put-on an unbelievable late surge and blew the TNF50 San Francisco wide-open last December, grinding-out a win over Geoff Roes, Dave Mackey, Jez Bragg, Dakota Jones, Jason Schlarb, and a distant Uli Steidl (to name a few). He sparked the so-called Salomon Running slam that may have another jewel for its crown if he or Kilian can win. In June, he won the Zugspitz Ultra Trail, 101k that takes runners through some epic climbs in the German Zugspitz mountain chain. Heras might have the climb and the speed he needs.
Mike Wolfe: We’ve heard him called Wolfe-man. Without knowing too much more about Mr. Wolfe (if that’s even necessary with such a nickname), his 2011 2nd at WS100 has people buzzing. Before that he had an impressive 2nd at the Miwok 100k (just 3 min back of Dave Mackey) and a Way Too Cool 50k win. Maybe this is where Mike makes a name for himself, a coming-out dinner party, if you will, preceded by him stalking leaders late, smelling blood. One to watch for sure.
Nick Clark: If you don’t know him, read our interview. A gentleman you don’t want to pick a fight with on a trail in 100 mile route. His two huge 3rds (WS100 and HR100) and wins at Jemez 50m (CR) and Speedgoat 50k mean he’s ready to rumble. Not lacking the toughness to go out and follow some guys off the front. His nice 3rd at American River 50m back in April counts for quickness. He’s all mountain, coming-off a nice run at Sierre-Zinal. Perhaps he’s itching to get back to the states already, with a little souvenir he’s picked-up in Chamonix.
Dakota Jones: This one is wild. Card. He races and races well. Back in December 2010, he finished 4th in the Heras upset win in SF. He was 19, ran off the front for much of the race and simply ran-out of gas. About 6 weeks ago he finished 2nd at HR100. A month later he finished 17th at Sierre-Zinal. That’s post-modern art. The HR100 win might really reverberate here. He’s young, tough (2011 HR100-wise) and mountain fast. I can’t see him NOT near the front.
Sebastien Chaigneau: 2nd at the UTMB 2009 is very impressive and logically means he’s for real. He won the difficult Lavaredo Ultra Trail in the Dolomites in June that started at midnight. He could be in winning form, and having just missed here in ’09, look-out. Starting to see the depth of this race.
Tsuyoshi Kaburaki: Another dangerous ultra marathoner. In 2009 he was 2nd at WS100 and 3rd at the UTMB. And he was pushing 40. This year he was 5th at WS, running a 16:07. At 42, does he have enough to reel-in some of the younger game? His wise and steady race demeanor could see light at the end of this tunnel.
Others to watch:
Zigor Iturrieta (3rd in last year’s version, 2nd at Lavaredo), François D’Haene (4th here in 2006, 5th in 2007 and 2nd to Jornet at the Australian 100k in May), and Hal Koerner (actually, having a solid year despite his DNF at WS100. 3rd at Miwok and 2nd at Zane Grey). There are so many others, Americans and internationals alike.
How does it play-out?
I like Geoff Roes for the win. If he’s on, he’s Alaska. Redemption arrives for Geoff! Kilian Jornet and Jez Bragg round-out the podium. As I think I made pretty clear above, however, anything could happen. Heras, Chaigeneau, Jones, Wolfe, Clark. . .stay-tuned!
I’m pretty light again and pleading guilty of being a homer. Indeed, I like me some American women (if they’re all running):
Podium: Krissy Moehl, Nerea Martinez, and Lizzy Hawker (though I like Darcy Africa for Team PI).
Diana Finkel and Maud Giraud could be in the mix, as well.
Footfeathers was kind enough to wire us some of his ultra intelligence before touching-off.
How it plays out: