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Zegama – big, better, best!

2013 winner Kilian Jornet. ©Jordi Saragossa

Anticipation is building in the small rural Basque town of Zegama where runners are beginning to congregate for one of the most popular races on the international skyrunning scene. A permanent feature on the Skyrunner® World Series since 2004, the 42 km race, with a tough 5,472m ascent and descent, attracts a consistently deep field.

The heavy-duty line-up from Salomon is headed by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, last year’s winners.  Kilian was 2nd at Transvulcania behind a super-strong Hernando but all eyes will be on Emelie to see if this extremely talented runner can overcome her recent injuries for a podium finish.  From the USA, Stevie Kremer 2013 SWS Sky Champion, was third here in 2013 in her first SkyMarathon, together with top performers Cameron Clayton and Kasie Enman;  Britain’s Tom Owens, 6th in Transvulcania, is back in full swing after a year off due to injury;  Norway’s  new star, Thorbjorn Ludvigsen; from Italy, Fabio Bazzana; from South Africa, new discovery Landie Grayling; from France Michel Lanne (11th last year), Stephanie Jimenez, and the world’s fastest team manager, Greg Vollet.

Spain is home to some of the best races and represents a breeding ground for the world’s top skyrunners.  After Luis Alberto Hernando’s extraordinary win over Kilian at Transvulcania ten days ago, the pair will confront each other again here on the Zegama trails with the added challenge of Italy’s Marco De Gasperi (SCOTT Sports) who made for a very fast race last year, pushing Kilian to the 21 km checkpoint before dropping out.

The strong Spanish line-up continues with: Maite Mayora (La Sportiva) and Uxue Fraile (Vibram), 2nd and 3rd respectively in Transvulcania behind Anna Frost, here they are running on home ground and are strong favourites. Among the men, Pablo Villa (SCOTT Sports), 9th in Transvulcania, and local runners from the ESP team, Jokin Lizeaga, (6th in 213) and Aritz Egea (10th), always top level performers at international events.

Italy’s Tadei Pivk,(Crazy Idea,) an excellent third here last year, is back for more and so is Moroccan, Zaid Ait Malek, fourth.

Marco De Gasperi and Kilian Jornet, 2013 race start.  ©Jordi Saragossa

Inov-8 will be represented by a six-man strong team including American Alex Nichols (ranked 3rd in the Sky Series), Norwegian Eirik Haugsness, (9th) and Frenchman, Pierre-Laurent Viguier.

SCOTT Sports will make their mark with Italians Marco Degasperi and Elisa Desco (Transvulcania Vertical Kilometer® winner), Spaniard Pablo Villa and  Stephan Wenk from Switzerland, while La Sportiva will be up front with Maite MayoraAlfredo Gil (8th ISF 2013 Ranking) and Cristobal Adell.

Look out also for Ionut Zinca, ranked 2nd behind Kilian on the ISF 2013 ranking, a strong contender; the ever-present Casal Mir brothers from Andorra, Oscar and Marc will no doubt feature among the top finishers;  Frenchman Martin Gaffuri (New Balance) ranked 4th in the 2013 SWS Ultra Series and Germany’s Florian Reichert (Arc’teryx), ranked in the Sky top 20.

Russia Skyrunning will be present with five members to test their extreme high altitude skills on the lower, extremely fast Zegama course.

Depending on Sunday’s weather conditions, will the long-standing race records by Rob Jebb, 3h54’18” (2005) and Emanuela Brizio, 4h39’19” (2009) remain unchallenged? Whatever the outcome, the race looks set for an enthralling challenge.

Emelie Forsberg, 2013 winner.  ©Jordi Saragossa

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Race website: www.zegama-aizkorri.com