|Kilian and Stevie – champions at Sierre-Zinal|
It was Kilian and Stevie’s day at the super-fast Sierre-Zinal course, 3rd race in the Skyrunner® World Series. Not fast enough however to beat the records which remain intact. Kilian closed in 2h31’54” – 2’42” off Jonathan Wyatt’s record set in 2003 and Stevie’s time was 3h03’12”.
The first part of the men’s race was between Kilian, Joe Gray and Francois Gonon with Joe leading until the last 4 km. On the downhill, the runners encountered some problems overtaking the competitors from the other categories and Joe fell. Kilian however felt strong and ploughed on to accelerate and finish 1’04” ahead of Joe. Cesar Costa, a local resident, finished 3rd ahead of Frenchman Francois Gonon, an orienteering gold medallist. It’s interesting to note four world class orienteering champions finished in the top ten (Francois Gonon, Ionut Zinca, David Schneider, and Marten Bostrom, Orienteering World Champion) and also Tessa Hill, 14th in the women’s field.
La Course de Sierre-Zinal is a historic race (41 years old today), set in the heart of the Swiss Valais region in a unique environment with views of five 4,000m mountains. The course, relatively short at 31km and with 2,200m vertical climb, is a mix that attracts runners from all fields. The distance is short for some, long for others. Add a touch of altitude – the highest point reaches 2,425m – attracting skyrunners. Half the course (15 km) is dirt road and very runnable. At 3’ per km this stretch appeals to runners from traditional athletics. All this makes for strong competition from many different fields and today, the strong orienteers excelled.
Ladies’ winner was American Stevie Kremer. Second here twice, she achieved her dream of winning this historic race. She ran out relatively slow, pacing herself and holding back from the urge to push too hard at the start. Her tactics pulled off and it was on the downhill that she powered to the finish and the race was hers. It was a close call however, with Maude Mathys, third in 2012 and 2013, pushing the pace and closing less than a minute later. Stevie’s time was 3h03’12”, still far from the 2008 record of 2h54h26” set by Anna Pichtrova.
For some of the top stars like past winners Marco De Gasperi and Elisa Desco forecast for the podium today, it wasn’t the right day for various reasons, while for others, like Mexican Ricardo Mejia who has won the race five times, at the age of 51, he placed an excellent 20th, 17 minutes behind today’s winner, echoing recent success for two other skyrunning stars from the past, Bruno Brunod and Ettore Champretavy who, both aged 50, finished in the top ten at the revival of the Cervinia Vertical Kilometer®.
Many factors are involved in racing and can determine a good or a bad day. Today, among 762 elite runners it was a glorious finish for most in a tremendously packed field of strong international talent. For the other 3,000 or so participants in the various categories, the glory was no less – to take part in the 41st edition of the magnificent Course de Sierre Zinal.
Full Race results
Sky Series Ranking - partial results
1. Kilian Jornet (Salomon) – 300 points
1. Stevie Kremer (Salomon) – 200 points
The Skyrunner® World Series stays in Switzerland for the second edition of the Matterhorn Ultraks 46K in Zermatt on August 23, the fourth race in the Sky Series, where some of the world’s top runners will be heading.