The Matterhorn Ultraks 46K works its magic yet again with a line-up of top ranked international athletes as the pace hots up to climb the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series rankings. With seven out of the eleven Sky Classic races completed, anticipation mounts for Saturday’s action-packed event.
The picture postcard location of Zermatt, Switzerland, is where it all happens: a 49 km–course to and from the city centre to the summit of the Gornergrat, the vertical climb is 3,600m to an altitude of 3,100m. The melodramatic landscape overlooks the Grenz Glacier with 4,000m mountains designing the jagged skyline. The entire course is overshadowed by the iconic Matterhorn peak.
The men’s race foresees some stiff competition with the top three Sky Classic ranking leaders battling for position – an extra 20% bonus points are awarded here. Spaniard Aritz Egea is the current leader and has placed third here in 2014 and 2015.
“I need points and Ultraks is a magnificent scenario to fight for them,” Aritz commented. “I’m getting physically tired but mentally I’m still totally motivated. It’s going to be an amazing competition!”
Italian Marco De Gasperi, ranked second, is up for the fight, joined by regular top-ten race finishers since 2013: Switzerland’s own Martin Anthamatten, local to Zermatt, 2015 race winner and race ambassador, Andorran Marc Casal Mir, Spaniard Hassan Ait Chaou and André Jonsson from Sweden.
De Gasperi stated, “To debut at Ultraks at 40, when I never thought I could, is without a doubt a great incentive, even though at the end of the season after many medium/long races all over the Alps, I’m beginning to feel the strain. I’ll try to do my best in front of the Matterhorn and the great opponents I will face and to earn important points for my World Series ranking. Initially, it wasn’t my objective, but now, for me, it’s become very important!”
Top men’s talent from other Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series’ ranking categories include: Briton Jonathan Albon, Frenchmen Beñat Marmissolle and Aurelien Dundand–Pallaz, and Spaniard Pere Aurell.
Enjoying strong form this year is Dutch woman Ragna Debats, current Overall ranking leader. “I’m in good shape, so I hope to run a good race. I think there will be a strong women’s field, but I’ll be there too – fighting for victory!” she said.
The strong competition comes from Spain with Sheila Aviles, fresh from the SkyRace® Comapedrosa win, she now ranks sixth in the Sky Classic rankings. She is joined by Paloma Lobera and, from the Czech Republic, Michaela Mertova who placed second last year. Injury, sickness or end-of-season burnout are responsible for some last-minute retirees, which include Laura Sola, Aiziber Ibarbia, Maria Zorroza and 2016 winner Megan Kimmel as well as Ekaterina Mityaeva and Dmitry Mityaev from Russia due to visa issues.
The previous records were by Kilian Jornet, 4h43’05” in the first edition in 2013 and Stevie Kremer, 5h18’43” in 2014. With a slight course change and an extra kilometre this year, the challenge is open.
Yet another world-class event unfolds. The Zermatt town centre will become alive on Saturday, August 26 with a 7.30 am start for more than 700 runners from 39 countries. The race celebrates its fifth anniversary, since its inception, on the Skyrunner® World Series.
Five results out of eleven are counted for the final titles and end of season bonus prize for the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series Sky Classic category.