The small town of Bagà in the Spanish Pyrenees will yet again light up on Saturday, September 23, with the final stage of the Sky Ultra on the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series at the Salomon Ultra Pirineu. 110 km and a massive 6,800m positive climb will decide the 2017 champions based on three results out of the eight-race circuit.
Skyrunning World champions and ranking leaders, together with a record 1,095 participants from 43 countries will line up in the early morning darkness of the small medieval town before heading for the hills, the sun…and the sky.
Leading the men’s field will be Skyrunning World and European Ultra Champion Luis Alberto Hernando. In August, he renounced his plan to race UTMB and chose chose to aim for the Sky Ultra title. After two straight wins he leads the ranking. He will be challenged by Russian Dmitry Mityaev (second) and Frenchman Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz (third), while the battle for the race will include 2016 Sky Ultra Champion Cristofer Clemente and, also from Spain, Pau Capell, Moroccan Zaid Ait Malek and Peruvian Remigio Huaman.
Unable to compete in earlier races due to visa problems, Mityaev rises to the challenge. “This will be my last serious race of the season. I’m very pleased with the results this year and want to end with positive feelings. There will be strong competition here but I’m looking forward to the start!”
Italy’s Francesca Canepa, winner of the Series’ Scenic Trail 113K and recent Devil’s Ridge 60K in China, now places third on the ranking. “I’m hoping to enjoy the beauty of the Pyrenees as I’ll be racing in the best possible situation: third on the rankings behind Ragna and Hillary is enormously satisfying. Whatever the outcome, it’s a huge honour to compete for the title.”
The women’s race is wide open with strong Spaniards pushing the pace such as Nuria Picas, four-time winner here and recent UTMB winner, last year’s Ultra champion and race winner Gemma Arenas, together with Maite Maiora. Maiora has already been crowned Sky Extreme champion. Now, she will test herself on the longer distance to prove her all-round skills for the Overall title which counts five best results across the three categories, Sky Classic, Extreme and Ultra.
Maiora, after injury in 2016, commented, “Finally this year I’m able to run and I intend to give it everything I’ve got.” The lady means business – an ambitious goal after racing the Ring of Steall Skyrace in Scotland last week which she described as “good training” for Saturday’s mammoth event.
Ranking leader Ragna Debats from the Netherlands, after an intensive season leads the Sky Ultra category as well as the Overall rankings while American Hillary Allen, unable to race after injury sustained in August will at least enjoy a deserved ranking podium position, whatever the outcome of the race.
The records to beat were both set in 2015 by Kilian Jornet in 12h03’27” and Emelie Forsberg in 13h39’33”.
Anticipation mounts for Saturday’s Sky Ultra finals where the punishing distance and vertical climb will be the deciders.