It was a dramatic day for three runners, in particular, at the 2019 Tromsø Skyrace. Jonathan Albon claimed his fourth win, Johanna Åström smashed the course record by 15 minutes and Hillary Allen conquered the ridge that almost took her life two years ago, all at the eleventh race of the 2019 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series.
Both 2018 champions as well as a host of top skyrunners, toed the line today for Tromsø Skyrace, the eleventh race of the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series. Although the weather was unusually good for the race, with three steep peaks, one exposed ridge crossing, a brutal 55 kilometers and 4,700 meters of vertical gain, everyone involved knew they were in for a long, painful and unpredictable day in the Norwegian mountains.
Ait Malek, Albon, and Anguita, Tackle Hamperokken Ridge as a Team
Although four-time champion Jonathan Albon of Great Britain took home the victory, it was Zaid Ait Malek of Spain who led the first half of the race. The small but mighty Spaniard was the first to reach the top of Tromsdalstind in 1h45’30” followed closely by Manuel Anguita of Spain and Albon, less than one minute behind. A group of three other runners, Beñat Marmissolle of France, Dani Jung of Italy and young and rising star, Peter Fraňo of Slovakia, arrived four minutes after. Although the positions changed considerably throughout the race, these would be the first six from start to finish.
After a terrifyingly technical downhill in the snow, Ait Malek, Albon, and Anguita, took on the second summit, Hamperokken, together as a team. As soon as they hit the second downhill, however, Albon put his knowledge of the course to good use and managed to build a gap with his former teammates.
“I knew how important the last uphill would be and usually that’s where the race is decided so that’s where I really tried to push a little bit and make a gap and that’s what I managed to do. The last uphill won it for me today. I came into first place in the valley, actually the same place where I manage to do it every time. Just before I hit the uphill, I jumped into the river to cool down and that really helped.”
Fourth Win for the King of Tromsø Skyrace
After managing to put ten minutes between himself and Anguita, there was no catching the king of Tromsø Skyrace. After a final, fast descent, Albon flew through the rest of the course, crossing the finish line first for the fourth time in his skyrunning career with an incredible time of 6h54’30”.
“It still feels special to win here. It’s a different feeling to any other race. Tromsø Skyrace feels like home to me. It’s also my favorite terrain and the course is so different from all the others. The weather was warm today though and that was a huge change as I’m used to extreme conditions here so that didn’t play as much to my advantages as the rain would have. On the other hand, it was nice for once to get to enjoy all the views from the top. This is the first time that I’ve ran here and seen the surrounding mountains.”
Ask anyone who’s tried and they will tell you, it’s not easy to keep up with Albon at Tromsø Skyrace, but Anguita certainly came close. After battling Albon until the last 10 km of the race, the Spanish athlete crossed the finish line in second place, nine minutes behind Albon in first.
After an extremely strong start, Ait Malek paid the price in the latter stage and lost his podium position to Dani Jung of Italy. Peter Fraňo, who finished seventh last year, pulled off an impressive fifth position, followed by Marmissolle in sixth.
New Course Record for Sweden’s New Star
In the women’s race, it’s safe to say that Johanna Åström was on another level. The Swedish skyrunner showed no mercy whatsoever. She started fast, continued fast and finished fast. Although Christine Lundy of the USA, who dropped out shortly after the first summit, managed to get close to Åström in the first uphill and second finisher, Holly Page of Great Britain, began to close in on her slightly in the second downhill from Hamperokken, it was clear that Åström was not prepared to let anything get in the way of her setting a new course record – and that’s exactly what she did. With a time of 8h0’49”, Åström beat Hillary Gerardi’s record from last year by 14 minutes and finished ninth overall.
“To wear my first winner’s bib and get the course record feels good, but this race was harder than I expected! I was alone for almost the entire time but people kept telling me Holly was three minutes behind me at the third last aid station so I had to push a lot harder on the last uphill to Tromsdalstind to keep my lead. The ridge was so much fun and the best part of the race.” said Åström
Gerardi, although unable to take home the win again this year, still managed to make it on the podium. After running most of the race together with Page, Gerardi was unable to pass the British runner and finally crossed the finish line with a time of 8h25’57”, eleven minutes slower than her 2018 course record.
“It felt good to be back this year. There’s always pressure as a returning champion but I tried not to think about it too much. The weather made it feel like a totally different race. There were all these things I never noticed last year because of the fog so it was pretty incredible to have such amazing views. The downhills, especially in the snow, were so much fun.” said Gerardi.
From km 15, an interesting fight between Brittany Peterson of the USA, Emily Hawgood of Zimbabwe and Martina Valmassoi of Italy, broke out. At around the halfway mark, returning skyrunner, Peterson, decided enough was enough. After pushing hard in the Hamperokken loop, Peterson went full throttle in the downhill to claim her fourth position, followed by Hawgood in fifth and Valmassoi in sixth.
“It took me a while to get into my race today. By the Hamperokken loop, I was getting into my groove and so when I saw Emily and Martina in front, I knew this was my chance to catch them. I closed in on them in the uphill and then took over in the downhill. I just hung on until the end and thankful for how it turned out. I’ve been out of the skyrunning scene since last year so to come back and see that my technical skills are still there feels good. I love this race and all the people here and in the circuit so it’s nice to return and reconnect.” Said Peterson, who took home third at Tromsø last year.
Allen – 1, Ridge – 0
The third big win of the day went to the courageous Hillary Allen of the USA who returned to Hamperokken ridge, the place that almost took her life two years ago. After running the entire race together, Allen crossed the finish line with Manu Par, the man who saved her life at the same race two years ago.
“There was a lot of emotions throughout the day. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be on the ridge and actually, I was smiling the whole time. A lot of tears were shed throughout the day but more because it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I really wanted to come back and face the ridge and it feels so good that this chapter had been closed.” Said Allen.
From one technical Skyrace to another: Following Tromsø, the next race in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series will be the Matterhorn Ultraks Extreme in Switzerland on 23rd of August.
Tromsø Skyrace 2019 Results:
1. Jonathan Albon (GBR) Gore / VJ Shoes – 6h54’30”
2. Manuel Anguita (ESP) Prozis – 7h03’30”
3. Daniel Jung (ITA) Gore/Scarpa – 7h06’34”
4. Zaid Ait Malek (ESP) Jimbee – 7h17’48”
5. Peter Fraňo (SVK) Salomon – 7h32’06”
1. Johanna Åström (SWE) Dynafit – 8h0’49”
2. Holly Page (GBR) Adidas Terrex – 8h10’09”
3. Hillary Gerardi (USA) Scarpa/Black Diamond – 8h25’57”
4. Brittany Peterson (USA) Nike Trailrunning – 8h43’17”
5. Emily Hawgood (ZIM) Gauge 20 Running/SCOTT Running – 8h58’36”