Rain, snow and sharp, technical ridges – Skyrace des Matheysins well and truly earned its Skyrace status with Poland’s Przedwojewski and Russia’s Rukhliada taking the win on an extreme course in the French Alps.
Over 450 participants of 30 nationalities gathered at the start line in the small town of Saint-Honoré expecting an intense day in the mountains…and that’s exactly what they got. The only 2019 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series skyrace to be held in France, and newcomer to the calendar, presented some of the most extreme conditions the circuit has seen so far, yet to everyone’s surprise, it was a handful of new faces that dominated the podium.
Power-woman, Elena Rukhliada of Russia, was the star of today’s show. The snow and tough conditions were no problem for the Russian beauty who was the first woman to cross the finish line in 2h57’05” after leading the field for the entire race. This was the first Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series skyrace for the Russian athlete, but judging by today’s performance, definitely not her last.
“Everything came together today: the tough weather, the course, and the competition. I come from a background of trail running and mountain running but this type of race was perfect for me. Of course, I would like to come back and compete again. Let’s see how the rest of the year goes. Maybe you will see me again.” said the Russian athlete who easily beat USA’s queen of tough and technical, Hillary Gerardi, by 6 minutes.
Gerardi, who finished with a time of 3h03’23” is no stranger to such extreme environments. The 2018 Tromsø Skyrace winner put up a good fight but her Russian opponent was too strong in the first uphill and Gerardi had no option but to settle for second place.“I didn’t know her before today but she absolutely crushed it. We all headed out pretty strong but she took off on the first uphill and I never saw her again. I think she has a bit of experience running in technical areas and in the snow and that definitely worked for her today.”
Gerardi’s fellow USA runner and friend, Katie Schide, closed the podium in 3h05’23″ after beating Oihana Azkorbebeitia of Spain in the downhill. Azkorbebeitia finished fourth with a time of 3h06’30” followed by Romania’s Ingrid Mutter in fifth place in 3h09’01”.
The men’s race was a lot less predictable. With two big names, Oscar Casal Mir of Andorra and Oriol Cardona of Spain, announcing their withdrawal just days before, all attention turned to French runner and Transvulcania 2019 winner, Thibaut Garrivier. However, the cold, short and fast conditions were not ideal for Garrivier and he just missed out on the podium after an epic sprint finish with Bulgaria’s Kiril Nikolov. Instead, it was a handful of newcomers and unexpected faces who came out on top.
20-year-old French runner, Théo Detienne, set the pace of the race at the beginning taking the lead on the Devil’s Garden – a single path leading up the mountainside. Detienne was followed closely by Rok Bratina of Slovenia and Poland’s Bartlomiej Przedwojewski. By the time the runners hit km 11, Bratina had climbed into the first position with a one-minute lead on Przedwojewski who was now in second place ahead of Detienne.
But as we all know in skyrunning, anything can happen on the ridge. It was here, on the extremely technical and snowy section between summits, Pérolier and Tabor, where Canadian runner, Nick Elson, put his technical skills to use. One by one, Elson passed the leading three men and took the lead. However,Elson couldn’t keep up with the young Europeans on the downhill and the trio managed to reel him back in. In the end, it was Przedwojewski who crossed the finish line in first place with an incredible time of 2h35’10”, despite the extreme weather conditions on the course. The Polish runner summed it up as: “a very steep and technical course with crazy conditions.”
New face, Théo Detienne, finished only 33 seconds behind Przedwojewski in 2h35’43” – an astounding achievement for the first-timer on such a challenging course. This is definitely one skyrunner to watch out for in the future.
Rok Bratina, who finished third with a time of 2h36’37”, returns to the series after a year of injury. The Slovenian athlete finished fourth two years ago at his skyrunning debut in Limone. “My tactic was to push very hard on the uphill because my weakness is the downhill so I attacked on the Devil’s Garden and tried to get an advantage.” Rok, who led for much of the uphill, lost two places on the downhill but still managed to secure his podium position – a solid performance for the young star who will compete in three more races of the season and the SkyMasters in Limone. “The weather and course were tough but that’s what I love about skyrunning. I like to be a part of the series and I’m already looking forward to the fight in Limone.”
Today was tough, intense and technical – a true skyrace in every sense.
Next race in the calendar is Madeira Skyrace on June 1st.
2019 Skyrace des Matheysins Results: