Local Basque skyrunners fight for podium positions at Gorbiea Suzien. In the end, Zaid Ait Malek of Spain and Denisa Dragomir of Romania are victorious at the 10th race of the 2021 Skyrunner World Series, making it the fourth win of the season for Dragomir.
The 31 km route with 2,400 m evelation gain began in the town of Zeanuri and headed straight up to the summits of Gorbeia and Aldamin – directly in the heart of the Basque Country. The route was lined from start to finish by enthusiastic spectators who were all eager to see the top skyrunners and, more importantly, their strong team of local Basque athlete, who did not disappoint today.
A Thrilling and Unpredictable Men’s Race
No one could predict the outcome of today’s race.Ben Kimtai (team Salomon) of Kenya took the lead early on followed by Damien Humbert (Team Odlo) of France and Spanish athelte Zaid Ait Malek (Team Jimbee Melon). The three runners play an intense game of leap frog until Ait Malek pulls away just 5 km from the finish line, taking home the title with a time of 3h03’40”. Just when we thought the podium was carved in stone, local Basque runner, Ander Iñarra (team EMF-FVM), comes from nowhere and climbs from fifth to second place, overtaking Kimtai in the final one kilometer of the race and finishing 2:30 minutes behind Ait Malek. The people of Zeanuri go wild as their local athlete crosses the finish line. Kimtai closes the men’s podium with a time of 3h06’10”, just 23 seconds behind Iñarra.
“I was motivated by racing in the Basque Country today and by the people”, says Iñarra. “I was determined to catch the top runners and make the podium but at times I doubted if I would be able to. When I felt some power in the final stretch, I knew this was my last chance so I pushed until the last meters. It felt amazing to cross the finish line in second place here in Zeanuri.”
Fourth Win for Denisa Dragomir
The women’s race was equally as unpredictable as the men’s. At first it seemed as though overall ranking leader, Denisa Dragomir of Romania (team Merrell), had finally met her match. Spanish runner Onditz Arginzoniz (team Salomon) took the lead and held it until summit of Gorbeia. But, as usual, as soon as they hit the downhill, Dragomir was gone. The Romanian athlete flies past Arginzoniz and straight to the finish line, taking home her fourth title of the 2021 Skyrunner World Series season with a time of 3h39’47”. Just when she thinks it’s all over, Arginzoniz comes up against another fight just a couple of kilometers from the finish line against fellow Basque runner Lide Agirre. It’s touch-and-go whether she can keep her second place. In the end Arginzoniz crosses the finish line with a time of 3h45’02”, just 15 seconds ahead of Agirre in third.
“Onditz was really strong and, honestly, I didn’t think I would be able to beat her today. I’m always stronger in the downhilll, so my plan was to keep a little in the tank so I can really push here. It worked for me today and I’m thrilled to win for the fourth time this season. It has always been my dream to one day be the Skyrunner World Series overall champion and this year it might finally come true.”, says Dragomir.
Although Dragmor sits at the top of the 2021 Skyrunner World Series Overall Ranking, there are still four races left and with two wins under her belt and still two races lef to do, Austrian athlete, Stephanie Kröll, is still a contender for the overall title. Stay tuned.
Next up the circuit heads to Wales for Snowdon Skyrace on the 3rd of October.
Full Gorbeia Suzien results can be found here.