Over 20 nationalities stood together behind the starting line, all eager to run on the “Steineres Meer” – the Stone Ocean. The 32 km, 2,700-meter vertical gain Skyrace certified course began in the picturesque village of Maria Alm, weaving through lush, green meadows and forests before climbing to the Reimann Hut at the top of a 1,000-meter stone staircase etched into the face of the Hochkönig mountain range. The reward from the backbreaking climb is spectacular views across the ocean of grey limestone and across to the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain. Not to be outdone by the ascent, the descent – a 1,000-meter scree slope – is equally as technical and satisfying before a 10km of rolling hills back to the finish line in Maria Alm town center.
In true Skyrunner World Series style, the race was fast, competitive, unpredictable and exciting. National Austrian Ski Mountaineer, Jakob Hermann, took the lead from early on and was the first to arrive at the Reimann Hut with French runner Sebastien Poesy one step behind the entire climb. The two were followed closely by the 2018 and 2019 champion from Austria, Sebastian Falkensteiner, who used his knowledge and experience of the course to climb into second place on the decent. Dynafit team mates and fellow Austrians, Hermann and Falkensteiner, fought until the end with Hermann finally pulling away to take home the Gold Crown trophy, finishing with a time of 3:39:29. Falkensteiner crossed the finish line second just minutes after in 4:43:32 and was followed by Basque skyrunner, Asier Larruzea in third place with a time of 4:46:19.
In the women’s race, it was Swedish twins Sanna and Lina El Kott, who led the pack to begin with Lina arriving first at the Reimann Hut and Sanna just seconds behind. Romanian athlete, Denisa Dragomir and Georgia Tindley of Scotland followed minutes after appearing to play a tough game of leapfrog with both girls fighting for third place. Once the race hit the downhill, however, it was all over for everyone including the El Kotts, as Dragomir showed why she is the current overall ranking leader. The Romanian flew over the rest of the course, finishing in first place with a time of 4:19:09. Tindley arrived second with a time of 4:23:32, therefore taking home the silver medal after an amazing performance on the downhill and Oihana Azkorbebitia of the Basque country closed the women’s podium with a time of 4:27:24.
The Merrell Hochkönig Skyrace was the 7th race of the 2021 Skyrunner World Series, continuing in Bulgaria on September 11th with the Pirin Extreme.
For full results visit: https://bit.ly/391gemu