BUFF® Epic Trail 42 km, the third SuperSky Race of the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series rained double points today for champions Sheila Avilés and Oriol Cardona in their homeland, Catalonia.
The weather forecast this morning in Vall de Boí was as unpredictable as the race itself. One thing was for certain though: with a lineup including most of the world’s best skyrunners, BUFF® Epic Trail 2019 was bound to be as epic as its name implied.
Although the skies above the starting line looked clear in the morning, extreme weather conditions were forecasted for the early afternoon which forced race officials to enact a slightly shorter bad weather course for the race. With much of the course remaining as it was, apart from a small section of ridge being removed, spirits amongst the athletes remained high as they prepared for battle…and a battle is exactly what it was.
Once again, Ruy Ueda of Japan set the pace from the word go and Oriol Cardona of Spain followed close behind. The two young men, who previously shared the number one position in the overall ranking, have been fierce rivals since the start of the series. So far, Ueda beat Cardona both at Mt. Awa Skyrace in Japan and Livigno SkyMarathon. However, hometown luck was with Cardona today and he finally managed to come out victorious against his number one opponent. The local star, who fought hard to keep up for almost the entire race managed to pass Ueda in the last uphill, crossing the finish line in 4h08’02” – a victory that has been described as the most deserving of the season.
“In Japan a Japanese beat me and the same happened again in China and Italy so it felt good racing in my home country for once. This was a special win. It was so emotional to cross the finish line and see all the Catalan fans and people I know cheering my name. It was my strategy not to start too fast and this paid off as I managed to pass Ruy in the last uphill. I knew Jon Albon was behind me though so I kept looking back to see how far away he was. Finally, no one managed to catch up. This was my first time winning against Ruy. I don’t know about his race and what happened to him. In Livigno, he was really strong in the uphill and here I thought he would win again. Now, I have some hope for Limone and the SkyMasters.” Said Cardona, who now dominates the overall ranking with 500 points.
Ueda, who lead the pack for most of the race started extremely strong. After being overtaken by Cardona in the final stretch, the Japanese skyrunner explained that at this point his tank was too empty to try and catch him again. “’I’m disappointed with my fourth position but also proud because two years ago I ran here and finished twelfth. Oriol was very strong today and I just couldn’t keep up.” said Ueda who finally crossed the finish line in fourth position, five minutes behind Cardona.
After another intense fight for most of the race, both Zaid Ait Malek of Spain and Jonathan Albon of Great Britain also managed to outrun Ueda in the last 5 km, securing their podium positions. Albon, especially, put on an impressive end show which saw the technically strong skyrunner pull it back after a slow start and finish less than two minutes behind Cardona in second place.
Sheila Avilés was the second local champion of the day. With another SuperSky Race win under her belt, the incredibly strong woman has proved she’s in it to win it. However, Avilés had her work cut out for her today. Like Cardona, she was in second position until the final few kilometers before the finish line.
It was newcomer, Johanna Åström, who made Avilés’ win anything but easy. The Swedish runner shocked the entire female field by dominating the majority of the race. Although this was the first SkyRace for Åström she is no stranger to mountain running and already holds the record for an impressive number of mountain races in Norway including Trollheimen Mountain Marathon, Vemdalen Mountain Marathon and Stranda Fjord Trail Race.
“This year I have decided to focus on the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series. This was my first SkyRace. Next, I’ll do Tromsø because it’s the country where I live. I’ll have to train hard for it though judging by today’s field of women. Sheila was so strong, especially on the downhill. I’ll definitely practice this before my next Skyrace.” said Åström, who finished just five minutes behind Avilés, but a whopping seventeen minutes ahead of 2018 world champion, Ragna Debats. After today, Åström has been named the one to watch. She’s already qualified for the SkyMasters and judging by her incredible second place finish, is likely to do extremely well.
After going head to head with Ragna Debats of the Netherlands, 2018 champion, Holly Page of Great Britain, crossed the finish line in third place, 16 minutes behind Avilés. It’s been a tough year for Page after suffering from a bad foot injury. However, the British star explained she is slowly but surely regaining her confidence.
“I’m not exactly where I want to be but after a fifth-place finish in Livigno and now after today, I feel like I’m coming back. Last year I won here, but it was by 30 minutes. Today, I really had to fight for my third place, so I’m more proud of my performance today.” said Page.
SuperSky Race double points were awarded to the top 20 male and female winners of today which means there are drastic changes to the overall ranking. Ragna Debats now sits at the top spot just 20 points ahead of Sheila Avilés in second and Oriol Cardona leads the men’s ahead of Ueda.
Stay tuned for the ninth race of the season next weekend:
Royal Ultra Skymarathon Gran Paradiso on July 21, Ceresole Reale, Italy.
BUFF® Epic Trail 42 km Results: