Runners of over thirty nationalities stood at the start line of the KaiserKrone Skyrace in the village of Scheffau, Austria. Temperatures were in the low thirties for the tenth race of the Merrell Skyrunner® World Series Series. Skyrunners were, therefore, battling not just against each other, but also the extreme heat.

The 25 km route, with 2,700 meters of elevation gain, can only be described as “savage” including extremely technical terrain with two steep climbs, two technical descents and an impressive via ferrata section at kilometre 17.

In the first uphill Luka Kovacic of Slovenia (team Red Bull) set the pace, leading the men’s race followed closely by Ruy Ueda of Japan (team Ruy). Ueda and Kovacic had a significant gap with the following group consisting of Manuel Merillas of Spain (team New Balance), Gianluca Ghiano of Italy (team Brooks) and Martin Anthamatten of Switzerland (team Adidas Terrex). Although Kovacic and Ueda were strong in the uphill, they were unable to keep the pace on the first downhill and were overtaken by Merillas and Ghiano, who, after taking the wrong turn at the via ferrata section, lost their leading positions. Once back on the route Merillas was able to make a remarkable comeback and caught up with Anthamatten and Ueda. The Spanish athlete, known for his strong descending skills, then passed them in final downhill and was able to keep his lead until the finish. Merillas won the race in 3:29:43, followed 40 seconds after by Anthamatten in second place and Ueda closed the podium.

Merillas comments: “I really enjoyed these kind of difficult and technical races in which you find really vertical uphills and then crazy downhills. It’s also a pleasure to run in the Austrian Alps. It was tough but when you look at the landscapes and the terrain it’s really worth it to be here”.

In the women’s race, Anastasia Rubtsova took the lead in the first uphill and untouchable until reaching the finish line in a record time of 4:04:20. Second place went to Holly Page of Great Britain (team Adidas Terrex) who was in 4th place in the first uphill before passing Naiara Irigoyen of Spain (team Salomon) and Iris Pessey (team Scott). After a tough battle between Pessey and Irigoyen, the third position went to Irigoyen, who was able to push hardest despite the technical terrain and hot conditions.

All the runners agreed that the best part of the race was the welcoming at the finish line with a big swimming pool for them to refresh.

Full results can be found here.

All photo credits: Antton Guaresti


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