It’s almost time for the big finale. This weekend, history will be made on the shores of Lake Garda. As final preparations for the SkyMasters event get underway in the Italian town of Limone, all focus turns to the elite lineup. Two titles are up for grabs. Who will be battling it out to be crowned the world’s first “SkyMasters” and more importantly, who will take home the title of overall 2019 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series champion and best skyrunner in the world?
67 athletes of 25 nationalities and 39 different teams make up the legendary SkyMasters starting list. The exclusive race, reserved only for the best runners who have qualified throughout the season, will award more than double points to the overall ranking, plus a 75,000€ bonus pool, distributed evenly amongst the highest scored male and female athletes. The level is high, the field is stacked and the atmosphere within the community is buzzing. Albert Jorquera, athletes manager and member of Skyman SA, comments on the lineup, event and 2019 season:
“The SkyMasters is history in the making. We have never seen a race with such a high level of competition and only for qualified runners. It will be an extremely competitive, unpredictable and fast race. The slightest mistake may mean a huge loss of positions.
Overall this season, the average level has been high. Most races have been decided by seconds. We have had strong Skyrunning stars from past seasons and discovered new and exciting names.
The SkyMasters has been the goal since day one and all the athletes have focused on accumulating points and qualifying to be here. I’d say the general atmosphere is that, without any doubt, Limone will decide the best male and female skyrunner of the season. Those with a strong chance of winning have planned their season well and had the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series as their main objective of the year.”
Old Favourite. New Race.
Although Limone is well-known amongst the elites, the 27 km course with 2,600m vertical climb has been redesigned especially for the SkyMasters with a new technical ascent leading to the Monte Carone summit. All runners should, therefore, start the race as though it is their first time running here. Laura Pasquetti, a member of the race organization, comments:
“Limone is well-known for its hard climbs and severe descents. It has been a race feared by skyrunners all over the world for years and this year even more so with the new SkyMasters course. You cannot go wrong here. You must be focused from beginning to end.”
The Battle to be Crowned the World’s Best Skyrunner
Those in contention to win the series include the five leading men of the overall ranking. Sitting snug at the top of the leaderboard are Oriol Cardona, Ruy Ueda, Zaid Ait Malek, Jonathan Albon and Daniel Antonioli. Interestingly, all five represent a different team, which demonstrates the diversity of the circuit. Less than 70 points separate the first and fifth athlete, therefore the finish line of the SkyMasters will be the decider.
With 500 points Oriol Cardona leads the ranking. The Spaniard placed third at the original Limone course last year and has performed outstandingly well this season by landing a podium position at all four of his races, including an epic win at SuperSky Race, BUFF® Epic Trail.
“I’ve raced at Limone before but this year I expect it to be a fast, leg-breaking race that anyone could win. It’s the end of the season so I hope all the runners arrive in top shape to make the result even tighter. The Migu Run Skyrunner World Series circuit has a prestige and history that makes it special. This year, I have raced against the best in the world and those who have won titles in the past are all athletes I look up to and admire. To have my name alongside their’s would be an honour.” Said Cardona.
In second place by just ten points is Japanese athlete, Ruy Ueda who has also had his fair share of success this season, including a first place at SuperSky race, Livigno Skymarathon, and Mt. Awa Skyrace. It’s been an exciting show watching Ueda and Cardona go head-to-head throughout the series and it seems the biggest spectacle is yet to come.
Ueda comments, “The season has been full of ups and downs and each race has challenged me in a different way. I am prepared for a super competitive and dramatic race to end the season and I look forward to racing against those who have challenged me throughout the year.”
Zaid Ait Malek of Spain follows in third place, 40 points behind Cardona and with 450 points, Great Britain’s Jonathan Albon tailgates in fourth. In fifth position is Daniel Antoniolo of Italy with 432 points. Although it will be difficult for Antonioli to win overall, it is not impossible. He states:
“This is my first year competing in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. Now that we are approaching the final race and I am in the top 5 of the overall ranking, I believe the competition is still very much open. Everything will be decided at the SkyMasters. I will try to try to get on the final podium, but it will definitely be a challenge – a beautiful one for sure!”
Competing for the overall title in the women’s field is Sheila Avilés, Ragna Debats, Johanna Åström, Elisa Desco and Holly Page. With 580 points, the maximum of the season, Sheila Avilés of Spain is the woman to beat. Although Avilés counts three wins this season, two of which were SuperSky Races and a second-place finish, she knows she’s not safe until her final step over the finish line.
“Although I’m confident, I wouldn’t say that I feel safe right now. But I think we will all be nervous. It’s the first time that only qualified athletes will stand behind the starting line. To only have elite athletes racing against each other is something new and exciting in the circuit. I know it’s important to prepare well. You can be top of the leaderboard, but if you have a bad day at Limone, you are done.” Said the leading skyrunner.
In second place with 520 points is Ragna Debats of the Netherlands. If Debats pulls off a first place and Avilés a third, Debats would take home the overall title.
“I don’t have a strategy. I just hope to be able to give it my all. The challenge will be to run an optimal race. To win would be an incredible end to my skyrunning season.” Said Debats.
Newcomer, Johanna Åström, has managed to secure the third-place going into the SkyMasters. With 508 points, the Swedish skyrunner will also realistically require a first-place finish over Debats and Avilés to win the title. Åström comments:
“I’m looking forward to the SkyMasters and competing against such a strong starting field. It has been an incredible season that has really exceeded my expectations! I went into this season just wanting to do the best I could. I knew the level was high and everyone who competes is super talented. I had absolutely no idea that I would be doing so well in the overall ranking.”
In fourth position, still with a chance of winning, is Elisa Desco of Italy with 480 points. After making a tremendous comeback Holly Page of Great Britain sits in fifth place with 408 points overall. The gap is big but when it comes to Page, we should expect the unexpected.
The Race to be the First “SkyMasters”
Not to be forgotten about are those who are not competing for the overall title but for the prestige that comes with winning the SkyMasters race. A prize of 15,000€ will be shared equally amongst the top 10 male and female runners.
The strong field of contenders to watch out for includes: ZacUp champion, Denisa Dragomir of Romania; Madeira Skyrace champion, Maria Koller of Germany; Martin Anthamatten of Switzerland; ZacUp male champion, Jean Baptiste Simukeka of Rwanda and Jan Margarit of Spain who has won both Comapedrosa Skyrace and Sky Pirineu.
The SkyMasters event begins on Thursday evening where the much-anticipated 2020 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series calendar will be revealed. After this, fans, athletes and organizers, worldwide, can expect a spectacular skyrunning show to round off the 2019 season. Laura Pasquetti adds:
“It is a source of pride and satisfaction to be the first hosts of the SkyMasters. Our association has worked all year to make this the best event yet and now we are ready. We will have the world’s best skyrunners at the starting line, but the normal Limone Skyrace Extreme will also be held in the morning, ensuring we offer an event for everyone, plus the famous Limone end-of-season party. It will be a great weekend of skyrunning for competitors and the public.”
This is one race you don’t want to miss. The SkyMasters will start at on Saturday the 19th of October at 13:00 pm (local time). Tune into the official Skyrunning Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates in the days leading up to the event and during the race.