SIERRE ZINAL 2018: RACE PREVIEW. The Course, the favorites and trail running gear guide by Ida Nilsson (Zegama & Transvulcania winner)

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The Sierre Zinal race is one of the best in the world, due to is long history, scenic views and ever competitive field.  It is a classic sports event held in the Swiss Valais region, linking the towns of Sierre (585m) with Zinal (1685m) by a trail that climbs up to a course summit of 2,425m at Nava, before climbing back down to the finish line. The race thus adds 31km of course for a cumulative vertical climb of 2,000m and a downhill finish of 800m.

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This 2018, Sierre Zinal comes as the third race of the inaugural Golden Trail Series. The field is stacked with names like Kilian Jornet, August 12th be the one in which the 15-year-old men’s course record and 10-year-old women’s course record fall? Check out our race preview here, to see whether we are to history been made this weekend at the race that brings five 4,000-meter peaks into view. We start out with Zegama and Transvulcania winner Ida Nilsson sharing in her gear choice for the race.

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SIERRE ZINAL 2018 (31k / D + 2200m)
A swiss mountain race with 45 editions reaches 4.350 entries

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SIERRE ZINAL, THE COURSE: The route itself is nicely suited for fast and powerful runners as it lacks significant technical stretches, thus giving rise to beautiful standoffs every year between the pure mountain runners with those talents coming from the track or even orienteering. Thus, it is one of the first trail races where we are seeing great African runners striving for victory year after year

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In addition, the Sierre-Zinal allows to enjoy great alpine panoramas, being called “the race of the five four-timbers” since during the tour participants can see the Weisshorn (4 506 m), Zinalrothorn (4 221 m), Ober Gabelhorn 4 073 m), the Matterhorn (4 478 m) and the Dent Blanche (4 357 m).


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The favorites:  One year ago, spaniard Kilian Jornet and Kenyan Lucy Wambui won the 44th edition of the classic Sierre-Zinal, with 4,350 runners enrolled in the race. This mountain race is held in Switzerland over a a 31k/D+2,000m course that stands out for its history, atmosphere and big cash prizes. Kilian achieved his fifth victory, after 2009, 2010 and the most recent ones of 2014-2015.  Kenyan Lucy Wambui won the women´s rce for the second time, with spaniard Laura Orgué coming in sixth.

Kilian Jornet & Lucy Wambiu at Sierre Zinal photo Philippe Reiter

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This 2018, Sierre Zinal comes as the third race of the inaugural Golden Trail Series. As shown on the course info above, it is also the fastest race of the six on the circuit and is what professional trail runners might call “flat”. The Sierre-Zinal race in the Swiss Alps covers 31 kms and features only “only” 2,200 meters of vertical gain from Sierre to Zinal. Could this year’s race on Sunday, August 12th be the one in which the 15-year-old men’s course record and 10-year-old women’s course record fall? With the top-5 current leaders on the men’s and women’s standings of the Golden Trail Series set to toe the starting line, there’s a chance we could see some history at the race that brings five 4,000-meter peaks into view.

On the men’s side, the main attraction will again be Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet. The Catalan is coming off a convincing comeback (from injury) win at the Marathon du Mont Blanc, which he followed with a record-breaking completion of the famous Bob Graham Round in the UK only a week later. He’s won Sierre-Zinal five times, but knows that the shorter distance and quicker pace makes the race a unique challenge.

Kilian Jornet says: “I’m very excited for Sierre-Zinal. This will be my eighth time competing there and the atmosphere is incredible,” Jornet said two weeks before the race. “It has a big history and that motivates me. It’s a meeting of different kinds of runners—people come from athletics, marathon, orienteering, mountain running and skyrunning. So it’s a good mix of different athletes and we compete all together.”

“The course actually doesn’t fit my qualities,” Jornet added. “It’s a very flat race and I struggle on flat running normally, but that’s exciting, too. So the last few weeks I have been trying to train more flattish and trying to improve the speed on that and I’m excited. It will be super interesting. It’s always a high level and this year even more.”

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Jornet will certainly be pushed by veteran trail runner Marco De Gasperi (2nd at Zegama in 2017) of Team Hoka and World Mountain Running Champion Joseph Gray (Pikes Peak winner in 2016 and 4th at Sierre-Zinal in 2015) of Team Nike. Other runners to keep an eye on include Team Scott’s Stephan Wenk (6th in Chamonix, 6th in Zegama) and Team Dynafit’s Oriol Cardona Coll (5th at Zegama) and Pascal Egli (2nd at Ring of Steall in 2017). Team Salomon’s Robbie Simpson of the UK will be running again this year after placing 2nd in 2017 behind Jornet. He was the bronze medallist recently in the road marathon at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Salomon trail running athletes Marc Lauenstein, Thibaut Baronian and Max King should also be heard from. Lauenstein, the Swiss dentist who won Sierre-Zinal in 2013, will be on home soil and has been outstanding in the first two Golden Trail Series races, finishing 4th at Zegama and 2nd to Jornet in Chamonix. Baronian, a Frenchman, finished 4th in Chamonix and could be a real threat in Switzerland. King, who excels over just about any distance, finished 3rd at last year’s Sierre-Zinal, 6th at Zegama this year and won the Broken Arrow Race in the U.S. earlier this year. Aritz Egea Caceres (Team Salomon), who was 5th in Chamonix and 4th in Zegama, is another viable threat. Poland’s Bartlomiej Przedwojewski (Team Salomon), who surprised everyone with his 3rd place finish at Zegama, will also be in the field.

In the women’s race, it should be another great battle between elite runners from varied disciplines. Team Scott’s Ruth Croft (Marathon du Mont Blanc winner) and Team Salomon’s Ida Nilsson (Zegama winner) come in having won the first two races of the Golden Trail Series. Defending Sierre-Zinal champion Lucy Murigi of Kenya and last year’s 2nd place finisher and 2016 winner Michelle Maier (Team Adidas) should also challenge for the podium.

Team Tornado’s Silvia Rampazzo (top-10 at both Zegama and Chamonix), Salomon’s Eli Gordon (3rd in Chamonix, 8th in Zegama), Team Buff’s Sheila Alves (5th at Zegama) and Anne Lise Rousset (4th at Marathon du Mont Blanc) of Team Oxitis Oldo figure to be in the hunt as well.

After finishing 2nd in Zegama, Spain’s Laura Orgue of Team Salomon did not finish the Chamonix due to an injury, but she rebounded with a win at the Dolomyths 22km in Canazei in late July. Megan Kimmel (Team Salomon) will look to solidify her standings in the Golden Trail Series with a strong result after an injury forced her out at Zegama and she faded a bit in Chamonix to finish 5th at the Marathon du Mont Blanc. South Africa’s Meg McKenzie (Team Salomon) ran a great race in Chamonix to finish 8th and comes in standing fifth on the Golden Trail Series overall points ladder as she builds toward the Grand Finale on her home soil at the Otter Trail in October.

THE GOLDEN TRAIL SERIES: The Golden Trail Series combines five of the most iconic “short-distance” trail races on the planet into a dream tour for both athletes and fans. A €100,000 prize pool will be shared equally among the overall top 10 men & women at a Grand Final at the Otter Trail in South Africa in October. Each of the top 10 will travel with a friend or partner of their choice for the trip of a lifetime to compete for their chosen cause or charity.

 

 

GOLDEN TRAIL SERIES STANDINGS (after 2 races)

  • MEN: 1-Stian Angermund-Vik – 166 points; 2-Marc Lauenstein – 160; 3-Thibaut Baronian – 134; 4-Aritz Egea Caceres – 127; 5-Stephan Wenk – 109
  • WOMEN: 1-Ida Nilsson – 188 points; 2-Ruth Croft – 178; 3-Eli Gordon – 137; 4-Silvia Rampazzo – 121; 5-Megan Mackenzie – 103

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SIERRE ZINAL PHOTOGALLERY

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MORE ON SKIMO, TRAIL RUNNING AND MOUNTAIN GEAR

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Info by Mayayo Oxígeno for Trailrunningspain

 

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