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Find out what you missed at the weekends Salomon Ultra Pirineu, where elite racers turned out en masse for the final race of this years Skyrunning series.
The Ultra Pirineu, powered by Salomon breezed into the sleepy mountain town of Bagá in the Spanish Pyrenees over the weekend, setting it alight with an ultra running festival of colour, camaraderie, nature and of course some awe-inspiring racing.
In a sport where ordinary people like you and I can take to the same start line as the elites, you know it’s going to be something special.
Thousands of runners scuttled in to compete in one of three events over the weekend; the gruelling VK Nit Pirineu, the Salomon Pirineu Marathon and the Salomon Ultra Pirineu. The races finished off what was a spectacular season in the Skyrunner series.
The weekend kicked off on Friday night with the awesome nighttime vertical kilometre race Nit Pirineu. A race with 860m of positive gain covering a distance of 5km between La Molina ski station cable-car area and the mountain shelter Niu de l’Àliga. You are left shaking your head in disbelief as you follow the race skywards in a cable car, watching below as the head torches bob and weave up the mountain below you. The young Salomon athlete Jan Margarit was first to finish the ‘fun run’ and Clàudia Sabata was the first woman across the line.
But the real showstopper didn’t begin until early Saturday morning when fans climbed their way up through the old cobbled streets of Bellver de Cerdanya, where blanketed in fog, participants of the marathon took to the start line. Amongst them, the ultrarunning legend that is Kilian Jornet. The Catalan returned home to tough it out on the trails of his youth and assert his dominance on the 45 km high-altitude mountain endurance run with 2400m of positive elevation gain.
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His excitement before the race was palpable: “I feel very excited about it, the race actually passes five metres from the school I went to and where my mother is living, so it’s really cool to be running on the trails I grew up on and whatever the result, it’s a nice way to finish the season.”
The 29-year old did not disappoint the crowds who turned out in droves to watch him race. Jornet and Nicolas Martin had a blistering battle out on the trails, but in the end, Kilian took his crown winning by mere seconds with a time of 03:44:28 to Nicolas Martin’s 03:44:54. Nepal’s Bhim Bahadur took third with a time of 03:46:52.
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Kiwi runner Ruth Croft took the win out of the women with a time of 04:19:10, passing Spanish ultrarunner Laura Orgue who took second place (04:25:17). Followed by the up and coming Greek runner Glykeria Tziatzia who took third with a time of 04:32:08.
Hours later, fans returned to the streets to see the superhumans taking part in the ultra distance drag their weary legs across the finish line after surviving the Salomon Ultra Pirineu, a 110km mountain run with 6.800m positive gain.
Pablo Villa won the gruelling ultra in 12:30:19, followed closely behind by Dimitry Mitayeav (12:33:46) and Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz (12:44:15). Maite Maiora took first place amongst the females in a time of 14:22:19, followed by Núria Picas (14:41:45) and Ekaterina Mityaeva (15:41:17) in third.
As the season winds down for another year, it’s time for the elites to head off into the hills to unwind, relax and get psyched for next year.
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By Orla O'Muiri
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