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Canadian former pro cyclist Christian Meier wins TDS at UTMB

This is Meier's second win this season

TDS Utmb 2023 podium christian meier

A Canadian athlete, former pro cyclist Christian Meier, has won the TDS, the 150-km mountain race with 9,315 metres of elevation gain at UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) that takes place in the lead-up to the main event, a 100-miler around the base of Mont Blanc. His time was 19 hours, 36 minutes, 35 seconds. This is the first time a Canadian has ever won one of the races leading up to UTMB.

TDS, which stands for “Sur les traces des ducs de Savoie” (in the footsteps of the Dukes of Savoy), the race takes runners from Courmayeur in northern Italy’s Aosta Valley to the Savoie, through the villages scattered among the foothills of Mont-Blanc and ending, like all of this week’s UTMB races, in Chamonix. 1,649 runners started Monday, and the race has a cutoff time of 44 hours. (At the time of publishing, the race was only 21 hours in, and only eight runners had finished, all of them men.) Simen Hjalmar Wästlund of Sweden finished second, in 19:57:41, and Yannick Noël of France was third, in 20:18:02.

Meier, who is from Sussex, N.B. but lives in Girona, Spain, is making a name for himself on the trail-running scene, after a successful cycling career (he competed in the 2014 Tour de France as part of the Orica team). In June, he entered the 50K event at Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB at the last minute when a friend had to bail, and won. And earlier this year, he represented Canada in the 85-km men’s long trail event at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria. Placing 53rd among 122 finishers at Worlds, Meier wrote that “while it seems it ended poorly … I take so many positives from this race. I felt maybe my strongest yet as a runner. I have trust in my process.”

He told Canadian Running what his TDS win means to him: “I can say that it was very rough conditions, with snow at the top, and I could tell some of the other runners were really struggling through the freezing rain and wind. As a cyclist though, and perhaps being Canadian, I am OK with the cold, so I think that helped me out a bit.

Photo: Gabriele Facciotti/UTMB

“Crossing the finish line was an experience I will never forget. Being a cyclist, very rarely was I the one to cross the line and throw my hands up–that honour would go to the sprinters, so it was very special to be able to celebrate with everyone who has supported me, at that finish line.

“Eating constantly was very important. I had a very laid-out nutrition plan for the whole race, and stuck to it. I was lucky to have a good stomach, so I was very fortunate.”

Two years ago, tragedy struck TDS, with a runner from the Czech Republic falling to his death about 60 km into the race, which starts mid-afternoon, meaning runners must cope with darkness, and potentially cold and wet conditions, not to mention long ascents at altitude. The race was stopped, and hundreds of runners were forced to wait on the mountain near Passeur de Pralognan, the site of the accident, before being able to descend to safety. It was the first death recorded at any of the UTMB races in Chamonix; hopefully it will be the last.

Meier’s win at TDS bodes well for the other big-name competitors lining up at the various races in Chamonix this week, including 2022 second-place UTMB finisher and dual citizen Mathieu Blanchard (UTMB) (who was third in 2021), course record holder Courtney Dauwalter and mutliple Western States winner and course record holder Jim Walmsley; Kilian Jornet will not race due to injury.

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