UTMB, which begins in Chamonix in the French Alps this Friday, may be the most prestigious trail ultramarathon in the world. It’s a combination of the region’s unparalleled beauty, the sheer drama of the event, the 171K of forbidding terrain, shockingly difficult elevation changes and unpredictable weather, and media attention to rival the Tour de France.
Alissa St. Laurent is the only Canadian competing at UTMB 2019. The Edmonton native has been sixth at UTMB before and is coming off a great race at the Silverton 100K in early August. There, Laurent broke the previous women’s course record on a newer and tougher course, which included 4,500 metres of elevation gain. In the rain, thunder, and lightning, St Laurent crossed the finish line in 13 hours and nine seconds–30 minutes in front of the second-place runner and over four hours in front of the third female finisher.
Laurent could easily find herself in the top ten this weekend, if not in the top five.
The international contenders
In the men’s race, the three big names are: Xavier Thévenard, Robert Hajnal and Tim Tollefson. Thévenard is the 2018 champion, and has won the race in 2013 and 2015. No man has ever won UTMB four times, so Thévenard could make history this weekend.
Hajnal was the 2018 runner up. The runner’s 2018 result was his first time in the top three at UTMB and his first major international victory–hopefully he’ll build on the momentum he built in 2019 this weekend. Tollefson is on a quest to be the first American ever to win UTMB. Tollefson has finished third twice at UTMB but was one of the many dropouts of the 2018 event. This weekend’s event could see redemption for the American.
In the women’s race (outside of St. Laurent) you’ll likely be following Courtney Dauwalter, Francesca Canepa and Uxue Fraile. Dauwalter was the 2018 Western States champion, but unfortunately dropped at the halfway mark of the 2019 event. Dauwalter’s most remarkable 2019 result thus far has been a win at the Tarawera Ultramarathons 100K.
Canepa was the unexpected 2018 UTMB winner, and with her course knowledge and race experience, she’s not to be underestimated in 2019. Fraile has three podium finishes to her name from 2015, 2016 and 2018. She’s never won, but has come within striking distance so many times that 2019 could be her year.
The 171K race gets underway on Friday at 6 p.m. local time, or noon in Ontario. The men’s winner is expected around 20 hours later–early morning in Ontario.
The live results
The live feed and live results can be found on UTMB’s website.