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Ten Men to Watch at the WMTRC

Who will be the movers-and-shakers in Thailand this weekend? Here are 10 men we think will be in the mix.

The defending champion, past medallists, up and comers; with the world's best gathered in Chiang Mai for the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships, we're all set for a fantastic weekend of racing. The Uphill race, 8.5km with 1,065m of ascent, is the championship's curtain-raiser, taking place on Friday, while the Up and Down, 10.7km with 475m of climb and descent, is the finale, taking place on Sunday.

Here are 10 of the men we think could be fighting it out at the pointy end this weekend. Now watch as all the medals are won by athletes we've left out. . .

Joel Ayeko – Uganda Classic Up and Down

Junior World Champion in 2016, Ayeko has taken silver twice as a senior, in 2017 and 2018. On both occassions he was second to one of his teammates though he did cross the line in 2018 more or less in step with Robert Chemonges. Ayeko came out on top in the Ugandan trial race in early October and will be looking to come in ahead of his teammates in Chiang Mai. Will that be enough to finally earn him a senior Gold medal?

SMLJoe Gray Damiano BenedettiJoe Gray – USA Uphill and Classic Up and Down

What needs to be said about Joe Gray? He is the defending champion, one of only 2 people to have won both Uphill and Up and Down championships and has too many national titles to count. Always a top performer, Gray seems to find something extra when he's racing for his country, as his win at Challenge Stellina in August demonstrates.

Sylvain Cachard – France Classic Up and Down

Cachard only raced once at the European Championships, a decision that paid off in style; he ran a race brimming with confidence to take the Up and Down title ahead of Maestri. Recent results haven't been as impressive, 8th at both Pike Peak Ascent and Flakstaff Sky Peaks, but if he gets his timing right and peaks for Chiang Mai he'll be a medal contender.

Javier Carriqueo – Argentina Classic Up and Down

Carriqueo has had a long and successful career in road and cross country, winning national and continental titles and representing Argentina at the 2012 Olympics. He's turned his attention to the mountains with great success, winning the South American Up and Down title in San Juan in August. After multiple 11th place finishes, the Argentinian men finally cracked the World Champs top 10 on home soil in 2019, Carriqueo will lead the charge to hang on to that position.

Miquel Corbera – Spain Uphill and Classic Up and Down

SMLPatrick Kipngeno Marco GulbertiCorbera out-sprinted Hanna to take 4th at the Euro Champs Uphill, then followed that result up with an 8th place in the Up and Down race 2 days later. Corbera is part of a very strong Spanish contingent which also features Sierre-Zinal winner Andreu Blanes (Up and Down) and 2019 Long Distance medalist Oriol Cardona (both races). Look for them to feature in the team competition.

Maximilien Drion du Chapois - Belgium Uphill and Classic Up and Down

The surprise package at the European Championships, Drion, timed his race perfectly to take the Short Trail title. Moving down to the shorter distances in Thailand, he will be a marked man this time around.

Zak Hanna – Ireland Uphill

Already an established contender, it's been a breakthrough year for Hanna. He came within seconds of a medal when he finished 5th at the European Championships Uphill and has had 3 Valsir World Cup podium finishes, finishing 3rd in the series overall. Only 35th in Argentina, he'll be looking to improve significantly in Chiang Mai.

Patrick Kipngeno – Kenya Uphill and Classic Up and Down

The revelation of the 2022 mountain running season, Kipngeno has been nearly unstoppable. Six Gold Label wins on the Valsir World Cup with further victories at Dolomitenmann and a tremendously impressive record-breaking victory at Thyon-Dixence. If he comes into these championships on top form he will be very hard to beat.

SMLCesare Maestri Marco GulbertiCesare Maestri – Italy Uphill and Classic Up and Down

Maestri is a consumate championship performer. Before this year he had 6 top 10s and 2 silver medals in European and World Championships. Then in July he had his breakthrough; gold in the European Championships Uphill, with silver in the Up and Down for good measure. A win at Drei Zinnen in September may indicate that he is ready to bring his best championship form to Thailand.

Chris Richards – G.B. & N.I. Uphill and Classic Up and Down

There's a big performance coming for Chris Richards. He had a stinker at the Euro Champs uphill, coming in 17th, he came back to finish 7th in the Up and Down. Since then he's had podium places against international competition at Fletta Trail and Challenge Stellina, and more recently was a class apart at the British Fell and Hill Relays.

As ever with Championship racing, suprises are near enough guaranteed! Who is flying under the radar, waiting in the wings to upset the favourites?

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Photos by Corsa in Montagna.