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Mathys and Jornet Triumph Again At Sierre-Zinal

As far as our mountain running goes, by anybody’s metrics Sierre-Zinal is among the most revered races in the world. In terms of the competition it attracts each year, there’s no doubt about the quality and depth of the field. This year was no different. We had an 8-time winner (Kilian Jornet), a 3-time winner (Lucy Murigi), both record holders (Maude Mathys and Kilian), and both leaders of the current world rankings (Murigi and Henri Aymonod). Throw in a huge number of men and women who regularly appear on podiums for mountain and trail races all over the world every week and the race was definitely on.

 Conditions were somewhat cooler than we see some years, so we knew we could be on for a fast time. Another early indicator was that the camera operators weren’t able to stay in touch with the leading men or women on the first climb, so we quickly lost visuals on the faster runners! The race set the women off 15 minutes ahead of the men and this meant that we got to see the women on the start line, the coverage throughout the race was equal, and crucially the first few women and men 51362861703 53901653f6 carrived at the finish line at roughly the same time, again leading to equal coverage.

It wasn’t until the first timing point at Ponchette, at around 7.5k, that we found out who was leading both races. It was no surprise to see defending champion Maude Mathys (SUI) emerge first, but it was something of a surprise to see Nienke Brinkman (NED) in second place. But her recent win at the Zermatt Marathon showed her class, even if she wasn’t among the known pre-race favourites here. Anais Sabrie (FRA) was next to reach Ponchette, completing the women’s top three.

51362641936 908da29162 wIn the early stages of the men’s race Kilian was biding his time, sitting in behind Remi Bonnet (SUI) and Petro Mamu (ERI) on the first climb. By the time they reached Ponchette Mamu, Kilian and Bonnet had struck out and were all together and this continued to Chandolin (12km). At this point Kilian decided that he was going to have to put some distance between himself and Mamu, so he dropped the hammer. In true Kilian style, even while hammering it downhill he was still smiling and chatting with the ebike riders manning the video cameras. He succeeded in striking out alone, opening a small gap, and Mamu was left in his wake, falling back a few places.

Meanwhile, in the women’s race Mathys maintained a small lead of just over a minute at Chandolin, while Brinkman continued to chase and maintain a good gap of 4 minutes on third-placed Sabrie. Behind Sabrie, Blandine L’Hirondel (FRA) was about a minute behind.

Behind Kilian the men’s race was definitely a race of two halves. Bonnet had fallen off the pace a little and our Grossglockner Berglauf winner, Lengen Lolkurraru (KEN), was now chasing Kilian hard in second. Thibault Baronian (FRA) and Cesare Maestri (ITA) were lurking in fourth and fifth place, within striking distance of the podium places and Robbie Simpson (GBR), who has three second place finishes to his name here, had moved up to seventh.

51363653010 8f4daa3670 cMathys continued to push hard and was absolutely dominating the women’s race. She laid down an unbelievably fast 1.55 split at Hotel Weisshorn, giving her a four minute lead over Nienke Brinkman. Sabrie was now five minutes behind Brinkman, but as the commentators kept telling us on the live coverage, both Brinkman and Sabrie may be faster on the descent than Mathys, so that last 7k of downhill could still make all the difference!

By the next timing point in Barneuza, which is at 26k and well into the start of the descent it was all happening in the men’s race. Kilian was still in the lead and he now had about 90 seconds on second-placed Lolkurraru, but now Simpson was just behind in third and Maestri was on his heels. The men’s race was all coming down to who was the best descender and who had the legs when they hit the concrete.

The same was true in the women’s race. Mathys was taking the steep switchbacks carefully and Brinkman was gaining a little, but the gap was just too big and Mathys hit the finishing straight over three minutes ahead, with so much buffer that she decided to walk some of the final metres on her hands! It was a third victory in a row for Mathys, who looked elated.

51361884327 bb3bce720b wShortly afterwards Kilian rounded the corner to take his ninth victory! It was a great touch that he was greeted by Mathys and they could celebrate together. Just 42 seconds after Kilian, Simpson claimed second place in the men’s race, his fourth runner-up spot here, but he proclaimed it his “best second” in his post-race interview. Brinkman claimed a huge second place in the women’s race too. A fantastic result and we’re excited about seeing her in more mountain races in the future. Sabrie and Maestri completed the men’s and women’s podiums.

 Top 5 women

  1. Maude Mathys (SUI) 2.46.03
  2. Nienke Brinkman (NED) 2.48.58
  3. Anais Sabrie (FRA) 2.55.23
  4. Blandine L’Hirondel (FRA) 2.59.08
  5. Kwamboka Omosa Teresiah (KEN) 2.59.28

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Top 5 men

  1. Kilian Jornet (SPA) 2.31.44
  2. Robbie Simpson (GBR) 2.32.26
  3. Cesare Maestri (ITA) 2.33.51
  4. Lengen Lolkurraru (KEN) 2.34.28
  5. Davide Magnini (ITA) 2.34.38

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See full results at: https://www.datasport.com/live/ranking?racenr=23138&kat=11

Next stop for the World Cup is Krkonossky Half Marathon on August 15th in the Czech Republic. Find more information here: http://krkonosskypulmaraton.maratonstav.cz/krkonossky-pulmaraton-eng/

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