British ultra-runner says training has been specifically geared toward this week’s big event since winning the Western States in June
For a week towards the end of August or early September every year, the French mountain resort of Chamonix becomes a global trail running hub as runners congregate from all over the world to compete in the the annual Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) races.
While opinions among runners continue to be divided on the influence and growing global outreach of the UTMB operation, what cannot be denied is that some of the world’s best are in Chamonix this week.
This week seven races are being held based around the Chamonix area, the blue riband of which is the UTMB over 171km (105 miles) with 9963m of climbing. The route circles Mont Blanc from Chamonix, France, through Italy and Switzerland, before finishing back in Chamonix with the race starting at 6pm on Friday September 1.
Main UTMB contenders
Eleven of the last 14 UTMB races have been won by three runners – Spain’s Kilian Jornet, Frenchman Francois D’Haene and Xavier Thevenard. None of them are on the start line this year. However, the men’s race does feature nine of last year’s top 10 as well as several up and coming athletes, leaving the race wide open for a new name to top the podium.
Second and third place finishers from 2022 – Matthieu Blanchard of France and Britain’s Tom Evans – both return. Evans is in good form with a win at Western States 100 in June, with Blanchard sixth at that event. But it remains to be seen who has recovered well and regrouped best to cope with the more technically demanding UTMB climbs.
Evans has been posting that specificity in his recent training has been geared towards dealing with the longer climbs.
Speaking to AW from Chamonix he said: “The specificity has been really important. It’s been about getting really strong and sharpening up my skills using poles, especially on the long climbs, as that is where you can make up or lose time at UTMB.”
Asked how he planned to run the race, whether going with whoever sets the pace or running his own race, he replied: “This year it’s going to be more about running your own race. I am super comfortable with the splits I have run.
“Things could also be very weather dependant but I think around 20 hours or 20:15 is what it could take to win this year, if conditions are good. My plan is to go out at a hard but sustainable pace.”
Evans added: “I…