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Dakota Jones, Martina Valmassoi win Transvulcania by UTMB

Dakota Jones replicates the first international victory he earned on La Palma in 2012

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A lot has happened in Dakota Jones’ life over the past 11 years. But one thing has remained the same is his fondness for running fast over the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Jones won the Transvulcania by UTMB 72K on May 6, covering the 44.7-mile course with 14,000 feet of vertical gain in 7:02:16. He won the race in 2012 as a 22-year-old when he outran a young Kilian Jornet in the first international win of his career.

The race started on the southern tip of the island at Faro de Fuencaliente (a lighthouse), then sent runners north to Roque de Los Muchachos, a 7,800-foot ascent to the island’s highest point. This time around, Jones outran Frenchman Damien Humbert (7:10:16) over the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge and gapped him on the 15K downhill to Tazacorte beach and on the final 11K uphill segment into the village of Plaza de España.

Italy’s Andreas Reiterer was third in 7:17:26, while Americans Jeff Mogavero (7:32:55), Tim Tollefson (7:39:22) and Stephen Kersh (8:10:44) finished seventh, eighth and 12th, respectively.

Jones, who runs for NNormal, was greeted by a hero’s welcome in the festive city center and then thanked the crowd speaking entirely in Spanish, acknowledging how the local people and businesses had suffered a lot in recent years because of the impacts of COVID-21 in 2020 and a devastating volcanic eruption in 2021. 

“I came here 11 years ago and it was an incredible surprise to win and feel like I was a part of the community instantly,” Jones said after the race. “And it’s amazing to be able to come back and have the same experience. And, you know, I know that everybody in La Palma has suffered so much, so when I was struggling up on the mountain, I was thinking of everybody in La Palma, and I found so much more strength just because, I mean, they all overcame so much more than running across a mountain. And so I thought, ‘Hey, I can keep going. And it was just, I just feel so grateful to be here.’”

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Martina Valmassoi, an Italian runner and ski-mo racer who lives in Chamonix, was in second place on the climb up to the volcano, but used her downhill running prowess to catch and pass Poland’s Edyta Lewandowska and win the women’s title in 9:09:13. Lewandowska finished in 9:21:40, while South African runner Meg Mackenzie was third in 9:28:06. American Michelle Buncke was the fifth women’s finisher.

The top three finishers in the 72K race earned entries to the CCC 100K race at the UTMB World Series Finals on September 1 from Courmayeur, Italy, to Chamonix, France, although the UTMB race organization announced recently that athletes who qualify in a 100K can petition to enter the UTMB 171K race in Chamonix. 

Valmassoi, 33, who runs for Salomon, won the TDS 145K race last year in Chamonix, but she was battling injuries early in the winter and only competed in a few skimo races in late winter before transitioning back to running.

“I don’t know what to say. I would have never expected this,” said Valmassoi, who finished 31st overall. “I haven’t been training much, but I woke up today extremely motivated and wanted to really race hard. Honestly, though, I started without pushing much on the uphill, but when I got to the top, I was able to keep going and then I was really fast running downhill.” 

Jones, who is running the Western States 100 for the first time this year in late June, was coming off a sixth-place finish at the Gorge Waterfalls 50K on April 2 in Oregon. He’s spent the past several years immersed in studies at Montana State and starting Footprints Running, an incubator for collective climate action, but he continued to be one of the best ultra-distance trail runners in the world into his early 30s.

“The best thing about trail running is that every experience is different. No race is the same and even the same race is different year after year,” Jones said. “I’m in a very different place in my life now. I was just kind of starting in the sport back when I first came here in 2012. And now I feel like I’ve been in the sport for 15 years or something and, and I’ve started to kind of take a new role in the sport. I see that what makes this sport so special doesn’t happen by accident. And for me, what I want to do is try to protect these communities, try to promote the right values in the sport, and protect the environment as we experience the environment.” 

More than 1,700 runners competed in the four races of the Transvulcania by UTMB festival.  In the 48K race, which had 9,400 feet of elevation change, Spain’s Dimas Pereira Obaya won the men’s race, while South Africa’s Toni McCann was the women’s winner and sixth overall in 4:49:23. Sophia Gorman was the highest American finisher in the 48K race, placing fifth among women and 15th overall in 5:24:16.

Spain’s Josep Miret (2:08:03) and Leire Fernandez Abete (2:35:43) were the winners of the mostly downhill 26K race from the top of the volcanic ridge, while France’s Fleury Roux (8:36) and Spain’s Moana Lilly Kehres won the 1.2K Vertical Challenge with 912 feet of vertical gain.

For complete results and video highlights, go to the Transvulcania by UTMB event page

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