Race Preview: Transvulcania by UTMB

Dakota Jones, Meg Mackenzie headline races across La Palma

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On May 4-6, more than 2,200 runners will descend on the Canary Islands for Transvulcania by UTMB. 

The event offers four distinct distances—72K, 48K, 28K and a vertical kilometer—that traverse a portion of the volcanic island of La Palma in the Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa, making it one of the most rugged, technical and remote races in the UTMB World Series. 

The Contenders

Third-place CCC finisher Andreas Reiterer (UTMB index 912) is toeing the line at the 100K, and is a favorite in the elite field after a win at the 42K Istria by UTMB race earlier this season. Chinese athlete Yanqiao Yun (UTMB Index 902) is also a strong contender, with a victory at Val D’Aran 55K, and Puerto Vallarta Mexico by UTMB 93K. Frenchman Germain Grangier (UTMB Index 880) has finished in the top 10 at UTMB Chamonix several times, and has laid down a strong winter base of training with huge training volume on skis. American ultrarunner Dakota Jones (UTMB Index 889) returns to La Palma 11 years after he won the 2012 100K race at just 21 years old, beating Kilian Jornet after a near-sprint finish. 

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“This has been a busy winter for me and my running has been inconsistent through a lot of it, but I’ve been training quite well the last few weeks and I’m really looking forward to going back to a race I’ve done three times before in such a unique place,” Jones said Jones in an Instagram post. “It’s always competitive and I’ll do my best, but it feels more like an opportunity to see a lot of old friends. Crazy to think the first time I went to La Palma was 2012. I’m grateful to have the health and strength to still run hard over a decade later! Now I just need to motivate for the last few hard runs.”

The women’s race is also competitive, with South African athlete Meg Mackenzie (UTMB Index 716) toeing the line in the 100k. 

“I have been obsessed with this race for years, since about 2013 when I started racing on the trails,” Mackenzie said. “I thought I had the chance to do it in 2020 and then we all went through the pandemic, then the volcano happened on the island in 2021 and then last year I had to drop out due to injury, so I am finally back on the magical trail and ready to run this dream race. I am counting myself lucky and grateful to be here, healthy and happy along with Martina Valmassoi for some island goodness.”

Spanish runner Sheila Avilés Castańo (UTMB Index 77) will also traverse the Island of La Palma after her dominating win at last year’s UTMB OCC race in Chamonix. 

The top three athletes from each race will receive automatic entry into the corresponding UTMB World Series Finals event (OCC, CCC, UTMB) and all finishers will receive stones corresponding with their event distance. 

The Transvulcania Course

Transvulcania has four race events, with the most popular being its longest efforts: the 72K Ultra (44.7 miles) and 48K Volcanes (29.8 miles). Both start from the southern tip of the island at Faro de Fuencaliente (a lighthouse), then trek north and include a trip to Roque de Los Muchachos, a 7,800-foot ascent to the highest point on the island. This is part of 15,000 feet and 9,300 feet of ascents, respectively, for both events. After the big climb, a descent follows to the finish in the Plaza de España in Los Llanos de Aridane. The only difference is that the Ultra adds a trip to the Tazacorte beach on the west coast before heading back inland to the finish. The Volcanes course simply descends straight into Los Llanos de Aridane.

For those looking for shorter distances and less climbing, the El Roque 28K (17.3 miles) starts from the highest point on the island (Roque de Los Muchachos) and is almost entirely downhill from start to finish. In total, it’s a 7,800-foot descent all the way down to sea level as you venture through La Caldera de Taburiente or the beach of Tazacorte, with the imposing Bejenado peak covered in pine forests as a backdrop. There is also the Vertical Challenge, which is a 1.5K (0.9 miles) from Playa del Puerto de Tazacorte beach straight up the cliff face of El Time to the Mirador de la Punta. It’s an unforgettable view at the top.

RELATED: How To Use Hill Intervals For Stronger Climbing

Where to Stay/What to See

The Canary Islands have countless treasures and La Palma is no different. A 706-square-kilometer biosphere reserve, the island has plenty of options among its many towns. The highest concentration of hotels are located in the town of Los Cancajos and Santa Cruz (the island’s capital). But there is also a network of holiday homes and small houses, many with small gardens, available for rent. Other recommended places near the start and finish line are Llanos de Aridane, Tazacorte, Fuencaliente, Tijarafe, El Paso, Puntagorda, Breña Alta, and Breña Baja.

Hiking, mountain biking, diving, paragliding and a variety of boat trips are among the countless other adventures available on the island. Visitors can consider hiking in Caldera de Taburiente National Park, visiting the observatory with 13 telescopes near the summit of 7,949-foot Roque de los Muchachos (the highest point on the island), taking the trekking tour to the new volcano (which erupted September 2021) at the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge, and stopping in the beautiful capital of Santa Cruz on the east coast and the Tazacorte beach on the west coast. 

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