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Sporting legs like tree trunks (the cliché works here) and a frequent smile, Pau Capell, 28, of Spain set a blistering pace right from the UTMB start, running through the streets of Chamonix, France, at six-and-a-half-minute pace before beginning the race’s relentless, often highly technical ups and downs. His pace never wavered.
Since the UTMB course varies from year to year, diverted from the “regular” route according to weather conditions, it’s hard to say what is the exact course record. However, UTMB live announcers lauded Capell’s time and performance as one of the all-time best. Yesterday (the race began at 6 p.m. Friday) and today, the weather was mostly clear and sunny. The heat presented challenges for some runners, but Capell appeared unfazed.
Beginning and ending in Chamonix, France, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc—more commonly referred to as UTMB—runs around the tallest peak (15,777 feet) in western Europe, gaining and losing 33,000-plus vertical feet. Started in 2003, the UTMB is a spectacle like none other in our sport, a week-long festival of ultra races that accommodates over 10,000 runners from 100 countries and culminates with the marquis event. It is, indeed, the Tour de France of trail running (check out the addicting UTMB live coverage; Tour de France fans beware!).
The local favorite was the Frenchman Xavier Thevenard, a three-time winner of the race who was gunning for an unprecedented fourth win. While running strong and confident, in second for virtually the entire race, he came in, for him, a disappointing 49 minutes behind Capell.
In the women’s race, recent phenom Courtney Dauwalter of Colorado has led from about the halfway mark and should take the win, barring any unforeseen issues. Americans Katie Schide and two-time UTMB winner Rory Bosio were in the top 10 as of this writing.