La Montee du Nid d’Aigle was a highly anticipated race and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Kirsty Reade takes us through the action.
With its race hub in beautiful Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains, in the Haute-Savoie region of France, we knew it would provide a stunning setting, but pull this together with a tough course and a field of top runners and you have all the ingredients of a really fantastic mountain running race.
Blue skies greeted the runners at the start, with a few whispy clouds higher up in the mountains. Conditions were hot for the athletes, particularly on the exposed parts of the course.
And let’s not forget that this race is 19.5km of relentless, uphill-only running. No respite, nowhere to hide. This is mountain running.
The only way is up
The route would take the runners from the start at Le Fayet along the river towards St Gervais, and then to La Villette, climbing gradually. From here it heads away from the road and into the trees and begins to climb more steeply and it continues to climb relentlessly all the way up to the finish at Refuge du Nid d’Aigle at 2394m.
The final section gets steeper still, so when there’s nothing left in your legs, you still have to find that extra push.
With deep fields in both the men’s and women’s races, both podiums were wide open. Runners like Lucy Murigi (KEN), Henri Aymonod (ITA), Susanna Saapunki (FIN), Sandor Szabo (HUN) and Lucie Marsanova (CZE) had raced at Grossglockner just last weekend. Would they have recovered fully? Similarly, Francesco Puppi (ITA) and Anais Sabrie (FRA) had done well in a very competitive Mont Blanc Marathon just two weeks before.
Stretch the legs for the first couple of miles
As expected, the flatter first few kilometres of the race were fast and furious and before too long gaps had opened for the men and women.
Lucy Murigi had struck out into a lead over Anais Sabrie (FRA) and Christel Dewalle (FRA) and Xavrier Chevrier (ITA) and Francesco Puppi had made a break for it, but they were hotly pursued by a group including Julien Rancon (FRA), Alexandre Fine (FRA) and Henri Aymonod.
The men’s race remained close but Chevrier pulled away from Puppi, and the chasing runners jostled for that third place. Murigi managed to secure a good lead, but could she keep it?
Down to the line
It was all very close in the final stages. Chevrier took the win in the men’s race in 1.44.25 (a new course record), followed by Puppi, just over one minute behind (1.45.49).
Aymonod completed the all Italian men’s podium in 1.46.44. Julien Rancon was fourth in 1.48.43 and Remi Lonchampt rounded out the top 5 in 1.50.18.
Dewalle, who is a 10 time French VK champion and excels on the steeper climbs, chased Murigi hard on the final climb, but she just couldn’t catch her.
Murigi won in 2.06.08 (agonisingly, just 2 seconds outside the course record), with Dewalle just 21 seconds behind and Anais Sabrie was just a minute behind in 2.07.34. Mathilde Sagnes (FRA) was fourth in 2.08.37 and Simone Troxler fifth in 2.10.43. All in all a very close top 5, all within 4.5 minutes.
1st Xavrier Chevrier (ITA) 1.44.25
2nd Francesco Puppi (ITA) 1.45.49
3rd Henri Aymonod (ITA) 1.46.44
1st Lucy Murigi (KEN) 2.06.08
2nd Christel Dewalle (FRA) 2.06.29
3rd Anais Sabrie (FRA) 2.07.34
Next stop for the World Cup, Tatra SkyMarathon on Saturday 24th July, our next long mountain race.