On behalf of Fast Running former elite runner turned journalist (only kidding) Ross Gollan travelled to the Dolomites to further extend his knowledge of Italian racing.
The Primiero Dolomiti Trail Silver Label World Cup took place recently in the picturesque town of Fiera di Primiero in the heart of the Italian Dolomites. A stellar field of international athletes took to the start line for what was a fast and furious circuit up and around the mountain overlooking the town centre.
A strong contingent of British athletes made the trip across, all looking forward to experiencing mountain running in its purest form.
The course started in the picturesque town centre, meandering through narrow cobbled streets before a sharp turn took the race onto a winding forest trail with a consistently steep gradient that would test even the strongest climbing legs.
The climb was preceded by a rolling balcony trail with views over the valley below. A steep descent with a mixture of trail, road and cobbles took the race back into town where athletes could duel it out for top honours under the imposing Church of San Martino.
The race consisted of three laps of 3.4km with 230m of elevation gain for a total race distance of 10.2km with 690m of elevation gain, a stern test of fitness indeed!
A who’s who of mountain running on the start-list
Standout international names in the women’s field included fan favourite Lucy Muirigi from Kenya and Finland’s all star mountain athlete Susanna Saapunki.
Liam Mierow and Remi Leroux from the USA and Canada headlined the men’s field along with an extremely strong squad from the Azzurri that included recent Italian Uphill Champion Henri Aymonod and former European Mountain Running champion Xavier Chevrier.
Sara Wilhoit, Caroline Lambert and Chloe Leather made up a strong English trio in the women’s field with Harry Holmes, Fergus Wood and Ian Conroy representing England, Scotland and Ireland respectively in the men’s race.
The stage was set for one of the most exciting races of the 2023 Valsir World Mountain Running Cup. Unseasonably warm and dry conditions greeted runners on race morning but that didn’t discourage the competitors who set a hot pace from the gun.
And they’re off…
In the women’s race Susanna stretched the field on the first climb before extending her lead to win by a margin of 1:33 over Lucy Murigi and Sara Wilhoit who produced a strong final surge to claim the final spot on the podium and continue her stellar mountain running season. Caroline Lambert and Chloe Leather rounded out the top 10 with excellent runs for 9th and 10th respectively.
In the men’s race Xavier Chevrier came out on top ahead of a fast finishing Remi Leroux and uphill champion Henri Aymonod. The British and Irish contingent ran well in a stellar field to finish as follows; Ross Gollan 12th, Ian Conroy 14th. Harry Holmes 16th and Fergus Wood 18th.
Just like a British fell race with no bogs
Sara Wilhoit gave Fast Running a brief rundown of her fantastic third place finish. “The race was great and I can highly recommend it. The profile was similar to a British fell race but with lovely weather, no bogs or midges and a stunning backdrop (the British fells are nice, but this is the Dolomites!).
I aimed for even splits with a consistent effort throughout. The first lap had a lot of position changes. At the beginning of the second lap I was in 5th but moved into 4th on the steep climb. From here I pushed on and caught 3rd as we crested the top of the climb. A sprint finish saw me miss out on 2nd by only a few seconds.
Ian Conroy, a stalwart of the Irish Mountain Running scene had this to say about his race experience. “The Primiero Dolomiti Trail is an instant classic. Many years ago my first experience of international mountain running was in the North of Italy and this was a welcome return to very similar racing and surroundings. With the stunning backdrop of the Dolomites and the crisp mountain air it was a breathtaking experience once again, full gas from gun to tape.”
The British and Irish contingent would like to extend a big thank you to the race organisation for their warm hospitality and a fantastic race that celebrated the tradition of mountain running in Italy.
A full replay of the race with commentary is available through the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUxVo3DHP3Y with results and information on race dates for next year available here www.primierodolomitimarathon.it