Today, at 11 am, the 7th GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run, one of the most spectacular trail running events in the global race circuit, will kick off in Oberstdorf, Germany, right in front of Oberstdorf Haus. More than 250 two-person teams will tackle the challenge of mastering a total of 273.73 km and 15,436 meters of cumulative ascent from Germany to Latsch in Italy by feet.
The favorites in the field of athletes representing more than 30 different countries, including rare ones like Honduras, Cuba, New Zealand, South Africa and Venezuela, are the few pro and semi-pro duos.
In year one after Tom Owens/Andrew Symoand – the two Brits had been dominating the last two years winning in impressive manner – there is one British and one French-German team with great chances of winning the 2011 Transalpine-Run.
Contender 1 might be Joseph Symonds. Andrew's two years younger but not less talented brother will enter the eight-day-long race with Lennox Jethro, a several-time Scottish Athletic Hill Running Champion, as Team Inov-8 Goretex Footwear.
There main rivals would be Julien Chorier of France and his Team Salomon International mate Philipp Reiter. At 20 years of age, the Bad Reichenhall resident must be the best trail running talent in Germany at this time as he has claimed several noteworthy victories in his Vertical race career so far such as the second rank at the inaugural Salomon 4-Trails. 30-years-old Chorier secured victory at this year's Hardrock Hundred Endurance Race as well as the Ultra-Technitrail de Tiranges. In addition, the father of two placed second at he Signes Trail Méounes-Belgentiere.
But there are even more teams with high hopes for a podium finish like Thomas Geisenberger and Tobias Brack from Team TSV Buchberg Haglöfs-Gore as well as Austria's David Kolditz and Sasa Savuljesko from Team Westpoint.
While the top teams in the men's classifier have to keep an eye on several other racer duos, a battle of three looms on the ladies' side. Besides Nannette Mereles and Cassey Shepard of Californian Team Cassey and No No, who are both 45+, two German duos are counted among the favorites. Above all, it's Gitti Schiebel, a two-time Transalpine-Run runner-up (2005 and 2008) and here Team Mountain Heroes Salomon mate Simone Philipp who raise justifiable hopes for a top-3 result.
Furthermore, third ranked athlete of this year's Salomon 4-Trails, Stefanie Felgenhauer and Kathirn Höfler from Team Craft Woman will also enter the 2011 GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run.
On side of the teams with a total age of 80+, one has to beat the title defenders in order to bring home the coveted Transalpine-Run crown. However, Dr. Thomas Miksch and Anton Philipp from Berglaufteam Haglöfs-Gore have already underlined their this year's extraordinary shape.
While Miksch, a senior physician in the town of Kempten, claimed the title at the premier of the Salomon 4-Trails, his seven year's younger running mate Philipp rounded out the master podium as third.
Starting in Oberstdorf, Germany, the whole Transalpine circus is travelling through Austria to Latsch/ Italy. In eight stages - Oberstdorf (GER) – Kleinwalsertal (AUT); Kleinwalsertal (AUT) – Schruns (AUT); Schruns (AUT) – Galtür (AUT); Galtür (AUT) – Engadin Scuol (CH); Engadin Scuol (CH) "Bergsprint"; Engadin Scuol (CH) - Mals (ITA); Mals (ITA) – Schlanders (ITA); Schlanders (ITA) –Latsch (ITA) - all participating pairs will once again experience a scenically outstanding route.
Breaking with routine, this year’s eight-day-long race showcases three new, consecutive stages before resorting back to tried and tested trails over the High Divide and to the finish line in Italy. Right off the start, the first stage leading out of Oberstdorf, Germany, has seen a complete overhaul. Rather than following the beaten track of previous years, the new course takes aim for Hirschegg, Austria this time around. The cumulative vertical gain of 1.806 m over a distance of 27.20 km should provide the right warm-up for the ensuing seven stages, each of which a tough challenge by itself.
Race director Wolfgang Pohl is clearly exulted: "The 2011 edition of the GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run, racks up a distance of 273 km and 15,436 m of cumulative ascent and arguably will be the most challenging course along the Western route from Oberstdorf, Germany, to Latsch, Italy, to date".
While tried and tested stages between the Austrian resort Galtür and the finish line in Italy’s Val Venosta, remain unmodified from previous events; racers will face new and formidable challenges early on in the week on all but new, choice trails.
Pohl, CEO of Vivalpin, the agency in charge of race routing since Day One in the event’s history, would know: "The 2nd stage is likely the hardest we’ve come up with in all these years – packing no less than 53 km and 2,481 m of ascent. The 3rd stage shouldn’t come any easier, though, testing many racers’ limits over a whopping distance of 43 km and a vertical gain of 2,672m. The scenery should make up for the hardships, though, as the ‘Wormser High Trail’ ranks as one of the most beautiful trails in this central part of the Alps".
However, racers can’t expect much of a respite on the 4th or 7th race days either with 35 and 40 km of trail running, respectively. The latter stage sports the scenic but infamous Rappenscharte - a mountain saddle reaching 3,012 m in elevation, with a precipitous boulder field on one side and a screaming scree slope on the other.
The week’s only reprieve – if only on account of somewhat lesser climbs - may be the 5th day Scuol hill sprint (6.19 km, 936 m vertical), the 6th stage through mystical Uina Canyon, and the ultimate 8th stage to the finish line.