It almost seems a daily routine by now that David Lopez Castan and Miguel Caballero Ortega lead the field of racers into the finish area at the 2011 GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run. For the 4th day in a row, the two members of the Spanish National trail running team clearly dominated the race, reaching Scuol almost seven minutes ahead of the second-fastest team. Castan and Ortega, recognizable by their bright blue leader jerseys by now, covered today’s 39,93 kilometers and 2,339 meters of altitudinal gain en route to Switzerland in 4:06:46.8 hours.
Their most immediate threat, Scottish Team Inov-8 Gore-Tex Footwear, took 4:13:40.6 hours on the trail between Galtür and Scuol (SUI). Jethro Lennox and Joe Symonds’ attempts to break the dominance of the Spaniards all seem to have failed to date. Third to arrive in the spa community of Scuol were once again Julien Chorier (FRA) and Philipp Reiter (GER) with a time of 4:19:54.7 hours.
The overall leaders López Castán and Caballero Ortega have by now accumulated a cushy lead of roughly 35 minutes over the scond-ranking Scotsmen Symonds and Lennox. As such, the Spaniards enjoyed the unheard-of luxury of taking in the breath-taking scenery on today’s Futschölpass (2.768m) and Piz Clünas (2.793m) without feeling too rushed.
Bluebird skies, coolish temperatures in the morning and racy singletrack en route to Switzerland left little to be desired for the field of racers. Twenty-nine year-old David Caballero Ortega shared: “This was by far the most beautiful stage to date and we took some time to savor it.”
An experience that clearly motivated the overall leaders enough to chance a surprise dash on the first lengthy descent towards Alp Valmala (1,980m). Yet, the Spanish leaders were not entirely oblivious to their competitors from Scotland. Caballero Ortega from Segovia, Spain, recalled, "The two kept the pressure up but we managed to run our race. It was on the first downhill that we noticed that we were stronger and decided to increase our speed to get away for good".
Their strategy panned out once again, which Joe Symonds had no problem acknowledging: "Both are extremely strong on the downhill. They simply get along better with conditions on the descents than us. Unfortunately, I’m still somewhat handicapped by my fall on the second day and I may still be a little too cautious at this point". Such hesitance would seem plausible given that Symonds’ lacerated leg required several stitches at the end of Stage Two.
The younger brother of previous year’s victor Andrew Symonds is planning to use tomorrow’s relatively short vertical race to Motta Naluns (6.19 kilometers, 936 meters of vertical ascent) as a kind of interlude for regeneration. Most racers will welcome tomorrow’ shorter itinerary as it should allow preparations for the final three days of racing.
Women Leaders shake off competition – again
Like the leading Mens team, Stephanie Jimenez (FRA) and Mireia Miro (ESP) managed to break away from the field claiming their fourth consecutive victory. The team that has been dealt openly as the top favorite for victory in this year’s GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run took no more than 5:01:53.0 hours to make it to Scuol, a charming resort town in Switzerland’s sunny Engadin region. However, their impressive dash across the international border took its toll on the two female racers who themselves had gone into this race with high expectations for top podium positions. Miro admitted "We may have started out too fast on the first three days. The result of that today was Stephanie experiencing some problems, then me, so that eventually we decided to take a several-minute-long break for stretching". That disruption did not keep the whirlwind team from reaching the finish line on the medieval village square roughly 18 minutes ahead of their Scottish competitors of Team Shettletrot. Claire Gordon and Fiona Maxwell once again ran a formidable race but their time of 5:19:51.0 hours in the end was only good enough for second place given Team Salomon International’s invincible performance. Miro recognizes her team’s overwhelming lead: "Clearly, that is a huge lead that we now want to manage over the course of the next days and hope to defend successfully to the final finish in Latsch". While Miro / Jimenez have become regulars on the podium by now, Team Craft around Stefanie Felgenhauer and Kathrin Höfler (5:36:42.3) celebrated that distinction for the first time today in the 2011 Transalpine Run.
Trail runners Dr. Thomas Miksch and Anton Philipp clearly are on a very special mission: Winning three consecutive leader titles in their category. Their team, Haglöfs-Gore, may push a cumulative age of more than 80 years but the two Germans never seem to waste undue time or energy on the trail and always manage to stay ahead of their competitors. After 4:25:20.5 hours on the trail, they had not only secured first place in the Masters category for the fourth time in a row in this year’s event but also claimed 4th position overall.
Second across the finish line today were Anton Steiner and Klaus Wellenzohn of Team Schlanders (4:40:11.7) who took 15 minutes longer than the leaders to cross into Switzerland. They had a few minutes to put their feet up before Cristian Doliana and Fabio Varesco of Team La Sportiva/Gore-Tex Footwear (4:46:51.5) followed suite and called it a day.
Both teams had moved up a notch after the originally second placing Christian Stork and Steffen Walk had received a time penalty of 15 minutes for a short cut moving them back into fifth place. Gaby Steigmeier (SUI) and Seppi Neuhauser (AUT) don’t need to worry much about getting their laundry done during the weeklong race event. The two exceptional trail runners have grown accustomed to claiming a fresh set of leader jerseys at the daily flower ceremony by now. Team Salomon, a regular at the Transalpine Run for many years, extended its comfy lead further today.
On top of that, the two veterans stayed under the five-hour mark for today’s stage (4:55:56.2). Managing their lead to the end of the ultimate stage at the end of the week would seem to be their primary worry at this point.
Andrea and Uli Calmbach of Team Salomon Deutschland (5:07:06.1) came in second place today, more than four minutes ahead of the Austrian Team Innenausbau Irendorfer. The couple Sonja and Andreas Irendorfer claimed a deserved third place with their time of 5:11:20.4 hours.
Team Latsch/Mountain Heroes: A different kind of Senior lifestyle
Rudi Schöpf and Hans Hörmann, the seemingly untouchable Senior Master leaders, proved to be in a league of their own as they not just dominate their race category but keep on ranking among the top ten-percentile of race participants. The German – Italian team raced to Scuol in 5:17:44.8 hours, also claiming a fourth consecutive victory in this year’s Gore-Tex Transalpine-Run.
Somewhat slower, but still clocking a highly commendable time were their closest competitors of the previous days. Gerald Blumrich and Jörg Schreiber of Team Trail Magazin (5:32:28.7) came in second place- as has become customary by now, a comfortable position to start the second half of the race week from.
Their fellow countrymen Axel Zapletal and Peter Sandmeier of Team Pax Feldafing 100 (5:45:18.2) once more claimed the third position on today’s podium.
Next stage on the Western course of the Transalpine-Run is routinely dedicated for some R&R of the special kind: Race and Relax. The challenge of the fifth of a total of eight race days is a relatively short sprint race exacting a single climb of 936 meters of vertical gain. The vertical race will start at the old village square in Scuol and for some racers can be expected to finish in under an hour. The finish is located at the summit station of the Motta Naluns funicular on a plateau just above treeline with a spectacular view over the Central Alps. An apt setting for the halfway point of the eight-stage trail run across the Alps!. While tomorrow’s race is short, the steep ascent over mostly trail less terrain will require much in terms of technique and stamina – not exactly how most would define a rest day.