Day after day, Miguel Caballero Ortega and David Lopez Castan keep demonstrating their dominance in the 2011 GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run. The two Spaniards of Team Trangoworld Gore-Tex made it to Mals in the Italian Val Venosta in no more than 3:14:26.9 hours – a stunning accomplishment given the distance of 37.02 kilometers and 1,332 meters of vertical gain en route. Possibly, their performance had something to do with runner-up Team Salomon International who challenged the leaders for much of today’s stage relentlessly rushing them on to the finish line. However, second-placing Julien Chorier and Philipp Reiter (3:15:24.6) eventually ended up trailing the leaders by a single minute after courageously taking the lead for much of the day.
Third to call it a day were Tofol Castaner Bernat and Miquel Capo Soler of Team TransMallorcaRun who added to Spanish runners’ pride by claiming the remaining podium position after 3:19:30.2 hours.
The two Scottsmen Jethro Lennox and Joe Symonds surprised spectators in Mals arriving as the fourth Mens’ team, for the first time missing a beat in their quest to claim podium positions on each of the eight race days. They finished the day in 3:23:37.0 hours after their plan to distance themselves from the leading posse right off the start in Scuol backfired leaving them worn out for the latter part of the stage. The two Inov-8 Gore-Tex Footwear Team members had tried to wear out the Spanish leaders of Team Trangoworld Gore-Tex with repeated, unexpected accelerations to a pace of 3:30 minutes / kilometer all the way to precipitous Uina Canyon. However, in a twist of irony it was not the Spaniards but them who ultimately had to declare defeat as Joe Symonds shared: "Unfortunately, our strategy didn’t work since Jethro’s legs had not recovered sufficiently from yesterday’s sprint race".
Unlike the unlucky Scottish initiators of the attack on the leaders, the French/German Team Salomon International benefited from the frequent change in pace early on in today’s stage. Given the relatively undemanding nature of today’s stage, it was probably the most suitable day to launch a strategic attack on the dominant Spaniards.
Philipp Reiter was clearly surprised when the Scotsmen suddenly fell back and their team found itself in the lead. "That was pretty amazing". The 20-year-old trail talent from Germany immediately used the opening gap with running partner Chorier (FRA). They even managed to gain a lead of almost three minutes over the hitherto dominant Spaniards Caballero/Castan upon reaching Plantapatsch (2,261m). However, they may have underestimated Team Trangoworld Gore-Tex who let the attack play out refusing to be lured into a premature chase. With less than 13-kilometers to go, they finally took the bait and calmly played out their tremendous downhill skills. Reiter was impressed but still satisfied with running to second place, his team’s best stage ranking to date. "I guess I underestimated yesterday’s stage which cost some strength. We were unable to keep up with the Spaniards’ furious pace on the descent. They really are very strong".
In the end, the stage didn’t deliver much of an upset and the Spaniards productively responded in trademark cool and collected manner to the challenge thrown at them. David Lopez was modest about his team’s accomplishment: "Today was very hard. We took quite a beating during the rapid changes in pace early on in the stage. We are pretty happy that we were able to close the gap towards the finish and that we ended up winning today".
Without having expressed their objective explicitly, the two victorious members of the Spanish Trail Running National Team continue to be on track regarding their ambition to win every one of the eight stages in the 2011 GORE-TEX® Transalpine Run.
It came as a suprise and probably tore at the nerves of the overall leaders in the Master Men category. Marco Schneider and Holger Finkelmann of Main Ausdauershop Trail Team (GER) launched a successful assault on Dr. Thomas Miksch and Anton Philipp of Berglaufteam Haglöfs-Gore on today’s stage from Switzerland to Italy. Main Ausdauer Trail Team managed to stun the competition today with their triumphant time of 3:27:54.8 hours across the High Divide of the Central Alps. On account of two meager performances early on in the eight-day stage race and their unpresumptuous seventh place ranking overall, the duo Schneider/Finkelmann had not raised much attention to date. However, they came back to regular form today and rejoiced accordingly. "It’s crazy. We had played with the thought of attacking on today’s stage and had prepared ourselves mentally for it during the last two days. But didn’t dare to think that we would be keeping the leading teams in check", Marco Schneider exulted. No newbies to the Transalpine Run, 41-year-old Schneider mused that his intimate knowledge of the course between Scuol and Mals played a big role in leading to success. "Four years ago we arrived in 3rd place on this stage".
Second to arrive in Bella Italia were Germans Steffen Walk and Christian Stork of Team Salomon/Sport Reischmann. Their time of 3:33:06.0 hours was sufficient to relegate Italians Anton Steiner and Klaus Wellenzohn of Team Schlanders (3:35:56.4) to third place and also reduced the latter’s lead in the battle for the second place in the ranking to five minutes.
Women’s Team Salomon International simply proves unbeatable
With already five decisive victories under their belt, they were clearly the favored team to win today’s stage. Yet, Stephanie Jimenez (FRA) and Mireia Miro (SPA) of Team Salomon International also made the unthinkable possible when reaching Mals, Italy, in well under four hours. Their astonishing time of 3:49:57.2 hours left little doubt that they may be difficult to beat at their game at this point.
Their most immediate competition was once again the Scottish Team Shettletrot. However, Claire Gordon and Fiona Maxwell were unable to stay below the magic four-hour mark but still claimed a hard-earned second place with a final time of 4:05:54.6 hours.
Gerti Ott and Sabine Kraus of Orthomol Sport Team Lautrach (4:29:37.9) arrived with a delay of more than 20 minutes on the Scottish ladies, a performance that was still good enough for the remaining place on the podium and testimony to a deserved third place in the overall ranking.
Having experienced much misfortune during the 2009 and 2010 Transalpine Runs, the forever-dominant Mixed team around Gaby Steigmeier (SUI) and Seppi Neuhauser (AUT) is inching closer to reaching their long-held goal of overall victory. Team Salomon covered today’s 37 kilometers through breathtaking Uina Canyon and across scenic Schlinig Pass in 3:48:28.2 hours and appears to be untouchable at this point in the race.
While Spaniards Leire Elosegui and Xabi Lekue of Team Leire_Xabi were not too far off with their performance of 3:56:10.1 hour, they had to make do with second place, which they had already achieved in yesterday’s mountain sprint. Chasing them, but to no avail, were Andrea and Uli Calmbach of Team Salomon Deutschland (3:57:527) who still rejoiced over a well-merited third place.
Rudi Schöpf (GER) and Hans Hörmann (ITA) of Team Latsch/Mountain Heroes continue to raise eyebrows given the extensive lead they have accumulated over their competition by now. The two leaders of the Senior Master category arrived in Mals after 4:03:38.2 hours, almost ten minutes ahead of their British age peers of David Jelley and Matrin Gabriel of Team Ripon Runners (4:13:46.7), who in turn were jubilant about their first podium ranking.
Axel Zapletal and Peter Sandmaier of Team Pax Feldafing 100 once again rounded off the podium trilogy with their performance of 4:15:05.3 hours.
Today runners will reach the zenith of the Western course of the 2011 Transalpine Run on tomorrow’s penultimate stage. As the crow flies, the distance between Mals and Schlanders may be less than 15 kilometers but the racers will have to detour via the Rappenscharte at 3,012 m elevation, an infamous highlight of the annual race. The ascent of the lofty mountain saddle leads through mostly trail-less terrain and a vile boulder field testing the runners’ surefootedness with every step. The descent across seemingly endless alpine meadows, in turn, may prove a relief at first but, nonetheless, requires a lot of technical competency. The stage skirts the Southern Ötztaler Range and sports the longest continuous descent to Schlanders via the picturesque Kortscher Alm.