Joe Symonds and Jethro Lennox of Team Inov-8 Gore-Tex Footwear delivered the evidence today that the hitherto dominant Spanish leaders of the GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run are not entirely invincible. The Scottish racers mastered today’s stage from Mals to Schlanders across the infamous Rappenscharte (3,012 m) in 3:42:52.8 hours – quite a feat since the course packed no less than 36.90 kilometers and a whooping vertical gain of 2.063 meters. Already in second place in the overall ranking, Joe Symonds and Jethro Lennox took a huge bite out of the Spanish dominators’ sizeable lead today reducing it by nearly 14 minutes. Yet, it is far too early to write off today's third ranked Miguel Caballero Ortega and David Lopez Castan (3:56:34.2) who may have shown a chink in their armor but still book nearly one half hour over Team Inov-8 Gore-Tex Footwear with only one short stage to go.
Second to arrive in the midday heat of Schlanders were German Philipp Reiter and French Julien Chorier of Team Salomon International (3:55:46.6) who had certainly tried but did not manage to keep up with the pitiless pace of Symonds / Lennox. The latter had clearly decided to pursue the uncompromising mission of dethroning the Spanish leaders at least once in the 2011 GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run. By the time they reached the first catering stop (1,824m), the Scottish racers indeed had distanced themselves quite successfully from the strong vanguard posse of podium contenders booking a lead of four minutes. In fact, they managed not just to carry that principle across the legendary Rappenscharte, but even to enlarge it modestly. Symonds and Lennox were clearly exulted that their risky strategy to go full out paid off as planned. "We knew that it was going to be a very steep ascent and kept our focus on maintaining our lead. After reaching the pass we gave all on the descent to keep ahead", revealed Symonds, clearly touched by the triumphant finish. Lennox, at 34 years of age the senior teammate of the two, shared "Actually our objective for the last two stages was to defend our second-place position. But it’s very rewarding that we were able to claim a stage victory after all". Symonds added "It’s good to know that we’re still up to it because we came here to win the race. The two Spaniards (Caballero and Lopez) really surprised us. May be we’ll manage next year".
Things clearly didn’t go according to plan, when professional athletes Mireia Miro (ESP) and Stephanie Jimenez (FRA) realized at today’s start that the tendonitis in Miro’s right foot had not improved any over night. After owning the race to date with already six stage victories and only two more to go, the dominant Women’s team decided to give it at least an honest try. However, to no avail since a pain-stricken 23-year-old Miro simply could not carry on upon reaching the first food stop. This misfortune brings what were well-founded title aspirations to an abrupt and unexpected end. A disappointed Miro shared "Of course, I knew already last night that something was wrong. But naturally I wanted to see if I could get by". The unexpected withdrawal of the leading Women team ultimately benefited Claire Gordon and Fiona Maxwell of Team Shettletrot who had repeatedly run formidable times over the course of the last stages but had always trailed the leaders with little hope to outrun them. Today, they finally were first to arrive in Schlanders in 4:56:57.7 hours claiming the overall lead as well. Jubilant about their first stage victory, they were still saddened by the unexpected withdrawal of the leaders. Gordon revealed "We had no idea that they had to quit. We were convinced that they got taped up at the catering stop. Mireia and Stephanie so much deserved winning this race after their performance so far".
Second to cross the finish line in Schlanders were Brigitte Eggerling and Daniela Nusseck of Swiss Alpinrunner Team (5:18:08.7) who were overjoyed to make it onto the podium on such a tough day. Third place went to Germans Gerti Ott and Sabine Kraus of Orthomol Sport Team Lautrach (5:46:13.2).
Roaring applause from the many local spectators in the finish area announced the arrival of Anton Steiner and Klaus Wellenzohn who call Val Venosta home and had made it their duty to claim today’s stage as victors. Little over four hours was the final time the two Italian runners of Team Schlanders (4:00:58.6) needed to make it to sun-soaked Schlanders. Despite the best of intentions, an overjoyed Anton Steiner ended up being a bit surprised by their tremendous performance "Of course, you try to give your best on a stage that takes you home but we didn’t count on a victory. This morning I still suffered from an upset stomach but then it surprisingly got better".
Roughly five minutes after the local victors, Dr. Thomas Miksch and Anton Philipp of Berglaufteam Haglöfs-Gore (4:05:42.2) arrived in their Green Leader Jerseys. It was yet a few more minutes before Christian Stork and Steffen Walk crossed the finish line securing the third podium position for Master Team Salomon/Sport Reischmann (4:08:28.1).
One more stage victory is all that separates Swiss Gaby Steigmeier and Austrian Seppi Neuhauser from an untainted overall victory in the Mixed category. The two have repeatedly participated in the Transalpine Run but in the recent past have never been so close to fulfilling their coveted ambition of winning. Today’s victorious time of 4:24:28.4 hours extended their already sizeable lead by over 20 minutes.
They may not have had it in them to touch today’s victors but Austrians Sonja and Andreas Irendorfer have run a remarkable race overall so far. Today’s performance across the renowned Rappenscharte proved once more to the competition why they have to be considered serious podium contenders.
Team Innenausbau Irendorfer raced to Schlanders in 4:46:53.2 hours just ahead of second overall Andrea and Uli Calmbach of Team Salomon Deutschland (4:48:26.1) who – short of calamity – are sure-bet candidates for a podium position.
Rudi Schöpf (GER) and Hans Hörmann (ITA) of Team Latsch/Mountain Heroes leave little room for improvement in regards to their flawless race performance to date. They are ever so close to completing their quest to win the race among teams with a cumulative age of 100 years and didn’t miss a beat today either. The international centurion team continued its victorious streak crossing the finish line first after 4:39:26.4 hours on the trail.
Gerald Blumrich and Jörg Schreiber of Team Trail Magazin (4:55:08.8) arrived with some delay on the leaders but their time was good enough yet for second place in the Senior Master category.
Axel Zapletal and Peter Sandmaier of Team Pax Feldafing 100 made it to third position with their time of 5:17:39.3 hours between Mals and Schlanders in Northern Italy’s sun-drenched Val Venosta.
For many racers, today’s objective simply will be to make it through the day en route to the finish line in Latsch, Italy. For some, however, it’ll provide the last opportunity to improve their ranking – possibly even make it onto the podium. As such, the 30.2 kilometers and 1,807 meters of vertical ascent of the ultimate stage promises lots of excitement. The racers will climb to a picturesque ridgeline overlooking the western expanse of the Ortler Range, the seventh and final mountain chain to get across in eight arduous days of racing. The highest point of today’s stage will be the Göflaner Scharte at 2,369 meters from where race participants will finally take sight of their ultimate destination Latsch. A single, long descent from the scenic crest will complete this year’s 273.3 kilometer long GORE-TEX® Transalpine-Run that packed no fewer than 15,436 meters of vertical gain.