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What a line-up! Ultra final takes the stage in Vail

Kilian Jornet, Skyrunning World Champion and Ultra ranking leader. © Ian Corless

Probably one of the deepest Ultra running fields in recent times is firing up for the Skyrunner® World Series final in Vail, Colorado.  The 100 km Ultra Race of Champions (UROC), concludes the five-race Series after the previous four epic events: Transvulcania, Ronda dels Cims, Ice-Trail and Speedgoat.

The indomitable Kilian Jornet heads the men’s ranking followed by Sage Canaday, 2nd.  World Series participants taking part will also be Cameron Clayton (6th), Frenchman Martin Gafurri (7th), Ty Draney (13th) Luke Nelson (23rd) and Rickey Gates. (31st).  Anton Krupicka (10th) counts only his Speedgoat points after a last-minute bug in La Palma prevented him from participating and now, with a hamstring problem after UTMB, he’s not ready to race, but he will be at the start line to support together with Joe Grant.

Sage Canaday, 3rd at Transvulcania. © ISFKilian is the true mountain man, revelling in hard technical courses, tricky ascents and descents, snow and ice…He’s had an incredible season with the World Series races and European Championships (where he won every single category from VK to Ultra) not to mention his jaw-dropping Mont Blanc and Matterhorn records.  He arrives at the race straight from an attempt on Mount Elbrus, where unfavourable weather conditions forced a retreat.  However, the 5,100m altitude he reached, will stand him in good stead in Vail where much of the course is above 3,600m altitude. The 19 km of paved road through the towns will definitely not appeal.

His biggest competitor looks like Sage Canaday, 3rd in Transvulcania, winner at Speedgoat, he was second at UROC last year on a different course.  He likes running fast and the mixed course should suit him.  Dakota Jones, winner of the Skyrunner® Ultra Series launch at Transvulcania in 2012, has been having some time off this year (except for his win at the San Juan Solstice 50M), which means he's ready and he’ll have the accelerator full on.

If they hold the distance, Cameron Clayton currently ranked 6th (7th in Transvulcania) stands a chance of taking the third rung of the Ultra ranking, as could Martin Gafurri (7th) and Rickey Gates (9th at Ice-Trail). More SWS ranked competitors here include Ty Draney (13th) and Luke Nelson (23rd). 

For the title, if Sage wins and Kilian placed 4th or more, it could be his.

It’s going to be a fast race which may not suit Italian Francesca Canepa, leading the women’s ranking after three races in the Series.  She excelled at Ronda dels Cims, the first skyrunning 100-miler and took third at Ice-Trail, although well behind Emelie Forsberg.  She dropped at UTMB after placing second last year, but went on to win the Tor des Geants 330km-stage race in Italy for the second time, just twelve days ago. Possibly a little too close for comfort, but Francesca is well known for her resilience.

2012 SWS champion and 2013 European Skyrunning champion Emelie Forsberg will debut the 100 km distance here.  She’s fast and she’s up for it.  Francesca will count the best results of the four races while Emelie needs the points here to count three races out of five for the title. An extra 20% are awarded at the final. The title can only go to one of the two ladies, although if Stephanie is ranked (top 15), she could be third.  The race podium will also be contended by top American specialists Stephanie Howe, Speedgoat winner; Ashley Arnold, winner of the Leadville 100; Kerrie Bruxvoort, Run Rabbit Run winner, placing 4th overall;  Michelle Yates; and Anita Ortiz...

Italian Francesca Canepa, Ultra ranking leader. © Jordi Saragossa 

Skyrunning marks a decisive return to US soil with three World Series races in America this year:  Pikes Peak Marathon (Sky Series), Speedgoat and UROC.  From ’93 to ’98, SkyMarathons were held in Aspen on Castle Peak, Taylor Peak, Mount Elbert and Mount Evans.  Two Vertical Kilometers were held in  Vail ’97 and ’98.  The return to Vail, this time for the 100 km distance, celebrates an incredible line-up.

It could be anybody’s race - a hybrid between American style trail running and European skyrunning, the concept was specifically designed by organisers James Gill and Francesca Conte.  The Ultra Race of Champions 100K is a point-to-point traversing five towns from Breckenridge to Vail, with 4,358m elevation gain, four peaks or passes at 3,600m altitude and a maximum altitude of 3,782m. The distance and climb should be enough to challenge the impressive start-line.

Colorado’s high mountains, with their light dusting of snow, will see one of the deepest Ultra fields on the start line this Saturday competing for the $20,000 prize purse and the Skyrunner® Ultra Champion titles and prizes.

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Race website

Skyrunner® World Series ranking

For in depth race previews see:  iRunFar men's preview and women's preview

Ian Corless race preview