Cold, storms and wild and windy weather meant safety first and the adoption of Plan B at the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra valid for the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships in Scotland today.
Jonathan Albon and Ragna Debats took the gold for the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Altogether 478 runners from 41 countries bravely faced the elements in the Scottish Highlands over a reduced course 47 km long with 1,750m vertical climb avoiding the summit of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis. (The original course designed especially for the occasion was 52 km long with a vertical climb of 3,820m).
Albon, probably the most eclectic of the field, closed in 3h48’02” leaving a 12’ gap to second man André Jonsson from Sweden who took the silver. Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando, 2014 and 2016 Skyunning World Champion took the bronze just one minute later.
“It was definitely mountainous in the beginning but then we got on the trail and it was fast. I’m used to winning the extreme races, with loads of climb and steep up and down,” commented Albon. “About 10 km in, there was a really muddy section where I felt a bit more comfortable and took the lead without really trying to and didn’t look back. It would have been nice to win on the actual course but the weather is what it is and hard to predict. Obviously it would have been nice to go up Ben Nevis. I’ve never been up there…It was a good mix and it was fun!”
Jonsson added, ”I enjoyed the race a lot – especially the first part, the actual skyrunning part! I would have preferred to run on the original course but it was the same for everyone. I’m really happy about the silver medal though!”
For the lady from the flat lands of Holland, a top ranked skyrunner, Ragna Debats was very comfortable with the long fast stretches in the second half of the race. She took the well-deserved gold medal for her country with a 14’ advantage over her rivals, closing in 4h36’20”.
“I decided to start fast right from the beginning and see if anyone would follow me. I saw nobody was close to me so I just kept on going, reserving just a little energy just in case somebody came up behind me. I also fell into a big puddle with my head right in it so I got cold and was completely wet! It was funny though,” stated Debts. “I sprained my ankle some weeks ago and didn’t know if I could run. However, I got motivated again, my ankle cured and I started to prepare this race last minute. The medal means a lot to me, my season couldn’t be more perfect!”
For the silver and bronze it was a bitter battle to the end with four women competing for the medals. It was resolved in a tight sprint between Spaniard Gemma Arenas, second, and Maria Mercedes Pila from Ecuador, just four seconds later. Arenas was just in eighth half way through the race but gained hard on the group. “In the last ten kilometres we passed each other back and forth, alternating the second position. We’re all friends!” she said.
Natalia Tomasiak from Poland took fourth and Norwegian Henriette Albon (Albon’s wife) placed fifth. Nine different nations featured in the women’s top ten.
After yesterday’s first World Championships race with the Vertical and today’s Ultra, the first 12 medals out of the 27 at stake, went to eight nations. The country ranking is led by Spain with one gold, one silver and one bronze medal. The UK, Netherlands and Switzerland have one gold each.
The final showdown will take place tomorrow with the Salomon Ring of Steall SkyRace® with a super-strong international line-up headed by 2014 Skyrunning World Champion Kilian Jornet and 879 athletes from 40 countries. The Championship medals for nations will be awarded at tomorrow’s prize ceremony together with the Combined titles and medals based on the VK and Sky results.
Following ISF protocol, WADA antidoping tests will be carried out at the Championships.
Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra results
- Jonathan Albon (GBR) – 3h48’02”
- André Jonsson (SWE) – 4h00’35”
- Luis Alberto Hernando (ESP) – 4h01’21”
- Manuel Anguita (ESP) – 4h01’41”
- Andreu Simon (ESP) – 4h04’32”
- Ragna Debats (NED) – 4h36’20”
- Gemma Arenas (ESP) – 4h50’32”
- Maria Mercedes Pila (ECU) – 4h50’36”
- Natalia Tomasiak (POL) – 4h52’46”
- Henriette Albon (NOR) – 4h53’04”