Once again, Kilian Jornet put on a shirt number and stood ready and waiting at the starting line of a trail race, less than a month after overcoming the challenge of reaching the summit of Everest twice in under a week. With the number 1 on his chest, Jornet was up against some of the finest runners racing today, in a Marathon du Mont-Blanc with a high competitive standard – in addition to Jornet, the racers included Stian Angermund-Vik (winner of the Zegama marathon), Marc Lauenstein, Sage Canaday, Andy Wacker or Max King. But the athlete from Salomon ended up winning with a time of 3:45:45, after an exciting struggle that lasted the entire route. “It was a really tough race. The standard was so high – there were up to 15 runners on the starting line who had a chance of winning. I could have finished 10th and been happy with that”, said Jornet.
The runner from Cerdanya chose the classic Marathon du Mont-Blanc to begin his trail racing season: 42 km, with a positive vertical gain of 2,730 m – a route he knows very well, and for which he set the race record in 2013. They set off at 7:00 a.m. from Chamonix, with King, Jornet and Wacker leading the group and with Canaday, Lauenstein and Angermund-Vik a few seconds behind them. During the tough ascent up to Aiguillette des Posettes (2,201m), the highest point on the trail, Angermund-Vik was the leader of a group comprised of Jornet, King and Canaday, thus clearly demonstrating why he is one of the top specialists in the Vertical Kilometre format. But then, in the descent down to Le Tour (27.7 km point), it was Jornet who set the pace, gaining a nine-second lead on the Norwegian. “We were going very fast from the start. By around the middle of the route there were the three of us left, Max, Stian and me, and for the rest of the race we had hardly three seconds to catch our breath”, reported the athlete from Salomon.
But gradually, in spite of King’s strength, it became clear that the Marathon du Mont-Blanc was going to be decided between two runners: Jornet and Angermund-Vik. Both of them ran neck-and-neck for several kilometres, in what proved to be a real spectacle: they raced up to La Flégère together, setting a time of 3:15:55 as they passed the 37.3 km point, only 5 km from the finish line. But it was in this final stretch of the race to Planpraz that the runner from Cerdanya managed to take the lead, and he was first to cross the finish line at 3:45:45, just over a minute ahead of Stian Angermund-Vik (3:47:05). King took the final podium place, with a time of 3:50:49. “I’m really happy to have regained this level. Winning or getting a podium place today, with such a high standard among the runners, means that I’m much more satisfied than other days when I could have taken it more easily”, admitted the athlete from Cerdanya.
Jornet returned from Everest barely a month ago, and today he kicked off his trail season with what was one of the most hotly-contested races ever in the Marathon du Mont-Blanc. It represents the first challenge in a year in which Jornet plans to take part in other classic races such as Hardrock, Sierre Zinal, UTMB, Glen Coe and Ultra Pirineu.