The sixth race of the Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit, the Sea to Summit Blåmann Vertical, did exactly what it says on the tin: Starting at sea level, on the shores below Store Blåmannen, the 2.7 km course climbs 1,044m to the highest mountain on the island Kvaløya in Tromsø.
Male winner, Damien Humbert ©️VKWC
“This was not running, this was climbing”, said one finisher as they collapsed at the finish line of the Sea to Summit Blåmann Vertical. However, the toughest race of the Vertical Kilometer® World circuit, which includes scrambling and climbing over steep sections of rocks and snowfield crossings, was not tough enough for champions Johanna Åström and Damien Humbert.
Although the race began in the dazzling, Norwegian sun, a thick layer of fog resulted in the views from the top not being as rewarding as in previous years. Spirits remained high regardless and all 80 runners crossed the finish line satisfied with the epic challenge.
For the second time this season, the men’s podium was entirely French. Just like Olympus VK, Yoann Caillot and Benoit Gandolfi repeated their second and third-place finishes, Caillot with a time of 39’50” and Gandolfi, 40’12”. The only difference, this time, was the champion. Damien Humbert, also French, lead the race from the beginning and was the first finisher today with a time of 38’10” – still around three minutes short of Stian Angermund’s record from 2015.
“It was a really hard race, but that’s why I enjoyed it. The start was very runnable so I was able to gain some speed there and take the lead. I liked how the race changed at the end with a lot of climbing. I actually got lost but managed to find my way back without losing much time.” Said the French champion. “It’s my first time in Norway and Northern Europe actually so I wanted to see as much of the landscape as possible. I’m participating in the world circuit, and this VK was on the top of my list so it feels so good to wear the winner’s bib.”
Female winner, Johanna Åström ©️VKWC
Sweden’s Johanna Åström was not only the fastest woman of the day, but the fastest woman to ever run the course. Åström, who placed ninth overall, set a new course record, beating Emelie Forsberg’s, 2015 record of 43’41” by 13 seconds.
“It was a very technical race. A lot more technical than I expected. I really had to think about where to place my hands and feet and which rocks to hold on to. I had no idea what the course record was so I wasn’t trying to beat it, I was just aiming to just keep up with my boyfriend who was also running, so to break the record is a nice surprise. I was actually taking it easy for most of the race because I wasn’t sure how it would be at the top, so I had more to give. It’s a beautiful place to race and I really enjoyed my first VK.” Said the new course record holder.
USA’s Hillary Allen, finished just over three minutes after Åström in second place after what she described to be “a really tough race” and Oihana Azkorbebeitia of Spain closed the podium with a time of 47’21”.
For both champions, today’s race acted as a warmup for the weekend. Humbert will go on to race the 32 km Tromsdalstind Skyrace on Saturday and Åström is a firm favourite to win the famous 55 km Hamperokken Skyrace, also Saturday.
1. Damien Humbert (FRA) US Giron – 38’10”
2. Yoann Calliot (FRA) Meribel Sport Montagne – 39’50”
3. Benoît Gandolfi (FRA) Team Ceramiq – 40’12”
4. Tobias Henriksson (SWE) Pargas IF– 40’17”
5. Arto Talvinen (FIN) Turku – 41’32”
1. Johanna Åström (SWE) Team Dynafit – 43’28”
2. Hillary Allen (USA) The North Face – 46’46”
3. Oihana Azkorbebeitia (ESP) Euskal Herria EMF – 47’21”
4. Kristin Riseth (NOR) Oslostudentenes IK – 48’07”
5. Anna Svendsen (NOR) Tromsø Skiklubb Langrenn – 48’44”