The World’s first SkyMasters, a race reserved only for the best athletes who qualified throughout the season was run on an exclusive course of 27km and 2,600m vertical climb. Rain forecasted for the afternoon resulted in the start time being moved forwards by five hours. Although almost unheard of for the usually hot and humid Limone, nothing was able to dampen the atmosphere at the epic final event.
The elite field, consisting of 60 of the world’s leading athletes presented an open and intense race won by Ruy Ueda of Japan and Denisa Dragomir of Romania, who will go down in history as the first “SkyMasters”.
The big story of the day was the fierce fight in the men’s race between Oriol Cardona of Spain and Ruy Ueda of Japan, who arrived at the SkyMasters with just ten points separating them in the overall ranking. Since Ueda beat Cardona by nine seconds at the first race of the season, Mt. Awa Skyrace in Japan, the world has watched these two athletes go head-to-head and today was the best show yet. Ueda, who took the lead from early, on looked strong throughout until Cardona flew from ninth to second place and, incredibly, stole the lead for a few minutes in the final descent. With just three kilometres to go before the finish line, Ueda dug deep to give one final push leaving Cardona behind and crossing the finish line in 3h03’15”, a win that sees him take home both titles.
“I never imagined that I could win the overall ranking. My season started strong with a couple of wins at Mt. Awa and Livigno but there were also a few bad moments where I didn’t perform as well as I expected. Thanks to the skyrunning community and the high level of athletes who I have competed against, especially Oriol, I was able to stay strong and continue pushing. Today has been the best day of my career and I am thankful to have had this opportunity.” said Ueda, unable to fight back his tears of joy.
“The best part of the race today was when I passed Ruy and the worst was when he passed me again. We’ve had a really intense season and I knew he was the one to beat today. I caught him and we ran side by side before I managed to get ahead. There were only 4 kilometres left until the end so I knew this would be the decider. Ruy was too strong today though and I couldn’t keep the lead. I’m pleased with my season and even though I didn’t win, this has been a great experience. Well done to Ruy and everyone who made it here today.” said Cardona, who finished just twelve seconds behind in second place.
Third place went to Christian Mathys of Switzerland who finished with a time of 3h08’12”, followed 30 seconds after by Great Britain’s Jonathan Albon in fourth and Jan Margarit of Spain in fifth with a time of 3h11’05”.
Female winner, Denisa Dragomir of Romania triumphed over the skyrunning queen, Sheila Avilés, for the second time this season to take home the title. The ZacUp Skyrace champion took control in the second uphill and kept her lead until the finish line.
“It was a very tough course and the weather conditions made it even more difficult. I knew Sheila would come prepared and I know how strong she is in the downhill. I pushed hard in the second uphill to widen the gap enough so she wouldn’t catch me going down and it worked. I can’t believe the result today. I came into this race simply honoured to be here competing against the best women at such an iconic event. To win is an indescribable feeling and one that will stay with me forever. I look forward to the 2020 season and to competing in the circuit.” said Dragomir. The new 2019 overall champion, Avilés, followed in second place, just four minutes behind.
In third position was 2019 Skyrunner Austria Series winner, Marcela Vasinova. With just nine minutes separating her and Avilés, the Czech athlete has proven that her second-place finish at Pirin Ultra, earlier in the season, was not a one-off and we can expect big things from her in the future.
“I can’t believe it! This is my first time competing in the season so to come here and race the SkyMasters against big names such as Ragna Debats and Sheila Avilés has been incredible. From the atmosphere to even the weather, today has exceeded my expectations. I’ve enjoyed every minute and I am now fully focused on being here again next year.” said Vasinova.
Russia’s Elena Rukhlyada, winner of Skyrace des Matheysins, was the fourth woman to cross the finish line with a time of 3h52’07” after a strong performance from the start. The Netherland’s Ragna Debats followed 39 seconds after in fifth place.
The goal of the 2019 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series was to determine the best Skyrunners in the world. After incredible performances today and over the past six months, Ueda and Avilés proved they are the fastest, strongest and most technically talented runners, by winning the overall ranking. With three wins and a second-place, Avilés has 780 points, the most of any athlete this season.
“I have worked hard this year. I have been focused on one goal and that is the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. I wanted to win. I knew today would be hard and if the SkyMasters didn’t go to plan, I could lose everything. It’s like the Olympics, you can train for four year, but if you have one bad day, it’s over. I’m thankful for a good season and today was a new and different experience racing with only the best skyrunning girls. Denisa performed well as I knew she would but I’m satisfied with my race and I ran it with my heart. I’m excited for my future and for the future of skyrunning.” said the overall champion. Second was Debats with 655 points and third was Elisa Desco of Italy with 600 points.
Ueda, finishes his season with 740 points overall followed by Cardona with 700 points. With 600 points, Albon, who aimed for a top-10 position has described his third-place finish overall as “the most prestigious achievement of my skyrunning career.”
The overall ranking took into account the best four results of the season, of which a maximum of two can be Supersky races, plus the SkyMasters. The top 20 athletes of the season will be awarded with an end of season all-time-high bonus pool amounting to 75,000€, split equally amongst men and women.