Tears were shed, blood was drawn and records were well and truly smashed today at the 13th race of the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series. Past champions, Denisa Dragomir of Romania and Jean Baptiste Simukeka of Rwanda, steal the show at an emotional race won by both champions in the downhill.
Italy’s Grigna (2,410m) became a playground for the world’s best skyrunners today. As the sun hovered above the summit, 450 athletes from 21 nationalities gathered, together with the passionate community of Pasturo, to remember two significant members of the race organization who sadly passed away. After an emotional opening ceremony, the ribbon went up and the incredible race of 27.5 km with 2,650m of vertical gain began.
Amongst the elite lineup was a strong trio of African runners as well as a few familiar faces of the race. These included two-time champion, Denisa Dragomir, both female and male reigning champions, the female course record holder and Pasturo’s very own two-time champion, Daniel Antonioli, who, after his recent win at the Matterhorn Ultraks «EXTREME», was the centre of attention, worldwide.
Following an intense climb, which featured one segment with a 75% incline, the first to arrive at the top of the Grigna was Denise Bosire Kiyaka of Kenya with Antonioli just one minute behind. 2018 champion, Jean Baptiste Simukeka of Rwanda, followed in third with Zaid Ait Malek of Spain and Italy’s Mattia Bertoncini, hot on their heels in fourth and fifth. With just seven minutes separating the first and fifth runner, the descent would be decisive.
After a downhill battle, it is 2018 champion, Jean Baptiste Simukeka, who storms through the streets of Pasturo, crossing the finish line in first place in 2h49’21”. The Rwandan star proves to be the fastest downhill runner of the day, even faster than Zaid Ait Malek of Spain who finishes second in 2h52’32”.
“Skyrunning is my passion and I really enjoyed coming back here today and achieving the new course record. I had my sights set on qualifying for the SkyMasters and now I am fully focused on the race in Limone.” said Simukeka.
Unable to keep up in the descent, Antonioli still manages to maintain a podium position and is the third to arrive at the finish line Pasturo to a roaring crowd of friends, fans and family.
“This was more than a race for me. I ran with my heart thinking of my two friends and members of the race organization who passed away and they gave me the strength to continue in the bad moments.” said Antonioli. “I tried to get ahead in the most technical parts of the climb, where I am stronger, but in this race, the downhill is important and today, Simukeka and Zaid were stronger and I just couldn’t catch them.”
Leader of the climb, Kenya-born Kiyaka, finishes fourth, adding a new name to the 2019 SkyMasters list. Together with his team mate and 2019 champion, Simukeka, the pair now become top contenders for the end of season finale.
Although everyone was expecting a fierce battle between Sheila Avilés and Johanna Åström, it was Romania’sDenisa Dragomir who came out on top. After trying to catch reigning champion, Primitive Niyirora of Rwanda, for the entire climb followed by a fast and furious head to head with Spain’s Sheila Avilés, Dragomir’s determination paid off. With a time of 3h12’50”, Dragomir crushed Elisa Desco’s 2014 record by an incredible 16 minutes, making it her third win at ZacUP.
“To win a race of the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series means everything and makes it my most memorable victory on this course. The fight with Sheila at the end was tough but I enjoyed racing with such a strong downhill runner. When I finally took the lead, I pushed as hard as I could and my dream of winning today came true.” said the 2019 champion.
Not one to miss out on the podium, current overall ranking number one, Avilés, followed less than two minutes behind, therefore securing her position in the leaderboard for another race.
“This was incredible. What a race. I was smiling the entire time and the fight at the end with Denisa was so thrilling. She is extremely strong in the downhill and although I really tried to catch her, it just wasn’t possible. This course was exactly what I look for in a skyrace with steep and technical downhills. I will be back again.” said Avilés.
Previous course record holder, Italy’s Elisa Desco, completed the female podium with a time of 3h22’46” – six minutes faster than her previous record.
With just two races left before the last race of the season on October 19th, the excitement surrounding the series has reached the next level and now all eyes are on the overall ranking. The next race will be Pirin Ultra Skyrace on the 22nd September in Bansko, Bulgaria.
2019 Zacup Skyrace champion, Jean Baptiste Simukeka ©MRSWS / Roger Salanova
New course record holder, Denisa Dragomir ©MRSWS / Roger Salanova
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