Part II (read Part I here)

Shortly after the 2010 Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont-Blanc blasted off from Chamonix Friday evening, the rain really started to fall. Torrential downpours were drenching the racers and the trail and the forecast called for continued heavy rain through Saturday. At around 9 or 10pm - only 2.5 to 3 hours after the start - race organizers decided to cancel the race. According to organizers at a midnight press conference, the safety of the racers had to come first. Heavy rains were taking a toll on the trail and the forecast called for continued storming through Saturday afternoon. Snow was expected as low as 2500m, making the mountainous race even more difficult.

At the time of the cancellation, the leaders including Kilian Jornet had reached the Les Contamines aid station (31.1 km), while the bulk of runners hadn't reached the St. Gervais station (21.3 km). Racers were heart broken. After months and months of training, with many traveling thousands of miles to participate in this mythic race, they were forced to confront the fact that would not be able to complete the Tour.

Race organizers quickly organized shuttles using chartered trains and buses to bring all 2300 racers back to Chamonix. Organizers were also able to find lodging for all the the racers. At the same time, the TDS was cancelled as well.

CCC at the finish: Xavier Thevenard and Maud Giraud takes first

At 9:57 Friday night and after nearly 12 hours on running in the rain, CCC racer Xavier Thevenard crossed finish line in Chamonix. The CCC starts in Courmayeur, passes through Champex and ends in Chamonix. At 98 km it's the 'shortest' race and for many runners, it is their first taste of a Mont-Blanc ultra. It features 5600m of elevation gain.

A few hours later, a very wet Petzl athlete Maud Giraud crossed the finish line after running for 11 hours and 57 minutes. Commenting on the race, Maud said: "We played cat and mouse with the other girls until I regained first place in the downhill section after the Col Ferret," said Maud. "Downhill is my strong point (kind of normal for a skier). I'm able to really relax in full confidence and recover. Then I kept my lead until the end.'

Exhausted but happy runners streamed into Chamonix all throughout the rainy night. But 1300 racers were stopped at 2:10am, at the Tête aux Ventes checkpoint, when organizers decided to halt the race. They were brought back to Chamonix by bus.

The results of the 2010 CCC:

Men Women
1-Xavier Thevenard 11:57 1-Maud Giraud 14:07
2-Sylvain Camus 12:03:08 2-Delphine Avenier 14:56
3-Nikolaos Kalofyris 12:03:48 3-Kami Semik 15:18

 

Plan B: The alternative UTMB

Racers received an SMS at 2:30 in the morning Saturday notifying them of a new race following the last half of the UTMB from Courmayeur to Chamonix. Buses carrying racers left Chamonix at 6:30 and race started off at 10:15. Approximately 1200 runners lined up at the start. Many of the top runners were there, with few notable absences, including Kilian Jornet, who decided to run a race in Italy instead.

The weather was cooperative at the starting line, but blue skies and warm temperatures were not part of the plan for the 2010 edition. Soon after racers left Courmayeur, the rain started and cold temperatures set in. At the Grand Col Ferret (2537m altitude) runners encountered snow and wind.

The winners of this year's abbreviated UTMB: UK runners take the prizes

Just after nightfall on Saturday night, the first runner arrived in Chamonix. Jez Bragg from the UK crossed the finish line after 10 hours and 30 minutes on the trail. Seven minutes later, the American Mike Wolfe came in to take second place, followed by Zigor Iturrieta Ruiz from Spain.

Lizzy Hawker came in first for the women after 11 hours and 47 minutes on the trail. At the finish line, the UK runner spoke of the difficulty of dealing with the canceled race and the motivation it took to start again. It was the knowledge that other runners were going to be on the trail that really pushed to start up again, she said.

At the time of publication, the other women hadn't arrived Chamonix. But it appears as if Néré Martinez Urruzola from Spain will come in second and Agnes Hervé will take third. We will follow up with a article on Sunday after the award ceremony with the official results.
  

Jez Bragg: out of the woods and on his way to victory

 

Below, a slide show of the finish of the CCC and the UTMB with a few more profiles of racers: 

 

 

Maud Giraud, 1st place CCC

At 12:08am Saturday morning, Maud Giraud, crossed the finish line and took women's title for this year's CCC. This 98km race starts in Courmayeur, Italy, passes through Champex, Switzerland and finishes in Chamonix, France and features 5600m of elevation gain. The 2010 edition was especially difficult, as it rained for most of 14 hours and 7 minutes Maud was on the course.

"The CCC is my favorite distance. I've done a lot of running this year and I felt like I really reached a new level and improved my abilities," Maud said. In 2008, she placed 2nd in the CCC coming in after 16 hours and 40 minutes.

For the first part of the race, Maud and the other two top finishing women stayed neck-and-neck until she pulled out ahead. "We played cat and mouse with the other girls until I regained first place in the downhill section after the Col Ferret," said Maud. "Downhill is my strong point (kind of normal for a skier). I'm able to really relax in full confidence and recover. Then I keptmy lead until the end.'

In the final hours of the race, Maud ran with the ULTRA to cut through the fog, which presents a challenges for her: "I fear the fog at night, and it cause me to drop out of last year's UTMB. Fog is awful to run in. I loose balance and get massive headaches...a nightmare. The ULTRA gives me all the power for the fog."

"I was fearing the fog in the final section but it wasn't that bad. I felt really good all the way to the end without putting myself in red zone. The rain doesn't bother me - I'm a mountain person and I'm always outside whatever the weather is," she continued.

Maud, 33, works as a ski instructor and organizes trail running seminars with Vincent Delebarre. As a mother of three girls, running at night is an important part of her training. "I like running at night, I train a lot early in the morning so I can be active mother during the day."

Her first place finish is the continuation of a series of strong performances. She won the 2010 6000D, the 2009 Templiers, the 2009 Sainté Lyon races. She is also the reigning trail running champion of France.


Emmanuel Gault

For his first CCC, Emmanuel Gault did extremely well, coming in 5th among a very strong field of trail runners.

"I was feeling really comfortable both on the uphill and downhill sections. Unfortunately I bonked on the last uphill section to La Flegere. It was the hardest part of the race for me," said Emmanuel. "But I was able to recover and I'm really happy and proud of my 5th place result."

Emmanuel has a lot of experience on shorter, less steep races (1st place EcoTrail, 1st place Trail de Burons), but less on these longer races like the CCC. "The longest race up to this point that I have run was 8 hours," he said. He ran the CCC in 12 hours and 37 minutes.

He runs with an ULTRA or a MYO XP, with a back-up E+LITE. "Running at night is part of a runner's life," he said.

Being a school director in the south of France, it's not easy to train for mountainous races. "It's a bit complicated to train for the climbs. I'm quite new to mountain trail, and I'm not used to so much uphill. I normally run races with less than 1500m of elevation gain."

 

Cory T. Johnson, a Wasatch Speed Goat

Cory T. Johnson, 45, had set out to run the Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont-Blanc, but because it was cancelled, he changed plans and is now running the 98km alternative CCC.

This is Cory's first to Europe and he's quite impressed: "This place is totally amazing, such high mountains with glaciers. I like the beautiful architecture of Chamonix and people here are so lean," he said.

A native of Ogden, Utah, Cory is the owner of the second largest auto body repair shop in the state. He is a member of the Wasatch Speed Goats team and runs about 2300 miles a year. He runs between four and seven 100 mile races a year along with several 50 mile races. Cory placed 18th on the Hard Rock 100 in Colorado and 12th in the Bear 100 (Utah/Idaho).

He finds the terrain in the Alps a little different than his home training grounds. "The terrain here is less technical that in the Wasatch mountains."

Cory is definitely not afraid of running after the sun sets. "Night running is definitely my thing, I train almost every morning before going to work, whatever the weather. Running at night is my strong point - I feel better and go faster," he said

He runs with the MYO XP BELT with an E+LITE for a back-up. But, "In case the weather is bad, I will for sure pull out my ULTRA. It's such an incredible headlamp in terms of power," he said.