UTMB® Mont-Blanc: World trail champions claim victory in OCC
Britain's Jonathan Albon and Frenchwoman Blandine L’Hirondel – who are the reigning trail running world champions - today won the OCC in record times in ideal racing conditions.
1,200 runners set off this morning from Orsières at 8:15am for the 56km and 3500m D + challenge. The UK’s Jonathan Albon and Robbie Simpson quickly took the lead in a battle that kept followers guessing right until the end. Albon seemingly had the edge in the descents, while Scotsman Simpson – who was 2nd in Sierre Zinal just three weeks ago - took control on the flat and on the climbs. The game of cat and mouse continued over the miles until the last climb to La Flégère when Albon made his move to pass Simpson at a brisk pace – a lead which he held onto through the final descent and to the finish line. Albon crossed the line in 5:02:57, and in doing so, he not only set a new course record, but also became the first Brit to win the OCC – an accolade he can add to this five-time obstacle course world champion titles and 2019 trail world champion title.
Albon commented: “The race was intense from start to finish. On the first climb, I didn’t feel so good, but I hung on. I think I can say that I am now back to my best,” he explained, referencing surgery he had during the pandemic. “The fight was really intense, and in the end, there was not a stride where I didn’t have cramp.”
Simpson finished second in 5:05:35, while Sweden's Petter Engdahl completed the podium in 5:08:31. The first Frenchman, Thomas Cardin, finished just off the podium in 4th place in 5:14:45, ahead of the American Hayden Hawks and the French Nicolas Martin. In the women’s race, France's Blandine L’Hirondel - the 2019 trail world champion - dominated the field, crossing the line more than 20-minutes ahead of her nearest rival in 5:45. Second place went to Frenchwomen Mathilde Sagnes in 6:07, who resisted the pressure from New Zealander Caitlin Fielder right to the end, with the Kiwi runner completing the women's podium in 6:10.
Tomorrow, the UTMB® Mont-Blanc will continue with two races on the program
At 9am, the 101km and 6100m D + CCC® will start from Courmayeur (ITA). Among the favorites is the Spaniard Luis-Alberto Hernando, winner in 2019, who will be going for the double. Norwegian Stian Angermund, winner of the OCC in 2019 is also one too watch, whilst Thibaut Baronian and Thibaut Garrivier are undoubtedly the most prominent French runners.
In the women’s race American Amanda Basham, who was second in the 2019 CCC®, will be going for glory. South African Megan MacKenzie, Polish Katarzyna Solińska and the Spaniard Marta Molist Codina will also be ones to watch, in what could be an international podium.
At 5pm, it will be time for the UTMB® to set off from the Place du Triangle de l'Amitié, in Chamonix, and the flagship race boasts a prestigious field. Jim Walmsley (USA), François d´Haene (FRA), Xavier Thévenard (FRA) and Tim Tollefson (USA) will be the main contenders for the victory amongst the men. In the women's category, defending champion Courtney Dauwalter (USA) will be out to maintain her title against Beth Pascall (GB), Ragna Debats (HOL), Katie Schide (USA), and the French talents Audrey Tanguy and Camille Bruyas.
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