Kane Reilly is getting ready for the Salomon Golden Trail Series opener in Zegama in the Pyrenean Mountains of the Basque Country. Photo: Stephen Granger

CAPE TOWN – Just three weeks short of the Salomon Golden Trail Series opener in Zegama in the Pyrenean Mountains of the Basque Country, South Africa’s Kane Reilly is putting the finishing touches to his preparation for the race of his life.

The release of the names of athletes entered for the series reflects its importance for the IAAF’s most recently adopted discipline of trail racing, with all the big names in trail racing, skyrunning and mountain racing set to take their place on the start line at Zegama on Sunday 27 May.

The top-10 ranked men and women at the end of the five-event series – the final race is in Scotland in September – will receive substantial prize money, support for their chosen charity and sponsored trips to compete in the series Grand Finale, the Otter Trailrun in South Africa in October.

Several top local athletes, including Reilly, current Otter Trail champion Christiaan Greyling, Thabang Madiba and Megan Mackenzie will compete against the world’s best during the series, with Two Oceans champion, Gerda Steyn, an interesting potential entry in the third race in the series – the less technical Sierra Zinal in Switzerland in August.

While trail running and mountain climbing legend Kilian Jornet is among the athletes registered for the series, his recent recovery from a stress fracture suggests he may be forced to miss out on his home event in Zegama.

That would be much to the disappointment of the tens of thousands of locals who turn out each year in support of both runners and their famous race.

In his absence, Zegama defending champion and record-holder, Norwegian Stian Angermund, will be hard to beat despite a line-up which boasts current world mountain running champion Francesco Puppi of Italy, Otter Trail record-holder Marc Lauenstein of Switzerland, Americans Max King and Sage Canaday, Nicholas Martin of France and Spain’s Jan Margerit.

Reilly will have his work cut out to finish in the top 10 in what is arguably the world’s highest quality trail race, but many feel he has the talent, determination and focus to make his mark this year on the world stage.

“My build-up’s been going very well,” the Cape Town star admitted. “I managed to fit in a good block of strength training earlier in the year and over this last long weekend, it was great to slot into a routine of run, eat and sleep and run again.

“I’ve been running in the Mont Rochelle area to simulate some of the features of Zegama, especially the long steep descents.

“Zegama is a combination of some very fast runnable sections and a few spicy technical descents over the 42km course. I’ve also been tackling the more runnable climbs in Cape Town, such as the Devil’s Peak Saddle, the Tokai Mast and Blackburn Ravine.”

Greyling has improved steadily since quitting his fulltime job last year to pursue his running career, climaxing with a brilliant win at the Otter African Trailrun last year.

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“Coming across the bridge at the end of the Otter Trail in first place last October was the biggest moment in my trail racing career,” admitted Greyling.

“But that is past – my goal for 2018 is to get a top 10 position in the Golden Trail Series.”

Reilly tips Mackenzie as a threat to some of the big name athletes in the women’s field, which include world skyrunning champion Laura Orgue (Spain), word mountain running champion, Silvia Rampazzo (Italy), 2017 skyrunning series champion Sheila Aviles (Spain), Swedes Emelie Forsberg and Ida Nilson and American Megan Kimmel.

“Meg is running so well right now – she can certainly run with those athletes on current form and could cause an upset or two in the series,” Reilly reflected.

Weekend Argus