CAPE TOWN – Two new ultra-trail stars were born in Cape Town on Saturday as German marathoner Janosch Kowalczyk and Zimbabwean Emily Hawgood raced to impressive victories at Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km.
The challenging course showed its teeth as many of the favoured athletes were forced to surrender before the finish, leaving Europe-based athletes to bag the podium places in the men’s race, with southern African runners taking the top two places in the women’s competition.
Last year’s top two, Prodigal Khumalo and Ryan Sandes, both quit the race before halfway, as did pre-race favourite Canadian Rob Krar, leaving Kowalczyk, Italian Andreas Reiterer and Swedes Olav Olsson and Johan Lantz to fight it out for honours.
The biggest cheers came as Hawgood broke the tape to claim a remarkable victory.
And when Cape Town’s own Kerry-Ann Marshall signalled a triumphant return to world-class competition, racing home in second just over three minutes in arrears and four minutes ahead of early leader and race favourite, Mimmi Kotka of Sweden.
What an unbelievable run by 2nd place lady and Cape Town local, Kerry-Ann Marshall. This was her comeback run after an injury and then having a child, and I think we can all confirm, she’s back. #UTCT pic.twitter.com/4XCZybCWex— Ultra-trail CapeTown (@UltratrailCT) December 1, 2018
Hot, humid conditions in the second half of the race, a slightly longer course and potentially too fast a pace from the start were reasons cited for the carnage and slower times, with Kowalczyk’s 10 hrs 22 min 0 sec (10:22.00), half an hour off Khumalo’s record last year, and Hawgood’s 11:49.25 was over 20 minutes outside Australian Lucy Bartholomew’s 2017 mark.
“This is unbelievable – it’s definitely the best race of my life,” exclaimed a delighted Kowalczyk. “I never thought I could win. I had been ill prior to the race, and only arrived in Cape Town on Thursday.
“In my wildest dreams, a top 10 position was all I could have hoped for, so to win is just mind-blowing.”
The 24-year-old Hawgood said: “Just amazing, incredible... definitely the toughest and best race of my career.
“To win against these athletes is just amazing. I had an intense stretch after Hout Bay, when I caught Mimmi. She just kept holding on and refusing to surrender
“We were racing toe-to-toe, and I had to dig deep to break her after the Alphen Trail station (75km). I just hoped that I was not breaking myself in the process!”
The 2015 winner, Christiaan Greyling, was the first South African home in fourth position after a nightmare middle section which all but led to his withdrawal.
“I was feeling absolutely terrible, and had decided to stop at Hout Bay,” admitted Greyling.
“But Landie (his wife) would not let me quit, and the thought that several of the athletes I coach were out there on the course kept me going.
“In the end I felt stronger in the final section after the Alphen Trail, and picked up some positions to finish fourth.
“I guess I can take some of the blame for the early fast pace – I deliberately went out hard and led at the first check point at Signal Hill. I paid for that later, but probably others paid a heavier price.”
M100k: Here’s your UTCT podium.— Ultra-trail CapeTown (@UltratrailCT) December 1, 2018
1st: J.Kowalczyk 🇩🇪
2nd: E.Olssen 🇸🇪
3rd: J.Lantz 🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/nOQD3mIike
Leading Italian mountain runner Reiterer, set the pace up Platteklip Gorge and was 12 minutes up on a group of athletes, including Sandes and Krar, at the top of Table Mountain.
Sandes broke from the pack, running strongly on the descent to Constantia Nek and along the contour to Llandudno, and was just five minutes in arrears at the 45km mark along the beach run.
An inexplicable dizzy spell near the top of Suther Peak brought Sandes to a halt, and South Africa’s ultra-distance star was unable to continue, leaving Kowalczyk to race past him in pursuit of Reiterer.
The Italian still held a seventh-minute lead at Hout Bay Harbour at 69km, but was struggling to maintain his mojo up the long climb along Disa River to Constantia Nek, with the German taking the lead shortly after the athletes reached the summit, on the descent to the Constantia greenbelts.
M100k Leaderboard | Finish— Ultra-trail CapeTown (@UltratrailCT) December 1, 2018
1- J. Kowalczyk 10:22:00
2- E. Olsson 10:41:49
3- J. Lantz 10:46:24
4- C. Greyling 11:22:30
5- R. Forbes 11:30:53
6- S. Sherpa 11:33:17
7- A. Joyeux-Bouillon 11:53:00
8- U. Ferrari 12:21:15
9- K. Spratley 12:29:44
10- R. Eichstadt 12:35:35#UTCT
World 100km road silver-medallist, Olsson, came from behind to move into second position after Cecilia Forest and at one stage threatened to challenge Kowalczyk’s supremacy, but a difficult final stage left him almost 20 minutes in arrears as he finished in 10:41.49, five minutes clear of compatriot Lantz.
Cape Town’s Bernard Rukadza was in a class of his own in winning the 65km in 7:03.18, ahead of German Moritz Auf der Heide, with French athlete Camille Bruyas taking honours in the women’s competition, while Timothy Chambers and Hayley Preen took the 35km titles.
W100k Leaderboard | Finish— Ultra-trail CapeTown (@UltratrailCT) December 1, 2018
1 - E. Hawgood 11:49:25
2 - K. Marshall 11:53:14
3 - M. Kotka 11:57:02
4 - K. Wolf 12:43:03
5 - K. Henninger 13:08:35#UTCT