Cape Town’s Meg Mackenzie held on to a top 10 Golden Trail Series ranking by a whisker at the final event of the series in the Ring of Steall 29km in the Scottish Highlands over the weekend.
Mackenzie qualifies for a portion of the lucrative prize money and a place on the elite squad to race the series’ Grand Finale at the Otter African Trail in South Africa next month.
Spanish star Kilian Jornet proved indestructible as he sped to a record-breaking victory in the mud to win the challenging and at times treacherous mountain challenge in “Braveheart” country in the Scottish Highlands.
Muddied and bloodied, Swedish orienteering champion, Tove Alexandersson, crossed the line in triumph at the mountain centre of Kinlochleven to take the women’s title.
Jornet has been unbeatable on all terrains in all weather conditions, and prevailed yesterday against the toughest of highlands conditions.
He crossed the finish line in 3 hrs 04 min 34 sec (3:04.34) to improve Norwegian Stian Angermund-Vik’s race record by fully 20 minutes, while the powerful Alexandersson raced home in 3:46:28 to improve Spanish athlete Laura Orgue’s record by 19 minutes.
Top South Africans Kane Reilly and Meg Mackenzie struggled in conditions foreign to them, but turned in solid performances, placing 22nd and 14th respectively.
Another Cape Town athlete, former UCT student Timothy Chambers, also ran impressively to finish 26th against one of the strongest fields in global trail competition.
But although the race upfront was fast and furious, the real tension developed around the contest amongst athletes battling places for the series’ top 10 positions and an invitation to the Otter.
Mackenzie’s 14th position proved just enough to earn the final place, but she cut it fine, with French athlete Celine Lafaye in tears after falling just three points short.
In the end, the result represented a significant achievement for Mackenzie and a successful European campaign against the best in the world.
“I found that incredibly tough,” a mud-caked Mackenzie admitted.
“I just can’t seem to run in mud. The mixture of mud and rocks made it really slippery.
“I don’t feel exhausted, just frustrated that I couldn’t run to my ability.”
View this post on Instagram
Here we present the 10 Female athletes invited to the Golden Trail Series Grand Final in South Africa and The Otter African Trail Run Each athlete upon accepting their invitation to the Grand Final will receive €5000 as an overall ranking bonus. To make the challenge even more interesting, human, and unique, each of the top 10 final athletes will run for a charitable cause they choose to support, a cause that means something to them. Congratulations to each athlete for a superb season to date. Photos: @jsaragossa
A post shared by Salomon Running (@salomonrunning) on
But in the end it was another Jornet master-class, with only Italian ski-mountaineer specialist Nadir Maguet able to match the master through halfway.
The pair raced through checkpoint 3 about two minutes clear of Swiss athlete Pascal Egli, with Polish Bartlomiej Przedwojewski, Swiss Alexis Sevennec and Angermund-Vik in close attendance.
Jornet finally tightened the screws on his younger rival in the final stages of the last ascent 5km from the finish, before using his exceptional downhill skills to increase his lead to almost two minutes over Maguet at the finish.
A fast-finishing Angermund-Vik bagged third, three minutes down, but 15 minutes inside his record time last year.
“I was very pleased to win today,” Jornet said. “It was not really as expected – it was more slippery than I had imagined.
“I fell on the downhill about 3km before the finish and cut my chin, but that is what trail running is about. But I had enough of a lead, so just got back on my feet and carried on.”
After British veteran Victoria Wilkinson led through the first checkpoint, Alexandersson moved into pole position along the Devil’s Ridge near the highest point of the race, and she was never headed.
“I fell about six or seven times, it was tough out there,” admitted the Swede.
“I never hold back, even when conditions are tough, and I guess this is the consequence.
“But my last fall on my hip was really painful, and I slowed a little after that. Fortunately I was still able to hold on to win.”
British athletes impressed on their home turf, with Wilkinson and Holly Page taking the final podium positions in a hard-fought contest.
Results: Ring of Steall 29km
Men: 1 Kilian Jornet (Esp) 3:04:34; 2 Nadir Maguet (Ita) 3:06:05; 3 Stian Angermund-Vik (Nor) 3:09:05; 4 Alexis Sevannec (Fra) 3:11:56; 5 Pascal Egli (Sui) 3:12:24; 6 Barthlomiej Przedwojewski (Pol) 3:14:41; 7 Remi Bonnet (Sui) 3:16:16; 8 Marc Lauenstein (Sui) 3:21:27; 9 Sebastian Batchelor (GB) 3:21:29; 10 Jan Margarit (Esp) 3:22:9.
South Africans: 22 Kane Reilly 3:35:37; 26 Timothy Chambers 3:39:34.
Women: 1 Tove Alexandersson (Swe) 3:46:28; 2 Victoria Wilkinson (GB) 3:54:01; 3 Holly Page (GB) 3:57:57; 4 Sheila Aviles (Esp) 4:01:20; 5 Laura Orgue (Esp) 4:03:56; 6 Fanny Bergstrom (Swe) 4:04:47; 7 Sandra Guerra (Esp) 4:07:31; 8 Celine Lefaye (Fra) 4:08:38; 9 Oihana Azkorbebeitia (Esp) 4:09:44; 10 Takako Takwutu (Jpn) 4:10:17
Final Golden Trail Series Rankings
1 Kilian Jornet (Spain) 300
2 Stian Angermund-Vik (Norway) 244
3 Marc Lauenstein (Switzerland) 216
4 Aritz Egea (Spain) 171
5 Stephan Wenk (Switzerland) 165
6 Oriol Cardona (Spain) 161
7 Alexis Sevennac (Switzerland) 154
8 Sage Canaday (USA) 147
9 Thibault Baronia (France) 144
10 Bartlomiej Przedwojewski (Poland)
1 Ruth Croft (New Zealand) 250
2 Ida Nilsson (Sweden) 247
3 Laura Orgue (Spain) 244
4 Meg Kimmel (USA) 233
5 Eli Gordon (Spain) 199
6 Holly Page (GB) 178
7 Sheila Aviles (Spain) 175
8 Silvia Rampazzo (Italy) 168
9 Fanny Bergstrom (Sweden) 147
10 Meg Mackenzie (RSA) 141
View this post on Instagram
Today was a really tough race! 🏴 . The mud, the downhills, the face planting. I learnt a lot - as you do in tough races. And I’m really happy to still have snuck into the top 10 overall in the Golden Trail Series. ⛰😁 . . 📷 @philippreiter007
A post shared by Meg Mackenzie (@megmackenzie1) on