“After the hell of the Pordoi Couloir, you can touch the sky” – Meg Mackenzie showing the exhilaration of summiting in last year’s Dolomites Skyrace in Italy. Photo: Supplied

Cape Town trail athlete Meg Mackenzie returns to the scene of one of her favourite 2018 races today with every chance of replicating or even improving on her 6th position in the 2018 Dolomites Skyrace in northern Italy.

The race has been incorporated into this year’s iconic Golden Trail World Series, which will ensure that the depth of quality of athlete contesting today’s race will be considerably up on last year, given the attractive incentives to athletes finishing in the top ten positions at the end of the trail series.

But if the quality of the Italian contest has been upped a few notches this year, so has Mackenzie’s form.  Twelve months ago she was one of a number of hopefuls from around the world with an eye to breaking into the top ten in the series. She goes to the start line in the Italian ski-resort town of Canazei as one of the established elite, mentioned in all the dispatches as one to watch today.

The race’s subtitle, “the couloir of hell”, is a reference to the steep narrow gully through which athletes pass from the relative comfort of the town at 1450m to a lung-searing summit at Piz Boe at 3152m.  But Mackenzie’s second passion is rock climbing on high mountain peaks, and the tough technical challenge is likely to favour the South African in her quest for a single-digit position.

At 22km, the race is the shortest in the series, which largely focuses on marathon-distance trail racing, but the 1950m of vertical gain more than makes up for the lack of kilometres. The quote from Shakespeare’s Mid-summer Night’s Dream “though she be little, she is fierce”, fits the race perfectly.

“I’m really excited for the race,” Mackenzie commented from Italy yesterday.  “It’s a really strong field of ladies this year and the uphill will be fast! I hope to make up some time on the descent and really just go for it. Although it’s a “short” race it’s still long enough that I think strategy will pay off by starting slightly easier and building up throughout the race.

“I’ve not been training much since Mont Blanc (Mackenzie placed 6th in the Mont Blanc Marathon three weeks ago). I’ve spent most of my focused time on recovering properly. Let’s hope for the best come Sunday.”

Angermund-Vik will not relinquish his title lightly, although will have to be at his best to eclipse Italians Davide Magnini (winner of the Mont Blanc Marathon) and Nadir Maguet, Polish athlete Bart Przedwojewski, Spain’s Aritz Egea and Swiss athlete Stephan Wenk.

Kiwi Ruth Croft has proved unstoppable in the series since last year and will again be tough to beat, with Norwegian Eli-Anne Dvergsdal and local athlete, Silvia Rampazzo significant threats to both Croft and Mackenzie.

Kane Reilly and Toni McCann are the other South African elite athletes racing today.

IOL Sport