Cape Town trail athlete, Meg Mackenzie, goes to the start of today’s Sierre Zinal race over 31km in Switzerland, aiming to consolidate her top ten position in the Golden Trail Series.
The third race of the inaugural Golden Trail Series, Sierre-Zinal, is rated as the fastest race on the circuit and is what professional trail runners might call “flat”. The Swiss Alpine race covers 31 kms and features only - “only” - 2200 meters of vertical gain from Sierre to Zinal - more than enough to test the average trail athlete, but relatively easy meat for the elite field.
Spectacular scenery will not be in short supply with the course boasting sightings of five peaks over 4000m, including the Weisshorn (4506m) and the Matterhorn (4478m).
The course records are long standing, with British athlete Jonathan Wyatt and Czech Anna Pichrtova still holding the fastest times of 2:29:12 sec (2003) and 2:54:16 (2008) respectively.
There is every chance these marks could be challenged today, with the likes of Kilian Jornet, Marc Lauenstein, Marco De Gasperi and Stiaan Angersmund-Vic amongst the men, and Ida Nilsson, Lucy Murigi, Ruth Croft and Michelle Maier leading the charge in the women’s race.
Mackenzie has excelled with impressive performances at Zegama and Mont Blanc, leaving her fifth in the Golden Series Rankings, but Sierra Zinal does not play to her known strengths of technical ability, strength and endurance. She will have to dig deep to bag another top ten place in a field which includes the best on the planet.
“I prepared for the race in Chamonix (France), which has become a familiar base to get in some good training, including lots of speedy hill reps,” Mackenzie said yesterday.
But Mackenzie has emerged this year as a world-class athlete who can compete at the highest level and is looking forward to “conquering my Sierre/Zinal demons” in the race. Following her 13th at Zegama and eighth at Mont Blanc, another top ten will represent an outstanding success.
Spanish legend Jornet has won on five previous occasions and will undoubtedly be the one to beat today, following his win at Mont Blanc last month.