Swiss couple, Marc and Sandra Lauenstein are on the trail during the Otter. Photo: Supplied

THE announcement of one of South Africa’s premier trail races as the “grand finale” of an imaginative new tour connecting the world’s top trail marathons, is set to change the face of the sport in South Africa.

The Golden Trail Series, to be launched in 2018, combines five of the world’s most iconic marathon-distance trail races into a dream tour. Apart from the prestige of winning the league, the series offers substantial prize money and the added incentive of a trip of a lifetime to the grand finale.

The selection of the Otter African Trail Run for the grand finale is a huge boost to the sport in South Africa and a tribute to both the organisation of the event and the scenic beauty of the trail between Storm’s River and Nature’s Valley.

The series’ top 10 men and women will qualify for substantial prize money and have the opportunity to travel to the Otter Trail with a friend or partner of their choice. In addition, they will be able to support a cause they are passionate about, with their charities benefitting from their participation in the Otter.

With leading journalists being invited to the race, joint race hosts, Eden Municipality and South African National Parks, will have an enviable opportunity to market their destination to the world.

World class athletes, such as Britain’s Ricky Lightfoot, Swiss Marc Lauenstein, New Zealand’s Ruby Muir and American Stevie Kremer, have excelled at the Otter in previous years but this will be the first time that the cream of world marathon-distance trail racing will compete in a single event in South Africa.

Following on the success of the recent 100km Ultra-trail Cape Town and the Ultra-trail World Tour, which bring together the world’s top ultra-distance athletes, the Golden Trail Series now provides a tour for faster athletes who mostly race over distances up to the standard marathon.

“We chose the five events because they are the most exciting races to follow, where the winners aren’t decided until the very end,” Salomon’s Global Sports Marketing Manager, Greg Vollet explained. “These races are full of adventure, emotion and competition, each celebrating a key component of the spirit of trail running.”

Spain’s Zegama 42km, regarded as the best supported race in the world, kicks off the series on 27 May and is followed by the breath-taking Mont Blanc Marathon (1 July), which finishes at the French alpine resort of Chamonix. Switzerland’s Sierre Zinal (12 August) is branded the series’ “fastest race” and typically explodes into action in a sprint finish over the final kilometre, while the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado USA (19 August) is the series’ highest race, with runners having to navigate a route which summits at a lung-searing 4302m.

The fifth and final league race is Scotland’s “Ring of Steall”, the shortest at 29km, but also the “most technical” and a true test of dexterity, strength and fortitude. With the athletes’ best three results from the five races determining league positions, the British event will be the final chance to break into the top ten and qualify for the trip to South Africa in October.

Vollet was upbeat about the potential of the series to have a significant impact on the sport of trail running. “We are pretty confident because we have included the best races in the world which each year attract the world’s leading athletes,” Vollet enthused.

“So far all the best Salomon athletes are in, including Kilian Jornet (Spain), Stian Angermund (Norway), Max King (USA) and Marc Lauenstein(Switz) and the top women including Emelie Forsberg (Sweden), Megan Kimmel (USA) and Laura Orgue (Spain). And there have been some great reactions from big elite athletes from other brands too. So, it will be without doubt very, very exciting!

“We choose the Otter African Trail Race, because we wanted an exotic, attractive place for the big finale. The race is the most competitive in South Africa, at the right time and at the right place. I have no doubt that the finale will create a huge impact.

“Just through our Salomon social media we reached over 10 million people during the Mont Blanc Marathon alone. So, you can imagine the exposure that South Africa will have during one week, when the world’s best athletes are together competing in this incredible location!”

Weekend Argus

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