Mimmi Kotka is the favourite to take the title in Cape Town. Photo: Stephen Granger
The elevation of Ultra-trail Cape Town to “Pro” status this year gives the South African race 
 the final event of the 2018 Ultra-trail World Tour  a significant increase in importance, and international athletes will be descending on the Mother City in numbers from early next week in the hope of securing a more competitive position on the final 2018 tour rankings with solid performances over the challenging Table Mountain course next Saturday.

The 2018 tour comprises 21 separate events on the world's different continents, with all participants earning points according to their finishing position, contributing to their annual rankings which is calculated on the basis of each athlete’s best two results for the year.

The men’s and women’s tour champions will be named after the Ultra-trail Cape Town finale  with incentives at stake for both the top five male and female athletes.

The tour was launched in 2013 to provide ultra-distance trail athletes the opportunity to experience a diversity of challenges in various parts of the world with added incentives of global recognition and reward. Long, steep mountain climbs in the Alps, muddy encounters in races in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, hills and beaches of Hong Kong and Japan, desert sand of the Sahara in Morocco and the technical single-track and scenic vistas of Table Mountain in the Cape Town event, describe just some of the various conditions underfoot.

While poles apart in their respective geographical contexts, the tour events share common values of ethics, equality, self-respect, respect for others and strong support for the environment.

The tour has grown substantially over six years and its races in 2017 supported 18 372 participants from 104 countries over a total distance of 2860 km and a total ascent of 125,128 metres  the equivalent of four Mt Everests. Seventy one percent of all who started the races completed the courses within the allocated times.

A combination of the last attempt to gain points from a Pro-status tour event and the cancellation last weekend of the popular North Face 50km and 50-mile challenge in San Francisco due to wild-fire-induced poor air quality, has led to a strong line-up of athletes for the Cape Town event, with a few additional leading athletes expected to be announced within the next days.

While the men’s race has attracted some big-name athletes, including Western States 100-mile winner and previous record-holder, Rob Krar of Canada, French athlete Nicholas Martin and last year’s top two  South Africa’s Prodigal Kumala and Ryan Sandes, it is the women’s competition which could prove the highlight, with several athletes contesting UTCT in line to clinch the Ultra-trail World Tour title.

Forty-seven year-old Italian Francesca Canepa is just 15 points behind current tour leader, Chinese sensation Miao Yao, and will be looking to finish the year on a high in Cape Town, following her notable Ultra-trail Mont Blanc 100-mile win in August and recent third position in the Cappadocia 110km race in Turkey.

Also in contention and racing in Cape Town is talented American, Kelly Wolf (24). Her victories in the competitive tour races at Tarawera in New Zealand in February and Laveredo in the Italian Dolomites in June, mark her has an athlete for the future and a podium favourite next Saturday.

But despite these strong contenders, overall favourite for the Cape Town title is brilliant Swedish athlete, Mimmi Kotka, who won the Madeira Island 115km in April, the 116km Maxi in Annecy, France in May and the 91km Mont Blanc Ultra in July. A win in Cape Town will likely ensure a top three placing in the overall rankings for 2018. 

Weekend Argus

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