Hout Bay trail athlete, Ryan Sandes, is hoping to win the UTCT just like he did the Western States 100 miler. Photo: Supplied

Trail running in South Africa received a major boost with the announcement from Hong Kong yesterday that Ultra-Trail Cape Town has been elevated to “Pro” status in the Ultra-trail World Tour.

The announcement will provide a further injection of global running talent into Cape Town at the end of the year, with leading athletes Hayden Hawks of USA and French legend, Natalie Mauclair, already signed up to compete in the Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km in December.

“This is fantastic news,” UTCT race-director, Nic Bornman said. “It is recognition of the success of last year’s event and will make a significant impact on the quality of the field. With double the points on offer for a win compared with last year, I would estimate that the number of elites competing is also likely to double.

“The interest from the world’s elite in competing in Cape Town is huge - we could see 30 to 40 elite athletes in the men’s field this year and a similar increase in quality in the women’s field. For a South African to make the top ten will be quite an achievement.”

Last December saw South Africa’s global ultra-trail star Ryan Sandes going head to head with Comrades Marathon star Prodigal Khumao over the challenging 100km course over Table Mountain, with Khumalo and Sandes pulling off an inspirational 1-2 against top international competition. Ben Brimble (7th) and Beniamino Pellegrini (10th) were other top ten finishers in the men’s competition.

Stellenbosch athlete, Robyn Owen, achieved a brilliant second position against top Australian, Lucy Bartholomew, in the women’s competition, one of only three South Africans in the top ten.

Hawks is one of a talented group of younger, faster athletes taking world trail racing by storm and will be one of the men to beat in December. The 26 year old American impressed in winning the UTMB “CCC” 100km in Chamonix, France, in September last year, where Sandes struggled home in 21st position.

“We are proud to have Cape Town as a destination in the world tour,” tour director, Jean-Charles Perrin commented from Hong Kong.

“They hosted an excellent race last year and I’m certain that this year’s one will have an even greater impact, with the status of the race now at “Pro” level.

“We are also proud to have upgraded the implementation of a health policy, where athletes are encouraged to register on the SHOL platform (sports health online), where they will provide information and receive advice on medical issues relating to trail racing. This is unique in world sport and we believe it will have a major impact of all aspects of athletics and health, including doping issues.”

Weekend Argus

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