The Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series made its return to the Italian Alps, the birthplace of skyrunning, for the first Italian race of the 2019 season, the spectacular Livigno SkyMarathon.
Deep snow and high water levels resulted in the iconic course undergoing many changes in the days leading up to the race. However, organisers did an exceptional job ensuring that the final outcome was still as epic as ever, presenting a race with 31 km and 2650m of vertical gain that included ropes, chains, ridges and plenty of technical downhills.
The spectacular race attracted a truly international field of runners, however, it was two returning superstars who were out for revenge that took home the win in Livigno today.
In the women’s field, second place was not an option for the female champion of the day, Sheila Avilés of Spain. After placing second last year in Livigno and missing out on a podium position at her previous Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series in Japan, the Spanish athlete came here today stronger and more prepared than ever to take on her main rival of the series, Elisa Desco of Italy.
Avilés managed to take the lead for the first climb but lost it to Desco in the second uphill of the race. After a fierce fight between the two women, Avilés took her revenge and flew down the last downhill, arriving first to the finish line with an impressive time of 03h52’40», only 30 minutes behind the first man.
«Winning Livigno SkyMarathon was a dream come true for me today. I felt good from the start. I kept some of my energy until the end so I could really push on the last downhill but it was clear to me from early on that I could win.» said the proud winner who battled against Desco of Italy for much of the race. «It was very close between Elisa and I. In the second uphill, I went up with Elisa, but as soon as we hit the second downhill, I managed to make a difference. This part was really technical and that is where my strength lies. My race was won in the downhill.»
Desco, who finished just four minutes behind Avilés was met at the finish line by her husband, fellow Italian skyrunner and race organiser Marco De Gasperi. After such an impressive performance on her home turf, Desco now sits at the top of the 2019 overall ranking. It was a surprising third-place finish for young start Gisela Carrion of Spain who is slowly but surely making a name for herself in the world of skyrunning, followed by Oihana Azkorbebeitia of Spain in fourth.
The biggest surprise of the day was comeback queen, Holly Page of Great Britain who placed fifth. The 2018 Skyrunner World Series champion made her return to the circuit after missing out on the beginning of the season due to a foot injury and not running for almost 2 months.
«I didn’t expect this at all today. I just wanted to take it easy and enjoy it rather than compete. I’m in total shock and even had some tears in my eyes. This has given me a lot of confidence so hopefully by the end of the season I’ll be back at the level I want to be.»
The men’s race, although not as exciting, was equally as impressive at the women’s. Ruy Ueda of Japan took off and dominated the race from start to finish. After placing eighth in Livigno last year, Ueda returned today with the same goal as Avilés: to take home the win.
«I didn’t do well in Livigno last year. This year the competition was even higher but I returned stronger. My strength is in the uphills so although three big climbs are hard for most other runners, this was a good race for me. I pushed hard for the whole time to keep the lead and it worked out for me. I’m very happy to win again in the Skyrunner World Series.»
This is the second win of the season for Ueda, proving that Mt. Awa Skyrace was no beginners luck. The Japanese athlete now shares the first position in the overall ranking with his main rival, Oriol Cardona of Spain who finished third today with a time of 03h26’24», two minutes behind Daniel Antonioli of Italy in second place. Skyrunning legend, Luis Alberto Hernando, finished fourth and Zaid Ait Malek followed in fifth.
«This was a race with a really high level of competition so I didn’t expect to get this position. In the middle of the race, I thought that I could do a good job so I pushed hard. The best moment of the race without a doubt is the second downhill with the snow and the technical point at the top. I really loved it, especially the fast downhill, but unlike in Japan, there was no battle with Ruy today. He was the strongest from the beginning.» said Cardona.