It’s here. Monday 27 August to Sunday 2 September 2018. One of the biggest weeks on the global trail running calendar. With solid South African representation and a gathering of some of the world greats, UTMB 2018 will be another unbelievable celebration of European-style mountain racing and a story that will distract you from a bit of work over the next few days! The event is made up of several races, and piecing it all together can be confusing. Here’s our guide on how to follow, who to follow, and when.
The main event, Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc, takes place annually on either the last weekend in August or the first weekend of September in the Alps, and follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland. The route is approximately 166 kilometres, and has a total elevation gain of around 9,600 m; widely recognised as one of the toughest on the globe. More than 2 000 starters head out on the course each year, but many will not finish. Leaders complete the loop in slightly more than 20 hours, with most runners take 32 to 45 hours to reach the world famous finish line. There is no prize money.
UTMB is however one race during a week-long festival based around Chamonix in France. The races have strict entry and qualification requirements attained by accumulating enough race points through qualifying trail races over the previous two-year period*.
Steeped in tradition, fully supported by the surrounding communities and visiting spectators, this is the ultimate mountain racing show.
UTMB 2018 Events
UTMB: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (166 km +9 600 m)
CCC: Courmayeur - Champex - Chamonix (101 km +6 100 m)
TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km +7 250 m)
OCC: Orsières - Champex - Chamonix (53 km +3 300 m)
PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300 km +28 000 m)
MCC: De Martigny-Combe à Chamonix (40 km +2 300 m)
YCC: Youth Chamonix Courmayeur (15 km +1 100 m)
UTMB 2018 Programme
MONDAY AUGUST 27th
08:00 : Start of PTL®
10:00 : Start of MCC
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29th
06:00 : Start of TDS®
10:00 : Start of YCC
11:30 : First YCC finishers
20:30 : First TDS® finishers
THURSDAY AUGUST 30th
08:15 : Start of OCC
13:30 : First OCC finishers
FRIDAY AUGUST 31st
09:00 : Start of CCC®
18:00 : Start of UTMB®
20:00 : First CCC® finishers
22:00 : First PTL® finishers
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 1st
14h45 : First UTMB® finishers
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 2nd
16:00 : UTMB® official closing ceremony
All of the races can be followed live via this link https://utmbmontblanc.com/en/live/utmb
Or via the UTMB Facebook feed
There will be the usual outstanding independent coverage of UTMB via iRunFar channels, too.
Who to Watch at UTMB 2018
While last year’s champion Francois D’haene isn’t returning, the rest of the 2017 men’s top five will line up. This year's race features a much-hyped showdown between Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley. No one can really call it until the last chips are down, but Kilian is in unbelievable form. Then we’ll also have our man Ryan Sandes there to shake a big monkey from his back, with the likes of Tim Tollefson, Xavier Thevenard, Luis Alberto Hernando, Zach Miller and Alex Nichols all in contention.
Photo: Ryan Sandes
Study the stacked men's field here.
The women’s field is full of familiar names, and many have had a crack at UTMB in the past. Due to injury, the defending women’s champion, Spain’s Núria Picas will unfortunately not be lining up. Those in the know are following Sweden’s Mimmi Kotka with a view to seeing her take top spot in her 100-mile debut. She was the 2017 TDS champion, and in 2016 she won the CCC. So far this year, she’s won the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT), MaXi-Race Annecy, and Mont-Blanc 90km. USA’s Clare Gallagher is another name to likely to reach podium. In 2017 Clare won CCC. She also took second place at the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships and was eighth at the 2018 Trail World Championships, among other performances. Clare won the 2016 Leadville 100 Miler, clocking the second-fastest time a woman has ever run that course.
More insight on the women’s field here.
We’ll be following closely, as we count down to one of South Africa’s UTMB qualifiers, Marloth Mountain Challenge 2018.
*The 55km Marloth Mountain Challenge Ultra Mountain Marathon is a qualifying race for Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® and will give you four points toward their qualification criteria.