SIERRE ZINAL 2022: VICTORIES FOR MARK KANGOGO & ESTHER CHEPSANG
Today at 11.00 the WMRA and GTWS departed from Sierre to cover the 31km with 2200m of ascent,until arriving to Zinal with vistories for Mark Kangongo and Esther Chepsang. Before seen all the details, lets see how Kilian passed around km25.
SIERRE ZINAL 2022:
VICTORIES FOR MARK KANGOGO
& ESTHER CHEPSANG
This weekend the WMRA World Cup and the Golden Trail Series heads to Switzerland, an iconic race in the mountain running world. Most mountain races have a lot of history behind them but this is the 49th edition of Sierre-Zinal. Since its creation in 1974 men and women have raced over the same distance here, and as we’ll see the results list reads like an international who’s who of mountain running.
The route itself is iconic. It’s known as ‘la course des cinq 4000’ because the runners get to enjoy views including 5 peaks over 4000m along the way (Weisshorn (4506m), Zinalrothorn (4221m), Obergabelhorn (4073m) Matterhorn (4478m) and Dent Blanche (4357m)). Athletes start in Sierre at 570m and then climb up, up, up to the highest point at 2425m at Nava over the course of 24km. Then the final 7 km is downhill, culminating in a frantic sprint through Zinal to the finish line at 1680m. It’s a tantalisingly runnable, fast course, which as we know results in some very exciting racing.
SIERRE-ZINAL 2022: 31KM| 2200M+
Sierre-Zinal draws top international runners back year after year, in pursuit of one of the biggest accolades in mountain running. From 1979 to 1982 Pablo Vigil (USA) won 4 in a row. In the women’s race Veronique Marot (GBR) won 3 out of 4 between 1984 and 1987, then Isabella Crettenand-Moretti (SUI) was unbeaten between 1995 and 1997. In 2001 Ricardo Mejia (MEX) won his first of 3 races, but his dominance was interrupted by Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) in 2002 and 2003, who set the record of 2.29.12 which was unbeaten for 16 years. In 2006 Anna Pichrtova (CZE) began her 4 year reign, setting the women’s record of 2.54.26 in the process. This record would also endure for 11 years.
But by far the most dominant male athlete here has of course been Kilian Jornet (ESP) who has won an incredible 8 times. He finally beat the record set by Jonathan Wyatt at an unbelievably exciting 2019 race, running 2.25.35.
Lucy Wambui (KEN) has won 3 times in recent years (2015, 2017, 2018) but it was Maude Mathys (SUI) who finally smashed Anna Pichrtova’s record with a stunning run of 2.49.20, also in 2019. Will these records stand after Saturday’s race? Let’s take a look at the fields.
SIERRE ZINAL 2022 : THE RACE
Sierre Zinal is a race especially open to all types of runners due to its characteristics, and today it has been proven so.
Not too technical, not too rolling. Neither very long, nor short… Total, that in the end here converge and win often, athletes trained in other disciplines. It was not causality that first victory in 1974 of the cross-country skier against the Olympic champion of the 3,000m hurdles.
Kilian Jornet was looking for his tenth gold here, moreover, he was once again the mega-favorite, also counting that the record here is his, since 2019 with 2h25.35.
However as he explained at the finish line he suffered from some cramps and at the last aid station with no more than 5 KM to the finish line, the head of the race had 7 minutes from him.
In the men’s race it was another Kenyan debutant who pushed the pace early on. Unlike Chesang, Mark
Kangogo, 2nd at Thyon-Dixence last weekend, had company.
Among those who kept up with the early pace were Kangogo’s compatriots Patrick Kipngeno and Philemon Kiriago, the Run2gether pair who have been the standouts on the Valsir World Cup so far this year, and the great Catalan Kilian Jornet, 9 time champion of Sierre-Zinal.
Gradually that group broke as first Kangogo and Kipngeno pulled away from the rest, then as the gradients eased after Chandolin, Kangogo pulled away from Kipngeno. Running ahead of course record pace, his lead grew all the way to Hotel Weisshorn and although he slowed dramatically in the final kilometres and dropped behind the record, he was never in danger of being caught.
Falling to the ground as he crossed the line, Kangogo’s winning time, 2:27:31, is the 3rd fastest in the race’s history; only Kilian Jornet and Petro Mamu, 1st and 2nd in 2019, have run faster.
Remarkable runs for 2nd place are becoming a tradition at Sierre-Zinal. After Robbie Simpson’s incredible move through the field in 2021, this year it was the turn of Andreu Blanes.
The Spanish orienteer was nowhere early on, over 4 minutes down on the leaders at Ponchette. Biding his time, he picked up a few places through the middle section of the race, then from Hotel Weisshorn to the finish he flew.
No-one else was even close to his splits. Where Mathys ran out of road, Blanes had just enough, passing Kipngeno on the final descent and giving himself just enough of a buffer to celebrate, falling to his knees as he crossed the line in 2nd, 14 seconds ahead of Kipngeno in 3rd
But if the race for 2nd was exciting, the race for 4th was heart-stopper. Kilian Jornet and the Eritrean Petro Mamu, sparring partners at this race before, were also gaining hard. Metres apart, they passed a fading Kiriago, who took a horrible fall, in the closing minutes.
On the road into the finish the 9 time champion thought his 4th place was secure, but as Jornet was high fiving the fans Mamu was right behind, his footsteps hidden by the noise of the crowd, winding up to a ferocious finishing kick. By the time Jornet realised what was happening it was too late. Leaning for the line like he was racing on the track, Mamu snatched 4th place by a tenth of a second.
Philemon Kiriago did a commendable job of limiting his losses after his fall and crossed the line, covered in dust, just 28 seconds later to take 6th
1 – MARK KANGOGO (KEN – DAUDIN / ON RUNNING): 02:27:31
2 – ANDREU BLANES (ESP – HOKA ONE ONE/CARNICAS SERRANO): 02:29:19
3 – PATRICK KIPNGENO (KEN – RUN2GETHER): 02:29:35
4 – PETRO MAMU (ERI – SCARPA): 02:30:18
5 – KILIAN JORNET (ESP – NNORMAL): 02:30:19
Esther Chesang was on the front from start to finish, though this anything but a boring race. Going out hard, she led by over 2 minutes at Ponchette, after less than an hour of racing.
Chasing behind were Maude Mathys, the Swiss winner of the last 3 editions and Philiaries Kisang, the Kenyan winner of last
weekend’s Thyon-Dixence. They themselves were almost 4 minutes clear of the next group. This seperation of the front 3 would remain all the way to the finish in Zinal.
Through the middle third of the race the elastic between Chesang and Mathys stretched and contracted.
With Kisang falling away behind, the leading pair took turns gaining time on the indulating trails up to Hotel Weisshorn, with both athletes at points running under Mathys’ course record splits from 2019.
However, as the race entered its closing chapter after Hotel Weisshorn, it was Mathys and her superior descending skills that had the upper hand. Chesang, a 69 minute half marathon runner who reportedly only trained for her debut mountain race for 2 months, was by no means slow, but the Swiss champion’s technical prowess saw her floating over the technical terrain, bringing her closer and closer to the lead.
In the tense final kilometres, there were times where she would have been able to look up and see Chesang, had she not been concentrating on the trail.
Ultimately, Mathys ran out of road. Esther Chesang crossed the line first, taking the win in her first ever outing in the mountains, in the end just 30 seconds ahead of the 3 time champion Mathys.
It was a lonely run in for Philiaries Kisang in 3rd. She came in over 5 minutes later but still 3 minutes ahead of Teresiah Omosa, also of Kenya, in 4th. Ireland’s Sarah McCormack ran an 8 minute PB to finish 5 th, having passed U.S.A.’s Bailey Kowalczyk on the final descent.
Having been the dominant force of the Valsir World Cup so far, today was finally a bad day for Joyce
Njeru, who did not finish.
1 – ESTHER CHESANG (KEN – SKYRUNNERS KENYA): 02:52:01
2 – MAUDE MATHYS (CHE – SALOMON): 02:52:32
3 – PHILIARIES KISANG (KEN – DAUDIN / ON RUNNING): 02:58:00
4 – TERESIAH OMOSA (KEN – RUN2GETHER): 03:01:13
5 – SARAH MCCORMACK (IRL – INOV-8): 03:04:12
SIERRE ZINAL 2022 : PHOTO GALLERY BY HÉCTOR RUBIO
IF YOU LIKE WHAT YOU READ,
CLICK THIS BUTTON TO SUPPORT US IN PATREON.COM/MAYAYO