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Xavier Thevenard and Francesca Canepa win UTMB 2018

01-Sep-18

Last updated: 03-Sep-18

By Alice Morrison

France and Italy triumphed at this year's UTMB taking the men and women's titles with great runs of 20:44:16 by Xavier Thevenard and 26:03:48 from Francesca Canepa respectively.

After the race, Francesca said, "This is one of the most beautiful days of my life. This is like the Olympics for trail runners."

It was Francesca's first win but for Xavier, it was a magnificent third time to take the title, and payback for his disqualification at Hardrock after he received ice and water from his crew outside of a legal stop. 

A humble and gracious winner, in Xavier's post race interview, he said that it was not actually about the winning it was about enjoying being outside in the mountains, it was about enjoying the day.

Fantastic sentiments from this worthy three-time champion.

Top 3 Men
1. Xavier Thevenard 20:44:16
2. Robert Hajnal 21:31:37
3. Jordi Gamito 21:57:01

Top 3 Women
1. Francesca Canepa 26:03:48
2. Uxue Fraile Azpeitia 26:08:07
3. Jocelyne Pauly 26:15:11

The race had started with a bang, with Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley taking off like rockets. But it was not to be their race. Kilian withdrew at 90km after suffering an allergic reaction to a bee sting.

He reflected later, "What is great about racing is that nothing is written in advance. You need to train hard, to prepare all the strategy, equipment, nutrition and race wisely. And even then, all sorts of details can make a huge difference." 

The much-fancied USA trio of Tim Tollefson, Zach Miller and Jim Walmsley also eventually all DNF-ed. Tim had fallen at about 50km into the race and badly gashed his knee and retired at 136km near the La Giète checkpoint.

It was a gritty performance and cost him as he wrote on Twitter, "This race means so much to me and as I approached the station-lined with friends, family, fans-I felt like I had let everyone down. The energy I felt from everyone was the only thing that got me through 13 hours of pain post fall. Merci beaucoup."

For Romanian, Robert Hajnal, as he walked up to the line carrying a massive Romanian flag and savouring every single moment, there was nothing but joy.

The crowd went wild and he hugged and kissed compatriots as he approached. A great race for him and he has also started a new fashion in full-length running trousers.

The UK's Damian Hall ran the race of his life, coming in at fifth place with 22:35:13. He'd looked increasingly strong and confident as he moved up the field. An absolutely fantastic result and in true British style he celebrated by chugging back a beer at the finish.

Whereas Xavier dominated the second half of the race pulling away by over 45 minutes, the women's race was much closer with just 12 minutes separating the top three.

As the night progressed, we were glued to the live feed as we saw some of the pre-race female favourites and race leaders drop including Caroline Chaverot who pulled out at the Grand Col Ferret with hypothermia, a testament to the heinous conditions.

As late as the 21st of August she had said she still wasn't sure if she would take part but then took the decision on the 26th, saying she was "full of hope." Sadly, those hopes were dashed.

UTMB is a crusher of dreams but also a maker of them. Beth Pascall from the UK ran like the wind and came in at fourth place with 26:26:40. Bravo!

Tonight our thoughts will be out there with all the heroes and heroines still tapping it out on the course.

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