All that new powder snow racers were enjoying in Stage 1 yesterday turned into watery mush overnight as freezing level moved above 2500m. Rainy morning was quickly replaced by sunny skies and the challenge of the day was written on the wall – staying hydrated.
Today, Pierra Menta athletes climbed about 2200-2300m again, however, covering a longer distance than yesterday, with the final big climb going up a very sunny side of a mountain. There was also about 2.5km of road running today as athletes passed through the Areches town in the morning and ran to the finish at the end.
News from the Lead Pack
Men’s race today
Always ready to fight, Kilian Jornet (SPA) and his partner Alexis Sevennec (FRA) went on a mission to crack the Italians – Damiano Lenzi and Matteo Eydallin (both ITA) – and if not to crack them then at least to try to win a stage. Halfway through, Kilian was still forcing the pace as Alexis was digging deep to keep up. Damiano and Matteo were right on their tails and most likely strategizing. Atop the last climb (last skins-off transition), the Italian duo showed up first but had only about 50sec lead. They managed to keep that gap to the finish and won in front of Jornet’s team – a very close race indeed!
A bit of a surprise, a pleasant one, was the third place going to Valentin Favre (FRA) and Filippo Barazzuol (ITA) who were not considered a podium threat, however, after today’s performance they are only 1min off the 3rd place overall!
Favre and Barazzuol came to the last climb’s transition right with 2nd place finishers from yesterday – the young Italians Nadir Maguet and Michelle Boscacci – who couldn’t keep up with them to the line and finished 4th today, only 5sec behind.
Anton Palzer (GER) and young Remy Bonnet (SWI) picked up their pace today and stayed much closer to the top favourites than yesterday, ultimately finished in 5th again but only 4min off the winning team.
International team of Lars Erik Skjervheim (NOR) and Nejc Kuhar (SLO) went on to place 6th today – a truly strong performance by an underdog team!
William Bon Mardion and Xavier Gachet (both FRA) likely had a rough day out there and finished only 7th, about 6min behind Palzer & Bonnet.
Men’s overall after Stage 2
- Lenzi / Eydallin
- Jornet / Sevennec +5:57
- Maguet / Boscacci +11:15
- Bonnet / Palzer +11:51
- Favre / Barazzuol +12:33
Women’s race today
Emelie Forsberg (SWE) was looking much better today and was a more equal match to Laetitia Roux (FRA) than yesterday, with the latter still helping by some towing though. After 2nd place yesterday, they won quite comfortably Stage 2 by about 8min.
Swiss athletes - Severine Pont Combe and Jennifer Fiechter – didn’t appear to suffer too bad but the hot day was difficult for everyone. They came in 2nd today.
Further 3min behind, third place went to a young French team of Axelle Mollaret and Lorna Bonnel, who seem to be well matched. Look out for this team in the near future as they can definitely win Pierra Menta one day!
Highly motivated by their fourth place yesterday, Jessie Young and Janelle Smiley (both USA) balanced their energy levels well today and looked good on the last climb. They finished 4th again about 6min behind the French team.
Women’s overall after Stage 2
- Roux / Forsberg
- Pont Combe / Fiechter +6:51
- Mollaret / Bonnel +12:38
- Smiley / Young +23:39
- Fabre / Riba +32:40
USA and Canadian Teams News
Canadian ladies – Kylee Ohler and Michelle Roberts – are continuing to add to their skimo stage racing experience and despite suffering in the heat they made it through the cut-offs with lots of time to spare. Kylee is helping Michelle on the climbs but both are playing their team’s roles well. Keep it up ladies!
The order for North American men’s teams shuffled slightly from yesterday as John Gaston helped Max Taam (both USA) with some pulling on the climbs to save him for the descents (both are great at those). Max will be looking for his best form in the coming days to equal their performance. They finished 12th in today’s stage, a great result, but for unknown reason (to me) acquired a 3min penalty and thus are sitting 20th in the overall.
Today didn’t go so well for Eric Carter (USA) as he suffered in the heat, with Nick Elson (CAN) helping him slightly on the last climb. However, they are equally matched and are motivated to push higher in the rankings next two days. Today, they finished 20th after yesterday’s 17th place, but are keeping their 17th overall position since many other teams suffered even more today – they are about 3:30 in front of Gaston / Taam.
I believe Tom Goth and Teague Holmes (both USA) had a pretty good day out there, crossing the line in 27th (30th yesterday) and about 5min behind Carter/Elson. Teague is digging deep to keep up with Tom on the climbs but seems to be recovering so far.
After yesterday’s slightly “disastrous” showing (placing just within top 100th teams), the Canadian/USA ultra-runners – Rob Krar and Mike Foote – had a much better going today as their are finally finding their rhythm in this race. They finished 35th, about 6min behind much more skimo experienced team of Goth / Holmes. Overall, they moved up to 59th now and I believe they have a real chance to crack the top 40 by the end.
Jon Brown and Rory Kelly (both USA) should be happy with their performance in Stage 2 as they were only 2min behind Krar / Foote and looked good on the last climb. They came in 43rd, after 58th yesterday, and moved up to 50th overall. They are likely to climb another 5 places by the last day.
Canadian/USA team of Steve Sellers and Scott Archer aren’t having their best going in this race so far, placing 178th today and 164th yesterday. Steve seems to be suffering from sleep-less nights after jet-lag is getting the best of him. Regardless, they are soldiering on and still have two more days to find their rhythm.
Results – Stage 2 and Overall
» Stage two finish order (scroll down for first)
» Overall after Stage 2
Tomorrow will bring another warm day for the Areches-Beaufort region and so everyone is waiting whether organizers will figure out a way to take athletes into the alpine while the avalanche danger is likely to stay fairly high. Overnight temperatures will be high as well with freezing levels lurking around 2000-2500m!