TDS, 145 km / 9100 m
Back in November the organisers announced a big change for the second longest, more remote and what’s considered the most technical of the races during UTMB week. TDS (or Sur les Traces des Ducks de Savoie for any readers fluent in french) has been revamped with a longer and, yes you guessed it right, steeper course. By adding 23 k and 2000 m of climbing the new 145 k route starts in Courmayeure and follows the old route up to the former half way mark in Roselend where it turns left to take the runners across the majestic Beaufortain Massif before rejoining the old route again at Col Du Joly. The predicted men’s winning time for TDS 2.0 is 19 hours which brings it almost up to par with UTMB.
So who are the fools that are lining up for this madness which kicks off the race week (well okay PTL starts before but TDS is the first race to finish) in Chamonix? Let’s have a peep.
During 2018 in what was her first year on the international trail scene, this talented french runner landed herself some serious ITRA points by first placing second at both MIUT and Marathon du Mont Blanc and then winning TDS. Since then Tanguy has gone on to place third and second in two of the most stacked races of 2019 (MIUT and Lavaredo) and taking the win at Translantau. On Wednesday morning she will be back on the start line in Courmayeure ready to defend her title and I think she is in with a very good chance of a repeat victory.
If anyone has the legs to beat Tanguy to the finish line in Chamonix it’s Switzerland’s Kathrin Götz. She’s been so frequent on the round up that her last name, even with it’s umlauts, is now fully accepted by my laptop’s dictionary. Last years TDS finished with a DNF for Götz, quiet possibly due to having raced and won pretty much every other weekend. In 2019 she has had an equally successful but less intense lead up to TDS. She beat Audrey to the win at Lavaredo and repeated her victory from last year at Eiger Ultra Trail aaaaand crushed her competition at the 55 k Lago Maggiore. In other words Götz is on fire and now its down to the question of who wants their revenge more. Tanguy for missing out on the trophy at LUT or Götz for last years DNF.
The trail community has been unanimously in awe of Hillary’s journey back to racing after taking a life threatening fall at Tromso Skyrace two years ago. The display of determination and joie de vivre from the American mountain runner has been inspiring to say the least. Allen returned to racing with a win at the 50 k Cortina Trail last year but sadly sustained an ankle injury early in 2019 which kept her off racing for the first half of the year. She returned to defend her title at Cortina in June and although she’d spent most of the early season on two wheels she looked in great running form. Since then Hillary has been spending her summer on the European summits, including a fastpack out on the TDS course, before returning to face her demons at Tromso Skyrace where she ran together with Manu Par who saved her life at the race two years ago. The technicality of TDS should suit Allen’s Skyrunning-loving legs and although this will be her longest race to date I dare say that with her strong mindset the lack of experience wont be a problem. I’m not sure she will have recovered enough to keep up with Tanguy and Götz but I’m still crossing my fingers for a Hillygoat on the podium.
With Italy’s experienced Pretto the Lavaredo podium presence at TDS reaches 100 %. Before racing herself to third place behind Tanguy and Götz in the Dolomites Francesca started her year with a good run at MIUT where she crossed the line as 7th lady. More recently she won the 80 k long Trans D’Havet for the third year in a row. Pretto is a wild card, she has heaps of experience from a long career of long distance mountain racing but might be lacking in the speed needed to keep up with the runners above.
This half Swede half Norwegian runner has gone from strength to strength since her return to racing last year after an injury ridden 2017. She was 7th at both UTWT and TDS last year and in 2019 we’ve seen her climb up the ITRA ranks with an 8th place behind Pretto at a stacked MIUT and more recently taking 6th at the 90 k Marathon du Mont Blanc. With that curve of race strength gain i reckon that if Elisabeth has a good day (and night) she should at the very least be able to place top 5.
Elisabeth isn’t the only Norwegian with potential to break through to an international podium this week. Last year Kirsten Amundsgaard who has a background in competitive XC skiing took a convincing win at the 65 k Ultra Trail Cape Town. Skiers are known for having an incredible Vo2 max and we frequently see them reap success on shorter trail and sky races. In June Amundsgaard proved that she’s got the endurance malarkey nailed down too by placing 4th at a record hot Lavaredo behind TDS favourites Götz and Tanguy.
Sophie is a regular visitor on the UTMB top ten but this year she’s switching things up by taking on the new TDS. With great success in more technical races and an OA win at the UK & Ireland Skyseries last year it feels like a smart move by Grant. Sophie has left her van-life in the mountains and returned to the flatlands around London this year but so far that does not seem to have affected her capability on rugged trails, she placed 9th at Lavaredo earlier in the summer and i think that was just a modest warm up!
That rounds up my top seven for this years brand new TDS but there are still a couple of other runners to keep an eye on, like french runner SANDRINE BETRANGER who’s got a long career of strong racing in her legs and from America last years Bear 100 runner up LEAH YINGLING.
It all kicks off from Courmayeure at 4 AM (CET) on Thursday morning and the race will be aired live on the UTMB channel. Tune in and watch a couple of new course records being set!
All UTMB content and drawings are provided by the brilliant Cajsa. Check her out over at instagram.com/banjosaurus or find her on the trails