In sweltering conditions Great Britain and France dominated this weekend (6-7) at the 4th IAU Trail World Championships in Llanrwst.
There was home delight as Britain’s Ricky Lightfoot won the men’s individual race by almost 10 minutes, and in doing so led the British team to team gold. In the women’s event France’s Nathalie Mauclair was equally impressive as she demolished a world-class field and headed up team success for France.
The day had started under cloudless blue skies on the famous bridge in Llanrwst, North Wales, with more than 120 athletes from 18 countries ready to contest the 77km route on the tough Gwydyr Forest terrain in temperatures that were to hit 27°C by the afternoon.
The pattern of the race was soon to become apparent as Lightfoot, France’s Julien Rancon and Germany’s Florian Neuschwander led the runners out on to the first of five 15km loops, before finally heading back into Llanrwst.
As the runners passed through the first of the checkpoints and back to the start of loop two (16km), it was Lightfoot and Rancon who were clear.
Rancon and Lightfoot meanwhile remained locked in battle, and so it remained up to the 50km point as the Briton began to pull away from the French athlete, and it was at this point that a heavy fall put paid to Rancon’s gold medal chances.
This left the door open for Neuschwander to begin his charge and as he passed Rancon, the German runner had Lightfoot on his radar. However, for the next 25km Lightfoot remained focused and strong to maintain a consistent 10-11 minute lead all the way back to the finish line, which he crossed in 5:36:03.
Behind, a highly excited Neuschwander clocked 5:45:16 for the silver, with an emotional Rancon (5:54:21) eventually crossing the line in third, realising that his fall on the technical Gwydyr course had cost him his chance of golden glory.
“I am glad that is over!” said Lightfoot. “The heat and the route were really, really hard today, and I was always aware that there were some great athletes behind me, so I couldn’t really relax.
“I really can’t quite believe it to be honest,” he added. “Being World champion is something you only dream of. It will take a while to sink in.”
Backed up by fellow Brit Iain Ridgway in fourth, Great Britain also triumphed in the team event ahead of France and Germany.
In the women’s race Nathalie Mauclair led after 16km, more than three minutes up on French team-mates Aurelia Truel and Stephanie Duc.
There was to be no looking back for the majestic Mauclair, who gradually increased her advantage to take victory in 6:38:45, 17 minutes clear of compatriot Truel (6:55:51) who took the silver medal.
Italy’s Maria Chiara Parigi ran a superb second half to claim the bronze medal (7:00:30), just ahead of Britain’s Jo Zakrzewski in fourth.
The French women were dominant winners of the team prize too, as Mauclair and Truel were backed up bu Duc in sixth place. Italy won the team silver, with Zakrzewski leading Britain to the bronze.
Organisers for the IAAF