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Ahmet Arslan and Valentina Belotti were victorious in La Montee du Grand Ballon, the first race in the 2012 WMRA Grand Prix, on Thursday (17).
On race day the skies were a brilliant blue with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees C. at the men’s 3:00 p.m. start time in Willer Sur Thur, and around 10 C. near the 1424-metre summit of Grand Ballon.
A much different weather pattern than the previous day when temperatures were just above freezing at the summit and a fresh dusting of snow blanketed the trail.
Arslan, 26, last year’s WMRA Grand Prix champion, bested second-place finisher Gabriele Abate, 33, Italy, by just two seconds for the championship at La Montee du Grand Ballon.
Arslan, from Turkey, finished the 13.5km course in 59:28 to Abate’s 59:30. Said Arslan at the prize-giving ceremony, "The course is very good. With 1200 metres (of elevation), there was a lot of downhill too. My specialty is uphill, but I’m a mountain runner so I must run both up and down."
Arslan led most of the way and even put some distance on eventual second-place finisher Abate, after 12 kilometres, but Abate chewed up some time in the final 500 metres of downhill. "I know the Italians are very strong. I think I must run controlled at the start. The first 6 kilometres was very fast, but for me it is ok today."
Italian Alex Baldaccini, 24, finished in third with a time of 1:01:12.
Arslan was recently training in Africa. "I was in Ethiopia for training camp for three months. There were Ethiopian and Turkish runners. No racing, just training."
The next major race for Arslan will be the European Championships to be held in his home country in the town of Denizli on 7 July.
Belotti, 32, Italy, was the women’s champion with a time of 45:50, nearly four minutes faster than runner-up Emma Clayton, 24, Great Britain, timed in 49:11. The women and junior men ran a slightly shorter course of 8.5 kilometres with 832 metres of vertical gain. Third place women’s finisher was another runner from the UK, Sarah Tunstall, 26, in a time of 49:42. The winning junior was 19-year-old Jean Favre, France, with a time of 53:07.
Runners from 13 countries participated in the event with 317 finishers in the men’s race, 54 in the women’s race and three finishers in the junior men’s division. The women and juniors’ race start preceded the men’s start by 15 minutes.
The organization was very good in the first 2012 WMRA Grand Prix at Grand Ballon under lot of profiles, specially technical aspects.
Podium runners from previous world championships took the top honours with Arslan and Belotti being crowned champions.
WMRA Treasurer Nancy Hobbs, and WMRA Council members Wolfgang Munzel and Tomo Sarf were present at the event.
The next event in the five-race WMRA Grand Prix series is the 14th Gorski tek na Grintovec in Kamnik, Slovenia, on 29 July.