The opening round of the 2018 WMRA World Cup kicks off with the Grossglockner Berglauf in Heiligenblut, Austria, on Sunday (15), the first of five races to make up the series this year.
The contest, which starts in the village of Heiligenblut and traverses the valley that forms the border between Carinthia and East Tyrol, is located directly below the highest mountain in Austria, showcasing the best of one of Austria's most beautiful National Parks.
The 13km course, with a 1400m climb, passes the Pasterze, the longest glacier in the Eastern Alps, before reaching the finish at the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, the picturesque terminus of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, set at 2370m above sea level.
New WMRA president Jonathan Wyatt chose to open the series with one of the classic races from the older, more established contests, to illustrate how elements of mountain running should be preserved and valued as the discipline continues to evolve as it includes a wider variety of distances and styles this year. The Grossglockner race was part of the original WMRA Grand Prix and hosted the 2005 European Championships.
The reigning champions are Italy's Alex Baldaccini and Alice Gaggi, who for different reasons won't be able to compete at the highest levels in the 2018 edition. But both Italy and the other European nations will be represented in the line up, with Andrea Mayr of Austria, Czech Jan Janu, Britons Andy Douglas and Sarah Tunstall, and Francesco Puppi, Valentina Belotti and Pascal Egli of Italy expeced to compete.
Following the opening race, the series will move to the PizTriVERTICAL in Malonno, Italy, a completely new World Cup idea, on 4 August and then a week later to the Sierre-Zinal on 12 August, in what should represent the decisive moment of the season, with the meeting and comparison between classic mountain running and mountain trail running as the classic Valais will also be a stage of the Salomon Golden Trail Series. The world Cup takes a break with the World Championships in Andorra in September before the series resumes for the final events in Bergen (Hochfelln) and Smarna Gora (Slovenia).
Another WMRA ambition is to expand the series in the next several years to include events in South America and North America to make the World Cup a truly global event.
Organisers and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF