France utilised on home territory advantage to the full at the 5th IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy, France, to take all four titles on offer on Saturday (30).
Sylvain Court and 2013 champion Nathalie Mauclair took the individual titles while France was also victorious in the men’s and women’s team competitions, held over an 85km circuit around Lake Annecy, which included 5300m of vertical drop and gain.
Court was head-to-head with Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando with 13km to go as the pair reached the summit of Mount Baron but then the Frenchman pulled away on the final stretch and crossing the finish line in Annecy-le-Vieux exactly three-and-a-half minutes in front, clocking 8:15:38 to the Spaniard’s 8:19:08.
“It’s amazing, I don’t believe it. I had great preparations ahead of the race and came here in my best form but it was still a very high quality field,” said the delighted Court.
“It was a superb battle (with Hernando) up to the top of Mount Baron and on the way down I was looking back a thousand times to make sure he was not closing on me,” he added.
In similar fashion, in the battle for the bronze medal France’s Patrick Bringer pulled away from Great Britain’s Tom Owens on the long downhill section into Annecy to clock 8:21:43 to the Briton’s 8:26:23.
There was a long gap back then to France’s Ludovic Pommeret, who was fifth in 8:33:07. However, Pommeret was running as an individual not as part of the declared French team so Les Bleus had to wait until Martin Nicholas finished seventh in 8:41:01 before claiming the team title.
Nevertheless, France were comfortable winners of the team gold medals, with the scoring being based on the lowest accumulated time of a country’s first three runners, almost two hours in front of the US trio with Great Britain third.
Mauclair overcomes her doubts
Mauclair fulfilled predictions that she was going to defend her title although she was far from certain herself, as she later revealed to reporters.
Fellow Frenchwoman Caroline Chaverot, who knew the circuit very well having won the Maxi race on the same Annecy circuit 12 months ago, took an early lead and at 35km had more than five minutes advantage over Mauclair.
However, Mauclair slowly but surely started to reduce the deficit. At 55km, the gap had been reduced to three minutes and with 15km to go, it was down to 45 seconds.
Mauclair, having timed her effort better, finally got past her rival and compatriot with little more than five kilometres to go, winning in 9:30:59 with the exhausted Chaverot second in 9:33:21.
"The last two weeks I've had some sores, and I have had many doubts, but I said nothing,” said Mauclair.
“Starting this morning, I was apprehensive, but I told myself it was like leaving for a working day of ten hours, but much more pleasant because running is what I love the most in the world. Given the very mountainous course, I thought they had very little chance. I live in the Sarthe, and it's flat!” joked Mauclair.
A distant third in the women’s race was Spain’s Maite Mayora who took the bronze medal in 9:39:36.
Despite having two women on the individual podium, and Anne-Lise Rousset finishing fourth in 10:05:19, France once again had to wait a little while longer to confirm their team triumph as Rousset was also not part of the declared team; but with Maud Gobert seventh in 10:33:25, again the hosts ran out convincing winners by more than an hour on accumulated time.
France won with 29:37:45 with Spain second and Italy third.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF