Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando won a record-breaking third successive men’s title at the Trail World Championships in Castellon on Saturday (12) while Ragna Debats of the Netherlands put a stop to France’s winning streak in the women’s race.
Held in the foothills of the Iberian System and the Catalan Coastal Range in the north of the Valencia region, the race took athletes on winding trails through Castellon’s landscape on an 88.1km course that featured 4900m of ascent and 3690m of descent.
Hernando bided his time and only hit the front in the closing stages but went on to open up a winning margin of almost eight minutes over compatriot Cristofer Clemente, replicating their 1-2 finish from last year.
USA’s Zach Miller led for most of the way. As the runners passed through the village of Atzeneta, positioned just before the half-way point, Miller had a lead of almost one minute over Britain’s Tom Evans, while Hernando was further back in fourth place.
Another 10 kilometres and 572m in elevation later, Hernando had moved up into second place but Miller still had a comfortable lead of more than three minutes. That had reduced, though, to little more than a minute by the time the pair reached the Vistabella checkpoint, some 62.9 kilometres into the race.
Miller was starting to struggle while Hernando was on a roll and the Spaniard cruised past Miller with about 23 kilometres left of the race. Over the course of the next 15 kilometres, Hernando continued to extend his lead while Miller was passed by Clemente, Evans and Britain’s Jonathan Albon.
With the finish line within sight, there was no stopping Hernando and he went on to cross the finish line in 8:38:35. Clemente followed him in 8:46:19 while Evans finished third in 8:49:35, four minutes ahead of Albon. Miller, meanwhile, faded to eighth.
With the fastest aggregate time by quite some way, Spain won the team title from Great Britain and France.
During the early stages of the women’s race, it looked as though Adeline Roche would retain her title. The French runner held the lead for the first 20 kilometres before Ragna Debats started to take turns at the front of the race.
In Atzeneta, some 41.5 kilometres into the race, Debats had built up a lead of almost one minute over Roche and looked strong. Roche was unable to make up the gap on Debats but she continued to hold on to second place as they passed through Benafigos with about 36 kilometres of running and 2600m of ascent still to tackle.
Spanish duo Laia Canes and Gemma Arenas made up significant ground on Roche over the course of the next 10 kilometres and moved into second and third place. Although there was no catching Debats, they had put the host nation into pole position in the team standings.
Approaching the final 10 kilometres, Arenas was unable to hold on to her third place position and was passed by Claire Mougel of France. Canes was safe in second place, though, while Debats was even safer at the front.
As Debats crossed the finish line, she stopped the clock at 9:55:00 to become the first Dutch winner of a trail world title. Another 16 minutes would pass before Canes crossed the finish line to take second place while Mougel took bronze in 10:15:23.
With three women in the top five, Spain comfortably won the team title by more than 32 minutes. Roche, who eventually finished seventh after being in a podium position for much of the race, found some consolation in helping to secure the silver medal in the team standings. USA picked up the bronze medal.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF