Andrea Mayr of Austria and Norway's Johan Bugge won the 38th Smarna Gora Mountain Running Race, the final event of the 2017 WMRA World Cup season, near the Slovenian capital Ljubljana on Saturday (7).
At the start, the traditional autumn fog shrouded the start line leaving the forest trails wet and slippery guaranteeing that the most confident and best technical runners would excel. But the finish was above the clouds in bright sunshine flanked by a medieval castle where a good crowd was on hand to cheer the near record number of race participants.
The women's race went to form with Mayr powering away to take the win by nearly two minutes, clocking 47:40 over the 10km course (+710m, -350m) to break her own course record by 24 seconds. She told the media afterwards that this year's run made up for last year where she took a heavy tumble --but won anyway. If anything the conditions were more challenging for her this year given the wet and slippery surface, some mud and the falling autumn leaves. Incidentally, Mayr returned to action on Sunday with an incredible run at the Vertical Kilometre of Chiavenna, Italy, clocking 35:34 to break the race record by two minutes with the 10th best time overall.
Back at the Smarna Gora run, second place went to Norwegian Karoline Kyte Holsen who clocked 49:37, more than two minutes ahead of Czech Pavla Shorna who clocked 51:56. Alice Gaggi of Italy was solid in fourth position, which meant that the overall World Cup win was hers.
In the men's race it was the young up-and-coming mountain runners that were too strong for the more experienced. As predicted, Bugge, a new Norwegian star, was in the first group and made a strong start. He broke away after three kilometres just before the first climb taking Eritrean Filimon Abraham with him.
Out of all the top Italians racing only Ceseae Maestri could maintain contact, and he took the lead on the descent after the first narrow and steep uphill. Bugge however looked in control on the downhill and recovered enough strength to power away up the second climb. He won in 42:27, a strong performance for this 10km course. He was nearly a minute ahead of Maestri who clocked 43:20, who in turn held off Filimon, who was third in 43:34.
Czech runner Jan Janu was next, just missing out on the podium, finishing four seconds behind the Eritrean. The final 500 metres of the course has a steep long straight climb through the forest's last trees before the summit and it is here that the crowd cheers on the runners as they give their last ounces of energy.
Two of the top Italians who expected to be podium contenders, Bernard Dematteis and Alex Baldaccini, followed these top four, showing that after a long season of hard racing that fatigue was starting to have an effect. Next across the finish was the first local runner, Miran Cvet, in seventh. Rounding out the top ten was Martin Dematteis, the runner from Trentino Alberto Vender and Scotland's Ross Gollan.
World Cup titles to Italy
On the men's side, the overall World Cup title wen to Baldaccini who tallied 440 points. Compatriot Francesco Puppi was second with 325, 35 points ahead of Simon Lechleitner of Austria. Bernard Dematteis was fourth with 285.
Gaggi collected 470 points in the women's standings to top Mayr, who only contest four races to the Italian's five, by 40. Czech Pavla Shorna was third with 410. Further back, Valentina Belotti of Italy and Great Britain's Sarah Tunstall were fourth and fifth respectively with 190 points. An early season victory proved to be the tie-breaker for Belotti.
Jonathan Wyatt (WMRA/organisers) and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF