Andrea Mayr of Austria and Kenyan Gikuni Ndungu were the victors at the Grossglockner Berglauf in Heiligenblut, Austria, on Sunday (15), the opening race of the 2018 WMRA World Cup.
Mayr, a seven-time world champion, covered the 13km course with a 1400m climb in 1:21:51, reaching the 2370m above sea level Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, the picturesque terminus of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, just five seconds shy of her course record.
Mayr dominated all phases of the race, winning by exactly seven minutes over Kenyan Purity Gitonga who, after a spirited battle, out-duelled Czech Pavla Schorna, who clocked 1:30:38.
The scramble for all-important early World Cup points resulted in a close race among the top five. Italy's Ivana Iozzia was fourth in 1:31:54 with Alexandra Hauser of Austria fifth clocking 1:31:59.
The men's race was closer, with Ndungu, the 2017 winner, caught in a fierce battle with Germany's Anton Palzer. The pair were neck and neck with 2500 metres remaining, running together and spurred on by the crowd of some 1000 spectators gathered along the upper reaches of the course. As they approached a final steep ascent some 800 metres before the finish, Ndungo broke away en route to his 1:12:06 win, 19 seconds clear of Palzer.
Behind them, Francesco Puppi of Italy and Andy Douglas of Scotland seemed to be following the same script, marking themselves out mid-race but then locked together until the last 700 metres. It was there that Puppi, the winner at the 2017 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, pulled away to secure third, clocking 1:14:18, 25 seconds ahead of the Scot.
Chris Arthur of Great Britain was fifth and Czech Jan Janu sixth, clocking 1:15:08 and 1:16:46, respectively.
Some 1200 runners participated in the World Cup's opening race. The series moves to Malonno, Italy on 4 August for the Piztrivertikal.
Bob Ramsak and organisers for the IAAF