Under the gaze of nearly 70,000 spectators, the 2,300 participants of the legendary UTMB will return to the slopes of Haute-Savoie and the highest peak in Europe this Friday, after a 2020 edition canceled due to the Covid.

“It’s the big party and we want to participate!” Xavier Thévenard is enthusiastic before setting off on the slopes of the majestic Mont-Blanc. The legendary ultra-trail, one of the toughest in the world, returns on Friday 27, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 August, after being canceled in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

And one of the big favorites of this 18th UTMB, in the absence of the winner of the 2019 edition, the Spaniard Pau Capell, triple winner of the event, is eager to find the unparalleled atmosphere of the ultra- trail. “There is such fervor around the event. It makes emotions and we want to relive it”, describes Xavier Thévenard, who finished second in the 2019 edition, in 9:08 pm.

“It’s the big gift of the year. To be able to run the 171 km around Mont-Blanc, crossing three countries, with all this fervor. We want it to go as well as possible and to go to the end. , to cross the finish line. “

The 2,300 or so competitors set off at 5 pm from Chamonix, at the foot of Mont-Blanc. 171 kilometers to swallow, and a drop of 10,000 m. This 2021 edition is special, with the absence of the Chinese in particular, who did not make the trip because of the health context. The public, on the other hand, will be present throughout the race, with nearly 70,000 supporters and spectators expected.

>> DIRECT VIDEO. UTMB: follow the legendary trail race from Chamonix, 2300 runners expected

François d’Haene, triple winner of the event too, but absent from the UTMB for four years, feels “the excitement of being at the start of a race which is not nothing anyway. not in an ultra-trail of more than 100 kilometers like one embarks on a 10 km. It makes me really happy to be there. “

For a year and a half, the schedule has changed completely. The runners could continue to train but the races were canceled or postponed. UTMB 2021 therefore marks an important moment for all those who dreamed of participating, like Camille Bruyas, one of the favorites. “I think we are ready, even a year when we may have done a little less kilometers,” she explains. “It saved us a little bit of energy, too. It feels good to rest a bit on certain seasons. So yeah, I think we’re ready. It’s been a year though. is training normally. “

The best trail runners will take a little over 20 hours to cover the 171 kilometers and return to Chamonix. Most of the 2,300 competitors will only have completed half of the loop in this time.

The event attracts more and more participants, but it is not without risks. The TDS, a side race of the UTMB, was thus mourned by the death, on the night of Tuesday 24 to Wednesday 25 August, of a Czech athlete. Aged 35, he allegedly fell several tens of meters on a steep path. It is the first time that an athlete has lost his life in a UTMB race since its creation in 2003.

Ludovic Pommeret can attest to the risks of trail running. Winner of the UTMB in 2016, he fell in 2019 in the descent of Flégère. “For a few seconds, I didn’t want to move because I didn’t know if it was serious, he recalls. We don’t have in mind that we can kill ourselves but it’s true that he There are certain passages … If you fall on stones, you can always have a bad fall. These are the hazards of outdoor sport. “

“It can happen to anyone, it just has to rain, that it slips”, adds Xavier Thévenard. Running on the mountainside, on sometimes unstable terrain, often at night and with changing weather is a danger, but it is calculated, explains Camille Bruyas.

“We play with the elements, nature and the mountain which will always be stronger than us. We must never forget that.”

“I don’t think it’s the sport where you take the most risks, compared to other sports like paragliding,” she said. The runners all leave with safety equipment, such as a survival blanket and a flashlight, and the means of rescue are substantial throughout the course.

Xavier Thévenard: “The magic of Ultra-Trail is that nothing ever goes as planned”

Video

Ultra-trail du Mont Blanc: final straight for the preparation of Xavier Thévenard and the competitors

Haute-Savoie: a mountaineer found dead near the summit of Mont-Blanc, the second in a few days

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