As has become the norm in recent years, Salomon athletes once again brought their “A” games to Chamonix for another weekend of ultra-trail races at the famed UTMB.
For the week, Salomon athletes landed on the podium four times and had nine top-ten finishes. The team was led by impressive second place performances by Frenchman Mathieu Blanchard and Canadian woman Marianne Hogan in the marquee race of the week, the 171-kilometer (100-mile) UTMB. In addition, Salomon athlete (and Salomon social media content creator/photographer) Martina Valmassoi grabbed a huge victory in the 145-kilometer TDS race earlier in the week. Frenchman Elias Kadi picked up a podium spot in the TDS race as well, finishing 3rd in a time of 19:32:09. It was an impressive result for the up-and coming 26-year-old in his home country.
In the men’s UTMB® race, Mathieu Blanchard proved that his surprising 3rd place finish at UTMB® a year ago was no fluke by delivering a thoroughly impressive 2nd place effort in the 2022 edition, breaking the coveted 20-hour mark with a time of 19 hours, 54 minutes, and 50 seconds. He finished 5 minutes behind Kilian Jornet, who won with a time of 19:49:30 to set a new course record.
Like last year, Blanchard went into this year’s UTMB® with a solid strategy. He wanted to be within 15 minutes of the top men at Champex-Lac in Switzerland after 126 kilometers.
“When I got there, I was 15:01 behind (leader) Jim Walmsley, so it was perfect,” said Blanchard, who also wrote all of his split times on his arm before the race with the hope of breaking 21 hours after he finished in 21:12 a year ago. “I know the race now, and I thought maybe if I could take 20 minutes from my time from last year, maybe I could win UTMB. But it all depends on the other runners in an ultra.”
After Blanchard and Jornet caught Walmsley coming back into France from Switzerland, the Spaniard and the Frenchman locked up in a classic back-and-forth battle with Jornet pulling away on the climbs and Blanchard taking back time on the downhills. In the end, both men became the first runners in the history of UTMB® to go under the mystical 20-hour mark on the full course that circles the Mont Blanc Massif, and Blanchard bettered his 2021 time by one hour and 15 minutes.
“Breaking 20 hours is incredible,” Blanchard said. “I had lots of confidence coming in because I worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. I started ultra-running in 2017, so every year I improve my training and add more kilometers. You don’t know if you will ever get the chance in your life to go against Kilian like that so I said to myself, ‘Today is the day and I will go for it. If I blow up, I blow up, but I need to take this chance.’”
In the end, the battle carried both runners to career-best performances.
In the women’s UTMB® race, Salomon athlete Marianne Hogan led the way for much of the race, cruising through most of the section in Switzerland in the top position. She was finally overtaken by American Katie Schide as the pair moved back into France, but held on for a fantastic 2nd place result.
She finished in 24:31:22. It was a gutsy effort from the Canadian from Quebec, who held off the rest of the field over the final kilometers despite struggling with hip pain for the last 50-plus kilometers of the race.
Hogan’s 2nd place finish in Chamonix added to an already great season. She grabbed 3rd at the Western States Endurance run in the US earlier this summer.
“I really loved the race, and the crowds were just incredible,” Hogan said. “I wish I didn’t get the ‘flat tire’ for the last 50 kilometers, but overall, I’m very happy with the way the race went. I will be back.”
In the 145-kilometer TDS race earlier in the week, Salomon athlete (and content creator/photographer) Martina Valmassoi grabbed her biggest career victory, winning in a time of 22 hours, 42 minutes and 47 seconds.
“I knew this summer that I was really in shape, more than other years, but knowing I was going into a 22- or 24-hour race was scaring me a bit,” Valmassoi said. “I was sure I would be strong for 15 hours, but I didn’t know how I would go from there with the steep climbs and steep downhills, and elevation gain. And then managing a longer race with the nutrition was all new to me.”
The Italian has spent the last several years following and photographing many of Salomon’s international athletes at the biggest trail races on the racing calendar as Salomon’s Community Manager for trail running, but her athletic ability was never a secret. She just had to plan her own races around working as a photographer at events like the Golden Trail Series. Recently, she changed jobs with Salomon, giving her more time to raise her competitive game. The result has been immediate. She won the Dolomythes run in her home country earlier this year, part of her preparation plan to take on the longer challenge of the TDS race in Chamonix.
“I did a big adventure on my bike this spring, with 20 days of intense cycling carrying all my stuff, and that created a big base for the summer,” Valmassoi said. “After that I was smart not to push too much into running, starting with a week of 15km, then 25km, then 45km, so I built my running slowly and started doing a bit more speed work. Since I’m not doing the community management work now, I felt free and more relaxed and that made me think I could focus on competing. I was always working so I never really committed or believed in what I could do, so this year I tried to do the work.”
“And I did a good last week of preparation with the Salomon international team on the Tour du Mont Blanc carrying my camera,” she added with a laugh. After the race, Valmassoi recovered enough to spend Friday and Saturday photographing Salomon athletes during the UTMB® race.
Not far behind Valmassoi was Salomon employee Julia Rezzi, who finished 4th in 24:03:12.
“I knew TDS would be amazing, but it was 10000 times more than I was expecting. A challenging race because we had 9100m elevation gain for 145km, very large scale of temperature change,” Rezzi said. “I knew I was able to be among the top-10, but I was so happy to be in the top 5. I pushed hard to keep 4th place since the middle of the race, and it was not an option for me to give up even if stomach pain was there.”
Rezzi, who is a Key Account Manager at Salomon headquarters in Annecy, France, has had an impressive summer on the trail. She also won two other race sin France—the 88km MaXi race of Annecy in May and the High Trail Vanoise in July.
“Salomon became the leader in trail running by being an athlete-driven company and this past weekend at UTMB was another example of our athletes stepping up on the biggest stage,” said Franco Fogliato, President and CEO of Salomon, an avid trail runner himself who spent the days supporting the athletes on the trails. “Our trail running team had another incredible performance overall, and they are the ones testing our products and proving that our products work in the toughest conditions. I had so much fun following the races on the trail, so a huge thanks from me to our athletes, our support team members, and our ambassadors in Chamonix and around the world who help make this success possible.”
SALOMON PRODUCTS USED AT UTMB
Mathieu Blanchard wore Salomon S/LAB Genesis shoes, the S/LAB Sense Pro 5 running vest, the S/LAB T-shirt, and S/LAB shorts.
Marianne Hogan wore Salomon Ultra Glide running shoes, the S/LAB T-shirt, S/LAB Sense running shorts, and the S/LAB Sense Pro 8 running vest.
Martina Valmassoi wore S/LAB Ultra 3 shoes, the Salomon Merino blend T-shirt, the S/LAB Ultra 5 running pack, the Salomon NSO Sports bra, and Sense Aero shorts.
Julia Rezzi ran in the S/LAB Ultra 3 shoes, which she loves for their “precision, reactiveness and very good grip.” She also used the S/LAB Sense Pro 10 pack to carry all the mandatory material and the quiver.
Here’s a look at some other top-10 results by Salomon athletes during the UTMB week:
In the 170 km UTMB® race:
Germany’s Eva-Maria Sperger was 10th in the Women’s UTMB® race in 28:15 :29
In the 145km TDS Race:
China’s Wenfei Xie was 7th in the Women’s TDS in 26:05:10
In the 100Kmn CCC Race:
Slovakia’s Peter Frano was 5th in the men’s CCC race in 10:35:03
Spain’s Aritz Egea Caceres was 9th in the men’s CCC in 10:56:32
Finland’s Johanna Antila was 10th in the Women’s CCC race in 13:00:00
Header image: Frenchman Mathieu Blanchard celebrates second place. Credit: Jordi Saragossa