The world's top trail runners will fight to be crowned UTMB World Series champions from next year as part of a newly launched concept announced by the organisers of the UTMB.
The new initiative, set up in partnership with the IRONMAN Group, will comprise about 30 events from around the world.
The full line-up will be confirmed later this summer but so far eight events (see below) have been announced for 2022, with the flagship UTMB Mont Blanc acting as the grand finale each year.
The series will lead to the crowning of male and female champions at the UTMB Mont Blanc event in each of the three key distances – the UTMB, the CCC and OCC. These three events are respectively categorised as 100M, 100km and 50km based on the globally recognised "kilometre effort" designation.
The athletes will qualify to vie for the overall series titles at Mont Blanc via achieving top positions at UTMB World Series events. Each of these qualifying events will have distances categorised as 100M, 100km or 50km according to the kilometre-effort system.
The top three male and top three females at each of the three distances in each of the World Series events will be in contention for the for the overall title at the next edition of the UTMB festival as appropriate in either the UTMB, CCC or OCC.
Three of the World Series events will be given higher status as "World Series Majors" – likely to be one from each of Europe, Asia and the Americas – and offering a deeper level of qualification for the Mont Blanc finale. From these events, the top 10 male and top 10 female runners at each of the three distances will qualify to challenge for the series title at the UTMB.
Catherine Poletti, president of UTMB Group, said: "After 18 years of history that has seen UTMB become known around the world, it has become a brand that not only carries the sporting values of trail running but also fundamental human values. More than ever, we want to share this with as many people as possible and allow everyone to participate in an event organised in the same spirit - and with the same quality standards - as the UTMB Mont-Blanc.
“We are certain that combining our experience and what the UTMB brand represents, with the ability and expertise of The IRONMAN Group, is excellent news for the world of trail running and for all its players: the athletes, amateurs, elites, but also their friends and families, the territories, partners and the media."
A significant group of top athletes were consulted in coming up with the new plan.
USA's Dylan Bowman, who was second in the UTMB's TDS race in 2018, said: "I'm thrilled to learn about the UTMB World Series and view it as a healthy step forward as our sport moves into a prosperous future. UTMB has always been the gold standard in event production and the UTMB World Series will bring an elevated race experience to trail runners around the world. Quite simply, trail running changes lives. I view this is an opportunity to bring that gift to more people, while staying true to the spirit and culture that makes the sport so special."
UTMB World Series events confirmed so far
UTMB Mont Blanc – France, Switzerland, Italy
Val d'Aran by UTMB – Spain
Thailand by UTMB – Thailand
Panda Trail by UTMB – China
Gaoligong by UTMB – China
Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB – New Zealand
Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB – Australia
Mozart 100 by UTMB – Austria