Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley ready to do battle at Sierre-Zinal

Best trail running fields of 2019 set for Switzerland on Sunday

Kilian Jornet (centre): could win his seventh Sierre-Zinal title on Sunday (pic credit: Val d'Anniviers  Tourism)

Kilian Jornet (centre): could win his seventh Sierre-Zinal title on Sunday (pic credit: Val d'Anniviers

Tourism)

The two best-known trail runners in the world are set to square off at the famous Sierre-Zinal race in Switzerland this Saturday.

Spain’s Kilian Jornet, the best on the trails of his generation, meets American Jim Walmsley, the star of the next, amid arguably the best line-up for a mountain race so far in 2019.

The 46th edition of the race goes over 24.2km with 2100m of climbing, covering five peaks of more than 4000m. Despite this, with more ascent than decent, it is one of the faster, less technical races on the circuit and the course record, held by Jonathan Wyatt, is 2:29:12.

Six-time winner Jornet is making a rare appearance in 2019 to defend his title. Exceptional on the downhill, his all-round talents have made him the most successful trail runner over the past decade. However, Walmsley, who set a world 50-mile record on the roads this year, as well as smashing his record for the Western States 100, has a half-marathon PB of 64:00. He is unrivalled on flat, runnable sections and looks set to push hard from the start.

Britain’s Robbie Simpson, who was runner-up last year, is another with great raw speed, having won bronze in the Commonwealth Games marathon last year.

Other Brits on the elite list are new European mountain running champion Jacob Adkin, who was 10th last year, Seb Batchelor, Nick Swinburn and Dave Archer.

Top prizemoney, plus being part of both the World Mountain Running Association Cup and Golden Trails Series has led to a great overall entry.

Kenya’s former Jungfrau Marathon winner Geoffrey Ndungu and compatriot Robert Surum, third last year, will line up.

Italy’s Davide Magnini, winner of the Dolomyths Skyrace and Marathon du Mont Blanc this year, lines up on form.

France’s Thibaut Baronian, third behind Jornet in Zegama this year, and Switzerland’s former Pikes Peak marathon winner Remi Bonnet will be others to watch.

Other contenders include France’s Julien Rancon, USA’s Max King, who was third last year, and Italy’s Francesco Puppi, fourth last year.

Although on the elite list, Britain’s Tom Evans, last year’s winner of the UTMB CCC race, is opting out in order to continue his recovery from his recent third at Western States.

On the women’s side, Kenya’s world mountain running champion Lucy Murigi seeks a third consecutive title here.

New Zealand’s Ruth Croft, who was fourth last year, arrives after a win at the Marathon du Mont Blanc and second at the Dolomyths Skyrace. Switzerland’s Judith Wyder, who beat her in the latter race, is also competing.

Norwegian footballer Eli Anne Dvergsdal, winner in Zegama recently, seeks to continue her good form.

Last year’s world trail champion Ragna Debats, Sweden’s Lina El Kott Helander, Switzerland’s three-time European mountain champion Maude Mathys, Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo, fifth last year, and USA’s Yiou Wang should also be in the mix.

Skyrunning specialist Holly Page of Britain is joined in the lined up by compatriot Charlotte Morgan, the world long-distance mountain running champion and Ireland’s Sarah McCormack.

Sarah Tunstall

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