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Golden Trail World Series Zegama

Golden Trail World Series Zegama

Manuel Merillas and Daniela Oemus open the season
14th May 2023, Start 9:00 AM, 42KM, 2,736M V+, Zegama, Spain – Manuel Merillas and Daniela Oemus take the win for the first time at Zegama-Aizkorri and take the lead in the GTWS 2023.

Manuel Merillas, crowned king of the mud 

What an edition this Zegama has been! After an unusually hot, dry early May, it was the rain and cold that swept through on race day in the Spanish Basque country for the first race of the GTWS season. Gusts of wind hitting 50km/h and minus temperatures at the summit prompted the organisers to skirt around the summit ridge, directing the runners onto a path slightly lower down. A change that didn’t seem to bother Manuel Merillas (Scarpa – Spain) winner of this 2023 Zegama, who had already stood on the podium in 2022. “I felt great today. I must admit they set off hard, but I managed to fuel myself well and my legs were doing as they were told, so I could quickly hit the gas in the downhill. A great start to the year for me with this first victory on the Golden Trail World Series and my first victory in Zegama. I trained well, not specifically for Zegama, but when I see my time, it was faster than last year, so I’m thrilled.”

Manuel had Elhousine Elazzoui (Pini Mountain Racing – Morocco) snapping at his heels for a long time, but the Spaniard took the upper hand over the Moroccan in the final downhill before the finish line. “I’m really pleased with this second place,” confided Elhousine at the finish line. “The race was really tough early on, I was freezing cold, it was very technical terrain, and raining a lot but I just tried to hang on until the end. I kept saying, there’s no way I’m not going to be on the podium. It’s experience that pays off: 5 years on the Golden have taught me a lot and enabled me to get this result.”

One of the big favourites for this edition was Jonathan Albon (The North Face – UK), he held his own despite having heavy legs at the end. “The conditions were really tough, gnarly, and I made a stupid mistake by missing the first aid station, I could only take one gel and so I was lacking energy. Despite all that I managed to comeback on Rémi. I thought I would be able to attack a bit more in the downhill but my legs said: ‘no way!’ I am nevertheless really happy with this podium spot; before the race I would’ve been happy with a top 5, even top 10, so a podium here is just brilliant!

Daniela Oemus, the unexpected!

We have to be honest; we didn’t see her coming… Daniela Oemus (Salomon – Germany) took everyone by surprise by taking the lead after going over the first summit. “I’m so emotional! I still can’t believe it… It’s like a dream come true! I didn’t really know where I was during the race, there were a lot of girls in front. Then, I started to pick them off one by one after about 10K, I was told I was in 6th and after kilometre 15 I caught up with Caitlin and Miao, then I was on my own. I really had to fight right up to the end because I was exhausted 10K before the end and my toe was really hurting, I broke it 10 days ago and the downhills were really painful, but I hung in there.”

Just under two minutes later was Caitlin Fielder (Salomon – New Zealand) who managed to carry off a sure and steady race. “I really didn’t expect to finish 2nd at Zegama so obviously I’m ecstatic! I felt good from the start, I could run on all the sections although I was a bit worried about the second part of the race. I tried to stay calm and focused on the technical sections, I was feeling really good in the downhill and I knew I could make up some time. At one point I even thought I could maybe clinch the victory but there wasn’t enough time. But a second place here is just brilliant!

Theres Leboeuf (Leboeuf/Compressport – Switzerland) completes the podium. “The start of the race was really tough because my legs were so heavy, but I knew I just had to be patient and nearing kilometre 16 I started to feel better and better. I wasn’t expecting this podium, I was thinking a top 5 would be great, but we didn’t have any info on our positions during the race, I only found out at the finish line.”

Let’s head to Mont-Blanc

After this first epic race, the Golden Trail World Series is heading for Chamonix and the Marathon du Mont-Blanc. See you on 25th June for the second stage in the GTWS 2023.

Results

Men

1 – MANUEL MERILLAS (SCARPA – ESP): 3:42:01 (+200 pts)
2 – ELHOUSINE ELAZZAOUI (PIN MOUNTAIN RACING – MAR): 3:42:28 (+188 pts)
3 – JONATHAN ALBON (THE NORTH FACE – UK): 3:45:01 (+176 pts)
4 – RÉMI BONNET (SALOMON/RED BULL – CHE): 3:48:19 (+166 pts)
5 – ROBERT PKEMBOI MATA (SKYRUNNERS KENYA): 3:49:25 (+156 pts)

Women

1 – DANIELA OEMUS (SALOMON – GER): 4:31:54 (+200 pts)
2 – CAITLIN FIELDER (SALOMON – NZL): 4:34:04 (+188 pts)
3 – THERES LEBOEUF (LEBOEUF/COMPRESSPORT – CHE): 4:37:41(+176 pts)
4 – SYLVIA NORDSKAR (HOKA ONE ONE/ DÆHLIE – NOR): 4:43:57 (+166 pts)
5 – BLANDINE L’HIRONDEL (EVADICT – FRA): 4:48:32 (+156 pts)

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