Records Fall At The 2018 Otter African Trail Race

Bartlomiej Przedwojewski and Holly Page obliterate the RETTO record, and Stian Angermind-Vik and Ruth Croft win the season-long Golden Trail Series Titles


Lisa Abdellah |

The Otter African Trail Run hosted the grand finale of the inaugural Golden Trail Series on Saturday 20 October. The world’s top 10 men and women marathon-distance trail runners competed for the prestigious Otter title and the Golden Series trophies. With so many elite athletes taking to the course, it wasn’t a matter of if, but rather how many would run under the existing record time. It was a day of new course records, surprise withdrawals, incredible performances and all-round fantastic entertainment.

In the men’s race, Polish runner Bartlomiej Przedwojewski took the lead from the start. The Bloukrans River crossing did little to slow him down, and by the half-way point he had gained a four-minute lead.

“The whole time I was running, I thought the group behind me were going to catch me. I thought they were thirty seconds from me for the whole race, so I just tried to run as fast as I could.”

He maintained his lead, all the way to the finish line at Storm’s River Rest Camp, obliterating the existing record by fourteen minutes and setting a new RETTO record of 3:40:48.32.

“I can’t believe that I ran in the new record time, I just can’t believe it,” he said.

Behind him, the field raced for the remaining two spots on the podium. Trail running superstar, and favourite to win the Otter Trail and the Golden Trail Series, Kilian Jornet, was forced to withdraw within the first 10km due to a hip injury he has been battling for several weeks, leaving the race wide open.

Marc Lauenstein, the RETTO and OTTER record holder, had a rough start to his race, but after a mid-way pep talk moved up the field to finish in second place, ten minutes behind Przedwojewski. The Swiss trail runner was ecstatic to be back in South Africa and has confirmed he’d like to come back and race again. He finished in a time of 3:50:22.12. Third place went to Spain’s Oriol Cardona, who ran consistently over the 42km route. He finished in a time of 3:51:59.4.

The first South Africans to cross the finish line were involved in a nail-biting sprint finish. It was Robbie Rorich who sped over the finish line, a matter of seconds ahead of Rory Scheffer, to finish tenth and 9th respectively, Rorich setting fastest South African time on the RETTO route. Last year’s winner, Christiaan Greyling finished 10th.

Holly Page. Image by Jacques Marais

The women’s race was equally exciting. Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo and South Africa’s Toni McCann played tag for the front spot during the first half. The undulating stairs got the better of Rampazzo just after half way, giving McCann an opportunity to make her move. She held onto the lead until the 30km mark, where the UK’s Holly Page caught and passed her. Page, who went into today’s race as a tourist to, in her own words, “soak in the beauty of the trails,” started conservatively, but slowly worked her way up the field.

“My watch seemed to have malfunctioned, so I thought I had 3km to go, but I had 10km to go, so I ran past all the water points thinking I was nearly there wondering where all the rocks were that everyone kept talking about, but they never came. I gave it my all in the last section,” Page said.

Her efforts got her across the finish line first, and she set a new woman’s RETTO record, in a time of 4:37:48.87.

“To break Robyn (Owen)’s record was a surprise. She is super-strong, so the whole time I actually kept thinking she was going to come along and overtake me. She is great, so to beat that record is really cool.”

Despite New Zealander Ruth Croft’s best efforts to chase Page down, she finished second, just 34 seconds behind her, in a time of 4:38:22,57.

The real surprise of the day was McCann, who hung onto a podium position and finished third, to the absolute delight of the local crowd. She crossed the finish line in tears, absolutely overwhelmed by her performance.

“I never in my wildest dreams expected a result like today. My intention has always been to go out and have fun, including today. It was so surreal out there, to have come third. I was so emotional. It definitely makes me want to race Golden Series next year. If I can wrangle some funds together, definitely want to figure out how to go and race overseas next year,” she said.

South African Meg McKenzie, who has raced the Golden Trail Series this year, finished sixth.

In addition to the honour of being crowned Otter Trail champion, at stake at the Otter was the season-long title for the Golden Trail Series. The top 10 who qualified for a week-long trip to South Africa were determined by their results in the first five races of the season, with each needing to start at least three Golden Trail Series races in order to be eligible for the final. The men’s and women’s GTS champions were determined by each athlete’s top three performances in the first five races of the series, plus his/her result at the Otter Trail.

Ruth Croft and Norway’s Stian Angermund-Vik became the first-ever season-long Golden Trail Series champions and were crowned at the final awards ceremony. For Angermund-Vik, the Series win was a bit hollow, because Jornet had pulled out due to injury. Still, his consistent season against such top-tier talent earned him the overall prize.

Stian Angermund-Vik. Image by Xavier Briel

“I have not raced against this much talent all season ever before, where you know every race is going to be tough,“ Angermund-Vik said. “We all know Kilian is the best runner, so winning because he is hurt is not the same. But it’s fun to see different people have their day, and today it was Przedwojewski. He just smashed us and I’m really happy for him. I loved the course and the way it changes up and down. It was one big smile from the beginning to the end.”

Ruth Croft was, like Angermund-Vik, a model of consistency throughout the Golden Trail Series. She won at the Marathon du Mont Blanc and was in the hunt just about everywhere else. At the Otter Trail she had another strong finish, besting everyone but Page. To win the Golden Trail Series season-long title was, she said, an accomplishment she is quite proud of.

The Golden Trail Series featured five of the most iconic ‘short-distance’ trail-running races on the planet: Zegama Mountain Marathon in Spain’s Basque Country, the Marathon du Mont Blanc in Chamonix, Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland, Pikes Peak in Colorado and the Ring of Steall in the Scottish Highlands. The Grand Final will be held in a different country each year.

This year’s running of the Otter African Trail surpassed all expectations. Race Director, Mark Collins, was in his element to be able to share the Tsitsikamma National Park with international athletes and RETTO runners.

“In every way, this was a world championship event that the best runners in the world participated in. I had a big sense that we were witnessing history and the best of the best in action. Just seeing the guys on the course was phenomenal. Nothing prepares you for seeing the top 10 men and women in the world coming into Bloukrans like a pack of wolves.”

RETTO 2018 Top 10

Men
1. Bartlomiej Przedwojewski, POL 3:40:48.32 NEW RECORD
2. Marc Lauenstein, CH 3:50:22.12
3. Oriol Cardona, ES 3:51:59.7
4. Stian Angermund-Vik, NO 3:57:51.10
5. Alexis Sevennec, ES 3:59:10.72
6. Stephan Wenk, CH 4:08:37.41
7. Aritz Egea Caceres, ES 4:08:43.34
8. Robbie Rorich, RSA 4:10:54.15
9. Rory Scheffer, RSA 4:11:08.83
10. Christiaan Greyling, RSA 4:14:17.23
 
Women
1. Holly Page, GB 4:37:48.87 NEW RECORD
2. Ruth Croft, NZ 4:38:22.57
3. Toni McCann, RSA 4:41:58.50
4. Fanny Borgstrom, SE 4:43:35.0
5. Eli Gordon, ES 4:48:52.98
6. Meg Mackenzie, RSA 4:51:21.45
7. Silvia Rampazzo, ITA 4:53:25.78
8. Maya Chollet, CH 4:59:32.18
9. Ida Nilsson, 5:02:09.48
10. Robyn Owen, 5:19:47

The final standings for the Golden Trail Series look like this:
Men

1. Norway’s Stian Angermund-Vik (Team Salomon) – 388 points
2. Switzerland’s Marc Lauenstein (Team Salomon) – 307
3. Spain’s Kilian Jornet (Team Salomon) – 300
4. Spain’s Aritz Egea (Team Salomon) – 268
5. Spain’s Oriol Cardona Coll (Team Dynafit) – 248
6. Poland’s Bartlomiej Przedwojewski (Team Salomon) – 243
7. France’s Alexis Sevennec (Team Scott) – 232
8. Switzerland’s Stephan Wenk (Team Scott) – 230
9. USA’s Sage Canaday (Team Hoka) – 203
10. France’s Thibaut Baronian (Team Salomon) – 194

Women
1. New Zealand’s Ruth Croft (Team Scott) – 338 points
2. Sweden’s Ida Nilsson (Team Salomon) – 303
3. Great Britain’s Holly Page (Team Salomon) – 278
4. Spain’s Eli Gordon (Team Salomon) – 267
5. Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo (Team Tornado) – 265
6. USA’s Megan Kimmel (Team Salomon) – 233
7. South Africa’s Meg Mackenzie (Team Salomon) – 221
8. Sweden’s Fanny Borgstrom (Team Salomon) – 219
9. Spain’s Sheila Aviles Castano (Team Buff) – 175
10. France’s Céline Lafaye (Team Merrell) – 141

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