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RUN247 / Race Previews / GTWS race one – Kobe Trail: Route, start time, leading contenders and how to follow
20 Apr 2024
Kobe
-
Japan

GTWS race one – Kobe Trail: Route, start time, leading contenders and how to follow

All you need to know about the opening race of the 2024 Golden Trail World Series.
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Race Guide

The 2024 Golden Trail World Series gets underway on Saturday 20 April – and makes its debut in Asia.

This weekend’s race in Japan is an up-and-down 21km which features 2,109 metres of climbing on the hills around Kobe – where karaoke was invented in 1971!

The route follows the paths of Mount Maya and Mount Rokko, heading past hidden temples, and is a real contrast to the bustling city which it surrounds.

It’s followed a week later by the relatively short hop to China for the second of the eight-race series.

At the end of the eight races the top 30 men and women in the overall standings are invited to the Grand Final, which this year will be held in the Swiss region of Ascona-Locarno.

Kobe Trail live updates

The action in the elite races starts at 13:05 local time for the women and 13:35 for the men. That’s 05:05 and 05:35 in the UK, an hour later for CET and 00:05 and 00:35 Eastern Standard.

There won’t be a livestream for Saturday’s race but you can track the latest positions after each loop here there will be updates throughout on the GTWS Instagram page. We’ll also have detailed reports and reaction soon afterwards.

Kobe Trail

start list

The full start lists – for both international and Japanese athletes – can be found here. Ones to watch include 2021 GTWS winner Maude Mathys, who steps back to the start line after two years of injury, USA star Allie McLaughlin, home favourite Ruy Ueda and Patrick Kipngeno. Due to injury, last year’s overall GTWS winner USA star Sophia Laukli has opted not to start on Saturday.

Notable runners

Route

The very technical route is perfect for spectators as the ‘flower’ format sees the runners tackle four different loops which means they pass through the start / finish five times. Up on the trails, it’s a world apart from the bustling city below. The runners face steep climbs with uneven steps and fast, but treacherous, descents riddled with tree roots.

Speaking about the route at the press conference, USA runner Allie McLaughlin highlighted that ‘for context’ all the runners had been reminded to take out insurance in case of any mishaps while tackling the very difficult course. And said that she intended to treat the downhills ‘like an extreme sport’. The multi-loop format and technical nature of the route means we can expect plenty of excitement in the racing on Saturday.

The official route map and video below explains all and shows the different elevations of each loop.

Analysis

The big news to come out of Thursday’s press conference was that last year’s overall women’s GTWS winner Sophia Laukli has decided not to race.

The American has brilliantly combined Olympic cross-country skiing and trail running in the last couple of years but only finished her ski season last month and this comes a little too soon.

But there are still a host of big names taking part, including the 2021 GTWS winner Maude Mathys.

The Swiss star herself had to delay the start of her season when she missed the Chianti Ultra Trail as she hadn’t fully recovered following an operation last year.

She’s a four-time winner of the iconic Sierre-Zinal and holds the course record there.

Allie McLaughlin, whose big-race wins last year included the Broken Arrow Skyrace and the 50K event at Tarawera, spoke at the press conference about the technical nature of the course and how much she’s looking forward to it.

Her US compatriot Grayson Murphy, Kenya’s Joyce Njeru and Spain’s Sara Alonso are others who all have the talent to be right in the mix for the win.

GTWS Kobe women press conference

On the men’s side the favourite looks to be Kenya’s Patrick Kipngeno.

He was runner up in the men’s overall of the GTWS last year and had a superb season.

However he did play down his prospects a little at the pre-race press conference and it remains to be seen whether the nature of the course suits his strengths.

His compatriot Philemon Kiriago was the winner of Sierre-Zinal last season and should go close, which is also the case with Morocco’s Elhousine Elazzaoui, who was second at Zegama in 2023, and has said his priority again this season is the GTWS.

Home advantage could prove important on Saturday and if so then Ruy Ueda will fancy his chances.

Asked whether the four-loop nature of the route might count against his trademark steady starts he pointed out the sting in the tail at the finish should suit him ideally: “What is unique to this race is that the finish comes on the uphill area – so I want to conserve my energy until the end. So I won’t set off too fast but will try to adjust my pacing as necessary.”

GTWS Kobe men press conference

2012
Claire Bannwarth
152:23:00

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Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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