Mathieu Clément out-sprinted Can-Hua Luo to claim victory in the 100M race at the Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB, with Alyssa Clark topping the women’s field – while former triathlete Heather Jackson took victory in the 50K event.
The 2023 Canyons Endurance Runs was the first ever UTMB World Series American major, offering winners of the races double the usual number of running stones.
In addition, the event was a Golden Ticket race for the Western States 100 – with the top two men and women qualifying for this year’s edition.
Clément outsprints Luo to win
Chinese runner Can-Hua Luo and Swiss runner Mathieu Clément both crossed the finish line in Auburn with 17:05:16 on the clock, with the Swiss runner sniping his Chinese opponent on the finish line of the gruelling 100-mile race by two tenths of a second. The route included part of the Western States Trail, the leg-burning K2-climb, the American River and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“It’s a great course, more rolling hills compared to the steepness of what I’m used to in Europe,” Clément said, “it was wonderful to discover the Auburn area, with its canyons and its atmosphere.
“It was a sweet battle with Lao, all the way through the final stretch and those last meters.”
The two came together at around the ‘No Hands 2’ checkpoint, about 58.7 Km into the race, and were near enough neck and neck for the rest of the race, which saw them contend with at least 5,181m of elevation gain.
“The weather, the temperature is also very different from Europe,” Clément continued, “we had [95-degrees] during the day, I was well at the refreshment station. I stayed in the shade as much as possible.
“There was a good crowd at the start, there were good competitors. You had to keep pushing the whole time, not let go of anything. We saw that if we let go, we quickly lost our spots. After Forest Hill, the 3rd (place runner) was just a few minutes behind us. We had to keep up the effort. If a place was quickly lost, it’s harder to win and easier to lose.”
Luo and Clément proved to both be a class above the rest of the field, with American Canyon Woodward completing the podium 17:46:05 – over 40 minutes behind the winning pair.
Canadian Ethan Peters finished fourth, only around 13 minutes behind Woodward, but fifth place was nearly an hour behind.
Clément finished tenth at the UTMB Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2021, and with victory in California he has confirmed his spot at the UTMB World Series Finals later this year where he will hope for another top ten finish.
“I look forward to it [UTMB World Series Finals] because I will be running with Jim Walmsley,” the Swiss runner said, “UTMB has been my dream since I started running.
“It’s very important to me.”
Clark a class above
Alyssa Clark claimed victory in the women’s Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB 100M race, finishing 11th overall with a time of 20:13:21.
She was over 40 minutes faster than second place Alexis Crellin, who finished with 20:55:06 on the clock. At time of writing, Annie Hughes completed an All-American podium with a 21:26:05 run.
“I get to do what I love every day,” Clark said, “I couldn’t be more lucky to do what I love, thank you for giving me the opportunity to do it.
“I like the heat, it caught up to me at about mile 45. I said ‘alright, I need to calm down a little bit, get it together’.
I live in Southern California, so I’m pretty used to it. The aid-stations were amazing, anything you needed they were right there.
“The best part was when the 100km race was coming up and everyone was just cheering for you – that is why I do it.”
Clark and Crellin were tight for much of the race, but between the checkpoints Mammoth Bar (65.2km into the race) and Drivers Flat (78.1 Km), Clark pulled away, going on to increase the distance between the two race leaders until the finish line back where they had set off in Auburn.
Watson, Nilsson shine in the 100K
Local man Cole Watson and Sweden’s Ida Nilsson enjoyed success in the 100K category. Watson, who finished fourth at the Black Canyon Ultras 100K in February, topped the time-sheets finishing in 8:34:38 – 16 minutes and two seconds ahead of his nearest rival Adam Merry (USA). Justin Grunewald (USA) completed the podium a further two minutes 50 seconds.
“I live in the area,” Watson said, “I know where a lot of the creeks and stuff like that are, so I utilised those. I know how they had to [change the course] and the gaps where we were going to get warm, and the aid stations were on point.
“They knew the people running hard up front weren’t going to eat or do well if they didn’t get them cooled down. I just looked forward to the aid stations – I used them all.
“The Auburn community made that happen for us. This is for Auburn.”
On the women’s side, Nilsson claimed a first victory on the UTMB circuit in a time of 9:51:07, beating out Canadian Priscilla Forgie by nine minutes and 13 seconds with Spain’s Aro Sio the final name on the podium a further 11 minutes and 23 second back.
“The course is super nice, I like it a lot,” she said, “I like this kind of smooth running, never flat, never boring still have fun with rolling hills. This is the nicest time of the year.”
Jackson claims first UTMB victory
Former triathlete Heather Jackson claimed victory in the 50K event – her first win on the UTMB circuit after a fifth-place finish at Javelina Jundred (100 mile) and second-place at Black Canyons Ultras (100k).
Jackson completed the course in 4:09:36, claiming victory from Ireland’s Caitriona Jennings who finished eight minutes and 11 seconds behind the fast-paced American. Emkay Sullivan, also from the USA, rounded off the podium a further three seconds back.
“This course was amazing – it is so beautiful out there,” Jackson said, “For me, it’s super runnable which is good.
“I was here all week checking out the trail and the town, eating at a bunch of local restaurants.”
On the men’s side, Hayden Hawks claimed yet another victory in the 50K category having won the Bryce Canyon (2021 and 2022), Santa Barbara Nine Trails (2021) and Zion 2021 in recent outing. Hawks (3:32:11) bested Jeshrun E Small (USA) by two minutes and 36 seconds, with Eric Lipuma completing an American 1-2-3 a further 11 minutes and 43 seconds back.
“I am training for the Western States now,” Hawks said, “so I’ve been doing a lot of 100-mile training.
“I’m not used to the speed of the 50km. I am getting a bit older too and these young guys are fast.”
Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB (100M), Friday 28 April 2023, 160.9km
- Mathieu Clément (SUI) – 17:05:16
- Canhua Luo (CHN) – 17:05:16
- Canyon Woodward (USA) – 17:46:05
- Alyssa Clark (USA) – 20:13:21
- Alexis Crellin (USA) – 20:55:06
- Annie Hughes (USA) – 21:26:05
Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB (100K), Saturday 29 April 2023, 99.9km
- Cole Watson (USA) – 8:34:38
- Adam Merry (USA) – 8:50:40
- Justin Grunewald (USA) – 8:53:30
- Ida Nilsson (SWE) – 9:51:07
- Priscilla Forgie (CAN) – 10:00:20
- Aroa Sio (ESP) – 10:11:43
Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB (50K), Saturday 29 April 2023, 49.8km
- Hayden Hawks (USA) – 3:32:11
- Jeshurun E Small (USA) – 3:34:47
- Eric Lipuma (USA) – 3:45:30
- Heather Jackson (USA) – 4:09:36
- Caitriona Jennings (IRE) – 4:17:47
- Emkay Sullivan (USA) 4:17:50
Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB (25K), Saturday 29 April 2023, 24.9km
- Drew Macomber (ST) – 1:32:36
- Will Fucks (USA) – 1:33:27
- Ezequiel Alexis Pauluzak (ARG) – 1:36:36
- Alexandra Harriss (CAN) – 1:52:45
- Kenzie MacPhail (USA) – 1:55:10
- Ashley Hawks (USA) – 1:56:45