Italy’s Xavier Chevrier and Switzerland’s Maude Mathys took the senior individual titles at the 23rd European Mountain Running Championships in the northern Slovenian town of Kamnik on Saturday (8).
Chevrier covered the testing 12km uphill course in 1:02:51 and in the absence of brothers Martin and Bernard Dematteis, between them three-time winners in the last four years, Chevrier flew the Italian flag in style.
He was in the mix at the first checkpoint after 4km, reaching that stage in 17:17 as Norway’s 2015 winner Johan Bugge led by 12 seconds but this event, starting at a altitude of 440m on the Eko resort, was all about the toughness of the climb, with the men’s route ascending 1295m with only a 75m descent.
By the time of the next checkpoint at 8km, the 27-year-old Chevrier had showed immense strength as he turned that deficit of 12 seconds into an advantage of 14 seconds from Bugge.
The Italian led here with a time of 43:09 from his Norwegian rival and then just pressed on to win by 43 seconds from Portugal’s Luis Saraiva (1:03:34) and another Italian Francesco Puppi (1:03:35), who had a tremendous duel over the final 4km with only one second separating them by the line.
Bugge in the end slipped back to sixth while Turkey’s six time champion Ahmet Arslan, third 12 months ago, finishing down in 20th on this occasion.
However, despite Italy’s having two men on the podium, their 15-year winning streak in the senior men’s team contest came to an end and they had to settle for the silver medals.
With the top three athletes from each nation counting, it was France who took team honours on the tie-break system with Emmanuel Meyssat in fourth (1:04:10), Didier Zago in fifth (1:04:30) and Julien Rancon in eighth (1:05:05) as Italy’s third scorer, teammate Alex Baldaccini, was just one agonising place away from retaining their title when he finished 13th (1:06:22).
Saraiva's outstanding run helped Portugal take an unexpected team bronze medal.
Mathys’ belief leads her to gold
After her course-record triumph last Sunday at the 36th Montreux–Les Rochers-de-Naye, Maude Mathys was quoted as saying: “I am starting to believe in my medal chances.”
She turned that hope into gold in a race where she emphatically defeated one of the all-time greats of the discipline in Andrea Mayr.
Mathys won in 49:30 from Great Britain’s Sarah Tunstall, who led her nation to team gold as she finished second in 50:51), with Mayr a distant third in 51:43.
Mayr has worn this crown on four occasions, including her hat-trick of wins between 2013 and 2015, but this time it was Mathys who showed such tenacity in a championship where so much was about going uphill.
Starting at Prelesje, at 700m, the ascent was 1035m with the 75m descent and Mathys handled all aspects of the race it better than the rest.
At the intermediate marker during the race, the top three at 4km were the top three at the finish, with Mathys in front in 28:16, 27 seconds ahead of Tunstall with Mayr a further 45 seconds back.
They were the only three athletes to be under 30 minutes at this point in the race and Mathys pushed on to land a memorable victory.
Switzerland have a superb record at this event, with Eroica Spiess (1995 and 1997) and Martina Strahl (2009 and 2011) both winning twice and Monika Furholz once, in 2012, and now Mathys joins them in their list of champions.
Tunstall was supported by Victoria Wilkinson, fifth in 54:05, and Rebecca Hilland, 12th in 55:49, as Britain’s women took the team honours to regain the title they won in 2015. Italy and Austria took the team silver and bronze medals.
Bularda and Oed win junior golds
The junior men’s route followed the same course as the senior women over 8.5km, with Romania’s Gabriel Bularda taking gold.
In Arco last year, Bularda, still only 17, was 16th and exactly four minutes adrift of Italy’s Daniel Pattis, 19, in fourth but that gap was cut back sensationally today.
Bularda and Pattis battled it, with the Romanian teenager 18 seconds ahead at 4km in 26:37 before stretching the lead to 23 seconds by the finish.
He won in 47:07 with Pattis 23 seconds further back at the finish. The latter’s compatriot Andrea Prandi took bronze in 48:22 and with Andrea Rostan seventh in 49:41, Italy comfortably landed the team title from Turkey and France in that order.
The junior women’s race over 4.5km, which started at Kisovec at 1240m and had a 430m ascent and 10m descent, brought the most comprehensive win of the day for 17-year-old Lisa Oed of Germany; and there was a second women’s team gold for Britain, even though none of their athletes made the top five.
Oed won by an advantage of 1:09 as she crossed the line in 23:16 from Turkey’s Bahar Atalay and Romania’s Gabriela Andre Doroftei, second and third respectively in 24:25 and 24:36.but with Scarlet Dale in sixth, Anna MacFadyen seventh and 2016 bronze medallist Heidi Davies in ninth, Britain combined to just beat Romania by one point to the team title with Turkey just two points further back in third.
Full individual results can be found here.