Will Kilian Jornet’s historic Grand Slam be matched on Friday night in Réunion? Winner of the Western States (2018), the UTMB (2019 and 2021) and the Hardrock 100 (last July), the ultratrail queen Courtney Dauwalter leaves this Thursday (7:00 p.m.) to conquer the fourth largest monument in the world in 100 miles, specifically the Diagonale des Fous (165 km and 10,210 m of elevation gain). So here’s the 37-year-old first-in-her-life athlete on Reunion Island, where only one American has won since 1989, Sabrina Stanley (in 2019). Even American ultra star Jim Walmsley had to retire here after 130km in the 2017 edition.
“It is still a very Franco-French race, which unfortunately has not yet been sufficiently publicized abroad, points out Grégory Vollet, its director at the Salomon international team. But there aren’t 50 ultras in the world, and Courtney wanted to take on a new challenge. Having dominated the Western, the Hardrock and the UTMB, it was a logical continuation for her. »
“La Diag’ was on my Christmas list”
The director of the French athletes of Team Salomon, Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent continues: “The Americans have a slightly different calendar: they don’t run much anymore at this time of year and they know very little about Reunion. As Francois D’Haene [son partenaire chez Salomon, quadruple vainqueur de la Diag’] has retired, will accompany you to the aid stations and will help you throughout the race. It’s a hell of a job: between the Mafate circus and Cilaos, it goes up and down everywhere. She will trade her from the great expanses of Colorado.”
The ultra-trailer with the dazzling smile knows that he is treading a route “incomparable with all American races”, and that François D’Haene’s advice will undoubtedly be invaluable. “I’m looking forward to the race,” the American announced last week on the site. widermag. I love very, very long ultras and the Diagonale des Fous guarantees a great adventure around the island. It looks so complicated and technical. Mentally, I am very excited to give it my all. The Diag’ had been on my Christmas list for many years. »
“Manage temperature changes as best as possible”
What better way to end a year 2022 marked by great successes, the women’s record of the test in the MIUT (115 km in 14:40) in Madeira in April and in the Hardrock 100 (160 km in 26:44) in Colorado in July? “He knows that he has to handle exotic temperature changes as well as possible,” says Grégory Vollet. But in general, he adapts very well, and it is still a career profile that suits him. The more you have to walk in a test, the better it suits you. »
Courtney Dauwalter is aware of the climatic challenge that awaits her: “The humidity sure shakes me. I come from Colorado where we just found snow on our summits and where conditions are consistently dry. A challenge like this promises to be fun for me. I can’t wait to drink a beer once I cross this island.” “Fun” like 24 hours to spend in the heart of the mountains with a possible difference of thirty degrees in the program therefore.
Capable of performing in 42 as in 262 km
If Anne-Lise Rousset, record holder of the GR20 crossing in Corsica (170 km) in June, and Sylvaine Cussot, 4th in the Diag ‘last year despite a broken fibula, will give their opinion, Courtney Dauwalter is the ” arch favorite in the women’s box”, as Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent considers. Because in the manner of a Kilian Jornet, we are talking about an athlete complete enough to clinch a women’s Top 10 in a short-distance benchmark race (42 km and 2,700 m of D+) in Zegama (Spain) in 4h45 in May. then break the record for the Collegiate Loop route (260 km and 10,058 m of elevation gain) in Colorado in September, men and women combined, in 40h14. Wouldn’t we be facing an “alien” capable one day of becoming the first woman to win one of the most prestigious ultras in the world?
Between her 7th place finish at the 2021 UTMB and her 6th place finish at the last Hardrock 100, the American poses a real threat to elite male runners. Even for her premiere at the “Diag ‘” (2,816 entrants), given that the announced main favorites (D’Haene, Girondel and Dunand-Pallaz) have withdrawn? “Winning a big ultra scratch is something that motivates her,” says Grégory Vollet. She still has to find the career that suits her best to succeed. There, we must not forget that she will discover the event…” Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent, however, does not exclude a resounding feat on Friday night: “I only see Grégoire Curmer [vainqueur à La Réunion en 2019] as inherently above Courtney in men. So if she is challenged by an Anne-Lise Rousset, for example, she could fight for the scratch podium, or even higher, as she is strong when the race gets tougher.” Her post-Grand Slam beer would then taste even more historic than expected.
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