The Tor Des Geants 2016: Battling the Giants
September 14, 2016
By Alice Hunter Morrison
Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA, a subsidiary of Hope So Bright.
The Tor Des Geants 2016. Its name describes it perfectly – the Tour of Giants. This year’s edition has proved to be truly great with hard-fought racing and magnificent feats of endurance from the competitors.
The race kicked off from Courmayeur, Italy on Sunday, February 11, at 10 a.m. and the first runner back, the winner of this year’s race after a superb effort, was Oliviero Bosatelli, who crossed the finish line at 13:10 p.m. on Wednesday with 74 hours and 10 minutes of racing over some of the highest passes in Europe.
Bosatelli had run 336 kilometers with 24,000 meters of ascent along the Alta Via 1 and Alta Via 2 of the Valle d’Aosta with its four giants – Gran Paradiso, Monte Rosa, Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc – and back to the finish line at Courmayeur.
Oscar Perez Lopez came in second place just over six hours later at 19:14 p.m., with Pablo Criado Toca in third place, finishing at 21:40 p.m.
Lisa Borzani, ran an incredible race and came in first at 5:09 a.m. on Thursday. She finished in seventh place overall. She had already taken second place on the podium twice, so this victory was especially sweet for the 36-year-old from Padua. Stephanie Case finished in second place. She said that one of the big challenges of the race was just keeping awake and that she had a novel way of doing that. “I am on the phone to my Mum,” she said, “We are playing games to try and keep my brain active so that I don’t fall asleep!”
A totally unpredictable race due to its length and sheer difficulty, you would have to be a betting man to confidently predict the winner. The mountains, the weather, being able to get enough food and rest and still keep going, all work against the favorites as we witnessed this year.
Three of the top-ranked athletes were forced to withdraw after almost 32 hours. They included Gianluca Galeati, who had led for the first 150 kilometers of the race and looked very strong. He suffered a stomach ache. He had experienced a bug about three weeks before the race and thought he had recovered. However, the mountains put too much of a strain on him and he had to pull out.
Michele Graglia, another hot prospect for the overall winner, also dropped out as did Denise Zimmermann, who was last year’s women’s champion.
So how did Bosatelli, the 47-year-old fireman from a town outside of Bergamo, Italy, whose longest previous distance run was 180 meters, do? What was his strategy? According to an interview he gave at the halfway stage, he said, “I don’t have a strategy, I’m just following how I feel. And what I feel is good.”
He certainly did well! If you were following the race live, you would have noticed that he shifted into high gear at Cogne after 106 kilometers and kept the pressure up from there. He was the first to get into Valtourneche, where he ate a three-course meal including dessert and a beer – our kind of man!
This has been a torrid year for the race itself as the organizers, VdA trailers, became embroiled in a fight with the local authority. The Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley had organized a competing endurance trail running event to be raced clockwise along the Alte Vie 1 and 2 high-mountain trails, at an altitude between 300 and 3,300 meters, a 350 kilometer circuit with 25,000 meters elevation gain to start and end in Cogne, in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park.
In the next twist, VdA trailers took the local authority to court and the following judgment was made in March: “The Tribunal of Turin considers the actions of the Region regarding Vda Trailers and the Tor des Geants 2016 ® to be damaging and harmful and considers the 4K race organized by the Region to be harmful of the rights of VdA Trailers and of the normal operation of the Tor des Geants 2016, since it overlaps it regarding route, length, altitude difference and duration. Specifically, the Tribunale prohibits, effective immediately, the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from accepting registrations and collecting the related registration fees for the ‘4k Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta’ event planned from September 3 – 9, 2016.”
The Local Authority counter-attacked and got its own judgment in June: “The Regional Administrative Court of Valle d’Aosta has rejected today, Tuesday, June 14, the suspension request filed by the association VDA Trailers for the annulment of the effectiveness of the resolutions adopted by the Regional Council institutive of 4K Alpine Endurance Trail.”
Following this, the 4K Alpine Endurance Trail held its first edition from September 3 through 9, which was won by Peter Kienzl in 82 hours and 53 minutes.
Regardless of this ongoing drama, the Tor Des Geants 2016 continues to be one of the greats on the ultra racing calendar with its stunning landscapes, high passes, evil ascents and wicked descents, no sleep, not enough food, and the pitting of men (and women) against the toughest of elements.
Congratulations to the winners and best of luck to those still running in the mountains.