Previews05 Jul 2024

Mountain Running World Cup heads to Heiligenblut


Grossglockner Mountain Run (© Marco Gulberti)

Fresh from her Broken Arrow double, Joyce Muthoni Njeru is among the athletes in action as the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup moves on to Heiligenblut in Austria for the first classic gold label race of the season, the Grossglockner Mountain Run, on Sunday (7).

As the name suggests, the race takes place under the shadow of Austria’s highest mountain, Grossglockner (3798m), which is part of the larger Glockner Group of the Hohe Tauern range in the Central Eastern Alps. Heiligenblut sits at the foot of Grossglockner and under the Pasterze Glacier, Austria’s longest glacier at 8.4km. Runners are surrounded by towering peaks as they experience famous sights of the area like the Briccius Chapel and famous mountain huts. 

Contested over 13.4km with 1300m of ascent, the race is predominantly uphill and it features an exciting line-up again this year, with former winners and many runners who finished in the top 10 last year returning. 

For the women, Muthoni Njeru will be looking to add to her wins at both the VK and Skyrace at Broken Arrow. She won here in 2022, when it was last in the World Cup, and she was the World Cup champion in 2023. 

Her Kenyan compatriot Philaries Jeruto Kisang won here last year and finished third in last year’s World Cup. She has proven her ability to turn her hand to any distance, with wins at Chiavenna Lagunc KV as well as Grossglockner last year, and a third place at Sierre Zinal. And who can forget her duel with Andrea Mayr in the classic race at the World Championships, where she ultimately finished second. 

Scout Adkin, last year’s runner up in the World Cup with podiums at Montemuro, PizTri Vertikal and Vertical Nasego, will also be making her 2024 World Cup debut here and will be one to watch. Susanna Saapunki was fourth here in 2021, and she was third at La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and enjoyed wins at Smarna Gora and Primiero Dolomiti Trail last year. 

Nina Engelhard will also be an exciting prospect. She is an up-and-coming athlete, who came second here last year and recently won both the uphill only and up and down race at the European Off Road Running Championships. 

Other women expected to feature include Camilla Magliano, who achieved a fourth place at Montemuro, sixth at Montee du Nid d’Aigle and a fourth and a third at Canfranc Canfranc last year; Alice Gaggi, fifth at last year’s Sierre Zinal and second at Val Bregaglia Trail; and Sara Willhoit, who had a string of top 10 finishes last year, including podiums at the Broken Arrow VK and Primiero Dolomiti Trail. Charlotte Cotton, Maddalena Soma and Alice Goodall could also contend.

In the men’s race, while last year’s podium does not return, the entry list does feature most of last year’s top 10, including the fourth-placed finisher, Ephantus Mwangi Njeri. He could be an exciting prospect in this year’s World Cup.

One of the break-out stars of last year’s World Cup was Joe Steward. He won the Canfranc Canfranc Vertical race, was third at Vertical Nasego and third at PizTri Vertikal, and eventually finished third in the World Cup. He recently won the men’s uphill mountain race in the European Off-Road Running Championships and will be one to watch in the  World Cup again this year. 

Remi Leroux comes into this race with two top 10 finishes at Broken Arrow two weeks ago. He was also one of the break-out stars of last year’s World Cup competition with second places at Montemuro Vertical Run and Canfranc Canfranc Vertical and a fourth at the classic race at Canfranc. Josphat Kiprotich achieved some great results at last year’s World Mountain and Trail Running Championships, with an eighth place in the classic up and down race and a third in the classic uphill race. 

Other men to watch include Tiziano Moia, who was fifth here last year and was second at Chiavenna Lagunc KV. Manuel Innerhofer, sixth here last year and fifth the year before, will get strong support from his home crowd. Timotej Becan was seventh here last year, and also finished seventh at Fletta Trail and Challenge Stellina.

Andrew Douglas, the 2019 World Cup champion, had a great run at the Broken Arrow Skyrace two weeks ago to come through the field and take seventh place. He could well be another runner to watch.

Kirsty Reade (WMRA) for World Athletics