Petro Mamu on his way to victory at the Montee du Grand Ballon (© Tomo Sarf)
The 2015 WMRA Mountain Running World Cup reaches its climax with the sixth and final leg of this year’s series at the 36th edition of the famous Smarna Gora International Mountain Running Race, near the Slovenian capital Llubljana, on Saturday (3).
Great Britain’s Alistair Douglas, the winner of the first World Cup race of the year in Zelezniki, also in Slovenia, and sixth at the recent WMRA World Mountain Running Championships, leads the standing with 240 points and has a comfortable lead of 60 points – the difference between first and sixth or second and 10th – but the three men behind him could all potentially overtake him.
Eritrea’s Petro Mamu, the 2014 Smarna Gora winner and 2012 world champion, lies second on the rankings with 180 points and is possibly the favourite to defend his title and win again here after also winning the second leg of the World Cup, France’s Montee du Grand Ballon event.
Switzerland’s David Schneider is currently third in the 2015 World Cup standings but also has180 points.
He finished second in the Smarna Gora race in 2011 and last year. In addition to finally climbing to the top of the podium at this race, Schneider also has a chance of taking the 2015 World Cup after finishing second overall 12 months ago.
Great Britain’s Robbie Simpson has a chance of usurping his compatriot as he lies fourth with 175 points, his tally helped by a surprise third place at the world championships last month.
However, perhaps the man to beat on the demanding 10km course – that sees runners go 360 metres uphill to the first summit, followed by 300 metres of technical descent before a 300-metre climb to the finish – might be Uganda’s 2015 world champion Fred Musobo, who is contesting this race for the first time.
Among the other men who could feature at the front in this year’s race, although they are out of the reckoning for the World Cup title, are Mamu’s Eritrean compatriots Azeira Teklay and Abraham Kidane, with the former runner second here in 2012 and 2013.
Italy’s Alex Baldaccini is also a familiar face on the podium of the Smarna Gora race, having won the title in 2012 and then finishing third the last two years.
In the women’s race, Hungary’s consistent Timea Merenyi currently sits on top of the World Cup rankings with 280 points after two second places and two third places in the first four races of this year’s series.
The only person who can overtake her is Great Britain’s Sarah Tunstall, who is just 30 points adrift of Merenyi in second place.
Getting the World Cup title would be partial compensation for Tunstall after just missing out on the medals when finishing fourth on home soil at the world championships two weeks ago.
Also in the field is Italy’s 2013 world champion Alice Gaggi, who was one place behind Tunstall at this year’s world championships and who could be considered to be the favourite to regain the title she won in 2013, considering her current form combined with her pedigree on the course which includes finishing third last year.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF