Report05 Sep 2021

Murphy, Mayr and Mamu shine at Vertical and Trofeo Nasego


Grayson Murphy races in Casto (© Marco Gulberti)

The sun shone and excitement was high for the Vertical Nasego and Trofeo Nasego, the seventh and eighth stages in the WMRA World Cup in Casto, Italy, on 4-5 September.

The mountain running double header kicked off with the Vertical Nasego, a short uphill race of 4.3km with 1000m of ascent.

World champion Grayson Murphy of the USA, racing in Europe for the first time, took a small lead over six-time world champion Andrea Mayr in the early stages of the women’s race, with Kenya’s Joyce Njeru a little way behind in third. But as the race progressed, Mayr eased past Murphy and stretched out her lead in her usual dominant fashion. She reached the white finishing gantry first in a time of 38:51, which was the 10th fastest of the day overall. Murphy finished more than a minute behind in second and then there was a gap of more than two minutes to Joyce Njeru in third.

The men’s race was somewhat close. Defending champion Henri Aymonod of Italy couldn’t be beaten and he won in 35:38, but 22-year-old compatriot Andrea Rostan was snapping at his heels, just 22 seconds behind him. Eritrea’s Petro Mamu was just 12 seconds behind Rostan (36:12), as 34 seconds separated the top three finishers. Ireland’s Zak Hanna finished fourth, missing a podium place by just six seconds.

Murphy and Mamu magnificent at Trofeo Nasego

After the previous day’s exciting racing at Vertical Nasego, expectation was high for Trofeo Nasego, a longer (21km) up-and-down race with 1330m of total ascent.

Mayr and Murphy, the top two women from the previous day’s race, were back in action. Several of the top contenders from the men’s Vertical Nasego race were also entered.

Murphy led the women’s race from the start, initially alongside Njeru and Kenya’s Lucy Wambui, with Ireland’s Sarah McCormack and Mayr right behind them.

Italy’s Cesare Maestri took it out for the men, with a pack of runners including Aymonod, Mamu, Italy’s Martin DeMatteis and Kenyan duo Timothi Kirui and Eric Muthoni.

By 10km, the situation had changed. Murphy still led the women’s race, but now with a small gap to Njeru. Mayr was about 20 seconds behind them, but Murphy and Njeru continued to stretch out their lead over the next few kilometres.

In the men’s race Mamu and Muthoni had opened up a small lead over a chasing pack which included Maestri and Kirui. There was still a long way to go but gaps were opening.

At 13km the leaders inflicted some damage on those behind them on the big climb up to Refugio Nasego and it proved decisive. Mamu emerged with a 30-second lead over Maestri and Kirui, while Murphy had managed to open up a two-minute lead over Mayr, with Njeru now behind her in third.

On the descent, Murphy maintained her two-minute buffer and even added to it a little, winning in a course record of 1:45:56. Mayr held on to second and finished in 1:48:15, with Francesca Ghelfi putting in a fantastic second half of the race to take third in 1:49:53. Njeru lost quite a bit of ground in the second half and finished fourth (1:52:11), with Alice Gaggi fifth (1:54:37).

Mamu also stretched out his lead on the descent, taking the win in 1:33:55, also a course record. Maestri took second in 1:36:02, managing to hold off Muthoni, who was just 25 seconds behind him. The gap to fourth was even closer, with just five seconds separating Muthoni and Ndungu. Martin DeMatteis finished in fifth in 1:36:55.

The next stop for the World Cup is another double-header at Canfranc-Canfranc. The long mountain race (45km) will take place on 11 September and the classic mountain race (16km) on 12 September.

Kirsty Reade (WMRA) for World Athletics

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