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It’s really rough nature up there, trail running for me it’s kind of like freedom, just run and play. When I run on a trail I don’t care about time, how fast it is, or whatever, and I don’t focus on poles or anything, it’s just like run and enjoy being outside. Of course when you put the bib on it’s about to perform as good as possible but at the same time I really like to enjoy the trails. In races I actually stopped and looked at the view, it has happened.

- A STRATEGIC BATTLE - - A STRATEGIC BATTLE - So, first of all. - A STRATEGIC BATTLE - Look at you, look at the camera? - A STRATEGIC BATTLE - Look at me, that's cool, yeah. Look at me, that's cool, yeah. So, Who are you and what do you do for a living? I’m Jim Walmsley, I’m a professional runner for Hoka One One, so I run for a living.

The main goal is going to be to try to come in and challenge for the win in the general classification. [Bart] Ready! There’s a really big variety of athletes here. All the biggest teams are represented, we’ve got Scott, Nike, Salomon, Adidas, Hoka One One, and a few of the newer teams. It’s a stage format, rather than just a one day classic race. 4-DAY STAGE RACE IN THE AZORES ARCHIPIELAGO Here we don’t quite know what to expect, nobody quite knows, because it’s different. 3 SEGMENTS 3 SEGMENTS IN EACH RACE Having segments inside the race, makes it a competition within the competition.

DOWNHILL, CLIMB, SPRINT, OVERALL With this format we could possibly see someone winning both the segments and the overall. THE BIGGEST CONCENTRATION OF ELITE RUNNERS OF ALL TIME I think in 2020 undoubtedly this is the race, there’s no other race. 2 ISLANDS 32 NATIONALITIES TOTAL DISTANCE: 115KM ELEVATION GAIN: +5172M Having this different format in the Azores, has given us the opportunity to see athletes perform out of their comfort zone. [Max] Ok, I gotta go. [Stian] We are on the island, waiting to take a COVID test, so I just wonder if it’s the one on the mouth or up in the nose, what do you think? Previous years of having a combination of 1-day events times six over the year, was thrown out the window because of COVID and the pandemic. The GTC organizers are very strict with the COVID measures imposed by the government of the Azores.

That means that every athlete attending the event must show a COVID test upon arrival. And then take another test when they get to the island to make sure they are COVID free. For us following the COVID protocol is priority number one. Because if we have a positive case we will probably have to cancel the whole event.

PROLOGUE DAY, HORTA, FAIAL ISLAND [Stian] Normally before when I run a Golden Trail Series race, there’s normally one not four, then I do like an interval session a couple of days before just to wake up the body, and I didn’t do, like for this race is different so, the plan was just like the prologue will be the way to wake up the body. My name is Stian I do some running and I work in a store. Finally! Yeah! Wohoo! Stian is the typical chilled Norweigan guy, he is the type of runner that goes unnoticed everywhere he goes, but when it comes to running, he is there to break records. Welcome to the Golden Trail Championships! The world's best athletes have come to the Azores for the biggest showdown of the year, and the Prologue will be their first chance to stand out! The course of the prologue is a short 3km race, the actual stages are way longer, between 20-35km.

The prologue will determine the order of seeding for the athletes, and the bib leaders that will be at the front on day one. So the fastest in the prologue takes pole position, Formula 1 racing is the same, Lewis Hamilton is the fastest, he starts number one. Because in Formula 1 racing if you start at the back you are not going to win, in trail racing sometimes when the single tracks are very narrow it’s difficult to pass, so if you start right at the back, you are not going to win. The young blood coming into the circuit have a lot to gain and not much to lose. Take a look at Théo Dettiene going absolutely mental on the downhill segment!! Our next runner is Switzerland's Maude Mathys, she’s the runner-up in the 2019 Golden Trail Series, and with Judith Wyder out, she’s this year’s favorite. Maude, Maude is an absolute phenomenon, last year an indication to me, two of the records that have stood for the longest more than thirty years, Sierre-Zinal and Pikes Peak, and people were starting to say well maybe they weren't real, and maybe somebody cheated and they couldn’t be real records because nobody has been able to beat them, well Maude did, and she beat both of those which was really just phenomenal.

Maude Mathys, I am a professional runner. I know few of the female runners who are here, and who have a very high level, and there are also many that I have never run with and I think that all the top female runners are here. [Maude] Oh it's chocolate and peanuts! Oh, it's so good! Good warm up. Did you take it as a warm up? Ah, no! Hard warm up. Of course the aim is to win. I would love to win the overall ranking

and then if I can be the best climber or the best sprinter on one or two stages that would be awesome, but the main goal is to show that I am the best. [Meg] So much fun! [Maude] Go go Meg! [Thibaut] We started really strong right? Why didn't you run the prologue yesterday? Yeah, We got an e-mail that we should do a COVID test the 22nd and then another one on the 28th when we came here, so I did a COVID test on the 22nd, but when I come here I needed to do one more directly but I thought that was fine, but then I was told I had to be in quarantine, and that I couldn’t run the prologue before I had the result of the second test, so I couldn’t run. STAGE 01, PORTO DO SALADO, FAIAL ISLAND So actually we just respect the Azores authority rules, they basically ask everyone entering the island to have a negative test before arriving, and they made us do another one, we all have to do it, all the ones who were waiting for their results they had to stay in their rooms in quarantine so some of them they didn’t take part in the prologue, it’s a shame, it’s bad for this but we have to respect all the rules. A few athletes didn’t get their COVID test results on time, and that means they missed the prologue. Not having run the prologue has really bad consequences, it means that today they are going to have to start from the back. Yeah, it felt really bad.

I was most worried for today, what happens if I don’t get the result before the start today, so I was just so happy when I got the result in the evening and I knew that I could run the race today My name is Tove Alexandersson and I’m a professional orienteerer. Tove is certainly not slow by any means, she is a very strong technical athlete, but she is also fast, and she has a very strong background in orienteering. She has won the world title 10 times I believe, and also she has won the world ski orienteering title 10 times as well and she’s won the sky running title I think only once.

But her focus on running has been more recent and I think we still perhaps have to see the best of Tove, I’m secretly thinking that she is going to be one that's gonna be very difficult to beat. The first stage of the Golden Trail Championship is officially on! What an exciting week ahead. Due to the COVID measures, we’ll be watching a different race format this year. The participants will be starting in waves of 50 people. Splitting men and women for the first two start waves will make the show even better to watch! I was a little bit afraid that I was maybe running a bit too fast because it was fun when you see people and see that you are taking like time on them all the time, but when I passed most of the runners I saw that the first runners were so far away and Maude I didn’t see her at all she must have like sprinted away so fast in the start.

So yesterday: dry, runnable, fast. Today: wet, muddy, slippery, dangerous possibly. Nice temperature, weather is just perfect, it’s uh… I think it will be a lovely day. It's really windy, so sometimes you get hit with a big gust of wind, but uh.. so I’ll try to stay tucked in.

Yeah, today is the real race but I think the first two days will run a little different than the second two days, so just stay patient. Jim is an amazing athlete, he is one of those legends of the sport that you know come once every 30 years. He doesn’t just break records, he obliterates records, and he’s done that with many of the world’s best known ultra distance races, the Western States he was running an hour faster than anyone else has run it before which is just ridiculous. Is going to be interesting to see, he's a unique, he's a different type of runner, I’m looking forward to see how he’s gonna do over four days, I think he will be one of the ones that starts fast on day 1, my prediction is that he will win day 1, possibly quite easily.

But will he win at the end of day 4? That’s the big question that we are wanting to see. The Salomon guys are known for being on the lead on all the races they go to, but today an orienteerer, Frederic Trenchant, smoked the Salomon guys from the beginning, I’m sure the team manager is not so happy about that. My name is Greg Vollet, and I’m the team manager of the Salomon international team. Of course we came to the Golden Trail Championship with the intentions to win. Most of our competitors are individual athletes. We are a team, we are living together, training together, having fun together, and having a very strong team spirit.

It's important for them to have a kind of strategy in their head when they are running, because when they are in a group they know what they’ll be able to do, of course it will happen or not, and if the peloton explodes and they are just one by one… there is no more strategy. [Stian] How far? One minute! What? One minute! Yeah, I’m quite good at killing myself in just one race and not be able to do so much in the coming days, so I will try not to give 110% and maybe just 90% each day so I hope that I can, yeah, be able to run quite fast all the days, so we will see how it will work. Downhill I tend to think that maybe she’s only got one gear, and she just loves that running, it’s her passion, and her eyes lit up, and you saw her at the finish, the color of her face, the color of her legs.. and it seems to me for Tove the tougher it is, the colder, the mudier the better she will do. I think Tove has the skill set to win the blue bib if she wanted to go for it, but the fear is that if she does she could be too reckless and she may not finish the trail race, and you’ve got to get to day four. [Maude] I think that the stage which scares me the most is the first one.

It's on that one that we will see everyone's shape. I have no doubt that Maude will be hard to beat on the flatter more runnable sections in the Azores, but she is going to struggle a little bit on some of the more significant technical sections, particularly technical downhill running. Perhaps you could almost say she is the Jim Walmsley of trail running from the women's side, she is very fast, and she loves the runnable courses.

So it’s going to be an interesting package, and we will see how Maude does. Starting from the back of the first wave wasn’t enough to stop Tove Alexandersson from putting on an incredible effort today! She caught everyone to win the first stage and even opened a significant gap on the rest of the field! Surely a bold move with still 3 stages to go! [Tove] I need something, I have twisted my ankle, I have twisted my ankle! I need… Yeah, Ice? Yeah and something to like… Okay It was nice but I twisted my ankle in the first downhill so I need to, I really hope it’s not that bad, but otherwise it was.. really big variation and yeah it was, it was fun. I talked with Tove after the finish line, asking her if she was managing the stage race you know and if she was not pushing too hard today, and she told me well, I have only one speed so I give it all, 100%, ...alright. Yeah you have to question that in a 4-day stage race, you get full marks for commitment, but we are gonna mark you down on strategy, you are gonna lose points on strategy. Maybe in the coming days she will pay off, and see if Maude can catch the time, even if it’s a big gap, there's still three days. Frederic Trenchant is a well known figure in the orienteering world circuit.

But he didn’t shy away from his competition today, and led the pack of elite athletes from end-to-end to win the first stage, what a trail running debut! And here is Bart coming only a few seconds back. [Bart] Yes! Yes! Last year Stian was coming in the 4th position race after race, if he doesn’t make a podium this year, people might start to question, does Stian really have what it takes to be a champion? Fourth position has been my position for so many races now, so I think I would really appreciate finishing on the podium. I think sometimes we underestimate the value of consistency and overestimate a one off performance. Elhousine in the last meters before crossing the finish line in third position, just ahead of Stian Angermund, who will add one more 4th place finish to his career! [Stian] I broke it. Fourth again? Yeah that’s my position so, but I didn’t want to sprint for the third place, I tried to save my legs . Not quite the place we expected to see the American runner, Jim Walmsley rounds up the top 5.

How was it Jim? [Jim] It was good, the weather was better than I thought it’d be, the mud was a little harder to run through than I thought but, we will see, luckily it’s four days not one. I think with Tove, we talked about it a little bit earlier, I think inevitably must be a bit fearful of her ankle, will it stand up? Will I sprain it again? Will I be able to get to the start line tomorrow, will it be ok? I know how desperate she is to run, she loves running in the mountains, her fear would be that she might not be able to complete the race. Maybe it wasn’t the best start if you count the whole week but I had some power left, so I hope that it will be fine tomorrow so I can do a good stage also tomorrow.

[Jim] We’re going to the Quartz, I’m not sure if it’s random or if they’re doing like top five but I got an e-mail so I have to go. [Pierre] And just to try to put saliva on it, and after two, three minutes we will see what kind of color it becomes, and the test will be ok. ok? I just put it on my tongue? Yeah, yeah, And just close the mouth and just try to bring saliva on the sponge. The third one will be crazy I think.

The one on Pico. Oh yeah Pico, no, day two is the fell, Pico it’s its own, there’s probably just pico, but we may or may not run it I don’t know. [Pierre] Yeah I don't know [Jim] They say weather could affect that so.. but I hope we do, I think the harder the better over the four days. If we can make it five days that would be good too.

I think that Stian will still hold back on day two tomorrow, I think he will go for day three. Day three is a challenging one, so I think Stian will be aware of that and hold himself back. We have the stage number three that is up to Pico, and I think that can suit me well because I’m a fan of steep uphills, but then the weather report says it might be bad weather, maybe we won’t run up to Pico, but I think that could be a good stage for me, it’s a key stage.

Exciting, second stage. Today will be hard, it’s a rough climb. I'm looking forward to that one, some mud on the summit that will be the best part, and then what I heard is not so technical downhill and that’s the challenging part. Day two is always interesting in a stage race, whether it’s a three or four or five-day stage race, day two is a little bit of a reality check for athletes.

For me I feel the legs are very good, the key for me is to manage to keep the energy for all the stages to run, to have enough energy for the end. And I believe if I manage to do four good stages I can win this event, but it can also be like I could be number fifth or sixth as well. I think he’s in better shape than he has been since 2017, I think the last two years he’s done well, he won the overall Golden Trail Series in 2018, but by his admission he wasn’t at his best, and he says now he’s feeling back to how he was in 2017 which should be bad news for everyone else in the race because if Stian is in top form, he’s going to be hard to beat. I think after letting so much time go after the first stage it was alright, we know the plan we’re gonna grind away every day, if I was fortunate enough to have a buffer on the first day and have a better day, the scenario would be completely different but right now I need to close gaps. Jim is currently sitting 5th on the overall ranking. So today he needs to close down the gaps with Frederic and Bart, he’s also only 15 seconds away from the climbers overall bib.

At the moment Rémi is the climbers overall leader. So today’s course is a bit more runnable, so potentially we could see Jim trying to go for that climb and stealing Rémi’s lead. Even though stage 2 is less technical than stage 1, today’s weather conditions are really tough. Constant rain paired with very strong winds up in the caldera will for sure make it a challenging one for the runners. One question on everybody’s mind is how Tove will be able handle day 2 after twisting her ankle yesterday.

Maude Mathys should be starting to feel the pressure now, so we’ll pay close attention to how she will be racing against Tove today. Jim seems to be pushing really hard today, but somehow he still can’t get rid of Bart! Leading the chase, we’ve got Rémi, Stian and Elhousine trying to close the gap on the leading duo. Who will get the climbing segment today? Looks like Jim is going for it! Today was just as windy and you got a little narrow path and that was one section where Bart was able to run a little smother through the wind and the trail at the same time, and sometimes I felt like I just got blown off and then I look over and he didn’t even budge, and I was just like… man! He’s really rock solid through some of the tough sections. People were running so fast, especially Bartlomiej and Jim, for me it was kind of similar as yesterday it took like half an hour to get into the race, so after the uphill segment then I felt like the body was starting to work then I was really racing. Jim is just there, Come on, come on, come on, come on! Go, go, go, go! Jim is just there! Maude and Tove have just turned the tables, today.

Maude looked a bit tired yesterday Tove looked fantastic, but when you’re in the lead you look fantastic when you’re in second place not so. Yeah of course I want to do as good as I can but it’s also hard to know how much you should push everyday because you still want to have some power left for the last days. I feel when I’m running downhill when it’s too hard that it’s not the best for the ankle but it’s ok. Tove is probably the best downhiller we have in the championship, but because of the new format there's some athletes that are focusing only on specific segments, like today, Anna Cufer, she won the downhill segment.

Go go go, continue continue. Push, push! It looked like the leading pace today was simply too fast for Fred Tranchand, winner of the first stage. After putting the hammer down on his competition, Bart finally secured his first stage win.

[Bart] I’m so happy! Jim Walmsley seems to be finding his bearings, as he managed to get on the podium today. Stian and Elhousine are coming in together, after racing the whole stage shoulder to shoulder. They are now only a few seconds in front of Jim after two days of racing. [Stian] He helped me so much! He is the hero of the day.

We came around a sharp left turn, I think it was one kilometer before we enter the sea, and that’s like four kilometers towards the finish line, so 5Km before the finish line. I stepped out of the course by mistake and I fell down on my back, and I couldn’t get up and then Elhoussine, he stopped and helped me up, that was so nice of him. Stian has been racing very closely with Elhousine Elazzaoui, they don’t know each other, Stian hasn’t met him before but yesterday Hassan I think finished 6 seconds ahead of Stian and Stian was catching him, and I think that defines the best thing about trail running, I don’t think you would get that in road running or track, just a wonderful story to have that, reaching out a hand to Stian and helping him up, wonderful.

The interesting thing though, is are they both going to be very close on stage three and stage four? And my guess is not, I think Stian is just getting stronger and stronger. I think on stage four he is going to be hard to beat. I think I’m still over three minutes behind Frédéric, and then I’m only within I think less than two seconds from Elhoussine and Stian so Bart and Frédéric took a risk yesterday, Frédéric I think payed it back a little bit today but maybe he recovers a little more today after not pushing so hard, and hopefully Bart cracks. I’m rooting for that obviously he’s not but he ran really strong today and he was hard to catch. After being taken by surprise on stage 1 Maude Mathys is officially back! Even though she made up a lot of time, today’s victory wasn’t enough to take the overall lead.

We’re only half way through the race though, and anything can still happen! Fine, very happy! It doesn’t look like twisting her ankle on stage 1 affected Tove Alexandersson too much! Look at her sprinting down the finish line in second place. She knows well that in this stage-racing format, every second counts! I was afraid that Tove came back in the downhill again, but it was a very fast downhill on dirt road, so it was a good advantage for Maude. So, yesterday Tove closed the gap with me by 7 minutes, and today I think I got back 2 minutes from her, so we still have about a 5-minute gap between each other. Yes, it will be a daily challenge to get closer to her, we’ll see how I recover, and how she recovers. So I think tomorrow it’s a big uphill Maude will have to create a big gap to make sure she will have enough time at the top of the uphill to, to manage Tove behind.

As you can see in the last two stages we had bad weather conditions, so for the security of everyone the race director decided to change the plan, so instead of going to Pico Island we will stay in Faial Island. [Mario] The weather varies a lot, the weather will be bad, it will be bad in the mountains, and that's why we decided to cancel it. I really want to go to Pico, I’m not happy it is cancelled, but on the other hand when we were running today up on the caldera the wind was quite strong, it was really tough wind, and then pico is more than double as high as that so I think it’s a very good thing that we are not going to pico.

I wish we were a bit more lucky with the weather. Today is an alternative course to running up pico and will take place on the same island as the other stages. If the newly designed course covers the same distance as the original one, it features 1000m less of elevation gain. For sure I can handle one more day, but two more days? I don’t know, we will see after tomorrow.

but two more days? I don’t know, we will see after tomorrow. I think it will be harder and harder for every day to run fast but that’s something I’m prepared for. Yeah there’s a lot of racing still to do, and we’re not even half way in kilometers, in distance. Yeah they say in a marathon, in a road marathon, 42, 32 is the halfway mark, of course it is not, twenty one is the halfway mark, but in terms of effort it’s 32, and if you are feeling fresh then you gotta really pick up a lot and I think a stage race the halfway mark almost might be at the end of stage three, because you’re gonna get some really tired legs on stage four.

Welcome to stage number three of the Golden Trail Championship, the whole trail running community is all eyes on the Azores for the biggest event of the year. The best teams in the world are here, 32 countries represented, more than 100 elite runners are competing for the title, what a show! Day three there is a single track, two kilometers, even one kilometer after the start, that will be key. When we were entering the forest I went in front and the idea there was just to help Bart, he’s doing very good in the overall so I was thinking if I can run in front of him and do the navigation in the forest I think it’s easier to follow someone, then you can plan the corners and everything, so I was pushing hard for the first kilometers, I don’t remember for how many kilometers I was in front of him 2,3,4 and during the sprint section or maybe in the sprint section he went in front and after the end of the forest he had a gap and then we didn’t see him anymore until the finish line. I think for Stian he would have been looking at day three as the moving day, and there are a number of athletes in the field that were looking at day three as their moving day.

And that changed, particularly Stian who is a very sensible chap he would have just readjusted his goals and said well, it’s not realistic anymore that I challenge for number one and two positions, I know he wanted to win it and I think he could have, but he would have had to readjust, so no, it’s not favouring him. So when I first caught Stian and Elhousine it was on the uphill section, and I was a little surprised to see them because they were pushing pretty hard but kind of expected when it gets muddier when it gets sloppier even windier those guys were kinda moving a little quicker, so even though I caught them I felt not comfortable because there’s other parts of the course were they are moving better than me so I’m kinda going like this through what felt like other people were steady and I was like.. oh man, am I gonna be the one breaking today, yeah so much movement for me personally on the first two thirds of the race. I think Jim Walmsley, I think his fear would be that if he doesn’t win this championship as Jim sort of the guru of the sport in sense the legend, he might be branded as a trail runner that can’t run in technical conditions, and I think that would be his fear, I’m imagining that that might be, and I think he very much wants to be shown to be an athlete that can run in technical conditions as well as on the roads.

I liked the first part of the course, when we were running in the forest and it was just a little bit up and down so I caught up maude there after a while, and I was in front of her, but then I was running wrong as I missed the flags and I was running on the wrong trails so I had to turn back, and then she was a bit away so that was a bit frustrating, and then I ran alone for the rest of the race. When you come tired to a race because you’ve been racing for two days in a row now, and you get lost, and you find yourself running alone knowing that the other runners are closing gaps on you, she must feel mentally devastated. Tove looks really tired I thought Tove seemed pretty tired, so I needed to just stay in front of her and I think that should be fine. I was more concerned about Rachel and Blandine, their legs are strong, they are recovering well, so I really should be careful not to lose much time on them.

I think Maude is playing really well, today at the beginning of the race she held back a little bit and she was running alongside with Tove on the 4th and 5th position until she got to the climb segment which she is currently leading, and there she pushed a bit harder and she caught the first group that was led by Rachel Drake and Blandine l’Hirondel the 2019 Trail running world champion. But Rachel Drake, we have to keep an eye on her, she is starting to make a statement that she could be a title contender. It looks like Bart put more time into his lead so probably unless he just shows up with some crutches tomorrow I don’t see him losing that lead! Jim has moved into second overall just, and there’s not much between second and fifth, just like a minute, and Stian is somewhere in that mix. Who knows, maybe I can lull him into a little trap somewhere in the race and get a jump on him, so, I would love a stage win, but, I think I need to figure out kind of a sneaky way to do it, especially if he's just trying to hammer from the start again, I think go have fun with that but if I can kinda have a jump on Stian and Elhousine not necessarily fully purposely but I’m going to be opportunistic on day four, and if the opportunity is there will take a crack at it. I was struggling so much the last meters, I didn't feel good at all when I crossed the finish line, but I guess it was the same for many. And Bart, he was just flying through this race it’s impressive to see how good he handled this, like, the first stage he was second, second stage he won and this third stage he won and I think he might also have a big chance of winning the last one as well, he looks very good.

It was Rachel Drake’s time to shine today! She showed incredible strength and stamina on a course that suited her. Tomorrow’s course is similar, so will she manage to move up past Tove and take second place in the overall rankings? Depending on her performance, Tove could fall down to 4th or even 5th, since Blandine L’Hirondelle is not far behind. [Rachel] Awesome job! [Maude] Congratulations. Good job, good tempo.

[Rachel] Yeah it’s fun running with you. [Maude] Yeah! I know it’s quite tight behind me so I think it will be to fight tomorrow, I think it will be really hard for me to take some time at Maude, we will see how the legs feel tomorrow, but at least there’s nothing to save, just give everything I have. Bart is on the lead and he has a solid 9 minutes gap from Jim that is in the second position. Stian and Elhousine are only 20 seconds apart from each other and 3 minutes away from Jim. Frédéric Tranchand is sitting 5th only 1 minute away from Elhousine, so tomorrow he will be chasing that 3rd position.

On the women's side, Maude managed to get a 5-minute gap from Tove and only 6 minutes behind her there’s Rachel Drake, who will probably want to jump into that second position. Blandine l’Hirondel is also right behind at only 40 seconds from Rachel and 6 minutes from Tove, knowing Tove is not recovering as well as Rachel and Blandine, she is not in a safe position right now. [Stian] I’m so happy for Bart, he’s doing so good, he would have destroyed everyone in the stage no matter what I have done, but it was nice just trying to help a little bit. [Greg] Yeah no, for sure for sure, and it’s nice also because it was not to to slow down someone, but it was to try to help him to run faster in the forest. [Stian] Exactly! And I like that part.

To give him more trajectories, and to follow someone so, no no, that’s nice. Yeah. [Stian] Have you planned a strategy for tomorrow? [Bart] Yes I want to win the last stage, of course.

[Greg] You know, you have almost nine minutes in front of Jim. Yes. Ok so, without problems normally there is not a lot of risk for you tomorrow. He doesn't need to attack, he just needs to defend. You know, he has enough time in front of everyone. So Stian is really in the team spirit.

He really loves to help his teammates even if he doesn’t win the race he will be super happy for them. Bart is a very complete athlete of course he is very focused on performance, he loves to win. Of course there’s the ego from each one that you have to manage but he can help his teammates as well, but if he sees that he is stronger, he will move ahead.

Where is the weakness of Jim? Is in the levada. Yeah. Yes.

So you should be in front of Jim before the Levada. Yes that 's right. Yeah. [Bart] And this terrain is better for us. Then here, Jim will come back.

Yes. On the climb. So you will arrive all together if you are able to create a gap before, because if you arrive all together at the bottom of the climb then Jim will arrive alone at the top. So then you will arrive all three at the Caldera with Elhousine certainly as well, I asked him to come but, he didn’t come. Don’t be full gas from the start and explode in the middle ok? It’s the last stage but still manage it properly, go to the end without injuries as well, pay attention to you, but is very runnable tomorrow, it’s the most runnable of the stage race. It’s the last day and I’m a little bit less stressed.

Day 4 is the last day of the stage race, you can feel the nerves at the start line, everyone is focused, they know it’s their last chance to perform and perhaps to demonstrate they are the best in the world. We are back at Capelinhos Volcano for the start of the fourth and last stage! Today’s course, crossing Faial Island from west to east is 34km long with 1488 meters of elevation gain. It will be the most runnable stage of the week.

For the fourth time this week runners will be facing extremely challenging weather. The pace sustained by these athletes is already crazy fast, but in this weather it’s absolutely off the charts! The whole world is watching this last day of competition where the overall rankings will be set and anything can happen! [Bart] Hey! Easy! [Jim] I’m chasing Rémi today. Don’t worry I’m not getting away today. Yeah I was kinda like, oh I gotta chase Rémi on this one, and I’m like, well it’s the uphill segment I’m going! And I kinda just told Bart I gotta chase Rémi on this one but then all of a sudden Bart was way back and combined with the fog it was like an unintentional move but at the same time intentional.

The visibility was probably twenty meters and then ten and then at the top of the climbing it was probably not much more than five, so Jim said he used that to get away. And in fact if you are able to create a gap of fifteen seconds you cannot see anymore the front runners, so you don’t know if you are at fifteen seconds or at one minute or more, so mentally for the guys behind it’s always tricky. Maude faces challenges perhaps not so much from Tove but from Blandine and Rachel, Rachel has that little thing that an athlete needs to face one of the best trail runners in the world.

We saw yesterday how she’s improved, and we got a taste from her speed where she ran 3km with Maude on a downhill stretch, and they were running side by side together at a really fast speed. Today, Rachel knows it’s her last leg, she’s gonna give it all, go flat out, and perhaps she’s gonna be Maude’s biggest threat. I think with the women they are in very different positions, Maude and Tove. And that happens in sport racing, they’re both top sports people, top athletes who in their specific fields are almost unbeatable. Tove ten times world orienteering champion, ten times ski orienteering champion, she’s unbeatable at that sport but here this is something outside her comfort zone.

For me today it was just about to try to make it to the finish, I knew already before that I wasn’t really prepared for this. I'm used to running races between fifteen minutes and one and a half hours, and this was four races in a row between two and three and a half hours. I think three days had been ok for me because like yesterday my leg was really destroyed from the start but I could still push a little bit, but today there was nothing left.

I don’t know, I feel like in this race you get twenty years older from one stage to another, and I guess I’m quite old now, I didn’t manage to recover enough so, yeah, it was hard. I was running in the group Elhousine, he was running behind me as he did the whole of yesterday and he did the whole of this day as well. I think Stian and Elhousine enjoyed another day together so they seem to be good buddies throughout the four days.

Elhousine is a relatively new runner to international trail running, he is very talented but he doesn't know the tricks of the trade, I’m sure his coach would have told him, you just follow Stian because Stian is the most experienced trail runner of all, he knows all the tricks, if you follow him you’ll do well. From Stian’s point of view I think he wanted Elhousine to take the lead at times to take some of the heat off him and I think he felt he wasn’t always fair. He was just running behind me, all the way. I tried to like: come on, and then no, he was behind. So he was not a teammate today.

If you are pushing you know with different runners on the flat helping each other you can go much faster, if it’s always the same one in the front he will get tired at one point, knowing that he’s also pulling all the others behind him. So, if he was just following of course I can understand Stian, but Elhousine was not briefed, so it could be part of my fault. I think with 2km left I slammed another gel, I was just like this is not happening, I’m not getting posterized by getting run down in the finish line. That’s just one of my greatest fears so, and it’s happened to me multiple times and it sucks, so I just didn’t wanted to see him near the finish or last couple of kilometers. Jim is in the lead and on his way to score his first stage win.

But so far, this isn’t enough to close the 9-minute gap that Bart has on him in the overall rankings. And it looks like it will be hard to make up, because Bart doesn’t look even close to giving up! Well I still lost, like I won the day but I mean it’s still bittersweet, yeah so kinda what am I celebrating on, it’s nice, it’s a definite positive thing to win the stage today I’m really thankful for having a good fourth day but even just lining up for the most part it was a lost cause. Bart ran so strong all week and had so much time on me so yeah it’s bittersweet. I was kind of disappointed yeah, we could have run this race faster, I don’t care who is becoming third or fourth, and we could have ended third or fourth instead of fourth and fifth.

It’s been amazing to see the evolution of Rachel during this stage race in Azores, she finished 4th in the first and second stage, losing a lot of time to Maude and Tove. But then on the third stage when everybody was starting to feel tired, somehow Rachel was recovering better than anyone else and she was able to finish second. Now Rachel’s strategy for today is really interesting but risky at the same time, she is now sitting 3rd overall, so she could have run with maude the whole time and defend her 3rd position, but instead she opted to push hard and attempt a stage win and a second overall, and that’s dangerous. And it's Rachel Drake running for Nike who will take the win on day 4, making it an all American stage win.

We knew she was strong on a runnable course, but what an amazing comeback from Rachel! Now we have to wait to see how far back Tove will finish today, because Rachel might have made enough time to steal the second place overall. And here is Maude Mathys on the last meters of the race. She couldn’t keep up with Rachel’s pace today, but her second place is good enough to secure her first place overall. Ok? Are you ok? Yeah. Tove instead, she started really strong, it was looking like she was going to be the one to win the championship, but she faded as the days went by, even though she’s tired, and she barely has any energy left, she knows she has to push at 100%, otherwise she could lose the podium spot, the ranking is really tight, and it could come down to seconds.

Yeah of course if it was about seconds I don’t want to come to the finish and see that I have lost some places because I didn’t give all that I had so of course. She’s a professional, she gave it everything. She was tired and struggling, she was out of her comfort zone, this was not something that she was accustomed to, other athletes were beating her where normally she would beat them. But she didn’t give up and we have to admire her for that.

She is just wonderful. I think what she brings to the sport is a new dimension. And it is now official, Rachel Drake moves up to the second place overall and Blandine L’Hirondelle into third place, edging out Tove Alexandersson from the podium.

I think everyone was incredibly grateful for the fact that the Golden Trail Series didn’t just lay down and die in 2020, it could have been forgiven because everyone was saying sorry cancelled, sorry cancelled, they didn’t, they said well we’re gonna have something special and they created this and put it on and saw it through. I think most of the athletes that are here have never done something like this before. Some have never done stage races at all, some have done maybe one or two or three days, but never anything like this with this depth of quality of field, I think it’s unprecedented, you had even stronger fields than Zegama and Sierre Zinal and Mont Blanc. But over four days, running against those types of athletes it’s just incredible. Got you.

Tell me my script. Where is the prompter Mud party! Maude party too. How is the downhill Max? Nice and soft. It’s gonna be wet, it’s gonna be steep, you're gonna love it. But yeah, don’t stay too long otherwise you’ll end up like me.

Alright, see you. Excuse me, Ok let's help them!

2020-12-19 22:24

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