African challenge on Golden Trail from Morocco’s Elazzaoui

Elhousine Elazzaoui in second place, 5 km into the race . (@GoldenSeriesTrail / @Dolomyths / @Martina Valmossa )
Elhousine Elazzaoui in second place, 5 km into the race . (@GoldenSeriesTrail / @Dolomyths / @Martina Valmossa )

by Stephen Granger

Norwegian athlete Stian Angermund made it three in a row in the Golden Trail World Series (GTWS) at the 20km Dolomyths Run in the Italian Alps on Sunday morning (18 July), while Moroccan Elhousine ‘Hassan’ Elazzaoui began the African challenge in earnest with a superb second place.

Together with Toni McCann’s win in the Gruyere Trail Charmey in Switzerland, it proved a great weekend for African trail running.

“I was really disappointed that I had to retire at the Mont-Blanc Marathon (the second GTWS race of the season two weeks ago, where the Moroccan suffered severe muscle cramps),” Elazzaoui admitted. “But it was still a great race, and I gained a lot of experience. Today, it was shorter and suited me better. Unfortunately, Stian was too strong especially on the flat sections, and his finish was crazy! But I’m thrilled and now I’m going to try and qualify for the final by participating in the rest of the races in the series.”

Aptly nicknamed ‘the Highway to Hell’ with over 1600 m of vertical ascent, the Dolomyths provides a searching test of athletes’ climbing ability as well as their skill on the descent. The unrelenting climb to the Forcella Pordoi at 2829m is one of the toughest in the Golden Series.

The high point of the race in the Italian Dolomites – Forcella Pordoi at 2829 metres. Photo: @GoldenTrailSeries / @Dolomyths / @Jordi Saragossa

Unsurprisingly, Swiss athlete Remi Bonnet, known as the best climber in the business, took an early lead on the climb, but what was unexpected was that Elazzaoui was at his heels as the pair crested the high point of the race. Foggy weather persuaded race organisers to shorten the course, saving the athletes over 300 metres of vertical ascent.

The Moroccan hit the front on the high-altitude flat section, soon opening a gap on Bonnet and when he started his descent with a comfortable margin, a first European victory looked a real possibility.

Remi Bonnet leads Elhousine Elazzaoui 5km into the race. Photo: @GoldenTrailSeries / @Dolomyths / @Martina Valmassoi

But once again, Angermund’s ability on technical descents came to the fore and he quickly moved up from joint fifth at the Forcella Pordoi to second, with only the runaway Elazzaoui still in front.  Angermund was able to draw level on the fast runnable downhill forest trail and drew away from his rival in the final kilometres to take his third golden victory of the season, crossing the line in 1 hr 51 min 36 sec – 25 seconds clear of Elazzaoui.  Young Swiss orienteer, Joey Hadorn, completed the podium in third.

“It was so hard and so fun,” Angermund said. “This course is just so enjoyable – steep uphill and crazy crazy downhill – I just love it! Elhousine was very strong today and he and Remi just vanished into the distance on the climb.  I was running with (French athlete) Thibault Baronian and it was so tough.

Stian Angermund congratulates Moroccan athlete Hassan Elazzaoui at the finish. Photo: @GoldenTrailSeries / @Dolomyths / @Martina Valmassoi

“When we reached the summit, I did not think I would make the top ten, but managed to get some speed on the flat section and made up some places. Elhousine was far ahead and I wasn’t sure I could catch him, but I managed it about halfway down. I managed to open a small gap but wasn’t sure of the win until the end.”

Swiss athlete, Judith Wyder, retained the title she won in 2019 – last year’s race was cancelled – but not before  Czech athlete, Marcela Vasinova, had given her a real run for her money in her Dolomyths debut.

Judith Wyder in second place at the start of the descent. Photo: @GoldenTrailSeries / @Dolomyths / @Jordi Saragossa

Seventh in last year’s Golden Trail Championship in the Azores, Vasinova has continued to improve and achieved an excellent fifth at the Mont Blanc Marathon. But she surpassed that in the Italian Alps with an outstanding second place, less than a minute behind Wyder.

And it was the Czech who led the women’s field over the summit at Forcella Pordoi, almost a minute clear of Wyder, with newcomer on the circuit, Karina Carolio from Mexico, third. But Wyder bounced back and her speed on the descent proved decisive.

“I can’t say I’m not happy,” said Wyder. “It’s a great victory after my second pregnancy. But I don’t think I’m back to my 2019 level yet and I will need to work harder to improve. I’m very happy that both my daughters were here with my husband and they really boosted me.”

Vasinova was over the moon. “It was awesome, my kind of terrain, especially the uphill part. It was really cool, I loved it! I pushed really hard on the climb and If the climb had been a little longer, maybe I could’ve held onto first place, but Judith was too strong for me on this downhill.”

Men’s results

1 – STIAN ANGERMUND (NOR – SALOMON): 01:51:36 (+100 pts)

2 – ELHOUSINE ELAZZAOUI (MAR – SALOMON): 01:52:01 (+88 pts)

3 – JOEY HADORN (SUI – SALOMON): 01:52:26 (+78 pts)



Women’s results

1 – JUDITH WYDER (SUI – SALOMON/RED BULL): 02:14:33 (+100 pts)

2 – MARCELA VASINOVA (CZE – SALOMON): 02:15:31 (+ 88 pts)

3 – KARINA CARSOLIO (MEX – SALOMON): 02:18:16 (+ 78 pts)


5 – ODILE SPYCHER (SUI – SALOMON): 02:21:40 (+68 pts)

©SPNAfrica News