Race preview - Gaspard Dessy gunning for the points lead!
This weekend's fantastic Cordillera Mountain Ultra 50k race in Dalupirit, Benguet, Philippines is already the 7th points race in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series and marks the end of Q1 - the first quarter. A hard-fought battle in both the male and female races is expected on Mount Ugo, the highlight of the race with a summit at nearly 2200m above sea level. Belgium's Gaspard Dessy is set to even take over the points lead from Arief Wismoyono in the championship, provided the Belgian finishes the race, of course. Dessy is currently only 50 points behind the Indonesian ATM champion of 2015 after two third place finishes in Tahura Trail and Coast To Coast Night Trail. Now venturing beyond his home base of Semarang, at CMU he will not only collect 100 finisher points but he is a race favourite and may thus score up to 400 performance points to boot!
However, the competition on paper is tremendous. Starting with last year's winner Marcelino Sano-Oy, who knows the area like the inside of his pocket. Sano-Oy is often mentioned by local Filipinos in the same sentence with Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina, which says a lot even when the two have not yet squared off in a direct confrontation. An up-and-comer, it will be fascinating to see how Sano-Oy fares in his second ATM campaign. Divina, by the way, is not running this weekend. Last year's runner-up in CMU 50, Al Telias, is also back in the mix this weekend. He actually made life hard for Sano-Oy in the descent of Mt Ugo. Can he do it again, and what can his esteemed brother James Telias do in this race?
And last but not least of the known top favourites is of course Grandmaster Jan Nilsen, who also makes his first appearance in an ATM points race this year. The Thailand-based Norwegian is always at his best when the elevation gain makes a difference in a race. However, the early part of 2017 has not been going as smoothly as he would have liked with an annoying foot injury plaguing him for several weeks. Just how fit is Nilsen to compete with Sano-Oy, Dessy, the Telias brothers and others in a 50k race that apart from Mt Ugo also has long runnable sections?
To note and definitely a podium candidate in every race is also the participation of another Grandmaster, Aleksis Capili. Going faster race after race, Capili was sixth at UTKC two weeks ago and will certainly make a leap into the points championship top 10 going into Q2 in April. Another podium runner never to be underestimated is Aldean Lim.
The women's race also promises to be huge with no certain winner at all! Defending CMU champion Gretchen Felipe will have pressure on her shoulders to repeat her accomplishment of last season. Felipe had a great run in the Cordillera and backed it up with an amazing second race victory at Merapoh Trail 60 in Malaysia - her first outing outside the Philippines. For sure, Felipe will enter this weekend's CMU 50 with the required confidence to compete with the already more established runners such as Majo Liao and a strong newcomer Sandi Menchi. Liao was third in this race last year, in fact, but it was the beginning of a difficult period for her as well as she sprained her ankle during the race. Majo Liao will be keen to forget that memory with a stellar performance on Sunday. But yes, what to think of Sandi Menchi? Hailed as a top talent, Menchi is making her debut on the A-race level in the Asia Trail Master series. Menchi knows the Cordillera area, as he won the shorter Cordillera Mountain Marathon two years ago. Another runner to watch out for is Croatia's Mateja Blazevic, who might as well cause an upset. Patricia Ann Morota, coming off a great second place in last month's Rizal Mountain Run, can also challenge for the podium, and score another good points haul as well for the ATM championship.
As usual, the Cordillera Mountain Ultra will be tracked live via our social media channels. We look forward to another fantastic trail race!