CMU: Jones & Fuchs win a battle of stars
Thailand-based pro runners Harry Jones and Carole Fuchs took top honours in a fantastic edition of the Cordillera Mountain Ultra 50k in Dalupirip last Sunday. The Philippines SuperTrail lived up to the high expectations and saw fantastic running by the stars of the trail, and the many hundreds who made up the field. The scorching heat and the re-designed hillier final section made sure everyone was happy to see the finish line. Dean Perez and Majo Liao left the Cordillera as points leaders in the Asia Trail Master Championship.
CMU is more than just a sporting competition. It is a weekend in the outdoors with hardly any mobile network, let alone Wi-Fi. The people of Dalupirip are such welcoming hosts, though, that no one regrets staying there for one or more nights. The village itself is set in an idyllic landscape, roughly 90 minutes by jeepney away from Baguio City. It was the third edition of CMU and race director JP Alipio has stayed true to his original idea, fine-tuning the event and the race course over the past two years only slightly in order to produce a fully matured trail running event that can be considered pure promotion for the sport - even if you deem 50K too short for trail.
The event begins on Saturday morning with a Vertical Kilometre, which was won by Hiroaki Matsunaga and Majo Liao, two of the protagonists for the 50K race on Sunday as well. That race started at 4.a.m. , which meant at least one-and-a-half hour would be run in the dark and in cooler temperatures, before the sun would heat up the Cordillera like an oven. Perhaps that was the motivation for Harry Jones and especially John Ray Onifa to go full speed from the gun. They quickly opened up a gap to Hiroaki Matsunaga, the Japanese elite and organiser of Kushigata Wind Trail and Echigo Country Trail, who was battling to keep the distance between him and the leading duo limited on Mount Ugo. The other contenders, including an in-form Dean Perez, followed a bit further back. Jeffrey Alligan, though, did not have the pace that brought him 2nd place in the Akyathlon last month. Aligan even suffered from heavy cramps late in the race and decided to DNF with just over 5k left to go. In the long descent of Mt Ugo, Jones upped the pace even more, dropping Onifa and making sure Matsunaga would not return to the front. Jones dashed solo to the finish for his second ATM points race victory in a week after the 50 miles race of the 9 Dragons Ultra. His time was 5:20, a few minutes faster than the course record although this year’s edition was slightly longer and had an extra climb in the final 5 km. Harry Jones, who lives in Chiang Mai, had many good things to say about his closest chaser John Ray Onifa, the Filippino youngster who finished approx 16 minutes later. Both Jones and Onifa could fight some more interesting trail battles with each other later in this ATM season. Jones’ next points race will be Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Malaysia.
Matsunaga ran a very consistent pace and crossed the line seven minutes behind Onifa to complete the podium in what was his first ever visit to the Philippines. South Korean marathon ace Byeungwwon Park, who has a personal best of 2:19, missed the winning move in the beginning. Running his fourth trail race only, Park had not realised Jones and Onifa were up ahead when he caught up with Matsunaga late in the race. Still, a second stumble pushed him back again and fourth place was the maximum on his ATM debut. In fact, both Wilnar Iglesia and Dean Perez still came very close to the South Korean. Iglesia had lost the right trail earlier in the race, something that happens perhaps too often with the likeable Filippino, but once again he proved to be in great shape by catching up and passing runners in the second half of the race. Dean Perez is the first of the top runners to finish 3 ATM points races so far. The Vancouver-based Pinoy had a great race on Sunday and his 6th place puts him back at the top of the championship ranking. Perez is now returning to his resident country, yet endaveours to return to the ATM tour in the second half of 2018 to reach the plateau of five races, which is a must to get a high ranking in the championship at the end of the year.
Last year’s winner Arnold Lozano and CMU Podium Man Alison Telias performed well and placed themselves in the top 10 with Telias in 7th and Lozano in 9th. Between them was American Casey Weinman and the first woman.
That first female finisher was France’s Carole Fuchs. The former professional triathlete turned out to be class on her own, perhaps aided by the late DNS of ATM Champion Kim Matthews. The Australian suffered a nasty hip injury in a fall on training and was unable to make the trip to Philippines. In fact, Matthews announced she will not be running the Dalat Ultra Trail neither in a fortnight. The third race favourite, Indonesia’s Ruth Theresia still felt jelly-legged from the grueling UTKC race in Thailand 2 weeks ago and decided early into the race to reduce the revs and take it easy. Theresia would finish (with her local friends) in 33th place, which also meant she lost the lead in the championship ranking. New points leader is namely Majo Liao, even though the latter did not have the best race neither. Liao finished down in 7th place, lacking power. Of those running their second race of the season, it was good enough however, because Rizal Mountain Run winner Aggy Smith Sabanal arrived further back in 8th place.
Fuchs was outstanding in front and her winning time says a lot: 6:26. She actually still passed Al Telias in the last 3 km. Fuchs, who won the 50k at UT Panoramic last December, is planning to climb Mount Everest next - possibly taking Ultra Trail Nepal on 28 April en passant. The second woman into the finish was a surprise for most: Novena Manaces in 7:23. Hailing from the more northern Cordillera mountain areas, Manacnes had stormed past Bitbit Baby Marites Sotto in the descent to snatch that silver. While Stephanie Davidson was a great fourth in her debut on the 50K distance, local star and former winner of CMU, Gretchen Felipe, probably had expected to finish higher than fifth place. Maria Luisa Prado did well to stay ahead of Majo Liao, Sabanal and also Diorella Cerujano and Patricia Ann Morota.
As CMU came to a close, so did the first six rounds of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship. The spring campaign begins in 2 weeks in Vietnam and the Dalat Ultra Trail 70k with Dean Perez and Majo Liao as leaders in our points championship.