Posts tagged cmu
Onifa & Vadovicova reign in the Cordillera
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John Ray Onifa and Kristian Joergensen delivered an awesome battle at the end of the Philippines SuperTrail in the 2019 Asia Trail Master Championship, the iconic Cordillera Mountain Ultra. With just a few km of the 47km left to run till the finish in Tinongdan, Joergensen caught Onifa, who had been dominating the proceedings almost from the start. However, the Filipino still found an extra gear to outsprint Joergensen again in the last Kilometre downhill towards the suspension bridge that leads back to the main village! Onifa’s time was an amazing 5:31. Last year he came second in this race behind Harry Jones. 
Koi Grey finished in third place a bit later. The home favourite opted for a quiet start but returned to the front relentlessly. Third place is a fantastic result confirming his come back to competition once more. He could have been the new leader in the ATM Championship as well, had it not been that Anders Iza Rekakoetxea and John Ellis were next in the finish. The Manila-based Spaniard Rekakoetxea was overtaken by Koi Grey in the last few kilometres, but fourth was good enough to become the new ATM points leader! Earlier this season, he was 3rd in the 50 miles race of the 9 Dragons in Hong Kong.


John Ellis ran very well after five weeks of rest, and fifth is a strong result for him. He left Davao’s Elias Tabac and Japan’s Hisashi Kitamura behind at the end. Ellis, Kitamura and leader Rekakoetxea are scheduled to compete again in the Dalat Ultra Trail next week, the Vietnam SuperTrail in the ATM Championship.

Filipino Arnie Macaneras was brave to follow Onifa for roughly 8 km, but paid the price at the end. Macaneras, who won Fifty Mapawa last season in a time faster than Onifa’s in 2017, arrived back in Tinongdan in 8th. Miguel Lopez and Malaysian Azuan Asmuni rounded up the men’s top ten of a fantastic racing day. 

In the women’s, Veronika Vadovicova scored a highly impressive victory in 6:31. The whole morning she had a small margin over American Laura Kline. When the young Slovakian ex triathlete briefly went off course, Kline took the lead but eventually could not respond to Vadovicova when the latter caught her again. Sandi Menchi did well to finish third, even when the two western ladies proved too fast. Cheryl Navarro comes in as fourth and is the new points leader in the Asia Trail Master Championship! Navarro was second in last month’s Akyathlon. Fredlyn Alberto is fifth today, and misses just 11 points to claim that points lead. Alberto was second in the 9 Dragons 50 miles race earlier this season.

Outstanding battle between John Ray Onifa and Kristian Joergensen

Outstanding battle between John Ray Onifa and Kristian Joergensen

New face in the female championship: Veronika Vadovicova impresses in her winning run

New face in the female championship: Veronika Vadovicova impresses in her winning run

Ander Iza Rekakoetxea is the new ATM Championship leader after scoring 4th in CMU

Ander Iza Rekakoetxea is the new ATM Championship leader after scoring 4th in CMU

Cheryl Navarro finished 4th in CMU and grabs the ATM Championship lead

Cheryl Navarro finished 4th in CMU and grabs the ATM Championship lead

Cordillera Showdown: ATM championship heats up!
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It is only the fourth points race of the 2019 season but the Cordillera Mountain Ultra will heat up the championship significantly this coming Sunday. The Philippines’ SuperTrail has attracted lots of regional and intercontinental top runners to Baguio for the meanwhile classic 50k race on and around Mount Ugo. We will see a number of races-within-the race, too, and in particular the inter-filipino battle between John Ray Onifa, Elias Tabac and Koi Grey for the unofficial honour of fastest 50k trail runner in the Philippines!

The host village has changed from Dalupirip to Tinongdan this year but the race course has remained 70% the same as it used to be. The long ascent and descent of Mount Ugo defines CMU and is a scene set for breathtaking trail running. On top, the mountain villages in this part of the Cordillera were hit heavily by typhoons during the wet season last year and running events like CMU are a great and necessary boost for the local community.

The list of protagonists for the race win in both the male and female category is so long we cannot name them all. Starting with the women, Baguio hero Sandi Menchi returns to CMU for the first time since winning it in 2017. She knows the trails like the back of her hand and has shown to be in good form in this early part of the year. Several other filipino women can make her life difficult, though. Cheryl Navarro comes to mind. Navarro is always a contender wherever she starts, which she illustrated only last month again with second place in the Akyathlon. It makes Navarro the likely new ATM championship leader after CMU, subject to a fine result of course. Cecile Wael, third in Akyathlon, is also on the start list but is reportedly unable to race. Maria Sepe is a southern filipino athlete who can also be expected to challenge for a podium spot, as well as local Gretchen Felipe, who won this race in 2016. Arguably the fiercest competition for Sandi Menchi will come from foreign athletes such as Laura Kline, who is flying in from the USA, and Shanghai-based Slovakian Veronika Vadovicova, who is more and more making the switch from triathlon to trail running, similar to last year’s winner Carole Fuchs, who cannot take part on Sunday.

The men’s race is bound to be action-packed with the pinoy trio of John Ray Onifa, Elias Tabac and Koi Grey squaring off against each other for the first time since they reached the top of their game. Onifa is arguably the man-to-beat, especially as he has the experience of last year when he finished second behind Harry Jones. But the four-year-younger Tabac has been hot on his heels and is familiar with Mount Ugo, too, winning last year’s Akyathlon. Koi Grey is the local hero and most experienced trail runner of the three, and completely rejuvenated of late after being out of the scene for two years. On top of it all, to spice the race up even more, they all come from different islands in the Philippines.

The three pinoys will push each other forward on Sunday. It will be needed, too, because there’s a lot of other victory contenders! Hong Kong-based Australian T8 runner John Ellis has been looking forward to CMU for a long time. Kristian Joergensen is in the best shape of his life and has done this race before, too. Tomohiro Mizukoshi will find a course and a distance that should suit him, and then he is always a dangerman. Anders Iza Rekakoetxea is a Manila-based Spaniard who is capable of causing an upset. Perhaps the biggest dark horse comes from Malaysia: Mohd Azuan Asmuni. Azmuni is a triathlete / runner who raised quite a few eyebrows last year when he defeated Mohamed Affindi by nearly half an hour in a technical 30 km trail climbathlon in Malaysia. The profile of that Mt Tahan Climbathlon is similar to CMU, albeit shorter. Still, Azmuni - who two weeks ago won the Johor Bahru Duathlon - should not have an issue with the distance and his technical skills are clearly phenomenal. For runners such as Ellis, Joergensen and also Hisashi Kitamura, 50k may actually be just a little too short for their characteristics. But who would ever bet against John Ellis?

Another race-in-the-race will be between five runners for the ATM Championship lead. Virginia’s Chris Miller tops the ranking, but John Eruel Oquino - who will be doing his 3rd of the 4 ATM races so far this season), John Ellis, Anders Iza Rekakoetxea, Hisashi Kitamura and Koi Grey all have chances to claim the lead in their second race of the season.!

We will be following all the action at CMU as usual via our social media channels, with video on facebook as well. A separate ATM Trail TV episode is also planned for Saturday evening (subject to connectivity).

Sandi Menchi will try to win CMU again after 2016

Sandi Menchi will try to win CMU again after 2016

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CMU: Jones & Fuchs win a battle of stars
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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. 

Hiroaki Matsunaga

Hiroaki Matsunaga

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. 

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UT Nan organisers Pom and Suwit were also running the CMU

UT Nan organisers Pom and Suwit were also running the CMU

CMU: A touch of class
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This weekend’s Cordillera Mountain Ultra is the third and last SuperTrail of this early part of the Asia Trail Master Championship, and contrary to UTKC and 9 Dragons, CMU caters for the quicker legs on the medium trail distance of 50K (approx 2650 hm). The 3rd edition of the event in Dalupirip, Benguet, Philippines has smashed all records when it comes to registration numbers. Close to 800 people, of which 400 for the long distance race,  will take the trouble to travel to the remote venue in the Cordillera mountains, including runners from 26 nations! Not only the quantity is impressive, so is the quality in both male and female competitions that also have the ATM Championship points lead on the line this Sunday.

Looking at the men, the list of favourites for the podium is nearly endless, which does not happen often in a South East Asian trail race. And they come from different places. Harry Jones (Great Britain,residing in Thailand) and Hiroaki Matsunaga (Japan) are two internationally known runners who both showed excellent form in the past fortnight. Jones, of course, won the 50 miles race at 9 Dragons and collected a solid 432 ATM Championship points in that effort. He had to dig deep in that Hong Kong ultra, but if Jones is recovered the others will have to get by him to win on Sunday. Matsunaga himself is on the rebound from a 100k in New Zealand two weeks ago. Our organiser of Echigo Country Trail and Kushigata Wind Trail (both points races for the ATM Championship) is making his first ever appearance in Philippines and is seemingly not letting anything disrupt his concentration and prepration for the race this weekend. South Korea’s Byeongwon Park is a dark horse, and that could as well be an understatement. Coming to make a name for himself, Park belongs to the recent wave of fast road runners who like to get a taste of trail, like it and indulge in it ever since. The same seems to apply to a local Baguio runner who was the surprise-second behind the surprise-winner at Pilipinas Akyathlon a month ago. Jeffrey Aligan is over 40 and no longer the youngest runner in the field, but if he can repeat the performance he showed then he won’t be far off the podium. Current weather conditions may actually play in favour of the faster legs: it rained today for the first time in two months in Dalupirip, which by Sunday could have made the trails harder and more compact to run on. The likes of Aligan will love that, yet he is not the top favourite on the pinoy front: John Ray Onifa from Visayas has been making headlines ever since he won UT Mapawa last October, and has developed into the next big trail thing coming from Philippines. By winning a wet and muddy Rizal Mountain Run, Onifa proved he is also resilient and tough when more is required than pure speed. Fighting this weekend for the points lead in the ATM Championship, winning CMU would be another big scalp in his young trail career. A new element for him is that all Filippinos now know him and watch him. 

It’s almost perverse that we need to push top runners such as Wilnar Iglesia, Dean Perez, Al Telias, Kristian Joergensen. Dean Lim and last-but-not least, Arnold Lozano - the CMU winner last year! - to the back of this race preview. That is how deep the field is in terms of quality. Anyone who gets in the top 10 of CMU on Sunday is a race winner. Iglesia was very quick catching up after losing the right trail in Akyathlon. Al Telias finds in CMU his best race course and was on the podium here the past 2 years. Perez is doing his 3rd ATM points race of the season and keen to show the best of himself before returning to Canada. Joergensen is in the shape of his life, and looked strong in finishing 2nd in Rizal behind Onifa. Can he narrow that 30-minute gap this weekend? Maybe with the help of Lozano. Winner last year in a spectacular dual with Marcelino Sano-Oy, he was disappointed with himself for being too relaxed in the early stages of the Akyathlon. If he’s more alert on Sunday, he won’t easily let go! 

Unfortunately, some of the local favourites will, ironically, not be there at this great trail party. New entrepreneur Manolito Divina has not yet picked up his regular training and has postponed his racing campaign to April, and Marcelino Sano-Oy is still running with pain after a nasty fall early in the Akyathlon (a race he continued to finish 3rd on the podium). In the women’s Baguio’s own Sandi Menchi - winner at CMU last season - will not be competing. 

The female race will be very strong nonetheless, even when ATM Champion Kim Matthews has also announced her DNS today. Matthews fell badly on her hip a week ago during training, and is not in a position to run in the next few weeks. She even already scrapped her “home” race, Dalat Ultra Trail, on 17 March off her race calendar. The season is still long and Matthews already has 500 championship points in her bag for winning Tahura Trail at the beginning of the 2018 season. 

Still, one of her main competitors for the championship has a great opprtunity to open up a points gap this weekend. Two weeks after being victorious in UT Koh Chang, Indonesia’s Ruth Theresia is back for her second SuperTrail of the season. Were the Bandung Explorer lady to win also CMU, it would very much be a perfect start of her championship campaign! However, Ruth Theresia will face stern opposition on Sunday from the locals, but also from Thailand-based French runner Carole Fuchs. Fuchs is making her debut on the ATM scene, but has announced previously she might prioritise our championship this season. Known to be tough and fast, Fuchs    for sure will give all others a run for their money. Among the others we find 2018 race winners Aggy Smith Sabanal (Rizal) and Majo Liao (Akyathlon), 2016 CMU winner Gretchen Felipe and the ever-improving Patricia Ann Morota. Home advantage is a thing, yet it did not help local Felipe last month when she followed Sandi Menchi going the wrong way at Akyathlon. However, more reason to shine on Sunday. Other potential podium runners are Maria Luisa Prado, Diorella Cerujano and Bitbit Baby Marites Sotto. 

A big trail party is in the making in Dalupirip for the Philippines’ SuperTrail of the Asia Trail Master Championship. But if there’s one thing Dalupirip is not known for, it’s for the mobile connectivity. Measures have been taken to improve the speed, so that proper broadcasting and multimedia services can be done live. Please bear with us, should the mountains and its weather decide otherwise. 

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CMU is Philippines SuperTrail in 2018
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As in the past two years, maximum six races will be credited as SuperTrail in the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series. Each SuperTrail offers 50 bonus points for finishers of the race and this can be important for those runners chasing a high ranking in the championship. Following popular demand by 'protagonists' in our series, we are now introducing a few changes to the SuperTrail selection in two countries: Philippines and Indonesia. The main argument being that also top runners sometimes like to see something new and breathe some fresh air during their trail campaign. As such, the Philippines SuperTrail in 2018 will be the Cordillera Mountain Ultra in Dalupirip, organised by the Cordillera Conservation Trust on the weekend of 3/4 March. It is also the shortest SuperTrail on our calendar, as CMU measures "just" 50k but does feature considerable elevation gain (2640 hm) with the ascent of Mount Ugo. Most importantly, for two years in succession, runners and spectators are raving about the event! 

In the past two years, the races were hotly contested with Marcelino Sano-Oy winning in 2016 and Arnold Lozano this year. Will Manolito Divina add his name to the record books in 2018? The women's race was won by Gretchen Felipe in 2016, while Sandi Menchi took one of her three 2017 ATM wins in Dalupirip. 

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CMU 50 - Mountainbiker Lozano upsets established guard

The 2nd edition of the Cordillera Mountain Ultra in Dalupirip, Benguet, Philippines, saw the first big surprise win of the season when Arnold Lozano - an established local mountainbiker - left everyone of a strong field in his wake. Lozano finished together with last year's winner Marcelino Sano-Oy, but only because he wanted to. The organisers did not accept a tie, and awarded the victory to Lozano as he was ahead at the latest checkpoints as well. Lozano is more known as a mountainbiker, having won a.o. the Cordillera Challenge already, as well as having competed in the Genghis Khan MTB Adventure in China's  Inner Mongolia region. Clearly, he is multi-talented, and if he can win Cordillera Mountain Ultra against a strong line-up of runners, what more can we expect from the man? 

Arnold Lozano from Baguio was the surprising winner of this year's CMU 50 trail race

Arnold Lozano from Baguio was the surprising winner of this year's CMU 50 trail race

Both Lozano and Sano-Oy set a blistering pace across Mount Ugo and broke last year's winning time by half an hour. This was emphasized even more by third-placed Al Telias, who in the previous edition was competing with Sano-Oy for the race victory and now had to concede 27 minutes. Telias did very well himself, however, to stay ahead of other class acts such as Gaspard Dessy, Grandmaster Jan Nilsen and his brother James Telias. Dessy finished 52 minutes behind Lozano and Sano-Oy in fourth place and claims the points lead in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship. The Indonesia-based Belgian also finished third in Tahura Trail and Coast To Coast Night Trail, and is the first male protagonist to finish three ATM points races this season. Dessy will see his name at the top of the standings until April at least, as Q1 has come to an end and the next race is scheduled only on 1/2 April in China. 

Gaspard Dessy is the new points leader in the men's Asia Trail Master championship

Gaspard Dessy is the new points leader in the men's Asia Trail Master championship

Shortly behind Dessy a duo arrived back in Dalupirip: Grandmaster Jan Nilsen and first woman Sandi Menchi. Nilsen still struggled with his foot injury and probably finds 50 km too short as well to compete with his younger competitors. Still, fifth is a good result. Menchi of course delivered more than what many had promised earlier. Previously mainly running shorter distances of events, CMU was the second time she went for the top prize in a big race after CM 50 Ultra last November. Menchi not only managed to come home a joint fifth overall together with Nilsen, but she was also 45 minutes faster than last year's winner Gretchen Felipe, who in turn did well by staying ahead of Majo Liao, proving that last year's victory was no fluke at all. The Philippines have a very strong trio of trail runners up in Luzon: all three podium placers managed to finish in the top 10 overall!  To note also is the 11th place of multi-race runner Cheryl Bihag, by which she claims the current second place in the ATM championship ranking with 3 points results already under her belt this season. 

Jael Wenceslao and Aldean Lim finished sixth and seventh in the men's, and Grandmaster Capili was eighth, putting him firmly in the top 10 of the ranking as well. James Telias, another pre-race favourite, suffered from stomach cramps and could not defend his chances. It was indeed a very hot day on and around Mt Ugo, which gave all participants an additional difficulty to cope with. 

Sandi Menchi was outstanding: finishing together with Jan Nilsen to claim the women's race

Sandi Menchi was outstanding: finishing together with Jan Nilsen to claim the women's race

Koi Grey, Grandmaster Jan Nilsen, Marcelino Sano-Oy, JP Alipio and Grandmaster Aleksis Capili

Koi Grey, Grandmaster Jan Nilsen, Marcelino Sano-Oy, JP Alipio and Grandmaster Aleksis Capili

While Al Telias scored 3rd place, James suffered from stomach cramps

While Al Telias scored 3rd place, James suffered from stomach cramps

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? 

After two third places earlier this year, Gaspard Dessy is set to take over the ATM championship points lead before the three-week-break to Q2. 

After two third places earlier this year, Gaspard Dessy is set to take over the ATM championship points lead before the three-week-break to Q2. 

Last year's CMU winner Marcelino Sano Oy is ready to go for it again

Last year's CMU winner Marcelino Sano Oy is ready to go for it again

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. 

Gretchen Felipe won the women's race last year. Can she repeat that feat on Sunday? 

Gretchen Felipe won the women's race last year. Can she repeat that feat on Sunday? 

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! 

After suffering from a foot injury earlier this year, just what can we expect from Grandmaster Jan Nilsen? 

After suffering from a foot injury earlier this year, just what can we expect from Grandmaster Jan Nilsen? 

2017 Preview - Cordillera Mountain Ultra a new hit
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Our 2017 early preview continues with an event that received amazing feedback this year: the Cordillera Mountain Ultra, organised by the environmental NGO Cordillera Conservation Trust in Benguet, Philippines. Because of the event's success, the programme remains virtually unchanged except the date: the Cordillera Mountain Ultra will take place three months earlier and this on 4 and 5 March 2017. The 50k race with 2640 Hm remains the main show of the event, and anybody who witnessed this year's battle for victory between Marcelino Sano Oy and Al Tellias will remember how exciting relatively short trail races can be. CMU is not that easy, however, and even top athletes need to stay focused at all times. Just ask local female hero Majo Liao, who twisted her ankle in the early stages of this year's race. It paved the way for Gretchen Felipe to take the women's win, and a ticket for the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia, which she then won as well! CMU 2016 was a classic with lots of stories, and there is no reason why 2017 won't be the same! 

The 50km Cordillera Mountain Ultra trail is about Mt. Ugo in Benguet. Topping out at 2150m it features long ridge lines covered in Pine forests as well as superb views of the West Philippine sea, the entire Agno River Valley as well as the Cagayan Valley of Nueva Vizcaya. Host town of the event is Dalupirip, and the best international gateway to the event is Clark International Airport. 

Race registration will open on 1 November. 

Link to Event review 2016

2017 Asia Trail Master calendar

14/01/17 - Thailand - The Dirt Track
22/01/17 - Indonesia - Tahura Trail
29/01/17 - Philippines - Rizal Mountain Run
17-18/02/17 - Thailand - UT Unseen Koh Chang - SUPERTRAIL
25-26/02/17 - Brunei - Beach Bunch Trail Challenge
04-05/03/17 - Philippines - Cordillera Mountain Ultra

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Close racing and many happy faces at CMU!

The Cordillera Mountain Ultra, follow-up to the Marathon organised in previous years, did not miss its debut in Dalupirip, Itogon yesterday. The first Filipino points race in the 2016 Asia Trail Master series saw a very close battle for victory in the men's 50k race, and drama in the women's. On the top step of the podium stood Marcelino Sano-Oy and Gretchen Felipe as the day's champions. Runners and spectators spoke of a truly well-organised event with a fantastic running course, which made the journey to the remote area very much worthwhile. "CMU was publicity for the sport of trail running," one happy finisher said afterwards. 

Marcelino Sano-Oy

Marcelino Sano-Oy

Gretchen Felipe

Gretchen Felipe

The race started at 4 a.m. just before dawn, and runners only had a few kilometers to warm-up as the ascent of Mount Ugo began quickly. Marcelino Sano-Oy, a 26-year-old local runner, had already taken the lead, but was closely followed by the experienced Alison Telias. Sano-Oy is a previous winner of the Cordillera Mountain Marathon and knew the terrain very well. Yet, Telias kept chasing him and was at times less than a minute behind. In the descent of Mt Ugo the pressure seemed to be getting to Sano-Oy, as he had to stop and stretch to stop the cramps he started to suffer from. Telias caught up and passed him, but eventually Sano-Oy fought back in the late stages of the race and reclaimed first spot! At the finish, Sano-Oy took the victory with a 3-minute gap over Al Telias in 6:06:36. In a join third place were teammates Aldean Philip Lim and Eric Gueb in 7:05:19. One of the pre-race favourites, Thumbie Remigio, injured himself during the vertical kilometre race on Saturday, and opted to run the 21km instead. The shorter race was won by Roland Wang. 

The women's 50k race had a rather unexpected outcome as big favourite Majo Liao sprained her ankle in the early part of the race. Liao could not react to her challengers as for most of the rest of the race she could only walk and not run. Showing a high degree of mental strength, Liao nevertheless continued and finished ... even on the podium! These could be important points for her in the ATMs ranking later this year.  The race was won by Gretchen Felipe in 7:25:58, which is a strong result as well for the experienced runner. Next to Felipe on the podium in second place was Penny Nepomuceno (7:53:59). 

As part of the podium prize package, both Marcelino Sano-Oy and Gretchen Felipe have received free race entries for the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia. 

Koi Grey

Koi Grey