Azerya and Belotti winners of the first stage of the 15th WMRA Grand Prix 2013.
2013_1_gp_azerya.jpgThe 33th Edition of the Montée du Grand Ballon (Vosges Mountains, France) had three meanings: it was the venue of the French Mountain Running Championships, but also the first race in the 2013 WMRA Grand Prix and the trials to select the French Team for the 2013 WMRA World Youth Cup (to be organised in Gap on July 7).
During the weeks before the event, it was raining every day; luckily enough, it stopped on race day, with temperatures of 11 degrees C. at the men's start time in Willer-Sur-Thur, and around 6° C. near the 1424-metre summit of Grand Ballon.
Teklay Azerya and Valentina Belotti are the winners of the first stage of the 2013 WMRA Grand Prix. In the men's race (13km and 1230m elevation), the field was strong with the four first runners of the last year's Grand Prix. The Turk Ahmet Arslan, the 2011 WMRA Grand Prix champion and one of the favorite dropped out, after, after 3kms, injured.  Teklay Azerya (Eritrea) took the lead to win easily; his time just above our hour (1H00.05) is one of the best even achieved on this course (the record is still the property of Jonathan WHYATT, 58.01); behind him, the positions changed regularly and the Swiss David Schneider (the winner of the 2011 race) took in the last kilometer, the second place from Alex Baldaccini  (Italy) who finished third. The French Julien Rancon, finished 4th confirming his title of French Champion that he has since 2011; he said that he liked the course very much despite the mud which made it slippery on some sections; 495 runners finished the race.
No surprise for the first place of the women race (8km and 822m elevation), Valentina Belotti (Italy) won, like last year (her time of 47.07 is one minute slower than her time of last year); the second place was taken unexpectedly by a French lady, Christel Dewalle. 2013_1_gp_belotti.jpgLike last year, Emma Clayton, Great Britain, finished 3rd. The Swiss team placed three runners in the top eight. 75 female runners finished the race.
The winning of the junior race (on the same course) was a 19-year-old Swiss Stefan Lustenberger, with a time of 43.50: 26 junior runners finished the race.
The last race (4km and 365m elevation) was attended by 50 runners: juniors women (winner: Julie Latger, France in 26.11), youth boys (winner: Jeremy Belmkacen, France in 20.45) and the youth girls (winner: Melanie Rignaud, FRA in 26.49)
The organisation was very good under lot of profiles, especially technical aspects, and was attended by four members of the French Federation Executive Board (including the General Secretary and President of the club organising the event Jean Marie Bellicini) while WMRA was represented by Tomo Sarf (Council member) and Pierre Weiss (Honorary Member).

News by Pierre Weiss (WMRA Member of Honor)

Photos:
on front page: Eritrean Teklay Azerya
on second page: Italian Valentina Belotti
Pictures by LOC (Jean Marie Bellicini)