VALSIR WORLD CUP PREVIEW 2022 PART 10: Vertical Nasego and Trofeo Nasego
In the first weekend of September the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup arrives in the small town of Casto for a double header of Gold Label races; Vertical Nasego and Trofeo Nasego.
Taking their name from Rifugio Nasego, the mountain hut where the long race finished until 2014, these are races that typify the Italian enthusiasm for mountain running and hunger for competition.
The finish town of Famea is the home of the owner's of Valsir, the World Cup's new title sponsor. The company has been a long time supporter of Trofeo Nasego, and this association, a window on the dedication of the athletes and the passion of the organisers, has been instrumental in their decision to step up their involvement in the sport.
Kicking the weekend off on Saturday, Vertical Nasego, 4.2k and 1,000m+, is a race of two halves. Starting on the main street in Casto, with the finish already in sight high above, the route weaves its way upwards, on and off the road, through a number of still smaller towns, passing the finish line of Trofeo Nasego in Famea. Leaving the tarmac behind, the second half is punishing; steeper and steeper on narrow, rocky trails until the final, hideously steep pull onto the very crest of the ridge.
In 2021 it was on this section that Henri Aymonod won the race, his incredible hiking speed taking him away from Andrea Rostan, Petro Mamu and Zak Hanna.
Trofeo Nasego, 21.5km 1,336m+ 1,039m+, follows a similar pattern; the first half skirts the valleys to the south and west of Casto, a rollercoaster of undulations where the pace is guaranteed to be high. As the runners pass halfway, the real climbing starts. Criss-crossing the hill side of rough farm track and technical mountain trails, the high point is finally reached at around 16 kilometres, on the ridge above the rifugio.
From there it's downhill all the way to the finish. Fast and technical, you need strong quads and strong ankles if you want to be in with a shout of a good position.
Alex Scolari of the race organisation (and also mountain running's most enthusiastic emcee) makes the intentions for this year's races very clear. "For us the numbers are not the most important point, we want competition, challenges, champions. Another battle of giants!"
Looking at recent results you can see what he means. The level at Trofeo Nasego has been exceptional in recent years, with the fastest 3 winning times in both men's and women's races coming in the last 3 editions. The very best mountain runners, World Cup winners Andrew Douglas and Sarah McCormack, World Champions Lucy Murigi and Grayson Murphy, have come here and put on a spectacular show.
At most races Murphy's 1:45:56 and Petro Mamu's 1:32:55 course records from 2021 would be sure to stand for a decade. At Trofeo Nasego, you can't be so sure.
The competition in Vertical Nasego is no less fierce. The King and Queen of the uphill, Henri Aymonod and Andrea Mayr were victorious last year. It was Aymonod's second win here, but he still found himself short of Davide Magnini's 35:17 course record, set in the 2019 edition of the race. The women's record is, of course, Mayr's. 38:39 from her first win here in 2019.
Many athletes will choose to run both races. Most notably in 2021, Murphy and Mayr went toe to toe on consecutive days, coming away with a win and a second place each.
Casto is an hour and a half's wiggly drive from Bergamo airport.