Valsir World Cup Preview 2022 Part 11: Canfranc-Canfranc VK and 16k
In the second weekend of September, we have the second weekend in a row of double World Cup action.
After Vertical and Trofeo Nasego, it's another Short Uphill/Classic double header at Canfranc-Canfranc in the Aragonese Pyrenees on the 9th and 11th of September.
Most famous for its railway station, once the Spanish end of an international tunnel under the Pyrenees, Canfranc is heaven for those who like their mountains steep and rough. They rise from the valleys in typical Pyrenean style, culminating in fearful summits of jagged, broken rock.
From 19 runners in the first edition just 15 years ago, the event has grown and grown, this year offering 5 different courses from the brand new Vertical Kilometre, through 16k, 45k and 70k races, all the way up the The Longest 100k in the World, with 8848m+. Not content with selling out mountain races from VK to Ultra, the organisers are also one of the events who have applied to host the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in 2023.
As in 2021, there are 2 Canfranc-Canfranc races in this year's Valsir World Cup. Last year it was the 16k and the Marathon, this year the 16k remains while the Marathon is replace by the VK, which kicks the weekend off on the Friday.
A few kilometres north of Canfranc itself, the start venue is spectacular, with the cliffs of Circo del Río Seta curving around in front of the summit of Pico Aspe, a constant presence through the race. At 4.4k with 927m of climbing, it's a tough test. The few shallower sections in the second half offer no respite, just an increase in pace as the race skirts the top of the Candanchù ski area. The final hundred metres of the race are the steepest of all as athletes run, walk or crawl to the finish on Cima Tuca Blanca.
Saturday is for eating, light jogging, and cheering on the runners in the Marathon and the 70k. Then before you know it, it's race day all over again.
From the start in Canfranc-Estación, the Classic 16k course goes briefly downhill before a left turn brings runners to the foot of the race's single climb. But what a climb it is. Desperately long and horribly sustained, between the valley floor and the summit of Pico de la Moleta at 2,572m.a.s.l., the athletes will ascend almost 1,400m in just under 5 kilometres. Cruely, as fatigue increases, so does the technicality of the terrain, with the final few hundred metres to the summit on increasingly loose, unstable rock.
The technicality persists for the first part of the 10k descent, as runners pass the high mountain lake of Ibon de Iserias and the small cabin Refugio Vuelta de Iserias, before reaching the faster trails which will take them back to Canfranc-Estación.
World Champion Grayson Murphy was the standout performer here last year, taking her second win in 2 weekends and breaking the 16k course record in the process. In the men's race, Antonia Martinez successfully defended the title he won in 2020, while Raul Criado was the only athlete in the top 10 to have taken on both races, taking an impressive 6th place despite having 4000m+ and a third place in his legs from the previous day's marathon.
Be sure to check out the full results at the World Mountain Running Ranking.
This year's program is likely to tempt many more athletes to double up, which will make for a fascinating weekend's racing!