Race Report – Gran Trail Courmayeur


Back to the mountains!

On Friday evening at 22:00 I left Courmayeur on the 100km route of GTC – There are also 30km and 55km races. [Note 1].

Oddly for a race in July – Crampons were compulsory to carry throughout!!

Winning female was the irrepressible Lisa Borzani in 17hr:28m and winning male Simone Corsini who nudged out local legend Franco Colle in a time of 15hr 02m

As previously reported.. I was a little further back , finishing in 32hr 24m – again ably demonstrating why reps up Speldhust hill really don’t cut it in the Alps. Total elevation gain (and loss) c.7,900m [Note 1]

There were 524 starters from about 40 countries, or which 135 were DNF. A good chance to learns what “breathing out of my A$@” translates to in many languages 🙂

It’s a multinational field for a couple of reasons. 1) It is a stunning location to run and play. 2) Finishers get to by-pass the ballot for the Tor Des Geants – as with many big races there ballots are getting fuller and fuller.

I have included some references to UTMB course as, given the coverage it gets, it might help to get a sense of where we went :-). But maybe I’m just in a nerdy bubble!

The first leg is c33km out from Courmayeur at 1200m to Pre-Saint Didier then up into the hills via Refugio Deffeyes (23km) at 2,500m, with some technical sections with chains and ropes (like hand rails permanently fixed to the cliff – I am glad it was dark, as the cliff disappeared beyond the hedtorch beam and the rock was slippy s the rain started about 4 hour in to the race. We loped back around to drop back into the ski resort of La Thuile, where I arrived to hear the dawn chorus in the woods and left to see the sun come up – I felt pretty good.

The next c.30km section was a long up hill from La Thuile (1,450) to Mont Fortune, the high point at 2,850 metres and dropping down to Col De La Seigne and down the path to Rifugio Elisabetta – this section is the point at which the UTMB route enters into Italy from France. A late dump of snow meant that this section had numerous snow crossing (ah, Crampons). The attached photos are off the ridge along Mont Fortan and a snow crossing as we loped round and climb back to Col De La Seigne to pick up the main tourist path to the valley. It was STUNNING as the sun broke though early morning clouds. But then it started to get hot and then field began to suffer. Elisabetta was where people started to drop.

From Elisabetta we followed the UTMB path all the way back to Courmayeur (about 13km), but cut-off after the Rifugio Maison Vieille, avoiding those horrible steps into town (if you know, you know!) – I snuck inside for yoghurt, honey and the nearest thing I could find to a Callipo. There are only so many hours before bread, cheese, salami and orange slices start to look and taste unappealing. The heat was getting to me (30+ degrees) and to be polite, I wasn’t ‘holding on’ to fluids and food, very well.

We dropped down to the bottom of the Monte Bianco Cable car station. [If you are in the area, it is compulsory to go up the Skyway – all the way to the top to see the glacier]. There was a checkpoint at the bottom of the climb in the back of a pick up truck and time cut-off of 19:30 on Saturday evening. I was happily to be 3 or so hours inside this cutoff, giving ‘fueling issues’ – but I felt terrible and had little energy. Which was lucky because the first and only ‘life base’ [Note 2] was only 3km ahead. I would re-assess there. Never quit until after sleep and food!

It was 800m straight up to the life base at the first skyway cable car station. Average gradient of over 25% and for pretty much every step I cursed the Race Director!

In the Lifebase, I ate 4 spoons of rice, went for a massage, had 28min sleep, and felt awesome! Before I left I got an iced cold glass of milk and a double expresso (3 sugars) and ran out of the door with only 25km to the finish. 800m back down the hill – Headtorch back on for the second night and the climb up to Rifugio Bertone to the next aid station – back on UTMB course. And on that fuel stayed on board – there was no stopping me now!

Along the balcony path to Rifugio Bonatti. This next section was up, down, up, down etc.. until we finally hit the Col Sapin for the final decent into Courmayeur – we reversed the first few km of the CCC course – down switch back after switch back.

Guaranteed place in the ballot for next years Tor Des Geants, secured. Time for a beer and some real food.

Delighted to be back at work tomorrow 🙁

Happy running!

Darren Bentham


1) All distances and elevations are wildly approximate e..g +/-10km and +/- 1000m. They basically have a bit of a guess, as far as I can tell.

2) Lifebase – Aid Station++ – Hot food, Sleep cots, Massage, beer.