Mt Difficulty Ascent preview

Race 5 in the Australia New Zealand Sky Running Series- the Mt Difficulty Ascent takes place this Saturday. In its 2nd year, the races course is almost as unrecognizable as the race numbers are from 2014. The start finish location has been moved to Bannockburn, with the course now summiting its namesake, Mt Difficulty just once and more vertical has been added. Entries in the long course have gone from just 11 lat year, to 56 and 127 between the long and short courses.

Almost all the snow would have been washed away from Mt Difficulty’s 1285m summit earlier this week, with a dusting currently falling on it now- but don’t hold your breath for much more than a few cm’s.

Andrius tnf50

Andrius on his way to winning the TNF50km in May.

Andrius Ramonas is the clear stand out to take line honors on Saturday. Andrius is currently sitting in 3rd on ANZ Skyrunning pints table and expect him to move into 2nd after this weekend. His most recent win was at the TNF50km in Australia in May.

Expect John Winsbury and Ben Malby to be the closest to Andrius and round out the podium. After a few rough years with lung issues John is back at it- he was just warming up back in April in his 4th place finish in the Buffalo. Ben has had a few mixed runs lately, with dnf’s at the TuM 100km and TNF50km this year, so I expect he is ready to put up a good result!

Behind these 3 there are the likes of Matt Bixley, Tom Hunt, Andy Millard, Ned Kelly and Steve Neary, who will all duke it out and add good depth to the event.

Like the guys, the woman’s race has a strong front runner and a couple ready to ponce, but also a few “dark horse’s”.

Hillary top3 girls

Beth, Jo and Fiona at The Hillary- expect all 3 to feature on Saturday.

Australia’s Beth Cardelli has been in fine form with a win at The Hillary and then placed 2nd behind Landie Greyling at the Buffalo Stampede in April. Beth is a well experienced runner, having raced in European Skyrunning events and the Mt Difficulty course should pose no issues for her.

What might pose issues for Beth is the dynamic duo of Whitney Dagg and Jo Johansen. Whitney is back on track after a knee operation last year, while Jo’s running has been on the up since she has cut the mileage and upped the speed work under the watchful eye of  Kerry Suter. Whtney was running strong in 3rd at Buffalo behind Beth before she stopped due to stomach issues. Jo most recently won the T42.

Fiona Hayvice had a break out race at this years Tarawera 100km and then backed that up with a top 10 finish at the Buffalo Stampede- I expect another strong run for her.

2 girls lining up in their 1st Skyrunning race at Mel Aitken and Fleur Pawsey. Mel seems to be running (and pretty much winning, in record time) every race she can this summer. She clocked up another win at the Big Easy, a course record at the Motatapu Marathon and in May knocked 8mins off her marathon PB to run 2hr49 for 2nd at the Chch marathon. Fleur on the other hand has not raced as much- her last “big” running result (I think) was when she broked teh Naseby 100km record back in August 2014- but the MtD course will suit her well.

AT mtd

Andrew Town at last years Ascent.

In the Kids Fun Run, or “half marathon” as some are calling it, expect Old Man Town to back up his first place finish from last year, unless Gary Melhuish has developed a great talent for sandbagging and secret training.

In the ladies 1/2- Michelle Watt will be hard to beat- she was 4th at the NZ mountain running champs back in April.

Just chatting with the race director Terry Davies now- he is sounding fired up (but he always does….) and reports snow currently down to 700m on Mt Difficulty!

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