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Jan 25

Matthieu Girard returns for the 2021 Ultra Tour

Lizzy Hawker

The 2018 winner of the 170 km Ultra Tour (32:59:33), Matthieu Girard, is returning for 2021! Here he gives his thoughts about UTMR and offers some insight for 2021 race competitors.

Thank you Matthieu & best of luck, see you in September! 

MATTHIEU GIRARD running the 2020 UTMR Grächen Berglauf

N.B Matthieu is co-president of Trail Verbier St-Bernard a beautiful set of races at the beginning of July at the other end of the Valais. Well worth a try!

Back in 2020 Matthieu Girard was hoping to race the 170 km Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, but of that was postponed. Back then he wrote the following about his feelings about racing UTMR for the second time:

„I’m looking forward to coming back on those trails. I discovered the trail 3 years ago when I did it in 3 days to prepare for the race and I was amazed by the toughness and the wildness of it. I had just finished Hardrock some weeks before and I thought it would be easier, but it turned out to be at least as challenging. I was surprised by those huge climbs on some passes and by how wild they were. Of course the altitude is less of an issue in UTMR but the trails are more technical and you have very long sections where you are on your own which makes it a real adventure. But it’s really worth it and I long to be there again this year.

It has many common points with the race I organise, the Trail Verbier St Bernard, starting with a genuinely alpine and wonderful route. It has also been designed for the runners and by someone who really knew the place and wanted to share it with others. You can feel this when you are running and that’s the most important point for me.“

So to 2021 and Matthieu is just as keen!

Q. Can you remember how you first heard of UTMR, or what attracted you to the UTMR challenge?

I saw it on internet and I was directly attracted but waited till you did it in one single push.

Q. What aspect of the race (or parts of the course) are you looking forward to?

I love the part between Cimes Blanches and Gressoney, or the wild col Turlo, but I have also a great memory of the On staff welcoming me in the Monte Moro checkpoint [at 134 km]*. I must say that I fear the last stretch from Saas Fee…

*see the video of the On checkpoint at Monte Moro.

Q. Will you be training this year with UTMR specifically in mind or just keeping in form through racing?

100% focused on that goal, is it on skis, bike or on foot.

Q. Does Pizza work for you at checkpoints? What do you rely on to keep you going?

Whatever I can get down, but mostly mashed potatoes, gels, fruit… something I don’t have to chew, so I don’t think pizza will be an option after some hours.

Q. Do you have any secret tips to share with other runners that you’ve learned over the years, which increase your chance of finishing?

Don’t go too fast and split the race between the aid stations, the next one is your only goal. Have a plan for what and when to eat. The key is here, as long as you can fuel yourself, you’re fine.

Q. Do you talk to yourself a lot when the going gets tough? What do you find helps keep you going when it’s feeling very tough?

When I’m down, which always happens at some point, I focus on thinking that it can only go better. So I try to slow down and wait until I feel better: never let negative thoughts bother you.