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Engelhard becomes Queen of the Mountains

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Germany’s Nina Engelhard claimed a superb mountain double as she won Up and Down senior women’s race to add to the Classic Hill race title she won on Friday (31 May), as the Annecy 2024 European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships came to a successful conclusion on Sunday (2).

And just like two days earlier, her success was unchallenged from the start of the climbs. The 27-year-old, who started cautiously, let a group of three initially get away, but by the time she reached the Chemin de Rampon after 4.5km she was in the lead and by the Mont Baron (8.4km) she had a clear advantage of around 40 seconds.

By Chez Chappet (12.7km), her nearest rival was 58 seconds adrift and Engelhard never relinquished this comfortable lead. She won in 1:22:44, with silver and bronze going to the fast-finishing Judith Wyder of Switzerland - who was fourth with a kilometre to go - in 1:23:09 and Monica Madalina Florea of Romania in 1:23:12.

In this three-way battle for two medals, Great Britain's Scout Adkin finished an agonisingly close fourth in 1:23:15, for Florea - who was second in this event two years ago at the inaugaral  European Athletics Off-Road Running Championships in El Paso, Spain - it matched her result from the Classic Hill Race two days ago.

But Adkin, silver medallist in the Classic Hill race, after so many near misses at getting a gold medal, had the consolation of the team title with her Great Britain team-mates Naomi Lang (fifth) and Eve Pannone (11th), one point ahead of Switzerland with Romania taking the bronze medals. 

"I was away and gone"

Engelhard later reflected: “The early stage was too fast for me, and I don't like flat sections anyway. But I felt good and when the climb started, I was in a group with Adkin and Florea. When the Romanian fell over on the descent I was away and alone.

“I was happy to be in the lead for the last flat kilometre [into Annecy and along the city's quayside], so it was good enough. I'm sure the medal expectations from the outside were higher than my own [after Friday], but I didn't let the pressure get to me. I achieved everything I could during these days - it will probably take me months to realise that!

“How my career will continue has to be discussed and planned, but the 2025 World Championships in these disciplines are definitely a goal.”

Battle for the ages in men's race

The senior men’s Up and Down race delivered a memorable head-to-head duel over the closing stages of the 16km race.

One is a star of the Golden Trails and World Skyrunning series, the other looks to be the future of mountain running with 26-year-old Roberto Delorenzi from Switzerland and 19-year-old Lukas Ehrle from Germany fighting battle right all the way to the line. 

Three seconds separated the two at the finish, with Delorenzi coming out on top. His winning time was 1:11:28 to Ehrle's 1:11:31. Third place went to Theodore Klein of France in 1:11:49.

Delorenzi was among a group of athletes who took a wrong turn in the early stages of the race and had to make up ten seconds. But by the highest point of the race, the Mont Baron after 8.4km, he led a group of three runners that included Friday’s Classic Hill winner Joe Steward of Great Britain and Klein while Ehrle was 15 seconds behind.

On the descent, the German was able to overtake Steward while Klein crashed, later to cross the line caked in mud.

After 10.1km at the Creux du Loup, Ehrle was seven seconds behind Delorenzi but 2.5km later, with the teenage German flying down the road section of the descent, at Chez Chappet the two were level.

However, on the final technical off-road section of descent, Delorenzi managed to gain a few seconds on his opponent and held on to his lead until the finish line.

Special feeling

Following his fourth place in the Classic Hill race, it was sweet redemption for the Swiss runner.

“I was in the lead most of the time because nobody wanted to attack and overtake,” said Delorenzi “The descents worked in my favour, I was in great shape and had good legs. I expected to be on the podium and today I was the best. Winning is something special with all the good European runners on the start line.”

Runner-up Lukas Ehrle, who also won bronze in the Classic Hill said: “It was a tough race, the downhills were extremely technical. Unfortunately, the gap was too big at the end. 

“Would I have won if the race had been 200 or 300 metres longer? I don't know, Delorenzi is also strong on the road. Anyway, it's incredible to come home with two medals!”

The team competition was won by France through Klein, Frédéric Tranchand (seventh), Romain Discher, by just two points from Great Britain with Italy third. 

French shine in U20 races

The U20 races brought yet more French success in a glittering event for the host nation. In the men’s U20 Up and Down race, France filled the first four places, headed by gold medallist Antoine Paydebois, who won in 27:46 ahead of compatriots Jules Mongellaz (28:02), Mael Henric (28:18) and Jules Barriod (28:26).

The route had been changed by the organisers the night before - the planned downhills were deemed too dangerous for the safety of the young athletes. 

On the alternative course, which had similar characteristics as the original one, Paydebois, who also competes in road and stadium races, did not hold back.

“I started strong, was careful on the climbs and pushed hard on the descents,” he revealed. “And then I switched off my brain all the way to the finish line.” In the team competition, France won ahead of Italy and Spain.

Less than ten minutes later, the winner of the U20 women's race crossed the line, and once again France was celebrating. Margot Dajoux won in 31:50, ahead of Norway's Ingeborg Synstnes Hole (32:07) and Great Britain's Eve Whitaker (32:18). While the eventual winner was still in the lead group on the climb, she was able to break away on the final small climb. 

“The change in the course took us a bit by surprise," said Dajoux, who is also a French U20 international on the track and cross country

“Three weeks ago, we had a training session on the racecourse and our experience from then was not valid today. The last 200 metres on the course were pure joy, to win both the U20 Up and Down titles is just wow, we will remember these races for a very long time!” added Dajoux.

In the team competition, Dajoux, Alice Mugnier (seventh), Lila Andre (10th) ensured France took yet another title from Great Britain and Italy. 

Egon Theiner for European Athletics

Photos courtesy of Alanis Duc & Gwendal Hamon (FFA) 




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