Close tussle as Nepal’s Sunuwar pips rivals in final race of MSIG50 ultramarathon series

Only 13 seconds separated the winner and second-place Ferriere with fellow Frenchman Puyou a close third, while New Zealand’s McNaughton is clear women’s winner

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2016, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 4:03pm

A tight battle played out over the hills of Sai Kung on Saturday in the final race of the MSIG50 ultramarathon series with the top three contestants finishing within 70 seconds of each other.

After 54 hilly kilometres through some of Hong Kong’s best scenery, Nepal’s Upendra Sunuwar was first over the line in five hours 41 minutes and 23 seconds – just. Only 13 seconds separated him from Pierre-Andre Ferriere from France. Third placed Baptiste Puyou, also from France, finished in 5:42:30.

“All three of them were together almost the entire race, only about 10 seconds apart at each checkpoint,” said race director Michael Maddess. “As they came onto the final stretch of pavement they were virtually neck and neck – you could see the pain on both of their faces.”

“We were very close the whole way,” added runner-up Ferrier. “Upendra got lost around the peninsula where I was able to take the lead briefly but he caught up and we ran the rest of the way together. He past me just in the final section – it really wasn’t over ‘til the end.”

Sunuwar, who lives 100 kilometres outside of Kathmandu, works as a trail running guide in Nepal and was rumoured to gain a greater lead over fellow contestants, but got lost on the course. He was happy to take home the silverware but claimed his performance was only “so so”.

Puyou, meanwhile, was beaming with his third place finish. “I could see them not far ahead, but I just didn’t have the strength to catch them in the end.”

The women’s field was once again dominated by Kiwi Marie McNaughton who finished in six hours 58 minutes and 39 seconds, topping off a stellar season on Hong Kong’s trails full of podium positions.

“I just stayed steady the whole way and really enjoyed it,” she said humbly. She was 24 minutes ahead of Ukraine’s Oksana Riabova who finished in 7:22:53. In third was Ching Ling-lo from Hong Kong.