UTMB grand slam: Focus on world’s most southern city as Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc expands to every continent
Chamonix race organisers are set on staging a race on each continent so runners can vie for a UTMB grand prize
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc has announced further international expansion with a race in South America called Ushuaia by UTMB, with a teaser for another race in the North American Rockies.
The UTMB brand went international this year. Gaoligong by UTMB, held in March in Yunnan, China became the first of “by UTMB” events. Soon after Gaoligong, yet another “by UTMB” race, 137km in length, was announced in Oman for November 29 this year.
The world’s third “by UTMB” race will be held on April 5-7, 2019, starting in the Argentinian city of Ushuaia, on the mountainous island of Tierra del Fuego, a major tourist destination, and also a hop-off point for Antarctic tourism.
Luis Castelli, the president of the Tourism Institute of Tierra del Fuego and official representative of the province’s governor, said: “Trail running meshes very well with our strategy of developing adventure tourism in Tierra del Fuego and it lends itself well to environmental protection, low environmental impact, too.”
The remoteness of the location from the European market is offset by the proximity of neighbouring emerging economies.
“We are looking at the South American market,” he said. “First, Brazil – we did a race in Ushuaia this year, running in the snow, and we had 300 runners from Brazil. There are a lot of runners there. Then we have Chile and Colombia also.”
Ushuaia’s ambition is to attract 700 runners in the first year and grow gradually. Castelli was confident in the race’s success, saying: “We are called “Fin del Mundo”, the end of the world, the southernmost city on the planet. Everyone wants to see the end of the world.”
A teaser of the upcoming “by UTMB” event in North America was released – apparently it will be held somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and soon.
The final aim of global strategy of UTMB International is to hold a race on each continent with elite runners vying to complete a grand slam.
The strategy is to hold five “by UTMB” races in Asia, up to five in Europe and North America each, three to four in South America, two to three in Africa and Australia, and one to two in the Middle East. The best continental race shall be awarded the official UTMB status.
Oman is now in the middle of a campaign, directed by Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, to develop the country as a global adventure and active tourism destination, with trail running as a centre piece.
“We think trail running is the best way to experience the diversity of Oman,” undersecretary of the minister of tourism Rashad Al-Hinai told the SCMP.
“In Chamonix, in Europe, the landscape is beautiful, but it looks, at least to us, the same. In Oman runners can go from the beach, into the desert, into the mountains. Trail running, we think, is one of the best ways for visitors to explore our wonderful country”.
Oman has already filled the first-year quota of 300 runners with Hong Kong’s Samantha Chan one of the invited elites, on the strength of her third-place finish in the Gaoligong event.
Ushuaia and Oman races are hungrily eyeing the Chinese running market, all the more so considering the strength of Chinese presence at this year’s UTMB – almost 400 participants, six elite runners in top 10, wins in the 55km OCC and 101km CCC, and UTMB TV transmitting live in Chinese.