Kowal­czyk pow­ers to Ul­tra win as favourites fall by the way­side

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - STEPHEN GRANGER

TWO NEW ul­tra-trail stars were born in Cape Town yes­ter­day as Ger­man marathoner Janosch Kowal­czyk and Zim­bab­wean Emily Haw­good raced to im­pres­sive vic­to­ries at UI­tra-trail Cape Town 100km.

The chal­leng­ing course showed its teeth as many of the favoured ath­letes were forced to sur­ren­der be­fore the fin­ish, leav­ing Europe-based ath­letes to bag the podium places in the men’s race with South­ern African run­ners tak­ing the top two places in the women’s com­pe­ti­tion.

Last year’s top two, Prodi­gal Ku­malo and Ryan San­des, both quit be­fore half way, as did pre-race favourite Cana­dian Rob Krar, leav­ing Kowal­czyk, Ital­ian An­dreas Reit­erer and Swedes Olav Ols­son and Jo­han Lantz to fight it out.

The big­gest cheers came as Haw­good broke the tape to claim a re­mark­able vic­tory and when Cape Town’s own Kerry-Ann Mar­shall sig­naled a tri­umphant re­turn to world-class com­pe­ti­tion, rac­ing home in sec­ond just over three min­utes in ar­rears and four min­utes ahead of early leader and race favourite, Mimmi Kotka of Swe­den.

Hot, hu­mid con­di­tions in the sec­ond half, a slightly longer course and too fast a pace from the start were rea­sons cited for the car­nage and slower times, with Kowal­czyk’s 10 hrs 22 min 0 sec half an hour off Ku­malo’s record last year and Haw­good’s 11:49:25 over 20 min­utes out­side Aus­tralian Lucy Bartholomew’s 2017 mark.

“This is un­be­liev­able – it’s def­i­nitely the best race of my life,” ex­claimed a de­lighted Kowal­czyk. “I never thought I could win. I had been ill and only ar­rived in Cape Town on Thurs­day. In my wildest dreams a top ten po­si­tion was all I could have hoped for.”

“Just amaz­ing, in­cred­i­ble… def­i­nitely the tough­est and best race of my ca­reer,” said 24-year old Haw­good. “I had an in­tense stretch af­ter Hout Bay when I caught Mimmi. She just kept hold­ing on and re­fus­ing to sur­ren­der. I had to dig deep to break her af­ter the Alphen Trail sta­tion (75km). I just hoped that I was not break­ing my­self in the process!”

2015 win­ner, Chris­ti­aan Greyling, was first South African home in fourth af­ter a night­mare mid­dle sec­tion which all but led to his with­drawal. “I was feel­ing ab­so­lutely ter­ri­ble and had de­cided to stop at Hout Bay,” ad­mit­ted Greyling. “But Landie (his wife) would not let me quit.”

Lead­ing Ital­ian moun­tain run­ner, Reit­erer, set the pace up Plat­tek­lip Gorge and was 12 min­utes up on a group of ath­letes at the top of Ta­ble Moun­tain. San­des broke from the pack, run­ning strongly on the de­scent to Con­stan­tia Nek and along the con­tour to Llan­dudno and was just 5 min­utes in ar­rears at the 45km mark along the beach run.

An in­ex­pli­ca­ble dizzy spell near the top of Suther Peak brought San­des to a halt and the lo­cal ul­tra star was un­able to con­tinue, leav­ing Kowal­czyk to race past him in pur­suit of Reit­erer.

The Ital­ian still held a 7 minute lead at Hout Bay Har­bour at 69km, but was strug­gling to main­tain his mojo up the long climb along Disa River to Con­stan­tia Nek, with the Ger­man tak­ing the lead shortly af­ter the ath­letes reached the sum­mit, on the de­scent to the Con­stan­tia green­belts.

World 100km road sil­ver-medal­ist, Ols­son, came from be­hind to move into sec­ond af­ter Ce­cilia For­est and at one stage threat­ened to chal­lenge Kowal­czyk’s supremacy, but a dif­fi­cult fi­nal stage left him al­most 20 min­utes in ar­rears as he fin­ished in 10:41:49, 5 min­utes clear of com­pa­triot Lantz.

Cape Town’s Bernard Rukadza was in a class of his own in win­ning the 65km in 7:03:18 ahead of Ger­man Moritz Auf der Heide, with French ath­lete Camille Bruyas tak­ing hon­ours in the women’s com­pe­ti­tion, while Tim­o­thy Cham­bers and Hay­ley Preen took the 35km ti­tles.

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