Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania. He prefers a slower pace to his travels to explore destinations more in-depth and to get a feel for what life is actually like there. When he’s not writing, he’s usually off exploring trails with his fiancée, Kaitlyn.
And just like that, the Golden Trail World Series Final is over, and the 2021 Golden Trail World Series has come to an end also. And, it was quite the event to watch. Carrying on with the theme of the series, the Final didn’t disappoint.
The One Race, the final race of the GTWS, took place on El Hierro in the Canary Islands. The race was specially designed for the GTWS, and it lived up to expectations. Sporting 37 kilometers (23 miles) and 2,862 meters (9,389 feet) of elevation gain, the runners were going to have to earn their places. And earn them they did.
So, let’s take a look at some of the key things we learned from The One Race in El Hierro.
Maude is pure class
Okay, we already knew this, so it’s not necessarily something we learned. However, Maude’s ability to dominate every race she entered in the Golden Trail World Series (GTWS) has been something to behold.
From the beginning, it was a battle between Maude and Nienke Brinkman. Nienke set out fast and pushed the pace up the first climb, but Maude rarely let her out of her sight. Behind those two, there was a large gap for the third-place woman.
Maude and Nienke continued to battle after the first climb, but eventually, Maude took the lead, slammed her foot on the gas, and never took it off. Nienke tried her best to match the pace, but Maude is too experienced in these types of races and held her off.
Maude has shown this ability to take the lead and push herself even harder, creating an even more significant time gap between her and second place.
Here is how much Maude won each race by in this year’s GTWS:
- Olla de Núria — 12:32
- Marathon du Mont Blanc — 09:13
- Sierre-Zinal — 02:55
- The Grand Final El Hierro — 05:26
If those times aren’t enough, then let this seal it. If the men’s and women’s runners had started at the same time in The Grand Final, Maude would have finished 3rd overall. Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s been an incredible season for her after winning all four races she entered, so it will be exciting to continue to watch her in the future and if she can maintain this dominance.
This leads us to our next point.
Nienke Brinkman is a rising star
Flashback a couple of months, and most people in the trail running world had no idea who Nienke Brinkman was.
Sure, Maude won the race, but many couldn’t stop talking about Brinkman. She had come out of relative obscurity and burst onto the scene with a strong showing. And this wasn’t just any race. This was Sierre-Zinal. One of the top races in the world.
Newer, inexperienced runners will usually get lost in the fold as the familiar names—Jornet, Mathys, etc.—dominate the headlines, cameras, and microphone.
Sponsors broke all the Covid-19 regulations as they crowded her, trying to get her signature post-race.
Ultimately, she chose to sign with Salomon and has quickly become one of their most famous runners.
In The Grand Final, Nienke and Mathys pushed each other, fighting to see who would claim the top spot.
Ultimately, Maude’s experience and pure running ability were too much for Nienke to overcome. Still, she put up a valiant effort considering she was going against one of the top runners—period—in the world.
At the ripe age of 27, her future is brighter than the sun on El Hierro during the race. And, as trail running fans, we have a fantastic rivalry to enjoy in the future Golden Trail World Series.
Francesco Puppi is growing into a dog
Okay, poor joke, and a bit of low-hanging fruit. But, considering how challenging the course at El Hierro was, Francesco has a lot to look forward to in his running career.
Stian Angermund won the overall standings for the GTWS, but Puppi’s win at El Hierro pushed him into a comfortable second place.
And it wasn’t just that Puppi won. He could stick with the lead group from the start and maintain that effort while others fell back.
The only competition to Puppi seemed to be the giant from the men’s side, Stian Angermund. However, Stian had taken a wrong turn which took him off-course, then had fallen while working his way back, hurting his hip in the process.
Puppi didn’t waste any time and took the lead, then refused to give it up.
At the age of 29, he is still young and has the opportunity to progress even more. He and Nienke will be two to keep an eye on in future Golden Trail World Series. They may become the new faces of the series.
Stian Angermund loses the race but keeps the series
Stian had been following a similar plan to Maude. Enter a race, dominate it, and get that beautiful gold medal at the end.
However, El Hierro proved slightly different. The conditions for the race were difficult. And it showed as the runners crossed the finish line. Many runners claimed this was the most challenging race they’ve ever run.
And if the course wasn’t enough, the temperatures on the island were scorching, adding another element of difficulty. As a result, you saw many of the runners struggling to maintain their performance.
Entering the last climb, Stian was ahead of the chase pack and seemed to have the win in hand. However, his subsequent wrong turn and fall allowed the pack to catch up and pass him. He ended up finishing in 6th place.
That was all he needed to maintain first place in the overall rankings, though. His performances in past races were so good that even Francesco Puppi’s points from his win—which were doubled for the final race—weren’t enough to eclipse Stian.
Excluding the final, Stian had been putting on an absolute clinic in each race he entered. Like Maude, the races were never in doubt as Stian pushed himself into first and then never relented.
Here are Stian’s times from the races he entered before The Grand Final:
- Olla de Núria — 21.5 km/1940 m elevation gain
- Time: 02:04:16
- Marathon du Mont-Blanc — 42 km/2630 m elevation gain
- Time: 03:18:08
- Dolomyths Run — 22 km/1700 m elevation gain
- Time: 01:51:37
This Golden Trail World Series has been another epic contest to follow. The usual names continued to show their class with impressive wins, and a few new names jumped in to give us something to look forward to in next year’s event.
Here are the final rankings for the GTWS: