What do you get when you mix the top trail runners in the world and northern Spain? Well, you get Zegama, of course.
In one of the deepest fields Zegama has ever seen, the athletes showed up and showed out for the spectators for the first time in two years after it was canceled in 2020 and 2021.
With this deep of a field, everyone was eager to see how things would shake out, so let’s dive into what unfolded in the epic Zegama 2022 race and the first race of the 2022 Golden Trail Series.
Kilian Shows Why He’s Still the Man to Beat
Every race Kilian enters, he’s immediately a favorite. And Zegama 2022 was no different.
Getting out to an early lead, Kilian tore up the first climb toward Ultzama and created a small gap between him and the lead pack. In fact, there’d be no point in this race where Kilian wasn’t the clear leader or trading spots one and two with another runner.
Initially, it was Japan’s Ruy Ueda chasing after Kilian, followed by Davide Magnini and Remi Bonnet.
But, nearing the 10k mark, Ueda would fall back, and it was Kenya’s Robert Pkenboi in second, with Davide Magnini slightly behind him.
As they arrived at the famed Sancti Espiritu climb, Davide Magnini had a slight lead on Kilian, who was nipping at his heels. El Housine Elazzaoui was only 30 seconds behind in third place.
However, Kilian had dropped Davide by the uphill to Andraitz, who was about a minute behind. Elhousine continued to keep a firm hold on third place, following about a minute and a half behind Davide.
This lead for Kilian would hold for the rest of the race as he kept a minute and a half between him and Davide. This started a long descent, where Kilian dropped the hammer and charged down the hill.
You could see Kilian checking his watch, knowing he was around five minutes under the course record (set by Stian Angermund in 2017). At this point, he wasn’t even thinking about Davide; his eyes were only on the course record.
He would continue to push the pace as he neared the finish before crossing the finish line with an unreal time of 3:36:41, shattering the previous record by nine minutes.
This gave Kilian his 10th victory at Zegama.
Davide Magnini, who put in an incredible performance, would come across the finish line in second — also besting the course record by six minutes (3:39:31).
Elhousine Elazzaoui couldn’t hold on to third and would drop back — eventually finishing fourth — which allowed space for Manuel Merillas to come across the line to round out the top three with a time of 3:45:43.
One of the most exciting stories was Nadir Maguet, who finished 8th, as he missed his flight and had to drive overnight to participate in the race. Running on little sleep, he crossed the finish line in an emotional state after putting in a strong performance.
Epic performances all around today on the men’s side.
Zegama 2022 Men’s Results
- Kilian Jornet (ESP) — 3:36:40 (CR)
- Davide Magnini (ITA) — 3:39:31
- Manuel Merillas (ESP) — 3:45:43
- Elhousine Elazzaoui (MOR)— 3:47:53
- Robert Pkenboi (KEN)— 3:48:35
- Thibaut Baronian (FRA) — 3:49:37
- Remi Bonnet (CHE) — 3:49:37
- Nadir Maguet (ITA) — 3:51:00
- Matthew Kiptanui Kibet (KEN) — 3:52:32
- Frederic Tranchand (FRA) — 3:53:37
Nienke Brinkman Continues Her Momentum from 2021
While Kilian showed his skill on the men’s side, Nienke Brinkman, who stormed onto the scene in the 2021 Golden Trail series, took off from the starting line like she was shot out of a cannon.
From the beginning, she led the race and never looked back.
Behind her, Maude Mathys — last year’s Golden Trail Series winner — and Sara Alonso competed to see who would place second.
At the 13.5-kilometer mark, Nienke was two and a half minutes ahead of Maude, with Sara about a minute and a half behind second place.
Maude put some more time between her and Sara, getting a three-minute lead by the 22-kilometer mark. Nienke continued to lead by three minutes over Maude.
However, Nienke would only increase that lead as she eventually racked up a 10-minute lead over Maude.
Nienke finished the race with a time of 4:16:53, which was almost 20 minutes under the course record. An absolute astounding performance from Nienke Brinkman to open the 2022 Golden Trail Series.
Maude began to falter at the end, and Sara — a powerhouse on the downhills — did her best to catch her. Yet, Maude held her off, finishing 37 seconds before Sara crossed the finish line.
What’s truly astounding about Nienke’s performance is that just a month ago she ran a 2:22 marathon in Rotterdam — a race where she finished second.
She’s truly a Swiss Army knife in the running scene.
Zegama 2022 Women’s Results
- Nienke Brinkman (NED) — 4:16:43 (CR)
- Maude Mathys (CHE) — 4:26:03
- Sara Alonso (ESP) — 4:26:40
- Patricia Pineda (ESP) — 4:36:31
- Fabiola Conti (ITA) — 4:36:43
- Nuria Gil (ESP) — 4:39:11
- Therese Leboeuf (CHE) — 4:39:55
- Oihana Kortazar (ESP) — 4:41:41
- Marcela Vasinova (CZE) — 4:44:10
- Courtney Dauwalter (USA) — 4:45:34
2022 Golden Trail Series Leaderboard
Men’s 2022 Golden Trail Series Leaders
Women’s 2022 Golden Trail Series Leaders
One of the best stories from the Zegama 2022 race was simply having the opportunity to experience this beautiful race after a two-year hiatus. It was beautiful to see the trail (especially the Aizkorri climb) packed with raucous spectators cheering the runners on.
After all, the fans are what make Zegama the race it is.
Kilian was Kilian yet again, and Nienke put on a solid performance to set the tone for the rest of the 2022 Golden Trail Series.
Next up is the Marathon du Mont Blanc — site of the famous UTMB race — on June 26th, 2022.
It will be exciting to see the performances in store after Kilian and Nienke set the bar high in the season’s first race.