From the 35th km, before nightfall, at La Gorge, Xavier Thévenard seemed to struggle a little more than the others on the climb. The three-time winner of the UTMB stopped around 11:30 p.m., approximately 15 kilometers further on, at Les Chapieux (50th km). He has not yet officially retired but three hours later, when the leader of the race reached Courmayeur, Thévenard was still “stopped” at the same point. After a preparation disrupted by his Lyme disease and the after-effects of Covid-19, the “little prince of Mont Blanc” sees his hopes for a fourth success soar.
François D’haene, also three-time winner of the Chamonix event (like Kilian Jornet), is still in the race for a historic 4th title. Around 1 am, the recent new record holder of the Hardrock 100 in the United States, took the lead at Lac Combal (65th km), the American Jim Walmsley in his sneakers. The duo took the lead after La Balme (40th km), in the Col du Bonhomme. At Lac Combal, they were followed at around 8 minutes by several riders, including the French Germain Grangier, Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz and the Spaniard Pablo Villa Gonzales.
François D’haene took the lead in the race overnight from Friday to Saturday. (UTMB)
In Courmayeur (79th km), almost halfway, at the key refreshment point, D’haene entered first (after 8:51 am of the race), followed closely by Walmsley. Both focused and visibly at ease. The two favorites left just before 2 a.m., after a five-minute break. The same trio follows them closely (Grangier, Dunand-Pallaz and Villa Gonzales), within 8 minutes.
The first are expected in Chamonix early Saturday afternoon.