The much-anticipated 2022 UTMB® World Series, the world’s leading trail running circuit, kicks off on Friday in northwest Croatia, with Istria 100 by UTMB®, which will see over 1,100 runners from more than 47 nations cross the start lines.
Among competitors taking part are some of the top-ranked runners in the UTMB® Index, including the 43-year-old Dutch athlete Ragna Debats, the world championship bronze medalist in trail running from 2016 and the 2019 CCC® winner at UTMB® Mont-Blanc, who is currently ranked third in the world in the 100K category.
In the men’s field, the top-ranked male athletes likely to be fighting for podium places are Robert Hajnal of Romania, who finished second at UTMB® Mont-Blanc in 2018, Roberto Mastrotto of Italy, a former winner in Istria, and the well-known Nepalese trail-runner Sangé Sherpa.
The first of 25 confirmed events in the 2022 UTMB® World Series calendar, Istria 100 by UTMB® offers five courses ranging from 20 to 168km in an exceptional setting that will place runners at the heart of the unspoiled landscape of the beautiful Istria Peninsula.
Elite and amateur runners alike will enjoy rugged wooded hills and a course through medieval towns and villages, as they take on Croatia’s biggest trail race, now in its ninth edition, with all courses finishing in the attractive coastal resort of Umag.
UTMB® World Series Sport and Regeneration Director
Istria 100 by UTMB® Race Director
The event begins on Friday (April 8th) with the start of the 168-km Red Course, the longest test that features more than 240 runners from as far afield as China, Japan, Ukraine and all over Europe. It also includes a strong contingent of elite competitors as determined by the UTMB® Index.1
The field will set off from the village of Labin at 17.00hrs local time as runners make their way down to the east coast of Istria at Rabac. From there they will head north to Prodol, before beginning a traverse of rural central Istria through the towns of Buzet and Grožnjan and onto the finish at Umag.
With 6,515 metres of climbing, the Red Course is sure to present a tough challenge with Mt Vojak, at 4,514ft above sea level (1,376 metres), the highest peak in Dinaric range, among the obstacles to overcome in an early section which is quite technical.
Given suitable weather conditions, the elite competitors will be looking to attack the male athlete course record of 17 hours, 51 minutes and 50 seconds, set by the American runner Dylan Bowman in 2017 and the female equivalent of 22 hours, 49 minutes and 33 seconds, set by Francesca Canepa of Italy a year later.
The Blue Course, second longest at 128km and with just over 5,000 metres of elevation gain, also includes the climb of Mt Vojak, while the Green Course runners face 2,160 metres of climbing over 68km. Italian athlete Davide Cheraz is the top-ranked male runner in the Green Course field. He is expecting a fast race but warns that the weather could play a part.
“The race will be very fast and I love this kind of race,” he said. “I know Istria from holidays and I am super-happy to participate there. I think the route will be very easy, but maybe the problem will be the heat – it could be very hot in Istria, compared to where I live at Courmayeur near Mont Blanc where the temperature is very different.”
In the female division on the Green Course the Latvian runner Anet Švilpe will be among the favorites as she starts a season that will include appearances over longer distances at La Sportiva Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB® in June and then at UTMB® Mont-Blanc in August. After a long stint of winter training Švilpe is looking forward to the challenge in Istria.
“I’m expecting quite a lot of terrain where there will be a lot of rocks, but also great views and some small but quite technical and hard climbs, so it should be a fun race,” she said.
Although one of the favourites, she is expecting a good race against some of the other top-ranked women in the field including Nicol Guidolin of Italy. “There are some other girls that I can compete against but I am always looking forward to doing my best and seeing where that leads to,” she said.
The top-three finishers in each category at Istria 100 by UTMB® will qualify automatically for UTMB® Mont-Blanc 2022. In common with all UTMB® World Series events, the Istria 100 by UTMB® will award Running Stones to all finishers on all five courses, with four Running Stones going to athletes completing the longest course and one to the runners on the shortest route – the 20km White Course. The Running Stones then function as lottery tickets for the draw to participate in UTMB® Mont-Blanc 2023 and the UTMB® World Series Finals.
How to follow Istria 100 by UTMB®
Runners and trail fans can follow the athletes on the LiveTrail app….
Photo and video highlights will be available on the UTMB® World Series Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, with event updates on the Istria 100 by UTMB® Facebook and Instagram pages. Local fans can also watch live on national sports broadcaster SPTV.