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This article originally appeared on Trail Runner
Less than a month after winning Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc for the first time, Jim Walmsley is already chasing next year's goals.
The 33-year-old American trail runner is running the Roubion-Nice 115K race at the Nice Cote d’Azur by UTMB event on September 30 in Southern France. More than 5,000 runners are signed up to compete in the 20K, 50K, 115K, and 100-mile events held during the second annual event. The four unique courses traverse the wild mountain ranges of southeastern France while also exploring medieval towns, beautiful rivers and glacial lakes, and the French countryside within the mountains before finishing on the French Riviera.
Walmsley's primary goal in running the race is to earn one of the Hoka Golden Ticket entries into next summer's Western States 100. "The big goal next year would be to try to get back to Western states through the Nice race," said Walmsley, a three-time winner of the race (2018, 2019, 2021) and course record holder (14:09:28). "I love that race and I haven't done it in a while, so it would be fun to go back and race that style of race again."
When he lines up at the start on Saturday morning, it will be a few hours less than 28 days since he won UTMB on September 2 in Chamonix, France, in 19 hours, 37 minutes, and 43 seconds, as he outran fellow American Zach Miller in a thrilling battle to become the first U.S. male runner to win the race.
In addition to being a Golden Ticket race, the top three finishers of the 100-miler will receive entry into the 2024 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc championship. The top three in the 100K event will earn entry into the 2024 CCC and the top three in the 50K distance will gain entry to 2024 OCC.
Walmsley and his wife, Jess, are living in Areches, France, but they hope to be back in the U.S. more over the next year than they were in 2023. Aside from racing Western States in 2024, Walmsley hasn't confirmed any other race plans, but he said he's strongly considering running the Transgrancanaria 126K race in the Canary Islands or the Black Canyon 100K in Arizona in February and a possible return to UTMB next August.
After starting their visa application process and prior to moving to France in May of 2022, the couple had difficulties getting the paperwork done with French authorities. Because they had overstayed the 90-day period that Americans are allowed to visit France without a visa, they weren't allowed to leave the country until their visa paperwork was finalized. Once they had the French-issued residency card in hand, they returned to the U.S. and spent a busy month on home soil from late May to late June.
The 115K point-to-point race, which begins Saturday at 6 A.M., is 71.4 miles long with 15,748 feet of elevation gain and a high point of about 6,600 feet as it sends runners from the Maritime Alps down to Nice along the Mediterranean Sea. Walmsley's 940 UTMB Index is the highest score among men worldwide. Other top competitors in the 115K race include Frenchmen Thibaut Baronian (911 UTMB Index), Theo Detienne (881 UTMB Index), and Simon Gosselin (876 UTMB Index), the latter of whom moved to Areches after Walmsley and has become one of his closest friends and training partners. The top women in the 115K race are South Africa's Meg Mackenzie (714 UTMB Index), Finland's Marjo Liikanen (708 UTMB Index), and Italy's Giulia Vinco (706 UTMB Index).
The 100-mile race begins on Friday at noon from the village of Auron and includes 28,000 feet of vertical gain. The 20K race begins at 7 A.M. in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, while the 50K begins at 8 a.m. in Menton. All of the races will finish along the sea in Nice.
In the 100-mile race, it's hard to root against France's Claire Bannwarth in 2023. Her resume already includes winning the 268-mile Montane Spine Race in January, seventh place at Transgrancanaria in February, second at the Cursa di Ciclopi 500K in April, third at UTMB Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 165K in May, fifth at Hardrock 100, winning the Tahoe 200 a week later, and doing the 567-mile Colorado Trail four days later. She'll be competing at the front with the likes of Belgium's Laura Van Vooren, Japan's Yuri Yoshizumi, Germany's Ida-Sophie Hegemann, and Hungary's Ildiko Wermescher.
On the men's side, France's Gwendal Moysan comes in as the race favorite. No stranger to French ultras, he has podiumed in almost all of his races since 2021. This includes a first-place finish at the Grand Raid Ventoux in April. Also in contention is Italy’s Roberto Mastrotto. He finished eighth at Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB in June and sixth at the Canyons Endurance Run by UTMB in April. Other notable men's field runners are Belgium's Jerome Vanderschaeghe, who took second at Restonica Trail by UTMB 2023 in July, France's Arnaud Colloud, Norway's Tom-Erik Halvorsen, and Spain's Alexandre Urbina.
The races will be broadcast via livestream on the Outside Watch platform beginning on Friday at noon CEST (6 A.M. ET in the U.S.), when the Ultra-Trail Metropole Nice Cote d’Azur departs from Auron to Saturday afternoon, when the first men and women in the 100M, 100K, and 50K races arrive in Nice.
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