Now the high-altitude camps have been dismantled and all the marker flags along the trail removed, effectively bringing the curtain down on a truly epic 18th edition of the Millet Tour du Rutor Extrême, it is time for the Corrado Gex Ski Club to sit back and take stock.
But the images of the recent stoic three days are still very vivid in the minds of the athletes, spectators and volunteers. Due to the decidedly unfavourable weather conditions, this year’s TdR was undoubtedly one of the toughest and most demanding editions of this increasingly international competition, but also one of the most successful. Over 800 competitors from 19 different nations, numerous champions, the entire skimo and skyrunning community, crowds of spectators despite the rain and thick fog, but most importantly, a unanimously favourable consensus of opinion, all confirm the success of a race that has established itself as the European super-classics’ undisputed leader.
The saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” describes to a T the way in which the 666 Ski-mountaineers (the capital S is both intentional and well-deserved) tackled the peaks of the Valgrisenche: rather than trying to defy the mountain, they exploited their baggage of mountaineering race experience to the full instead. The fact that just over 30 teams were forced to retire, despite 3 days of intense racing with more than 7000 m. of elevation gain, demonstrates that the spectacular nature of the event was retained without neglecting any of the safety aspects. And what about the young athletes? Simply awesome: the 22 junior and 8 cadet teams showed that real ski-mountaineering, consisting of ridge crests, steep couloirs, and technical descents holds a strong appeal for the younger generations as well. Their smiles and shining eyes at the finish, seeing them search the crowd for Marco Camandona to thank him for letting them have such an amazing experience, amply rewarded the 250 volunteers for their enormous efforts to make the event a success.
But who are the men and women of the TdR? Alpine guides, members of the rescue service, competitive sportsmen and simple enthusiasts. In short, both mountain professionals and ordinary people: a great group of volunteers who share a passion for the sport and for their valley and who worked hard, day and night, to offer both public and athletes a unique and spectacular event.
Technical trails, real off-piste in La Grande Course style, but also a host of novelties, all helped create an event that attracted the attention of both the national and international media. Info and updates in various languages, fine art sports photography, breathtaking videos, the success of the live-streamed ‘Stage on Trial’, over 5000 followers on the social media: these are just some of the media data for an event that it is far more than a simple race. A fact that is borne out by the involvement of the 16 businesses in the sector that formed a real mountain village at Arvier; and the three universities that provided 67 students, 20 lecturers and 15 tutors to ensure every single athlete was looked after.
Now the event is over, the men of the Corrado Gex Ski Club can “catch their breath” and bask in its success, before getting back to work to start preparing the 19th edition in 2018 – which everyone hopes will take place in bright sunshine.