despite the controversy, Kilian Jornet does not forget the UTMB

despite the controversy, Kilian Jornet does not forget the UTMB
despite the controversy, Kilian Jornet does not forget the UTMB

On Sunday, the 36-year-old Catalan won for the 11th time – in 12 participations since 2007 – the formidable Zegama-Aizkorri, a short trail of 42 kilometers and 2,700 m of positive altitude difference in the Basque Country. “It’s nice to see that, 17 years later, I’m able to have better feelings than when I started,” confides Kilian Jornet, visiting Paris on Monday the day after his victory.

The first time he won this race on the Basque trails, Kilian Jornet was not yet 20 years old and was not yet the star with multiple ski mountaineering world championship titles and victories on ultra-trails. the most prestigious and records for ascent of mythical peaks that it is today.

“My motivation is more oriented towards the search for sensations”

But at 36, as the first white hairs appear on his scalp, the athlete, still as slender as when he started, admits that his “motivation has evolved”. “At the start of a career we look for results, times, victories,” he says. “But over the years, my motivation is more oriented towards the search for sensations, towards an exploration of the limits outside of competitions, in other projects in the mountains. »

Troubled last summer by a pelvic injury which forced him to give up the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), a legendary 170 km race around Mont Blanc that he has already won four times, Kilian Jornet embarked on a very different project in October: eight days in the Pyrenees to climb 177 peaks over 3,000 meters above sea level, not far from the mountains at the foot of which he grew up.

“It was the hardest experience of my life, with 20 hours a day in the mountains on complicated routes,” he says. “I was in pain everywhere, I was tired and I was having hallucinations. » “In competition, we get to know ourselves, we know how to train, whereas in this kind of mountain project we look for things that we don’t yet know. It brings me more emotions,” he continues.

“I’m going to explore ultra in XXXL”

This summer, Kilian Jornet has only two short trails on his program, the Zegama which he won on Sunday, and Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland in August. “It’s a great excuse to train well,” he smiles. But the big objective will be elsewhere: in a new “long personal project” starting in September, the outlines of which he refuses to reveal for the moment.

“Projects in the mountains allow me to seek limits that are deeper than in competition,” he slips. “The effort will be a bit similar to an ultra-trail, I will explore the ultra in XXXL. »

At the start of the year, the trail runner indicated that he would skip the UTMB, which brings together thousands of runners and tens of thousands of spectators in Chamonix every end of summer. Critical of the direction taken by the UTMB group since the launch in 2022 of a competition circuit in partnership with Ironman, Kilian Jornet and the American trail runner Zach Miller had sent an email to other athletes offering them to choose another benchmark race this year.

“There were problems of environmental impact, sponsorship, acquisition of races,” he cites pell-mell to explain his rise to the niche. Before tempering directly. “It remains an event that I love and even if we differ on certain points, we still have a lot in common (with the UTMB). It’s a race that I would like to do again in the future.”

Opposed to the unlimited development of a sport whose popularity has exploded in recent years, Kilian Jornet is one of the athletes keen to reduce the environmental impact of their sporting practice. For several years, he has limited international races to favor competitions in Norway, where he is based, and in Sweden.

“There are always contradictions,” he admits. “Individually I try to create a calendar (of races) which does not make me travel a lot but I also try to work on the way in which we can influence those involved in trail running to be more consistent with the values ​​of sport and preservation. of the environment in which it is practiced. »

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