After an unusually hot, dry early May, it was the rain and cold that swept through Sunday (May 14) in the Spanish Basque country for the first race of the Golden Trail World Series season.
Gusts of wind hitting 50km/h and minus temperatures at the summit prompted the organisers to skirt around the summit ridge, directing the runners onto a path slightly lower down.
This did no deter the public from gathering on both sides of the Sancti Spiritu hill, the most crowded hill of the race, nor stop Manuel Merillas.
The Spaniard won the Zegama-Aizkorri a 42 km race, in 3h42min1s.
Moroccan EL Houssine El Azzaoui came 2nd.
"The race was really tough early on, I was freezing cold, it was very technical terrain, and raining a lot but I just tried to hang on until the end. I kept saying, there’s no way I’m not going to be on the podium," he explained.
"It’s experience that pays off: 5 years on the Golden have taught me a lot and enabled me to get this result."
Elazzoui snapped at Merillas' heels for a long time, but the Spaniard took the upper hand in the final downhill before the finish line.
British Jonathan Albon came third. Kenyan Robert Pkemboi Matayango ended 5th just as last year.
Top 5 women: Daniela Oemus (GER) won in 4 h31 min54 sec. She is followed by Caitlin Fielder (NZL), Theres Leboeuf (SUI), Sylvia Nordskar (NOR) and Blandine L’Hirondel (FRA).
The GTWS is now heading for Chamonix and the Marathon du Mont-Blanc.