The Valsir Mountain Running World Cup reaches its finale on the island of Gran Canaria. Fast Running’s Gill Bland will be braving the unseasonably warm weather to report back for us.

After an incredible season for the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, it’s time for the grand finale at Sky Gran Canaria! Our final event has three gold label races over three days and it will decide our 2023 World Cup champions.

The Sky Gran Canaria is based in the beautiful town of Agaete on the north west coast of the island of Gran Canaria, a perfect destination for mountain running. With the highest point on the island – Pico de las Nieves – standing at 1,948m, and a number of other big, rugged peaks such as the iconic Roque Nublo, the races make great use of the landscape. The event only dates back to 2018, and it was originally devised to link up the southwest and northwest part of the island, passing through the highest point along the way. As the event has grown, more races have been added, including the new course which provides the long distance race for the World Cup.

The vertical uphill course

The vertical uphill race will start at Agaete and the classic race will finish there, right on the coast, an area boasting beautiful beaches and huge cliffs. The vertical uphill race climbs from the coast at 42m up to Fuente del Cuervo at 856m over the course of 6.6k and 947m.

It takes place on the Friday (13th) at 4.30pm. The classic race starts up at Artenara at 1240m and then takes in several minor climbs over the first 8k before reaching Tamadaba at the 9k point, then beginning a long descent down towards the finish at Puerto de Las Nieves. It starts at 9.30am on Sunday (15th).

The classic mountain race profile

The long distance race will start and finish in Tunte, in the middle of the island and it will take in a loop including Pico de Las Nieves and Roque Nublo. With a total of 2736m of ascent over 35k and including some steep, technical ground, this will be a tough race. It starts on Saturday (14th) at 10am.

The long distance race profile

World Cup Standings

With so many points on offer over the three races and so many of the runners who’ve worked so hard in the competition this year in attendance we are sure to see some thrilling races and a shake up in the top 10s. With the points removed from runners who have done more than six races it’s Joyce Muthoni Njeru (KEN) and Philemon Kiriago (KEN) who lead, with 280 and 250 points respectively.

Muthoni Njeru will be racing in the classic race and the vertical uphill race here and with wins under her belt from classic races at Fletta Trail, La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and Canfranc, as well as a win at Canfranc vertical race, she will be a favourite to win here.

Kiriago will also race at the classic and vertical uphill races here. His track record this year has been similarly strong, with wins at Fletta Trail, Sierre Zinal and Trofeo Nasego, so he will certainly be among the favourites again here. However, where he’s failed to win it’s generally been Patrick Kipngeno (KEN) who has beaten him this year (at Piz Tri Vertical, La Montee du Nid d’Aigle and Vertical Nasego).

Kipngeno will also run the classic and vertical uphill races, setting up an interesting duel for the men’s World Cup title as there are currently just 20 points between them.

Philaries Kisang (KEN) sits in second spot in the women’s World Cup competition with 195 points and she will be taking part in the classic and vertical uphill races. She’s put in some gritty performances this year, finishing on the podium at Piz Tri Vertical, Fletta Trail, La Montee du Nid d’Aigle, Sierre Zinal and Vertical Nasego, but a win has eluded her. Could this be the place where she finally cracks her race strategy?

Photo: Marco Gulberti

The other contenders for the crown?

Andrea Mayr (AUT) currently sits in third with 190 points and doesn’t race here, so that may give Lucy Murigi (KEN) or Scout Adkin (GBR) the chance to leapfrog her as they will both run in the classic race and Adkin will also run in the vertical uphill.

Murigi has consistently finished in the top 10 at many events this year, including two podium finishes at Canfranc, and Adkin won at Montemuro, was second at Piz Tri Vertical and third at Vertical Nasego. Adkin hasn’t raced as much in the World Cup as some of the other runners and, as only the athletes‘ six best results count, she has more potential to add to her tally than Murigi.

Both Remi Leroux (CAN) and Joe Steward (GBR) have had breakthrough years in the World Cup and the battle for third should be a good one, with Leroux currently on 152 points from six races and Steward with 140 from five. Leroux will take on the long distance race, Steward the classic and they will both run in the vertical uphill. Steward has pipped Leroux at Canfranc vertical race, where they were first and second, and at Vertical Nasego, but it’s been close.

Photo: Marco Gulbertis

Susanna Saapunki (FIN), who has had a very consistent season with two recent wins at Dolomiti Trail and Smarna Gora and currently sits in sixth place in the World Cup, will double up on the classic and vertical races. Camilla Magliano (ITA), who has also had consistent top 10 results this year, including a podium at Canfranc, will take on the long distance race and the vertical uphill.

Sara Willhoit (GBR), who started her World Cup campaign with a third and fifth place at Broken Arrow and currently sits in 10th place, will run the long distance and vertical uphill races.  “I’m feeling excited and looking forward to visiting Gran Canaria and eating papas arrugadas” said Willhoit. “I’ve had a good season already, and have put in the work ready for this weekends finalissima! Another podium would be a nice little end to the season, but the women’s field is very strong.’

Photo: Peter Maksimow

Charlotte Cotton (BEL), currently in 12th, may well improve on that position as she takes on the classic and vertical uphill races and can score points in both as she has only run four races so far.

All can change in the final days

Similarly, many more of the top 12 men are racing here. Andrea Rostan (ITA) sits just behind Steward in fifth with 106 points. After a win at the vertical uphill race at Broken Arrow another highlight was his fourth place at Piz Tri Vertical. Fellow Italian Henri Aymonod also had a strong start to his season at Broken Arrow and will race the classic and vertical uphill races here, alongside Rostan.

Alex Baldaccini (ITA) is in eighth place in the World Cup and could improve on that as he runs in the classic and uphill races and Christian Allen (USA), who sits in 11th after his second and third places at Vertical and Trofeo Nasego should be exciting to watch here in the long distance race. Ondrej Fejfar (CZE) and Alric Petit (FRA) could also nudge into the top 10 with strong performances here. Both are doubling up, Fejfar in the long and vertical and Petit in the classic and vertical.

On top of all the excitement of the World Cup competition we could also see athletes who aren’t in contention for the World Cup places pushing for the podium, such as Manuel Anguita (ESP) who is down to take on all three races, Zak Hanna (IRL)(classic and vertical) and Maddalena Soma (ITA) (classic and vertical).

Photo: Marco Gulberti

Zak told us that he “wants to be able to sign off the 2023 mountain season with two positive performances and hopefully be at the sharp end of things as this year has been a nightmare results wise compared to 2022. Rebuilding confidence is the main aim really and hopefully I can kick on from here to build for 2024-patience is a virtue!”

At the end of the weekend, the overall World Cup podiums will be decided, as well as the category podiums for vertical uphill, classic and long distance. Conditions are expected to be hot – up to 32 degrees centigrade – which may have an impact on some of the runners, but we are sure to see some thrilling racing.


Friday 13th October 16.30 UTC+1: vertical uphill race (6.2k, +976m), starts at Agaete
Saturday 14th October 10.00 UTC+1: long distance race (35k, +2200m/-2200m), starts at Tunte
Sunday 15th October 09.30 UTC+1: classic race (20.5k, +740m/-1970m), starts at Artenara
You can find out more about all three races here: Beyond the Coast Sky Gran Canaria – World Cup Finalissima
See fly-by videos of the routes here: Move Run – YouTube