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Tor des Geants day 3

by Robert Britton
Wednesday 14th September 2016
One year on and we’re back to where it all ended last time. Gressoney-St. Jean was a little damper last time, with storm clouds lurking and a little more carnage in the big sports hall that is the 205km point of the Tor des Geants. It’s nearly business time.
The section before Gressoney is a difficult for many, with technical running up at altitude and plenty of climbing and steep descending. It is the Tor at her most beautiful, but also her most brutal. Nickademus Hollons, 2nd in 2014, called it “the crux of the race”. Break the back of it here and you’ll on the home straight. A really bloody long home straight.
The Caterpillar of Bergamo is still in the lead, leaving Oyace, 274,4km along the route and getting to the final stretch. There are still those that are chasing though and it’s not over until the fat lady sings, for lack of a better cliché. It seems to be Oliviero Bosatelli’s race to lose.
The women’s race is nigh on becoming the men’s race as Liza Borzani is steaming through the male field and is up to seventh overall and still going strong. With the huge number of factors critical to performance, compared to a marathon, there is often a closer gap between male and female winners the longer the event. 

Tor posters
Signing the posters (photo on left by Roberto Roux)

Stephanie Case, who has taken to signing all the posters at checkpoints on the forehead of the lady pictured, is performing excellently in second place, having had just 80 minutes sleep and stopping for another 80 this evening. From the latest video update on Facebook it does seem to be taking it’s toll, but every one is fighting their own war of attrition with different strategies.
Natalie has used the sleep break in Donnas to good affect, climbing well on on of the most difficult sections of the race up to the Refugio Coda, the halfway point of 169.3km. Majell, Rosa and I decided to drive up to Lago Vargno & underestimated the gradient and terrain which very nearly led to some trouble. Excellent driving skills from Majell probably saved us from Natalie castrating the pair of us…

Tor day 3
A runner grabs some sleep and Majell checks out whether the path is drivable (with mixed results)

The Refugio Balma, at 2,040m, is one of the more beautiful locations in the region with a welcoming and modern refugio that will definitely be visited again after the race is over. Natalie arrived in good spirits to chow down on ham and cheese sandwiches before the next sections to Niel and Gressoney. The sun was shining and everyone is suffering together.

Nat TDG 3

The descents are taking their toll and Natalie is having some issues with her ankle, but everything is new at this point as previously the longest race her body has sustained is 60km. This really is terra incognito and an unusual way to run your first 100 miler, as a warm up.
Now we wait in the 205.9km life base, where the beds are comfortably positioned on a bouldering mat in the back so runners can literally sink into unconsciousness. A quick turn around post slumber could see a beautiful sunrise from the Col Pinta and a bit of light for the technical, steep descent to follow. It’s not a descent that any talk of fondly afterwards!


For now we need to try find some Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles in Aosta, Natalie only has Beef and tomato left and this could get ugly if she finds out…

(photos by Majell Backhausen and Robbie Britton except where stated)

About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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