Posts Tagged ‘Cristina Bonacina’

For over a decade the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge has been one of the most popular stair races in the UK. We take a look back at the first edition of the event in 2010.

Back then, the event (then known as NSPCC Step Change) was part of the newly established Vertical World Circuit (VWC) and attracted a spread of top international athletes.

In the women’s division, New Zealand mountain runner Anna Frost was there alongside Italy’s Daniela Vassalli and Cristina Bonacina.

The trio had been among a stellar field of tower runners that had battled it out in a double run in Milan two weeks before, in the first event of the VWC 2010.

Vassalli (winner of the inaugural Vertical World Circuit in 2009) had won that event in Milan, with Frost taking second.

In this new event in London, two runners were being set off at the same time every 30 seconds. Vassalli and Frost were paired together, so it was set to be a genuine side-by-side battle up the unique-looking tower’s 1,037 steps for top points

In the men’s event, Italians Marco De Gasperi and Fabio Ruga were the pre-race favourites and they too were paired together.

Ruga had already picked up points on the VWC, having finished second behind Thomas Dold in Milan a fortnight before. De Gasperi had yet to race in the series. It was guaranteed to be a close battle.

Other well-known tower runners in attendance included Spain’s Ignacio Cardona and Dario Fracassi from Italy.

Watch the video below (click here if embed not showing) to see Daniela Vassalli warming up (0:18), an interview with Anna Frost (0:30), De Gasperi and Ruga setting off (1:38), Vassalli and Frost starting (1:51), Fabio Ruga finishing (2:50), Vassalli finishing (2:58), Cristina Bonacina finishing (3:21) and Ignacio Cardona on the floor at the finish (4:06).

Fabio Ruga won that day, setting the fantastic course record of 4:07 that still stands. De Gasperi finished just four seconds behind his compatriot in 4:11. Ignacio Cardona was third in 4:18.

In the women’s race it was Daniela Vassalli who took top spot with a 5:42 finish. Anna Frost (who would go on to win Vertical Rush in London just over two weeks later) was just six seconds back in 5:48, while Rachael Orr (GBR) finished third in 6:13.

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* Update: a few hours after writing this race preview, Vertical Montserrat 2020 was cancelled. New Covid-19 restrictions were implemented in Catalonia, meaning the race can no longer go ahead.

Enrique Santamaria Martinez and Alba Xandri will return to the 2,180-step Montserrat Funicular in Collbató, Spain this Saturday to defend the titles they won at the event in 2019.

Santamaria Martinez, who also finished third in 2018, will face off against the returning course record holder and 2018 winner Joan Freixa Marcelo.

Enrique Santamaria Martinez sets off on his winning run in 2019

Freixa Marcelo won the Firefighter division at last year’s event, completing the course in full safety gear. But this year the multi-athlete from Cardona will be back in the Open category, seeking to reclaim his crown.

He is one of only two athletes to have run the course in under 12 minutes, with his record standing at 11:38.

Runners will set off up the stairway at 90 second intervals, starting at 9am.

David Soler Sucarrats, who finished just eight seconds behind Santamaria Martinez at last year’s race, is also set to compete at Saturday’s event.

Freixa Marcelo will be the last man to set off in the Open division. Santamaria Martinez will start just ahead of him, guaranteeing a fantastic finish to the third edition of this stunning outdoor stair race.

Joan Freixa Marcelo winning Vertical Montserrat 2018

The race up the service stairs alongside the Montserrat Funicular was originally scheduled for the end of March, but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ongoing situation has reduced the field slightly, with fewer international runners in the line-up compared with last year. French athlete Joris Jaquard is one of the familiar non-Spanish runners set to make an appearance.

In the women’s division, two-time winner Alba Xandri is back to try and make it three wins in a row.

Alba Xandri on her way to winning Vertical Monserrat in 2019

The impressive Spanish mountain runner and cyclist was a clear winner last year, finishing over 90 seconds ahead of Rosa Maria Nieto Zamora.

Her winning time of 14:17 is the course record.

Nieto Zamora will also be back in action again on Saturday, but she will need her rival to have a massive off day in order to stop her winning a third title.

Some familiar names to look out for are Cristina Bonacina (ITA), Laure Chardin (FRA) and Marta Cosp Morata (ESP), who won the Beetham Tower stair race in Manchester, England back in 2019.