Posts Tagged ‘Maria Elisa Lopez Pimentel’

Suzy Walsham la vertical de la tour eiffel

La Verticale de La Tour Eiffel 2020 is just under four weeks away and the excitement is building for the biggest race in the European tower running calendar.

The sixth edition of the event, which takes place on the evening of Wednesday 11th March, has a strong line up of some of the best tower runners in the world. In the women’s division, five-time winner Suzy Walsham is back to defend her title. Alongside her in Paris will be 14 others looking to achieve the seemingly impossible and unseat the Australian.

Read on to find out who’s who in the elite women’s division at the 2020 edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel.

The Eiffel Tower stair race has come a long way from its early beginnings in 1905 and 1906.

MMe Baube

Mme. Baube, winner of the Eiffel Tower stair run in 1906

The latest version of the race began in 2015 and year-on-year it’s packed full of athletic talent from around the world. Just 15 women have been selected to compete in the Elite division at the 2020 edition.

As the only previous winner, Suzy Walsham is always the pre-race favourite in Paris. But this year, due to scheduled renovations on the tower, the format of the event has changed dramatically. Will the new format open the door for a different woman to finally take the crown of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel champion?

The 2020 La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel race format

Instead of the traditional climb to the top of the 1,665-step tower, the new format looks like this:

  • 1st qualifying round – 131 competitors – 665 steps (to the second level)
  • 2nd qualifying round – 131 competitors – 665 steps
  • Final – 30 competitors (20 men, 10 women) – 665 steps

The final will be held in a pursuit format with the fastest athlete from the qualifying rounds setting off first. That pursuit format means positions on the grid will be all important, so expect to see the runners going all out in both qualifying rounds to secure the best spot.

For more details on the new format for 2020, including rest times between rounds, check out our full news story.

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel winners and course record

2019 – Suzy Walsham (10:16)

2018 – Suzy Walsham (10:02)

2017 – Suzy Walsham (9:34 – course record)

2016 – Suzy Walsham (9:48)

2015 – Suzy Walsham (9:44)

Eiffel-Disco_GettyImages-534953254

The step count of the altered format makes it difficult to predict who exactly will be among the top finishers come March. There aren’t many 650 to 700-step towers in the world where the top stair climbers have gone head-to-head.

But here’s our rundown of the 15 women selected to race in the Elite division of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel 2020.

Suzy Walsham – Australia

walsham VWC 2019

The 2018 world champion and current world number one has won every edition of this event since it began in 2015 and it’s difficult to not see her winning this one. But Walsham herself has said numerous times that she’s not a sprinter, so the new format presents a unique challenge for her.

She doesn’t race enough short course events for us to know exactly how she’ll fare. Last year she only did two races that were less than 1,000 steps. The first was Subida Vertical Grand Hotel Bali in Benidorm, which she won. The other was the 441-step Pyramidenkogel-Turmlauf in Austria. Walsham took second there behind Austrian multi-athlete Veronika Windisch, missing out on top spot by just three tenths of a second.

So despite what she says, Walsham undoubtedly has speed, which you’d expect from a former Australian national champion at 800m and 1,500m who represented her country at the Commonwealth Games.

She got her 2020 season underway at the start of February with a win in Dubai over close rival Valentina Belotti, so she should be heading to Paris full of confidence.

Only two or three women in the elite division would be able to hang with the Australian star over the long course, but naturally a few more can get closer over just 665 steps, so she will absolutely have to be at her best to secure victory. The 2020 edition of La Verticale is unlikely to be the one-sided Suzy Walsham Show that its been since 2015.

She will definitely be on the podium, and we expect her to win, but it won’t be nearly as clear cut as all her previous victories at the Eiffel Tower.

@suzywalsham

Valentina Belotti – Italy

Valentina Belotti 2019

We wrote briefly about the renaissance of Valentina Belotti last year after she set two course records in seven days at the end of August, including a solid win over Suzy Walsham at Ostankino Tower in Moscow.

She also won the Towerrunning Tour Final at the 3,398-step Shanghai Tower in November, once again finishing ahead of Walsham. The 2009 world mountain running champion is well and truly back.

She’s making her La Verticale debut this year so will have to deal with working out the nuances of the staircase for her first run at least.

It’s hard to know how Belotti will do in the sprint event. Expect to see her on the podium, but in what position is anyone’s guess.

Laura Manninen – Finland

Laura Manninen tower running

The Finn, who represented her country at the 2016 European Athletics Championships in the half-marathon, was second behind Walsham in the final rankings of last year’s Vertical World Circuit (VWC). She is one of the emerging forces on the tower running scene.

With a 16:44 PB for 5km and a bunch of sub 34-minute 10km runs to her name, it’s clear Manninen has speed. But with the stages of the VWC held mostly at massive towers, we haven’t had many chances to see how that road running pace translates onto the stairs.

Looking at two of the shortest towers she raced in last year gives us some idea. She was fifth at the 1,037-step Allianz Tower in April, where she finished over a minute behind La Verticale rivals Suzy Walsham and Iwona Wicha. She then finished fourth at Broadgate Tower in July, reaching the top behind Sarah Frost and Anais Leroy who she will also be up against in Paris.

Manninen’s chance of finishing on the podium may well have disappeared with the unanticipated format change. We think there are faster women in the lineup that will leave her in around fourth or fifth place after the final round is run.

Iwona Wicha – Poland

Iwona Wicha tower running

The Polish star made her debut at La Verticale last year and finished in fourth place.

She built on that throughout the rest of the 2019 season with home wins at the 790-step Palace of Culture and Science and the Intercontinental Tower Run (959 steps), both in Warsaw. She also took second at the Sky Tower Run in Wroclaw and fourth at the stacked Allianz Vertical Run in Milan.

Perhaps her best performance came at Rondo 1 in Warsaw in February. There she finished second, ahead of top competitors, and La Verticale rivals, including Valentina Belotti, Ilona Gradus, Sarah Frost and Cristina Bonacina.

She capped the season with 10th at the highly competitive Towerrunning Tour Final at Shanghai Tower (3,398-step Shanghai Tower), where she finished ahead of several of the women she’ll be competing against in Paris.

Of course results in buildings as tall as Shanghai Tower have little bearing on what will happen in a sprint race, but all of Wicha’s 2019 results combine to show an in-form athlete with impressive speed and endurance. It’s no surprise, given that Wicha trains with tower running world champion and five-time La Verticale winner Piotr Lobodzinski, who happens to be her husband.

She’s already got her 2020 season off to winning ways with victory at the 5km City Trail in Warsaw at the start of February. She’ll be heading to Paris full of confidence.

Expect to see her pushing for the podium.

@zyciezpasja

Dominika Stelmach – Poland

Dominika Stelmach La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel

Dominika Stelmach won’t be known by many tower running followers, but she will be one of the best athletes in Paris come March.

The Polish ultra runner was silver medalist at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in 2018.

She has also been a force at the Red Bull Wings for Life for the past five years, which involves trying to outrun a Catcher Car for as long as you can. Dozens of these races start at the same time all around the world, and the top athletes compete to see who can outlast their global rivals.

Stelmach has won a Wings for Life event every year since 2015, taking victories in Europe, Australia, Africa and South America. In 2017 she was the overall global winner, running almost 6km further than her nearest rival.

She doesn’t have much experience on the stairs, but when she made her debut at La Verticale in 2017 she finished in second place ahead of far more experienced tower runners.

With a 16:46 PB for 5km we know she also has good speed. She is the real dark horse of this event.

Absolutely no idea how she will get on. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her in the top five, but she could well get dropped in the heats as well. Pacing a sprint on the stairs properly takes experience and, super athlete or not, Stelmach doesn’t have that. Very excited to see how she gets on.

@dominika_stelmach_runner

Sarah Frost – Great Britain

Sarah Frost towerrunning

After her La Verticale debut in March last year (she finished 7th), UK number one Frost went on to have her best ever season.

Her standout performance of 2019 was at London’s Broadgate Tower (877 steps) where she smashed the course record to set a new best time of 4:40.

She also raced at multiple international events, and only narrowly missed out on third place overall in the Vertical World Circuit. Other highlights included third at the Pyramidenkogel-Turmlauf, second at VertiGO in Paris and third at Subida Vertical Grand Hotel Bali.

Unfortunately, Frost started the year injured and on crutches and has only just begun slowly getting back into training. Will she be back in fully competitive condition by 11 March? We really hope so. Fingers crossed!

If she is, expect to see her pushing for the top six. If not, she won’t make the final.

@sarahchaneyfrost

Anais Leroy – France

Anais Leroy La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel

Still a relative newcomer to the sport of tower running – although a long-time quality runner on the track (3,000m SC) and in cross country – Leroy continues to make an impact when she crosses over onto the stairs. She was fifth on her La Verticale debut in 2018, then missed the 2019 edition despite being selected.

But she was back in action a couple of months later when she took first at the 954-step VertiGO at Tour First in Paris. She then ran sub five-minutes to take third at Broadgate Tower in July in a stacked field of international runners.

Her track speed will serve her well over the 665 steps and we expect to see her pushing for a top-eight finish.

@anais__leroy

Maria Elisa Lopez Pimentel – Mexico

Maria Lopez Pimentel

One of the stars of the fast-emerging Mexican tower running scene, Lopez Pimentel has raced at the Eiffel Tower twice and finished in sixth place on both occasions.

She had a very successful 2019 season, including multiple wins and top five finishes. She was winner of the sprint, and second in the vertical mile, at the competitive Dallas Vert Mile event in January, and then second at Scale the Strat in Las Vegas in February.

She won the Mexican Towerrunning Championships in July at Pabellon M Monterrey and followed this up a week later with a win at the 654-step Carrera Vertical UVM Campus Chapultepec.

Her season ended on a high in December with victory at the Carrera Towerrunning WTC (868 steps), which was fully stacked with Mexico’s top tower runners.

If she can carry that form over the short courses into 2020 then she has a solid chance of making the final. If she manages that, then we expect to see her finishing in around sixth, seventh, or eighth place.

@melisapml

Ilona Gradus – Poland

Ilona Gradus

The third Polish athlete in the Elite division, Ilona Gradus is making her La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel debut.

She had an excellent 2019 season and her results were enough to see her finish in sixth place in the Towerrunning World Association rankings.

Among the highlights were a couple of sprint wins at European venues. First she was fastest at the 524-step Atomium Stair Race in Brussels, Belgium back in June. Then she took victory at Bieg Po Schodach Collegium Altum (392 steps) in Poznan, Poland in October.

Other impressive performances included finishing third at the Altus Cup in Poland, second at the UFO Vertical Sprint in Bratislava (which involves three runs of 430 steps), sixth at Rondo 1 in Poland, and sixth at Subida Vertical Grand Hotel Bali in Benidorm.

She finished the year with a solid win at the Yayasan TM Tower Run (1,296 steps) in Malaysia in November and was then 12th at the Towerrunning Tour Final, finishing ahead of some of her La Verticale rivals.

Will be surprised not to see her in the final, but the top end of the table might be out of reach.

Cristina Bonacina – Italy

Cristina-Bonacina-

Winner of the Towerrunning World Cup in 2011, Bonacina is a highly experienced tower runner with a full spread of wins and podium finishes at venues around the world. She’s well familiar with the Eiffel Tower, too, having raced at the venue four times (2015-17, 2019).

Bonacina had a busy 2019 season, with her results bringing her up to fourth place in the Towerrunning World Association rankings.

Given the strong field of competitors, the Italian will have her work cut out to be in the 10 that proceed to the final. It’s within her capabilities, but she will have to be in top form.

@cristina_bonacina

Amandine Bertrand – France

Amandine Bertrand La verticale de la tour eiffel

Another top French athlete who will be flying the flag for the home nation on March 11th. Bertrand debuted at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel in 2018 and took seventh. Last year she finished eighth.

She had a decent 2019 season, finishing 7th at Subida Vertical Grand Hotel Bali, fourth at VertiGO in Paris, and ninth at the Dubai Holding SkyRun.

There are a number of faster women in the line up and Bertrand will be up against it to make the cut off for the final 10. But a return to 2018 form and she will be able to pull it off.

@amandine.20.bertrand

Maria Beltran Toledo – Spain

Maria Beltran Toledo

Another crossover athlete, Beltran Toledo is an excellent trail and mountain runner who is making her debut at the Eiffel Tower.

Although not a regular on the tower running circuit, the Spaniard still has a lot of race experience on the stairs and has proven herself capable of hanging with the top stair climbers a number of times.

She was second at Subida Vertical Grand Hotel Bali in 2016 and third in 2017 and 2018. She was also second at the Broadgate Tower Run Up in 2018. Last year she was 11th at the Towerrunning Tour Final.

Her times at Broadgate Tower and Grand Hotel Bali suggest the sprint format in Paris could really suit her.

We think she has a good chance of making the final.

@mariabeltrantoledo

Rosalyn Russell – Philippines

Rosalyn Russell towerrunning

A successful marathoner and trail runner with loads of tower running experience, Russell should be expecting to make the final in Paris.

She was sixth in the final Vertical World Circuit rankings last year.  A seventh placed finish at Allianz Tower in Milan, fifth at One World Trade Center in New York and sixth at the Beijing Vertical Run were among her best results in very competitive races.

But she also took wins at the Fight for Air Climb Miami (648 steps) in March and the Manila Vertical Run (1,353 steps) in September.

Russell ended the year with an impressive ninth at the Towerrunning Tour Final.

If she can carry that form into 2020, she has a chance of making it to the final.

@roserussell101

Laury Eloy – France

Laury Eloy

Another long-distance trail runner crossing over to the stairs, Eloy made her debut at the Eiffel Tower last year. She finished 10th, just behind Cristina Bonacina and Amandine Bertrand.

A lack of experience on the stairs can cause real issues when trying to effectively pace a sprint climb and this might catch Eloy out come March.

We don’t think we’ll see her in the final.

@laury_eloy

Meg Santanna – USA

Unless you’re a US tower runner, or a keen follower of the sport, you might not be familiar with the name Meg Santanna. The American doesn’t tend to race internationally (it’s her La Verticale debut this year), but she is well capable of holding her own against the bulk of the women on this list.

Santanna was third at SkyRise Chicago (2,123 steps) back in November last year, finishing ahead of La Verticale rivals Rosalyn Russell and Maria Elisa Lopez Pimentel. She was also third at the USA Stairclimbing Championships 2019 at Scale the Strat, Las Vegas and sixth at the Empire State Building Run-Up.

The Charlotte, NC-based athlete also took first place at the Tunnel to Towers event at the 1,207-step Duke Energy Center in her home city, and was second at the Fight For Air Climb Charlotte (883 steps).

She’s been competing at the top in the States for a few years now. She was second at the USA Stairclimbing Championships in 2017 and third in 2018. She was also third at the Empire State Building Run-Up in 2017.

If the race at the Eiffel Tower was full distance, we’d bank on Santanna finishing well inside the top 10. But the sprint format for this year throws up so many unknowns. It’s hard to predict with any confidence how she’ll fare on her debut.

@meginthequeencity

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