Posts Tagged ‘Tower running’

Lobodzinski Empire State Run Up 2019

Piotr Lobodzinski is unbeaten so far in 2019 and now appears practically invincible. Is it a problem for tower running or does it add to the excitement of following the sport?

Speaking after winning silver in the 400m final at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GB athlete Roger Black admitted that he and six of his fellow athletes had been competing for second place. They all knew they stood no chance against the incredible Michael Johnson from the USA, who won the gold medal in a new Olympic record.

Johnson didn’t finish any lower than second in a 400m race from the start of the 1993 season to the Olympic final in 1996 (a total of 37 races). And those second-place finishes were in the heats or semi-finals of major championships where he was likely just doing enough to qualify.

This is just one example of extreme one-sidedness in athletics. Usain Bolt had a 45-race win streak from 2013-2017, which came after his complete dominance at the World and Olympic finals before that period.

Going back a little further, Ed Moses dominated the 400m hurdles for a full decade, amassing a win streak of over 100 races.

Great runners

Moses, Johnson and Bolt all dominated for years

But dominance in the track and field sprint events is a little different. Even when Moses, Johnson and Bolt were winning repeatedly, the margins of victory were quite often small. That’s expected in the 100m and 200m (although Bolt of course had some famously massive wins in those events), but in the 400m races, Johnson and Moses were also often only winning by less than half a second.

That is, their races were still highly competitive…for the most part.

What about tower running?

Two-time tower running world champion Piotr Lobodzinski has been on top of the sport for over five years.

He’s been beaten before – Tomas Celko, Christian Riedl and Mark Bourne have all bested the Polish star over various distances on occasion in recent years.

But this season Lobodzinski seems to have elevated himself to another level that has him out of reach of almost all of his rivals.

Has the competitiveness gone out of men’s tower running at the very top?

Is a sport dominated by one person in danger of becoming boring, or does this display of individual brilliance serve as a welcome inspiration for tower running fans and participants?

Lobodzinski’s season so far

After winning his second Towerrunning World Championship title in 2018, the Polish superstar headed into the 2019 season with confidence high.

He got things underway in February in Dubai, with a perfunctory win at the 1,600-step Vertical Run Almas Tower, where he finished 91 seconds ahead of the second-placed male. High level international competition was largely absent from the event.

Next was the Rondo 1 race in Warsaw, Poland. Back on home turf, Lobdodzinski was expected to be pushed a bit harder on the mid-length course by some of Europe’s top tower runners, and he was.

But he still came out on top relatively unscathed, finishing 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Görge Heimann. Although it may not seem that big a gap to the uninitiated, considering the length of the course – 836 steps – it is fairly significant.

In March, he was back in Paris at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel to attempt to win the event for the fifth time in a row.

A very serious test was anticipated ahead of this race. Only Mark Bourne was absent from the full list of elite tower runners from around the world in attendance.

At previous editions it had been Germany’s Christian Riedl who had come closest to toppling Lobodzinski. In 2016, less than six seconds separated the pair. In 2017, the margin of difference was just under 10 seconds, while in 2018 it was 15 seconds. Although the gap was growing, it was still manageable, and an improving field of competitors was expected to launch a stiff test.

Lobodzinski La Vertical Tour Eiffel 2019

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel 2019

But Lobodzinski finished an unbelievable 50 seconds ahead of Jakob Mayer in second to secure a fifth straight title. Conditions on the day were bad, and it clearly impacted the runners, but Lobodzinski was unfazed. Once again he dipped under the eight minute mark, clocking a time very consistent with all his other wins.

It was this performance that made keen observers sit up and really take in how supreme he was becoming. Yes, he had been on top for some time, but this win was different.

Dominating the Vertical World Circuit

With a couple of solid wins at European venues in the bag, Lobodzinski headed to Asia to compete on the Vertical World Circuit.

First up was the 2,919-step Lotte World Tower International Sky Run in Seoul, Korea and a face-off with Australian star Mark Bourne.

Lotte World Tower run up race 2019

Lotte World Tower, Seoul, Korea

Bourne was the record holder at the tower, having set the best time of 15:44 in 2017.

Lobodzinski had beaten Bourne at the 2018 edition in a personal best of 15:53.

At the race on 6th April, Lobodzinski set a new course record of 15:37 – a huge 16 second improvement on his previous fastest time. Bourne himself ran a magnificent race to finish just two seconds behind in 15:39.

A week later the pair went head-to-head again in Milan in another leg of the Vertical World Circuit. The 1,027-step Allianz Tower serving as the venue this time.

At the finish, less than a second separated them. But once again it was Lobodzinski who came out on top, setting a new course record of 5:16 in the process.

Allianz Vertical Run 2019 Lobodzinski win

Lobodzinski celebrates his win in Milan alongside fellow winner Suzy Walsham

Bourne was proving Lobodzinski’s biggest rival. Each time coming so close, but just not getting the breaks.

Two weeks later the Australian had another chance to attempt to beat his rival. The action returned to Asia for the inaugural Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81 – Race to the Summit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 2,383 steps stood between the bottom and the top of the world’s 14th tallest tower.

Bourne and Lobodzinski had been splitting victories for a number of years now in some of the regions tallest towers, so another close contest was anticipated. Especially after the particularly tight race in Seoul.

But once again Lobodzinski pulled out a performance for the ages. His finishing time of 11:35 was a massive 50 seconds faster than Bourne’s.

Pulling away in May

A week later on 5 May it was the Taipei 101 Run Up, where Lobodzinski had won his second world title in 2018.

He completely dominated again. This time running a personal best 10:46. Bourne was once more his nearest rival, but he finished 41 seconds back in 11:27.

A gap was opening up.

Taipei 101 Run Up 2019 Lobodzinski

Piotr Lobodzinski wins the 2019 Taipei 101 Run Up

On 14 May the Empire State Building Run-Up welcomed Lobodzinski. There was no Bourne in attendance, but Soh Wai Ching and Fabio Ruga were there to keep Lobodzinski on his toes.

But in reality they didn’t. Lobodzinski ran one of the fastest times ever at the venue (becoming the second-fastest man ever behind only Paul Crake). He crossed the line in 10:05, a full 1:13 ahead of Wai Ching in second place.

Lobodzinski Empire State Run Up 2019

Lobodzinski crosses the Empire State Building Run-Up finish line in the fifth fastest time ever

Had there been a shift in the dynamics of the competition? Were the other runners competing for second place? It was beginning to appear that way. Three races on the trot and nobody had come even close to challenging Lobodzinski.

At the end of the month he returned to Wroclaw, Poland where he clocked another straightforward win, this time against almost exclusively Polish competition.

A quiet June and July followed, with a break from tower running.

Another level of dominance

On 24 August he returned to action at the 1,704-step Ostankino Tower in Moscow.

Lobodzinski had finished second there in 2018 behind Christian Riedl, trailing the German by just a second.

Riedl was absent this time around, but even if he had been in attendance it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Lobodzinski was on another level and he set a new course record of 9:36, taking 15 seconds off the previous best time.

The perfect season?

So let’s ‘punch the numbers’, so to speak.

  • Ten races
  • Ten wins
  • Four course records (Lotte Tower, Allianz Tower and Ostankino Tower, plus default record at the inaugural race at Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81)
  • Two additional personal bests (Taipei 101 and Empire State Building)

Lobodzinski has been on top for a number of years now, but this season he is showcasing an unprecedented degree of dominance. It feels like he is now competing on a level all of his own. There may even be more PBs in some of the races, such as Wroclaw, we’re unaware of. It’s unbelievable.

As a fan of the sport it’s exciting to see an athlete at the top of his powers, breaking records and getting closer to marks such as the mythic sub 10-minute ESBRU finish.

Personally, we like to see athletes like Lobodzinski raising the bar, bringing new levels of excellence to the sport and showing what’s achievable. But there’s a limit to how long it can go on for before things start to get a little dull, and we think men’s tower running is fast approaching it.

A key element of the appeal of following elite level sports is the competition. Take that away and what’s left?

To be fair, it’s not 100% clear that Lobodzinski has completely pulled away. But he’s been winning almost everything there is to win for close to five years and his most recent set of performances this year do indicate a shift of some kind.

If he completes the ‘perfect’ season by going unbeaten in 2019, and does so by continuing to clock significant winning margins along the way, it will be hugely impressive, but it might also have a negative impact on the appeal of the sport from the fan’s perspective.

Yes, Mark Bourne was just one or two seconds away from winning a couple of those races earlier in the year, but Lobodzinski has since opened up a gap. Bourne is capable of getting back to winning ways, but if he will or not remains to be seen.

Christian Riedl is off the scene, only dipping in for the occasional race here or there.

Soh Wai Ching and Ryoji Watanabe are making great gains, but they still appear some way off being considered strong enough rivals to topple Lobodzinski.

There are four races left in the Vertical World Circuit where we might get to see Lobodzinski and Bourne go head-to-head again. Other races outside of the VWC will also likely see Lobodzinski face the best in the world.

Will they be able to rein him back in or will we all just be following the Piotr Lobodzinski Show until he calls time on his glittering career?

But let’s be clear. Despite the slightly provocative title of this post, we are massive fans of Showtime Lobodzinski. He is a brilliant ambassador for the sport and we thoroughly enjoy following his stair climbing exploits around the globe. He’s making the most of his powers to reap the rewards and accolades of years of hard work and training, and long may it continue.

We’d love to see him complete a perfect, unbeaten run in 2019, but maybe he could falter at least once in 2020…just to keep things interesting.

Soh Wai-Ching Vertical Rush 2019

Soh Wai Ching took an impressive win on his Vertical Rush debut in London last Thursday.

The Malaysian athlete was first up the 932 steps of Tower 42 in a time of 4:17.

His impressive finish makes him the fourth fastest person to ever race the tower, with only Thomas Dold (3:58), Piotr Lobodzinski (3:59) and Fabio Ruga (4:11) having run faster in the 11 editions of the UK’s biggest stair race for the charity Shelter.

Tower 42 London

London’s Tower 42, home to Shelter’s Vertical Rush since 2009

Wai Ching was an unexpected entry, having journeyed in from Paris, where he had finished fourth the night before at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel.

The UK’s Mark Howard, also making his Vertical Rush debut, laid down the early marker in the 10am wave, where he finished in 4:48.

He was followed at 11am by fellow Briton, Mark Sims, who was coming into the race off the back of recent wins at the Christie Tower Run in Manchester and the LOROS Tower Run in Leicester.

Sims managed to beat the 5:00 that earned him second place at last year’s event, but his 4:58 finish was a little way off the faster Howard.

At 3pm, Wai Ching and Slovakian athlete Michal Kovac turned up. Kovac had also been in Paris the evening before, where he had finished in an impressive seventh position.

Wai Ching held off the challenge of his rival, crossing the line in 4:17, with Kovac just nine seconds behind him in 4:28.

At 6pm, Laurence Ball-King, who won the GOSH Walkie Talkie Tower Climb on his tower running debut at the start of the month, put in another impressive performance to finish in 4:49 and earn fourth overall.

Drinkwater defends her title

Susie Drinkwater

In the women’s division, the 2018 champion Susie Drinkwater returned to defend her title.

Drinkwater had been a surprise winner last year on her stair racing debut, but had picked up a decent amount of race experience in the intervening 12 months and was expected to do well.

She exceeded expectations, taking a massive 30 seconds off her time from last year to take first place in 5:41. That time makes her the fourth fastest woman to have run the tower since it opened up for racing in 2009. Only Suzy Walsham (5:01), Anna Frost (5:30) and Lenka Svabikova (5:36) have finished faster.

Sophie Gladwell was second in 6:20 and Krissy Hartigan was third in 6:27.

Full Vertical Rush 2019 results

In 2001, everyone wanted to know just how much faster course record holder Paul Crake could run the Empire State Building. As it turned out, a lot faster.

If you missed the first installment of this series on the history of the Empire State Building Run-Up covering 1978-1980, you can read it here. Or jump back to 1981-19831984-19871988-19901991-19931994-199719981999 or 2000 instead.

Otherwise read on for the next installment in the series and find out how the ESBRU record fell again in 2001.

Back to the mountains

With the first ever sub 10-minute finish at the Empire State Building Run-Up in the bag, a jubilant Crake headed to Mt Coree on Saturday 18th March 2000 to attempt to win a second national mountain running title.

The Australian Mountain Running Championship featured the best of the best from around the country, so winning this was going to be a serious challenge.

The race involved a 7km uphill run to the summit of Mt Coree, followed by a 2.5km descent before turning around and running 2.5km back to the summit.

1999 champion Bruce Hogg didn’t return, but there was new, and old, competition standing between Crake and a second national title, including 1996 champion David Osmond.

In particular, former national junior cross country champion Daniel Green was coming into the race in fantastic form. He had clocked a half-marathon PB of 65 minutes in Tokyo back in January, and just 11 days before the national championship race he had broken the course record at the Mt Ainslie run-up by six seconds.

Crake and Green pulled away from the pack during the race and it came down to a straight battle between the two of them.

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David Osmond (101) during the 2000 Championship race at Mt Coree.

Green pulled away towards the end to win the championship in 54:55, with Crake a couple of minutes back in 56:54.

2000 Sky Tower Vertical Challenge, Auckland

Two weeks later, on Saturday 1st April, Crake was in New Zealand to face off against Jonathan Wyatt who had beaten him at the Sky Tower Vertical Challenge in 1999.

As in the year before, the race for victory to the top of the 1,051 stairs was between these two giants.

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Wyatt and Crake head toward the finish at the 2000 Sky Tower Vertical Challenge

The times were slightly slower than the year before but the result was the same, with Wyatt winning in 5:20 and Crake second in 5:42.

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Mt Ainslie Run Up

Just three days after the Auckland race, Crake was back to winning ways at the Mt Ainslie Run Up in Canberra, finishing in a personal best of 10:39.

Held on the first Tuesday of every month, the race attracted top runners from all around ACT and NSW. The course was 2.2km long with a 230 metre elevation gain.

He would go on to win the run-up five more times in the year 2000, and set a new course record of 10:11 on the 14th November.

Telekom Malaysia Towerthon 2000

On May 14th, Crake was in Malaysia to race up the Kuala Lumpur Tower. He was facing off against a highly accomplished group of international athletes from various disciplines, including Jonathan Wyatt, Rudi Reitberger and Russian mountain runner Iourri Oussatchev (who would finish 13th at the World Mountain Running Championships a few months later).

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Kuala Lumpur Tower, Malaysia

Wyatt was the defending champion of the grueling event, which began with an 800m uphill run into a climb of 2,058 steps.

Wyatt once more dominated on the stairs, breaking his own course record and winning in 10:24. Crake was second and Reitberger was third.

In the women’s division, Angela Sheean (1999 ESBRU champion and newly crowned two-time Australian Mountain Running Champion) was back to defend her KL Tower title. She was facing off against New Zealanders Melissa Moon, who had placed third at the World Mountain Running Championship in 1997 and 1998, and Maree Bunce who had won the Sky Tower race in Auckland in April and had finished third at the World Championships in 1999.

It was Moon who took the win in 13:24.

World Mountain Running Championships 2000

In September Crake took part in his third World Mountain Running Championship, which was held in Bergen, Germany. The 12km race was a hard one and Crake finished 54th in a field of 131 men, his poorest finish in the event.

The incredible Jonathan Wyatt won the race to secure his second world mountain running title.

Closing out the year on top

Despite some disappointments in the first two thirds of the year, the back end of 2000 was packed full of fantastic performances by Paul Crake.

In August he won the Mt Tennent Challenge and in November he won the Four Peaks event.

This four-day event involves a race each day up one of the peaks in the mountainous region north-west of Melbourne.

Crake set new course records at each of the mountains he ran: Porepunkah, Feathertop, Hotham and Buffalo.

He was also back to winning ways on the stairs, taking his second title at the Sydney Tower Run-Up with a record-breaking time of 6:52.

He finished the year with his fourth straight victory at the 5km Black Mountain Challenge, taking the win in a personal best 17:11.

The new year began with a win and new course record at the Crackenback Challenge in Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains of NSW. In supreme form, he headed to New York for the ESBRU on Wednesday 7th February 2001.

2001 Empire State Building Run-Up

Given his sub 10-minute performance the year before, and how far he’d finished ahead of experienced ESBRU athletes Terry Purcell and Rudi Reitberger, the question at the 2001 Empire State Building Run-Up wasn’t, ‘Can anyone catch Crake?’, it was, ‘How fast can he go?’.

Although the fast finishers from the previous few years were missing, there were a few familiar names at the start line who’d be aiming for a top-ten or top-15 spot, including Stephen Marsalese who had first raced ESBRU in 1996, and Rolf Majcen who had debuted in 2000.

Holger Munkelt from Germany was also back for another go at the course.

holger munkelt

Holger Munkelt

Coming from a middle and long-distance road running background – with a 2.25 marathon among his many accomplishments – Munkelt had taken part in his first stair race in 1997 at the City-Hochhaus, which at the time was part of the University of Leipzig campus. He had won that 691-step race with ease. The top prize for the winner was a trip to New York to race the ESBRU the following year.

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City-Hochhaus, Leipzig

Following his debut at the 1998 ESBRU, where he finished fifth, he went on to win races at the Berlin TV Tower and the Monument of the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig.

Munkelt was certainly one to watch, although he would probably have to do a fair bit better than his 11:47 from 1998 to be in contention for a podium place.

There were more incredibly strong racers among the 113 other men competing.

Thailand’s 5000m and 10,000m record holder, Boonchu Jandacha, had been invited over to take part.

Markus Zahlbruckner was maintaining the strong tradition of excellent Austrian athletes to compete at the ESBRU. His compatriots Bernd Hammer, Rudi Reitberger and Matthias Schreiner had all managed to make it on to the podium at least once, and Zahlbruckner was eager to join their ranks.

For Zahlbruckner, success in stair running began in 1999, when he finished second at the 776-step Danube Tower race in Vienna. In November 2000, he won the Danube Tower event, which earned him an invitation to the 2001 Empire State Building Run-Up.

Strong Brazilian Sandro Goncalves was sure to be in the mix for a top five finish. He would later go on to represent his country at international level duathlons. A strong Pole called Jaroslaw Lazarowicz also had a good shot at a top-five finish.

Sproule Love, a crossover athlete who had finished in the top-10 at the US Olympic Trials for winter biathlon in 1998, was flying the flag for the home nation and was favoured to be the top-finishing American male. He had finished 7th in his ESBRU debut in 1999 without any specific preparation, but was now back having done some more specific work to be ready for the demands of tower running.

2001 start line

(L-R) Paul Crake (1), Sproule Love (blue hat, head down behind Crake) Rolf Majcen (flowery leggings checking watch), Markus Zahlbruckner (15), Carlos Parra (11), Sandro Goncalves (10), Boonchu Jandacha (7) and Jaroslaw Lazarowicz (red and white)

All-in-all it was a strong field of athletes, but whether any of them could hang with Crake for the full duration of the course was to be seen.

As usual Crake got an excellent start and made it first through the door into the stairwell. He then ran a brilliant race, dropping his rivals in the final third of the course. Lazarowicz ran with him over the first 50 floors but was unable to maintain the pace and Crake dropped him. In the race video below (@ 1:16) you can see how strong and fresh Crake still looks at the 65th floor.

Crake would have known he was going fast and probably felt another sub 10-minute finish was on the cards. But the king of the ESBRU was accustomed to running naturally, eschewing technology and sensing his way up the building with a finely honed internal pacing system. Without a watch he couldn’t have known exactly how fast he had run.

His finishing time was an unbelievable 9:37. He had taken 16 seconds off his improbable winning time from the year before.

2001 colour crake finish

Paul Crake sets a new course record of 9:37

‘You know what they say, ‘third time lucky’, but I’ve already won the race twice so it’s more like, ya know…I’m pretty pleased about that one’, Crake said. ‘The race went pretty much as I planned. There was a lot of pushing and shoving at the start but then I settled in.’

The race for the remaining podium places was tightly contested. Germany’s Holger Munkelt took second in 11:02 and American Sproule Love became only the second American since 1994 to make it onto the podium (Jesus Zerpa was third in 1998).

Moll aims for third title

It was an exclusive group of women that had won the Run-Up three times: Nina Kuscsik (1979-81), Janine Aiello (1985-86, 1988) and Belinda Soszyn (1994, 1996-97). At the 2001 ESBRU Cindy Moll was heavily tipped to join them.

In January she had broken the course record at the Bop to the Top in Indianapolis, with a winning time of 4:26. It was the seventh time in a row she’d won the race. Among the 38 women on the start line in New York, she was the one to beat.

Moll’s ESBRU rival Fiona Bayly was back again, hoping to push the reigning champion a bit harder than she had in 2000.

2001 womens start

Also in the race was Nelly Simón from Mexico (who we suspect may be the same Simón that’s now a sports analyst with ESPN). Her 15:00 finish the year before had earned her fifth place, so she was an outside shot for a podium place given the slightly reduced quality of the field compared to previous editions.

Also an outside shot for third place was Stacy Creamer, who had finished ahead of Simón in 2000, clocking a 14:22. Not among the fastest women, but possibly good enough to get her on the podium if the going was slow all-round. Over the following 10-15 years, Creamer actually went on to become a solid age group duathlete and triathlete, competing at international competitions for the USA and even bagging some top-3 finishes.

Bayly, Moll and Simón all got good starts, with Moll getting off the line marginally quickest. But the taller Simón kept her arms out and managed to muscle ahead of Moll to get into the stairwell first. Moll followed, with Bayly immediately behind her.

But as it turned out, Moll could have given her rivals a minute head start, and she would still have reined them in, such was her conditioning on the day.

The two-time champ was unstoppable, clocking a personal best 12:45 and securing her third win from four starts.

‘I didn’t like the beginning, I never do’, Moll told reporters. ‘Fortunately I didn’t fall. It’s really hard at the beginning because it’s that mass start, but after I got through the first few floors and away from the pack, then I felt a lot better about the race.’

2001 Empire State Building Run-Up results

 

Continue reading the history of the ESBRU with the story of the 2002 race.

The latest rankings from the Towerrunning World Association have been released and Britain’s own Mark “The Marauder” Sims has claimed his highest position ever with a slot at number 31.

Already well established as the UK’s top climber, Sims has had a stellar season so far with standout performances at the two London races we’ve had this year, as well as a strong turnout at the three races that made up the European Grand Prix in June.

Mark Sims powers up Vienna's Danube Tower at the European Grand Prix

Mark Sims powers up Vienna’s Danube Tower at the European Grand Prix

To be honest, we think that The Marauder’s position does not fully reflect his potential. Given the opportunity to compete in as many events as some of his fellow elite climbers, it is undoubtable that he would be higher ranked. With a few more UK races still to take place this year we are hopeful that Mark will be able to finish the 2015 season well inside the top 30.

The Streak is still going. Piotr “Showtime” Lobodzinski, the reigning Towerrunning World Champion and World Cup winner 2014, remains undefeated in 2015.

He added another victory on 23 May in Wroclaw, Poland at the second Sky Tower Run. The race involved an elimination round followed by a final run up the the Sky Tower’s 1,242 steps, with Showtime coming out on top in both rounds. He was pushed hard by “The Zilina Avalanche” Tomas Celko who took silver, while Poland’s Daniel “Steak Pie” Karolkiewicz took a well earned third by jumping up a place in the final round.

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The men’s podium at the Sky Tower Run 2015

Fastest woman in Wroclaw was Poland’s Dominika “The Rising Sun” Wisniewska-Ulfik who, like Showtime, finished first in both rounds.

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Dominika Wiśniewska-Ulfik tops the podium once again in Poland

In Madrid, Spain there was an inaugural event at the Torre Picasso. Formerly the country’s tallest building, the tower has since been dwarfed by a handful of other skyscrapers, but with 798 steps it still posed a solid challenge for the 616 competitors who climbed.

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Torre Picasso in Madrid, Spain

International tower running superstar David “El Conquistador” Robles Tapia, who is currently second in the Vertical World Circuit rankings, took a fairly comfortable win in a time of 4.15.

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El Conquistador blasts through the doorway at the top of Torre Picasso to take the win

His nearest rivals were “The Taxman” Alejandro Montero Justo and “The Wanderer” Ralf Majcen, who both finished in 4.43. That’s now three podium finishes on the trot for Majcen, who is having a brilliant season so far.

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The winner’s podium with Montero Justo (l), Robles (c) and Majcen (r).

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