As we go into the final week before the 13th edition of the Atacama Crossing (Chile), we take a look at the exciting (fast) and inspiring field of competitors. There is some great competition at the top with some expected winners for both the med and women’s competition. However with a field of 45% first time 4 Desert contenders, there are bound to be a few surprises looking for a podium place.
The fast ones…
We have an impressive group of competitors joining us with a lot of people aiming for a Top place.
Our three favourites for the men’s podium are
· Zandy Mangold, 43, from the United States
· Ben Fox, 40, from the United Kingdom (resident in Hong Kong)
· Stephane Boss, 51 from France (resident in the United States)
This will be Mangold’s third time running the Atacama Crossing course which includes a 2nd place (to Mo Foustok of the UAE) in 2015, a 4th place in 2012 and a DNF in 2013 due to an on-going ankle injury. Fox is hot off a 5th place finish at the Gobi March less than four months ago and Boss is entering his first 4 Deserts Race.
For the women we will be watching
· Kathia Rached, 40, Lebanon
· Angela Zeah, 37, Germany (resident in the United States)
· Fiona Glen, 43, United Kingdom
Rached is coming to her fourth of the 4 Deserts Races having achieved a podium at the Gobi March, Sahara Race and The Last Desert (Antarctica) but has not managed a 1st place so far. Zeah completed the Gobi March this year but at a leisurely pace with a friend – she has since taken some time off work to train and run so comes to the race with experience, well-trained and a will to win. Glen has consistently achieved strong placings in her previous two 4 Deserts Races although would prefer to race in the cold than the heat.
Others who could disrupt the podium predictions include duo Jerry & Kim Bueno from Texas who both have solid long distance cycling and running backgrounds. Ricky Cao from China was the first Chinese and just outside the Top 20 at his first 4 Deserts Race in China this year. Binh Nguyen from Denmark regularly finishes strong in races in his hometown of Hong Kong. Ian Malcolm from the United Kingdom is another competitor who has the ability to do well if he has a good run. As well as Kim Bueno, the other woman we will be following is Heather Gordon from Ireland.
The inspirational ones…
We are very excited to welcome back the hugely inspirational Vladmi dos Santos who is a blind competitor from Brazil – Vladmi still holds an impressive marathon time of around 3 hours and will be joining his sixth 4 Deserts Race / RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon at the Atacama Crossing.
Of course we cannot go without a mention of the Iranian dentist Ash “Ashacama” Mokhtari who is joining his ninth consecutive Atacama Crossing (and twenty-first 4 Deserts Race / RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon)! When asked what it is about the Atacama Crossing that keeps bringing him back he says “I don’t ask myself why I come, I ask myself why would I not go”.
We also have a whopping seven people who will join the 4 Deserts Club when they complete the Atacama Crossing. That includes four people from China: CHEN Yuzeng, WANG Zhongwen, YU Guandi and ZHAN Youyi from China as well as Yuli LIN from Taiwan, Kathia RACHED from Lebanon and Taro MITSUJIMA from Japan.
For some other quick statistics:
· 27% women, 73% men
· 45% are first timers to a 4 Deserts Race
· Youngest is 22 year old Lukas Messner from Austria
· Oldest is 64 year old Victor Yung from Hong Kong
· There are nearly 40 countries represented – the top countries are Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
We have three teams competing in the Atacama Crossing this year, each from a different corner of the globe. It’s Austria vs. China vs. Canada
No Country for Three Old Men - is the team from Canada (east coast). The members are Yves Lortie, Serge Gosselin and Ricky Fontaine. These three raced as a team at the Atacama Crossing in 2015 and vowed that that there was their retirement race – they changed their mind and have re-formed for special appearance at the 2017 edition.
GM Austria – three Austrians that make up the team are Ambros Muehlbachler, Josef Goltshman and joining these 50-something year olds is the youngest competitor in the race Lukas Messner
Xiamen University Team – is a four-person team from China. They have completed all three other 4 Deserts as a team and have taken 1st place in the team category. They hope to do the same again and earn their 4 Deserts Club medal at the same time.
You can follow the race LIVE from the Atacama Desert