News : What you should know about Val D’Aran By UTMB as told by its director
After having had to postpone due to the pandemic in what was to be its debut year (2020), this 2021 we can affirm that one of the most anticipated races on the national and international calendar will be able to premiere, especially in the world of racing. ultradistance and the mountain. We are talking about the Val D’Aran by UTMB, the first ‘daughter’, so to speak, in Spain of the mythical Montblanc Ultra Trail, surely the most emblematic mountain event that exists. In a wonderful and pure mountain environment such as this Catalan region and with an organization that has made every effort to make it a success, this Val D’Aran By UTMB looks spectacular and will be held on 9, 10 and 11 of July.
Its director tells us about it
To learn a little more about the alternatives it offers us, the services, the environment, the characteristics and much more, we chatted with its director, Xavi Pocino:
“We are that… I am looking forward to the day. We have been working on this project since the end of 2018-beginning of 2019, so we have not been able to leave for two years. You really want to see the first and last come out because it will mean that a dream will have been fulfilled not only for the runners but for the entire organization ”.
How does it all come about?
“It was a bit typical of being at the right time. Luckily for me I got a place for a UTMB test in 2018. I had never been there in Chamonix and I fell in love. I think you have to go once in a lifetime. There I saw that UTMB organized races in China, Argentina, Oman. And I thought … boh! well here in Val D’Aran we can organize it. When I arrived I said to a friend: “Hey, we could organize a UTMB test here in Val D’Aran”. Total, I took the number that came out on the web, I called (I think the girl must have thought that he had called a ‘moron’) ”.
“It was starting the negotiation and a little bit going through stages. UTMB told me: Do you have enough mountain to mount a test of this style? I said yes, undoubtedly. We couldn’t organize it in Collserola, it wouldn’t make sense. Here we have enough mountain, height, hardness. And there we were negotiating until in May 2019 the agreement was closed and we sealed the first race in 2020. But COVID arrived ”.
“La Val d’Aran by UTMB It is the first test, outside of the original Chamonix, to be done in Europe. But it was a bug, a bug on my part and they accepted. I came from the organizational world of racing, I knew what we were talking about. And until we have reached the point that we are eight people working exclusively for it ”.
The attractions of the place
“I always say that a subdivision should be made between the mountain tests and the trail tests. Trail and ultras races are made in places where it doesn’t make sense. Here we speak of heights of 3000 meters, of alpine meadows, of snow in some areas in summer. In Colomers there are 50 or 60 lakes in a small space, areas similar to the Scottish Highlands … That is, we offer in these 160km of long race and also the 105 and 55 different scenarios, nothing repetitive. The difference between the UTMB here and the one in Chamonix is that it is wilder. There everything is more orderly, the rivers have their bridges. Not here. At km 6 you have to get wet and your feet. We are aware that the first year most of them come to us for the UTMB brand, but when they come out it will be very different. It is an area little exploited, of wonderful people ”.
What does it mean to be part of the Ultra Trail World Tour?
“Our vision has always been to internationalize the Pyrenees. To do one more race, we stay at home or we don’t go with the UTMB brand. We were aware that under the auspices of UTMB everyone can meet you. It is the best awareness campaign of the Pyrenees carried out in recent years. The television rights of Ultra Trail World Tour are distributed by more than 600 networks around the world. At some point our show will be on television in Wisconsin. It is the strength that gives us belonging to circuits of this type ”.
Some scandal data
“The summary of the data is that we will have about 4,300 runners spread over four events from 80 countries. They will come with an average of 2.5 companions per participant, an average of 4 nights of overnight stay, an average age of 45 years, who come from the other side of the world. We will have between 18 and 19,000 people between runners and the public in the Aran Valley. Is there enough hotel offer? Yes, thanks to Baqueira. And that is another of our positive points. We have calculated that we need between 600 and 650 volunteers, we had more than 28,000 liters of water for the 15 aid stations (we have reduced or almost eliminated the plastic bottles). The truth is that we have a monster ”.
Tests and circuits
“The base is the VDA, the Torn dera Val d’Aran. It is like a fairly complete tour of the Val d’Aran. It leaves Vielha and arrives in Vielha. All runners will spend the first night on the mountain. The first runner is expected at around 22-24 hours and the last at 48 hours. But the majority will arrive after 40h, so many will spend two nights in the mountains. It is a race that passes through a very aerial area, then goes down to Bossòst, then goes towards the Minas area, the Beret area and ends in the next area, which is the Colomers area, the peripheral area of the Parc d ‘ Aigüestortes ”.
“The CDH It leaves Les and takes advantage of the last 105 kilometers of the VDA. It passes mainly through the mining area, remembering the mining past of the region. It leaves on Friday first thing in the morning and the first runner is expected at 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm ”.
“The Peades d’Aigua It leaves on Sunday morning from Beret. He makes the last 55 kilometers of the VDA. But it is that the corridor passes through 28 high mountain lakes. They all have the same circuit ”.
“Finally we decided to create this 15 for companions on Saturday morning, for the general public. It makes Beret-Beret but it also has impressive views towards the Aneto ”.
“In the Aran Valley you can only do the tests in July or August. Being the UTMB in August we decided to do it in July. There is usually a regular window between June 25 and July 20, which is when the weather is best here in the region. Each runner has the mandatory material in the regulations. We have the obligatory kit (which you have to take yes or yes), the one for bad weather and the one for heatwave. Because even if people don’t believe it, the issue of heat is worse than rain ”.
Where to stay and services
“There are no more places in Vielha for those dates. You have to go to other nearby towns, but hey, there’s room for everyone. Together with the Consell we will try to offer a series of neighboring things to do and visit. In Beret we will do races for young children, in Vielha there will be a trail expo, a gastronomic area of local products. Try to get people to have a whole package of experience. We work a lot so that the companion has a service to follow the runner. Some buses that will go from refreshment to refreshment station to be able to follow the corridor. All that will be reinforced ”.
The big concern: COVID
“Two things. My main obsession right now, although people may not believe it, is not COVID, but the safety of the mountain runners. It is an obsession of us and UTMB. The COVID issue of course worries me, but I want to give a message of reassurance. There are 100 days left, the vaccination is progressing. I think everything is going to change a lot. But if we had to do it next week we would know how to do it. Transgrancanaria did the race recently, the Trail Rocacorba also. We know how to live with the virus and, apart from that, I always say that the trail has an advantage ”.
“The importance of the crowds we can guarantee on the trail that the runner will always be on the mountain at least four meters alone. The only problem is the output and we are going to enable that. If the test arrives and you have to ask for a test or whatever we will see, we are prepared for any scenario. I ask for peace of mind. An unequivocal message that we are going to do it ”.
The trail camps
“Here, COVID has done us a bit of damage because we had one for April and we have canceled it. These Trail Camps is something different from what is seen in Spain. To make a simile we are saying that you come to spend 3 days in a hotel with Leo Messi and that every day you are going to go out to play with him. Will be Jordi Gamito, Maite Maiora, Xavier Thevenard … You will be able to learn from them, a small group. That’s the idea. On parts of the test, with the level of each one, sections will be worked, knowing the valley, etc. Open to runners and non-runners. Exploiting the idea that Val D’Aran is trail territory ”.