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Portelli crosses the Alps to reach milestone

Thrilled... Agones runner Nadia Portelli at the CCC 101km finish line.

Thrilled... Agones runner Nadia Portelli at the CCC 101km finish line.

Agones runner Nadia Portelli had good reason to be happy after completing the challenging 101km trail running race in the Alps, spanning France, Italy and Switzerland, and known in competition circles as the CCC (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix).

Portelli became the first Maltese woman ever to participate in the race, held late last month, which forms part of the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB) series, the summit of trail running with four legs that reach a peak in Chamonix, France, at this time of the year.

Only one Maltese athlete had been successful at the CCC – Kurt Micallef in 2013. He did it in 23 hours and 23 minutes.

Last year, Cliff Sultana, of Agones, finished the gruelling 119km Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (TDS) marathon, with 7,150m of positive elevation, in 31 hours and 29 minutes.

That was the longest race ever completed by a Maltese runner.

After a courageous 23-hour and 48-minute run, up and down steep and sloping mountainous terrain, in particularly hot temperatures, Portelli was more than elated to reach the gantry in 56th place in her category and 118th in the women’s CCC.

She was 813th in the general classification from 1,386 finishers.

Organisers said that 65 per cent of the starters had actually completed the whole distance.

The race winners were France’s Michel Lanne (men – 12 hours, 10 minutes) and Swede Mimmi Kotka (women – 13 hours, 42 minutes).

This year, Portelli also completed the 59km Guernsey Ultra in May and bettered her time from the previous year in the Cortina Trail (48km) in June.

Four other Maltese endurance runners also took part in the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc racing week in August and finished the OCC (Orsieres-Champex-Chamonix) race over a distance of 55km.

First in was Carmel Vella (Agones). He crossed the line in 9 hours and 2 minutes, placing 45th in his category and 179th overall.

Vella was followed by Antoine Busuttil in 9 hours and 53 minutes, ranking 170th in his category and 336th overall.

Robert Spiteri (Colours of Malta) stopped the watch at 10 hours and 19 minutes. He ranked 129th in his category and 434 in the general list.

The only Maltese woman in the OCC race was Agones’s Caroline Zammit. She made it in 10 hours and 33 minutes, placing 25th in her bracket, the 80th woman in the race and 477th overall.

The OCC race winners were France’s Xavier Thevenard (men – 5 hours and 28 minutes) and Spain’s Arcos Zafra (6 hours and 54 minutes).

There were 1,414 starters and just over 87 per cent finished the race as 182 stopped.

To take part in these races, athletes first need to gain points via other ultra marathons and then be successful in a ballot.

This year’s UTMB series had over 7,500 registered runners hailing from all parts of the globe for the four races – the OCC (55km), the CCC (101km), the TDS (119km) and the UTMB (170km).

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