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2023 OCC Preview

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Liam Tryon

By: Liam Tryon

Liam Tryon is a runner and avid consumer of trail running media, who can often be found daydreaming about the mountains, while located in Toronto, Canada.

The UTMB World Series Finals are here and we are all curious to see what the competition will bring after the first full year of a new qualification system. Initial reactions from perusing the start list? Holy sh*t these races are going to be fire! Up first is OCC, the 55-kilometer (34 mile) event, and as UTMB describes it the ‘ultimate challenge for a middle-distance runner.’ Starting Thursday, August 31st at 8:15 Central European Time runners will take off from Orsières and cover 3,425 meters (11,236 feet) of climbing on their way to the finish line in Chamonix. If you haven’t filled out your Freetrail Fantasy picks here’s a little refresher on who will be chasing the podium later this week.

Athletes to Watch: Men’s Race

Back to back World Champion Stian Angermund looks to ascend the podium during OCC.
Back to back World Champion Stian Angermund looks to ascend the podium during OCC.

Antonio Martinez Perez (Scarpa) is the top returning male runner placing second at OCC in 2022. He’s had a highly successful season so far, finishing fifth at the Transgrancanaria Marathon, third at the SkyRace des Matheysins, and took the overall wins at the Patagonia Run Marathon, MaXi-Race Marathon, and Val D’Aran by UTMB Sky Master 25k.

Robbie Simpson (Adidas Terrex) has finished on two consecutive podiums at OCC, placing third in 2022 and second in 2021. Robbie has had exceptional success in European trail racing, highlighted by 10 consecutive top-10 finishes at Sierre Zinal, including a sixth-place finish at this year’s race just a couple of weeks ago.

Arnaud Bonin (Scott) will look to improve upon his previous OCC results, finishing fourth in 2022 and 12th in 2021. He finished just off the podium in fourth earlier this year at the Short Trail French National Championships at the Trail de la Cité de Pierres but followed it up with a 3:35 50-kilometer at Desert Rats by UTMB and placed fourth at the always competitive MaXi-Race Marathon.

Stian Angermund (Asics) returns to OCC looking for a second win at this race, having just edged out his fellow racers in 2019. Stian is on a heater over the past twelve months, having won two Short Trail World Mountain and Trail Running Championships (WMTRC) in Thailand and Austria in November and June, he also took the win at Istria by UTMB Green (68k) earlier this year.

Bart Przedwojewski (Salomon) is part of a small group of pros who will take their first cracks at OCC this year. Looking to extend his success this season, Bart took overall wins at the Transgrancanaria Vertical Kilometer and 23-kilometer and has established himself in second overall in the current Golden Trail World Series standings, with solid top ten finishes at Zegama-Aizkorri, Marathon du Mont-Blanc and the Dolomyths Skyrace.

Francesco Puppi (Nike Trail) will also step up into his first race over 50 kilometers at OCC and is coming off recent success in the past 12 months, with a podium and top 10 finish at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand and Austria, respectively. Francesco also recently took the overall win at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB 46k (Cortina Trail race).

Francesco Puppi tops the list of men stepping up to their first go at OCC.
Francesco Puppi tops the list of men stepping up to their first go at OCC.

Jeshurun Small (Adidas Terrex) returns to OCC and looks to improve upon his disappointing 24th-place finish at the race last year. He has had success in his season so far, kicking it off with a win at the fast Desert Rats by UTMB half marathon, followed by podium finishes at the Canyons by UTMB 50-kilometer and Mountain Ultra Trail by UTMB 60-kilometer and a fourth-place finish at the Speedgoat by UTMB 50k.

Loic Robert (unsponsored) will be stepping into his first ultra-distance race at OCC. Robert qualified for the French national team earlier this year with a second place at the Short Trail French National Championships and followed it up with a top 25 finish at the Short Trail WMTRC this year. He’s also had notable success at prominent sky races across Europe in previous years.

Anthony Felber (Sidas/Matryx) looks to make a splash at OCC as another runner racing at this distance for the first time. Felber has had a strong racing season thus far, with a podium at the MaXi-Race Marathon and top ten finishes at the historic Neirivue-Moléson uphill race and Marathon du Mont-Blanc. He also currently sits in the top 20 in the Golden Trail World Series standings.

Andre Rodrigues (Scarpa) returns to OCC as a stronger and more developed athlete, having not finished the race at his only attempt in 2018. Andre has had success in several highly competitive races this year, including an overall win at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail by UTMB 81-kilometer, a second-place finish at the Transvulcania 48-kilometer, and an 8th-place finish at the Transgrancanaria Marathon.

Notable Mentions: Nadir Maguet, Yoel de Paz, Dani Osanz, Ryan Becker, Andrzej Witek.

Athletes to Watch: Women’s Race

American Jenn Lichter looks to upset on the women's OCC podium.
American Jenn Lichter looks to upset on the women’s OCC podium.

Nuria Gil (Asics) is the top returning female runner from last year’s race, where the Spaniard finished second female. Nuria placed fourth at Short Trail WMTRC in Thailand last November, and despite facing some adversity at Zegama-Aizkorri and this year’s Short Trail WMTRC in Austria, Nuria has recorded wins at the Transgrancanaria Marathon and the Val D’Aran by UTMB 30-kilometer, and took 15th-place at the always competitive Sierre-Zinal.

Dani Moreno (Adidas Terrex) also returns to OCC for the second year in a row, where in 2022 she finished on the podium in third. Dani spent the early part of her year gearing up for the Boston Marathon, where she debuted in the Marathon in a stunning 2:38:23. Since transitioning back to the trails after Boston, Dani took first female at the Eiger Ultra-Trail by UTMB 35-kilometer.

Toni McCann (Adidas Terrex) rounded out the top five women at OCC last year, capping off a successful campaign of European trail racing which also included a second-place finish at the Transgrancanaria Marathon and fourth at the MaXi-Race Marathon. Since her finish at OCC last year, Toni has been undefeated on the trail, including a win at the Transvulcania 48-kilometer earlier this year, and looks to improve on her previous results at her third go at this race.

Jennifer Lichter (The North Face) had a breakout season in 2022 with wins against top-level competition at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 46-kilometer and Run the Rut, as well as a second-place finish at Speedgoat by UTMB 50-kilometer (despite going off course). Although Jennifer faced some injury issues last winter, she has returned to form in the 2023 race season with a win at the Lake Sonoma Marathon, and a strong fourth-place finish in her first international race, the Short Trail WMTRC in Austria.

Miao Yao (Salomon) is no stranger to the UTMB race series, having previously set the women’s course record (since broken) at CCC in 2018, and having led the 2019 UTMB race until Courmayeur before dropping out. Miao Yao has since returned to shorter distance trail racing, and currently sits in second in the Golden Trail World Series standings, having placed second at Marathon du Mont-Blanc, fourth at Sierre-Zinal and in the top 20 at Zegama-Aizkorri.

Katie Schide (The North Face) is the reigning UTMB women’s champion but has chosen to tackle a shorter race in the UTMB series this season. Katie has had a successful run since her victory last year, including victories at the 230-kilometer Coastal Challenge Costa Rica stage race, the EcoTrail Paris 80-kilometer, and an all-time performance at the Western States Endurance Run, in which she finished second but ran under the previous course record in pursuit of the eventual race winner Courtney Dauwalter.

Caitlin Fielder (Salomon) is another athlete with a lot of experience in the trails around Mont-Blanc, having finished sixth place in 2019 and third place in 2021. Last year, Caitlin stepped up in distance to race the 101-kilometer CCC, in which she finished in the top 20. She has excelled this year in shorter distance racing, including podiums at the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB 50-kilometer and Zegama-Aizkorri, as well as a top 10 finish at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc and a 12th place at the Short Trail WMTRC in Austria, putting her in fourth place on the Golden Trail World Series standings.

After tackling CCC in 2022 Caitlin Fielder is back to mix it up in the OCC field.
After tackling CCC in 2022 Caitlin Fielder is back to mix it up in the OCC field.

Rachel Drake (Nike Trail) has been a force in short/mid-distance trail racing for a number of years now, including a second-place finish at the 2020 Golden Trail World Series final, among numerous other accolades. Having finished 21st at OCC in 2021 (and 7th in the 2019 CCC race), Rachel comes into this race building fitness post-partum, with top 25 finishes this year at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 23-kilometer, the Dolomyths Run Skyrace and Sierre-Zinal.

Oihana Kortazar (Salomon) has raced prolifically across Europe and internationally over the last decade, but this will be her first time at the OCC race. Oihana has been a force this year, with top-ten finishes at Zegama-Aizkorri and the Short Trail WMTRC in Austria, in addition to a third-place finish at Marathon du Mont-Blanc and a win at the Val D’Aran by UTMB 50-kilometer.

Allie McLaughlin (Hoka) will look to improve on her performance at this race last year, where although she led for a majority of the race, ended up in 6th place. Allie opened her year with a fast 50-kilometer result at the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB. Despite a performance at the WMTRC Vertical and Up & Down races that fell below her potential, she had a dominating win at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 23-kilometer and took a top-ten spot at Sierre-Zinal in early August.

Notable Mentions: Anna-Stiina Erkkila, Daniela Oemus, Anna Comet Pascua, EmKay Sullivan, Kimi Schreiber, Meg Mackenzie.


The race starts at 8:15am local time in Orsières, Switzerland on Thursday August 31 (2:15am Eastern Daylight Time/11:15pm Pacific Daylight Time on August 30th) and will be streamed live on the UTMB YouTube Channel in seven languages (English, French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Chinese, and Thai). You can find the streams here: https://www.youtube.com/@UTMBMontBlanc/streams 

Make sure you get your Fantasy picks in for all three of the UTMB World Series Finals (OCC, CCC, & UTMB). We will be picking 10-deep for the men’s and women’s competitions in each race. Thanks to HOKA, CamelBak, and HVMN for providing generous prize packages to the top 3 predictors in each event. 

Prizes: 

*Note: We will do our best to accommodate international shipping, but can’t 100% guarantee it.

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