Greg Vollet’s point of view

D-10 for the 42K du Mont Blanc, round n°2 of the GTWS. After the Zegama show, what to expect: bread and games, new or even more? we open a series of interviews with its witness-actors. They are athletes, organizers, scrutineers. Or for example,
Manitous : meeting with Greg Vollet, Chief Architect GTWS, without taboos. Sport, sport and more sport – the Gospel according to Vollet.

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Zegama has just opened the GTWS 2022: athletic fireworks, and a new media moment. Should we expect the same technical development in Chamonix, or other events?

Indeed, a milestone has been reached in the Basque country, even if it was not easy! (white zone, no 4G, work in radio frequencies, temporary loss of video, etc.). The potential of live trail is there, and the 400,000 views of live Zegama confirm it. I have been convinced of this for a long time; even if I think that for an antenna of large audience, it is still premature technically. Nevertheless, Chamonix promises because the networks are perfect there. And then there’s the new route: start at Cham’, return to Cham’, that changes a lot! We will have electric mountain bikes: especially at the start and to keep up with the Kenyans who risk being ahead from the start on the flat; then cameras-runners in relay, drones, etc. And in Sierre-Zinal, we should have the same live quality. Did you mention the major TV media? indeed we discuss, but for the moment, they estimate that it is too long to be retransmitted. 1h30, 2h max, but 4h…so we’re working on it. It is the competition that must be preserved. In 2023, Sierre-Zinal will be filmed live on RTS Switzerland. But we also know the risk of media coverage, as I have experienced in mountain biking, or that we see in alpine skiing: that the federal government succumbs to television sirens, and always shortens the events so that they can be filmed …it’s not likely to happen on the GTWS!

After Zegama, as an organiser, aren’t we entitled to fear a “sub-event” in Chamonix?

It’s true that Zegama is the ideal event to open the season. But it also allows the athletes to take a big breather: Zegama, it’s done, “now, what are my next goals? « . However, on this Mont Blanc 2022, we are going to have a super interesting field: for example, 12 men are above 900 points – and even the Kenyans are just starting to accumulate points! A Cesare Maestri who makes 3e 2′ from Kilian sur Sierre 2021 is not even at 900! Why ? Because it comes from mountain running, and its values ​​are not counted. And these indices do not fully reflect reality – another debate. On the animation side, I have a lot of hope in…the French public: new route, and rivalry of applause meter with the Basques! it changes the show enormously, because the spectators will be able to be much closer to the race. At the ravito du Tour, there will be all the bells, vuvuzelas, goodies possible to create a fan zone: a Sancti Spiritu Chamoniard! and why not in the rise of Posets. Ditto with this departure / return from the center of Cham ‘, great show in anticipation.

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Doesn’t the GTWS label risk becoming the absolute quest for events, pushing them to excess (over attendance or restrictions) or neglecting some of their trials, even their identity?

Let’s separate things. On the one hand, there is the Golden Trail National Series and their 23 countries. Should be added China, South Korea, it is developing. In the World Series, we have some iconic races, and others that we try to rotate. This rotation is done so that the runners can explore, discover, with this interest which is also their passion in what they do. However, everything is done permanently on the advice of the runners, via the questionnaires that we send them. Example: “in 2023, the European Trail Championships fall at the beginning of June in Austria. Zegama falls on May 28. What do we do ? « . I will never make the decision alone. We organize the best show possible, and we therefore want to have the best possible actors, motivated, passionate: the athletes. Finally concerning the finals, from the beginning, we have created almost each of these races; different, exotic, volcanic, etc. On this point we are starting to receive requests from destinations wishing to welcome them. But these are territorial, global approaches, wishing to discover a country or a region via the outdoors or the trail. I find them interesting.

Let’s talk about level and athletes: given the (great) absentees (Stian, Kilian, Bart, Maude, Nienke…), who would you expect on this MMB?

Davide seems inevitable to me, given his race at Zegama. He himself couldn’t get over having held Kilian for so long! He won the MMB, finished 2e last year, and knows the route. As always, I could see him waiting for Tré-le-Champ before attacking; until then I think he will be in the group of Baronian, Albon, El Azzaoui, Maguet. In front I think we will find Pkemboi, Kiptanui, the Kenyans, Mamu… This Mamu who is scary. But not sure that it holds on the whole race? But I can see the Kenyans firing at the start, and outpacing the followers… who shouldn’t get carried away. Cesare Maestri inside, Theo Detienne, Fred Tranchand. The climb to Flégère will hurt those who left too quickly. On the women’s side, Anaïs Sabrié is the big favourite; she has been close to victory for several races – and there, neither Maude nor Nienke…Sara Alonso is highly anticipated, young and explosive, liberated. But a Sheila Avilès is back, solid in Spain, already victorious over Zegama, let’s not forget. And Julie Roux! Julie archi-solid, who regularly slams perfs on all types of format; mind-boggling.

Do you envisage an additional milestone in the professionalization of trail running via the GTWS22, and what would it be: further increase the rewards, the invitation policy, etc.? ?

You can organize the most beautiful competitions in the world, if the sponsors do not see each other, I continue to believe that it does not work. Inevitably. This is why broadcasting remains crucial, as much as TV series (Editor’s note: « Chasing Dreams ») which enlighten runners who do not necessarily have sponsors. Currently, the rate of athletes who have a real financial contract is very low. The Golden is designed to help them: them, the athletes, and the sport. This is its raison d’être and it will remain so. In a few years, I sincerely hope that these athletes will draw from the GTWS arguments, legitimacy, when they have to approach a sponsor, a partner. That they can (finally) live from their sport, and let’s not forget, from their daily involvement.

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