Race Preview: Hong Kong 100 - Who Will win in 2020?
Posted on January 13 2020
The Ultra Trail World Tour comes to Hong Kong this weekend, with the Vibram Hong Kong 100 kicking off the 2020 tour once again.
In a simplification of the UTWT points scoring and race points reshuffle, this year's HK100 has been promoted to UTWT 1500 status, ranking alongside races like WSER, Transgrancanaria and Lavaredo and only behind UTMB, so we once again see a very strong field duke it out at Hong Kong's biggest race. And as a special treat, in honour of the race's tenth edition, there is a 56km option for runners on the Friday before the main event.
The 100K course is unchanged from the new 2019 route, clocking in at 103km and 5,300km D+, which adds an extra 40-50 minutes against pre-2019 times. It largely follows Hong Kong's longest major hiking route, the famous Maclehose Trail. The first half takes runners on a scenic loop around the Sai Kung coastline and, with no hills over 400m and total elevation of 2,000m D+, will suit the faster flat runners.
From CP5 Kei Ling Ha at 57K, the quad burning starts with consecutive climbs over Ma On Shan (580m), Tate’s Cairn (577m), Beacon Hill (457m), Needle Hill (532m), Grassy Hill (647m) and Hong Kong’s highest peak, Tai Mo Shan (957m), before a 4km downhill finish. The last 46km features 3,300m D+ of climbing, so it is a seriously back-loaded course and clever pacing is essential.
The course features single track, paved footpaths, road, beaches, some magnificent mountain and cityscape views, gel-grabbing monkeys and, most of all, stairs aplenty. Runners who have not been working on their stair technique, both up and down, start at a big disadvantage.
With just under 2,000 runners from over 50 countries, including some of the world's best ultra-trail runners, it's sure to be an exciting event. The festivities kick off with the official press conference from 2pm on Thursday 16 January (UTC +8), and then you can catch all the live action of HK100 from 7am on Saturday 18 January (UTC +8). Both the presser and the race will be streamed live at http://bit.ly/2020HK100Live
grTV 2020 teaser showing highlights from HK100 2019 - video credit: grTV
Can the international runners step up, after China swept the top-3 podiums for both men and women in 2019? Are there any local Hong Kong runners looking to cause an upset? We preview all the elites here - note all race results in 2019 unless otherwise stated.
Clearly the big favourite for the women's crown is 2018 Trail World Champion, Ragna Debats (787), from the Netherlands. She's a prolific racer and 2019 was another stellar year, including big wins at CCC 100K, Transvulcania 73K and Marathon Des Sables. She arrived in Hong Kong a few weeks early to prepare and acclimatise, including a comfortable win (and new course record) at the King of the Hills Hong Kong 30K, and will be hard to beat.
Ragna Debats - photo credit: Migu Skyrunner World Series
However, the Chinese runners are, as always, not to be underestimated after sweeping the top four positions in 2019. Fuzhao XIANG (741) leads the charge, last year's runner-up in 12:17 and, on a course-adjusted basis, probably one of the top five women's times in the race's history. 2019 also saw wins for her at UTMF 100M and Ultra Trail Ninghai 110K, plus 11th at UTMB 100M. She also cruised to overall victory at the Golden 100K earlier this month in Hong Kong so should hit the start line in great shape.
Fuzhao XIANG - photo credit: iRunFar
Guangmei YANG (698) finished third at HK100 in 12:43 in 2019 and will be pushing for the podium again this year. 2019 saw her post a number of strong results after HK100, including wins at Super Salmon 50K, Jiangle 100K and Luodian 100K, all in China.
Don't be surprised by Slovakia's Veronika Vadovicova (706). This emerging star only started trail running two years ago, but has already claimed the Asia Trail Master championship win in 2019 on the back of six wins from six races, including a third overall and 725 ITRA score in a star-studded field at Malaysian Mountain Trail Festival 84K just last month. She is also the fastest runner ever on the 100km Hong Kong Trailwalker course, which is quite similar to HK100, and has been acclimatising in Hong Kong for the past month.
Veronika Vadovicova - photo credit: Kirk Kenny / GreenRace
South Africa's Landie Greyling (706) is almost unbeatable domestically and has a number of big results overseas. 2019 saw her finish 5th at Penyagolosa 60K, which followed 1st at Grand Raid Des Pyrenees 43K and 4th at the Marathon Du Mont Blanc 80K.
New Zealand-born Marie McNaughton (689) has dominated the trails in Hong Kong for the past few years and, sadly, 2020 will be her final race in Hong Kong before moving home. Over the years, she has finished third once and fourth twice, and is almost back to full fitness after an horrific leg break at TDS in 2018. Last year, despite still being in her comeback phase, she finished 9th at Ultra Trail Australia 100K as well as winning TransNT 50K and Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan TTF 110K (overall winner).
- Claire Bannwarth, France (686) - 1st L'infernal Trail Des Voges 120K, 1st Festival Des Templiers 105K, 11th Madiera Island Ultra Trail 120K
- Ying Suet LEUNG, Hong Kong (698) - 8th HK100, 1st Hong Kong 50, 1st HK50 West, 84th Trail World Championships Abutres 44K
- Eszter Csillag, Hungary (653) - 2nd Trans Jeju 112K, 1st Beast Trail 50K, 2nd Salomon Ultra Trail Hungary 110K
- Shangwei QU, China (657) - 1st Gupo Mountain 100K, 2nd Tianmen Mountain 100K, 1st Lang Mountain 100K
- Sayaka Matsumoto, Hong Kong (647) - 3rd The North Face 50 Hong Kong, 1st King of the Hills Sai Kung 35K
- Nicole LAU, Hong Kong (646) - 4th Hong Kong 50, 2nd Garmin 100, 3rd Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan 160K
Anyone who trains with Jim Walmsley, has the second fastest WSER of all-time and an ITRA score of 919 is going to be feared... Cue Jared Hazen. This mild-mannered 25 year old American is already a trail running superstar but not a prolific racer. However, when he does race, he makes it count and his last two outings were 1st Lake Sonoma 50M and 2nd at WSER behind Jim, with ITRA scores of 926 and 947, respectively - ouch. The main question mark will be adapting to the Hong Kong technicality and also the humidity, as US runners have historically struggled at HK100.
Jared Hazen - photo credit: iRunFar
Pere Aurell Bove (880) is the third highest ranked runner at HK100, has been acclimatising in Hong Kong for the past few weeks with his wife Ragna Debats, and Spanish runners should handle the Hong Kong weather well - he's hard not to like. His 2019 featured 3rd at Olympus Marathon and 1st at Marxa Dels Roures 90K, as well as a come-from-behind win (and new course record) at the competitive King of the Hills Hong Kong 30K the weekend before last.
Again, ignore the Chinese contingent at your peril - like the women, they claimed the top four positions in last year's edition. Jing LIANG (863) comes back for a third attempt at HK100. In 2018, he was first across the line in a sprint finish but sensationally (and rightly) disqualified, before - and kudos to Jing - coming back again last year and was only narrowly beaten into second place by Jiasheng SHEN. He won a dozen races in 2019, including Ultra Trail Shennongjia 62K, and also claimed runner-up at UTMF 100M.
Jing LIANG - photo credit: Dogsorcaravan
Canhua LUO (879) is another Chinese young gun who will pushing hard for the win. This will be his first HK100, but 2019 was a fabulous year for the 28 year old, including victories at the highly competitive Ultimate Tsaigu 110K and Xiaoxiang 100K, plus 2nd at Yading Ultra Kora 60K, and 11th at UTMB 100M.
Expect Peiquan YOU (863) to also give the frontrunners a good nudge. He holds the Chinese record for distance covered in 12 hours (153.3km) and notched wins at Capstone 60K and Devil's Ridge 60K as well as a hard-fought runner-up to LUO at Ultimate Tsaigu 110K. Compatriot Jiaju ZHAO (849) was third at the same race (plus wins at Jiangle 100K and Chengdu 100K), while Bo LI (846) was 8th at HK100, plus wins at Yangtze Three Gorges 50K and Capstone 100K. All three should feature strongly this year.
Zhenlong ZHANG from China won't take the field by surprise again. He claimed third here last year, despite a 551 ITRA score, primarily due to many Chinese races previously not signing up for ITRA accreditation. With a win at the Aohan Ultra Trail 100 and 9th place at CCC, the other elites will be sure to keep tabs on him during the race and his 837 ITRA score now reflects that.
Living just across the border in Shenzhen, China's Guomin DENG (843) is a regular racer in Hong Kong and a favourite among the locals. Despite a road background, he's gone from strength to strength on trail over the past few years, and 2019 saw some big results including 6th at Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120K, 1st at 9 Dragons 50K and 3rd at TransLantau 100K. Definitely a strong shout for top five again, after finishing fourth in 2019.
WONG Ho Chung (837) has been Hong Kong's dominant ultra trail runner for the past few years, and represented Hong Kong at the Trail Worlds at Abutres (116th), but really stepped it up in the back half of the year. Unquestionably, the highlight was a barnstorming 6th place at UTMB 100M in an incredible 22:47. As well as a handful of big local race wins like The North Face 100K, he finished 2019 on a high with victory at the Golden 100M with 9,200m D+ in 21:41 and a handy 859 ITRA score - he is in form and easily Hong Kong's best shot at a podium for years.
WONG Ho Chung - photo credit: Ryan Blair
Maintaining fitness through the winter can often by an issue for the European runners but 44 year old Carl Johan Sorman (861), from Sweden, comes in with a huge base after back-to-back wins at Ultra Trail Lago D'orta 130K and Trail Del Cinghiale 90K over the past three months, scoring over 870 ITRA points at both races.
Also from Sweden is Petter Restorp (838). This will be his first outing at HK100 but 2019 was another impressive year for the 43 year old runner, including fourth at Marathon Du Mont Blanc 90K and 10th at Madeira Island Ultra Trail 120K. This follows 4th at Eiger Ultra Trail 101K and 1st at Dolomiti Extreme 103K in 2018.
The leading pack at HK100 would not be complete without a Nepalese runner and Suman Kulung flies the flag this year. At just 29 years old, Suman is one of the stars of the future. He finished 7th in 10:38 in 2018 but his very impressive ITRA score of 886 is based exclusively on races at high altitude (including wins at Original Everest Marathon and Everest Trail Race last year) and he's yet to post a +800 ITRA score outside Nepal.
- Jiao ZHANG, China (821) - 1st Wuyuezhail 50K, 1st Jiangnan 57K, 3rd Ultimate Tsaigu 80K
- Bin XIE, China (814) - 1st Maxi Race Jiangshan 50K, 2nd Meiling 50K, 2nd Longgishan Ultra Trail 60K
- Jisub KIM, South Korea (831) - 1st The North Face Hong Kong 50K, 1st Lantau 50, 1st The North Face Korea 50K
- Yinbin HUANG, China (796) - 1st Maxi-Race Xixia 50K, 2nd The North Face Qingling 50K, 3rd Wuyuezhail 50K
- Eetu Nordman, Findland (795) - 3rd Nuts Pyha 22K, 85th Trail World Champs Abutres 44K
- Zhaoying LIU, China (795) - 1st Mogan Ultra 70K, 1st Lianshan 50K
- Shunsuke Okunomiya, Japan (789) - 1st UTMF Katsuyama 95K, 3rd Eiger E51, 6th IZU Trail Journey 70K
- Michael Skobierski, Austria (766) - 2nd MSIG Summits 28K, 3rd Moontrekker 50K, 2nd MSIG Ultra 44K
- Yoshikazu Hara, Japan (749) – 1st UTMF 100M in 2013, 4th Tarawera 100M 2016
- Tom Robertshaw, UK (732) - 17th HK100, 1st Rebel Walker 100K, 2nd Mountain Range Shatin 50K
- Henri Lehkonen, Australia (731) - 11th Ultra Trail Australia 100K, 25th WSER 100M
- Guillaume Perrot, France (727) - 4th The North Face 50 Hong Kong, 41st TDS 145K, 2nd MSIG Ultra 75K
- Fuk Cheung TSANG, Hong Kong (732) - 1st Golden 100K, 1st MSIG Summits 50K, 4th 9 Dragons 50K
- Paul Fournier, France (712) - 2nd Lantau 70, 3rd MSIG Summits 50K
Don't forget to tune into XXX for all the live action and excitement of HK100 at the grTV livestream from 7am on Saturday 18 January (UTC +8) at http://bit.ly/2020HK100Live.