The first edition of the Trail Alsace Grand Est by UTMB running event officially kicked off in northeastern France on Friday 19 May 2023, with two races.
The 50 km “Trail des Celtes” departed Barr in the morning and the 175 km “Ultra-Trail des Chevaliers” departed Colmar in the evening. Two more races are scheduled for Saturday 20 May 2023 - the 109 km “Ultra-Trail des Païens” (departing Orschwiller in the morning) - and Sunday 21 May 2023 - the 34 km “Trail des Pèlerins” (departing Barr in the morning).
About 4,600 runners of 53 nationalities are taking part in this new sports-meets-culture event in France’s Grand Est region. Whilst many in Luxembourg will be gearing up for this year’s ING Night Marathon (on Saturday), the first Trail Alsace Grand Est by UTMB can still count on the participation of seventeen Luxembourg runners. One of the top-ranked participating runners at this UTMB World Series event is Luxembourg’s Tatiana Quesada, who will take part in the “Ultra-Trail des Païens” on Saturday.
Chronicle.lu was among a select few European media outlets to attend a press trip during this first edition. At a press conference in Colmar town hall on Friday afternoon, Mayor Éric Straumann explained how the event formed part of a wider strategy to promote sport in the region and to promote its image at the international level whilst corresponding to the growing popularity of this sport at the local (and regional) level. Indeed, the picturesque touristic town was buzzing with life on Friday, with various musical performances, games and rides for children and medieval reenactments (to fit the castle theme) organised to mark the occasion.
Isabelle Viseux-Poletti, UTMB France Director, highlighted the mix of sports and culture for this event - the fifth such event “on the global circuit to take place on French soil”. Frédéric Bierry, President of the European Community of Alsace, added that it was an opportunity to “discover the fabulous heritage” and nature of the region, not least its many castles, through sport. For his part, Technical Director Mathieu Pettinotti presented the four different trails, their distances and difficulty levels; the longest race includes nineteen climbs and at least 6,200 km of positive elevation gain. He noted how the organisers had relied on the knowledge and support of local networks for this event. He explained that the project “was born from a desire of a group of friends to run from Mont St Odile to the castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, through both departments of Alsace and crossing as many fortified castles as possible. Our dream to become part of the UTMB World Series has now come true […].” Mr Pettinotti later recalled that the Grand Est region has a significant (and growing) running community.
Some 650 volunteers are involved in putting together this first edition, which crosses 30 municipalities and 22 castles in the region. The goal goes beyond the sport of running and aims to showcase some of the most beautiful castles, vineyards and trails of the region, highlighting its cultural, gastronomic and historical heritage.
As part of the press trip, Chronicle.lu and other European media had the opportunity on Friday evening to witness the start of the “Ultra-Trail des Chevaliers” in Colmar and the continuation of the race at Hohlandsbourg Castle and in Turckheim. The event - and press trip - continues over the weekend.