Kilian Jornet and François D’haene, the story of a legendary duel

Five years of ultra-trail fans waiting for him. This Saturday, Kilian Jornet and François D’haene will line up side by side at the start of an ultra trail race, the famous Hardrock 100, in Colorado, USA. They hadn’t made the start of an ultra together since the 2017 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a race often considered the toughest in the discipline’s history.

The years and the different projects of each have taken them away from the perspective of competing together. Only a few rare downhill skiing competitions, such as the famous Pierra Menta, have seen them come together since then, but never in an ultra. In the past, however, Kilian Jornet and François D’haene have crossed paths on several occasions, almost always giving us spectacular clashes. A look back at the main clashes between the two champions.

2011: North Face 100 Australia – Jornet 1st, D’haene 2nd

One of the oldest encounters between Jornet and D’haene dates back to 2011, during the 4th edition of the North Face 100 Australia (100 km, 4,200m D +). And already, 11 years ago, the two champions dominated the head-to-head debates. At the end of a long race divided with two at the head, Kilian Jornet made the difference to finish in 9:19 ‘, ie 5 minutes ahead of François D’haene (9:24’). The Frenchman, however, relegated the 3rd, Ryan Sandes, half an hour behind him (9:54 ‘).

2012: Transvulcania – Jornet 3r, D’haene 4t

On the volcanic island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Kilian Jornet is at home and, therefore, is among the favorites, his performances in mountain skiing and ultra already speak for him. And he justifies his condition from the start of the race by placing himself in the leading group with four more drivers, including the American Dakota Jones.

Quite quickly, Jones and Jornet separated, followed closely by the other big favorite of the event, the American Andy Symonds. François D’haene is one of the pursuers, ten minutes from time. But the second part of the route is marked by a long descent of 20 kilometers that will put the Spanish leader in great difficulties. Victim of dizziness from dehydration, he fell twice and finished the race in 3rd place, leaving the victory to Dakota Jones. After this heat stroke, the Catalan will never remember the last 7 kilometers of the race. François D’haene finished in an honorable 4th place, 14 minutes behind Jornet and 25 minutes behind Dakota Jones.

2013: Transvulcania – Jornet 1st, D’haene 6th

In 2013, Jornet and D’haene are at the start of this 73.3-kilometer-long ultramarathon with a drop of 4,169 meters. Learning from his mistakes from the previous season, Kilian Jornet prepares carefully, arriving a week earlier in the Canary Islands to acclimatize. And while he has just finished his downhill skiing season, the Spaniard is making a perfect copy of it. First on arrival, the runner even broke the test record in 6:54 ‘(record broken two years later in 6:52’ by Luis Alberto Hernando).

2013: Ice Trail Tarentaise – Jornet 1st, D’haene 2nd

He returns to France to find the duet on the slopes of Val d’Isère, on the occasion of the Ice Trail Tarentaise 2013: 65 km of race for about 5,000 meters of elevation gain, a route cut at its height. And the two men are in recovery. Again they share much of the race, accompanied for a time by American Rickey Gates. In the last few kilometers, it was the Spaniard who managed to make a difference to his French counterpart. Jornet finished the race in first place in 7:35 ‘, 5 minutes ahead of D’haene (7:40’). One more year, the latter has distanced the 3rd, Philipp Reiter, in more than half an hour (8:12 ‘).

2013: Diagonale des Fous – D’haene 1st, Jornet 22nd

Prior to UTMB 2017, the two men had already been in competition for a few years. Not facing off from the Diagonale des Fous in 2013, Jornet had moved away from the ultra world to focus on new projects such as his ascent of Everest.

For his third joint race of the season, and after sharing the first 30 kilometers with the Spaniard at the helm, François D’haene quickly withdrew the debates. From kilometer 33 (about 163), he separated alone, never leaving the first position again. Behind him, Kilian Jornet suffers from a tendinitis in his knee, which forces him to slow down and let go of his head, but ends up in a good place 22, coming from the hand of his partner Emelie Forsberg, second wife and 21a. Generally.

2017: Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc – D’haene 1st, Jornet 2nd

To see the competitors at the starting line, this race already foreshadowed an exceptional fight. Kilian Jornet is present, three-time winner of the race in three participations (2008, 2009, 2011). Next to him are two French doubles, François D’haene (2012, 2014) and Xavier Thévenard (2013, 2015), but also the Americans Tim Tollefson, Jim Walmsley, the Spanish Pau Capell and the Lithuanian Gediminas Grinius.

And from the start, the announced duel took shape at the head of the race, refereed by a fiery Jim Walmsley. The American, who remains solo at the helm before waiting for his pursuers at the refueling point, holds out 100 miles before dropping, leaving the duo at the helm. More than 70 kilometers of battle followed between the two men, François D’haene quickly gained a ten-minute lead over his direct opponent.

Until the end, Kilian Jornet tries to keep up, but the French winemaker is simply too strong. Despite suffering from stomach pain and hamstring cramps, François D’haene finally won in 19h1’54 ”, 15 minutes ahead of Kilian Jornet and more than 51 minutes ahead of Tim Tollefson.

A good time of coexistence and emotion between François D’haene and Kilian Jornet after their arrival in Chamonix. (Petzl / R. Faguere / DR)

At the end of this race, which went down in the history of the sport, Kilian Jornet challenged his rival and friend: “ François, what will you do next year? We are three wins away, what do you think? “The native of Lille then replied:” I will wait to return like you, in four or five years Five years later, they are ready to challenge the Hardrock 100. Kilian Jornet has already won the race three times, François D’haene is the starter and the record holder. The rivalry is still far from over. finished.

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