Interview with Marie Sammons - UTWT Executive Director - Ultra-Trail® World Tour | Ultra-Trail® World Tour | International trail running circuit
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Interview with Marie Sammons – UTWT Executive Director

What is the relationship between UTMB® Group and the Ultra-Trail® World Tour? What consequences does this new international circuit UTMB® World Series have on UTWT? 

The historical link between the UTWT and the UTMB® is first and foremost a sporting one. The main races of the UTMB® Mont-Blanc have been part of the UTWT since the creation of the circuit in 2014. Infact, UTMB® was one of the founding members of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour, along with the Western States Endurance Run, the Mount Fuji Ultra-Trail and the Ultra-Trail Australia.  

From a business perspective, UTMB Group bought the rights to the UTWT two years ago. 

We have therefore worked closely with the UTMB Group team, using our experience acquired during the last 7 years, to build this new UTMB® World Series together. It is not a circuit that will compete with the UTWT but rather a way to help the sport evolve. As a result, the UTMB® World Series marks the end of the UTWT in 2022. 

What is happening with UTWT? 

This year will be ‘normal’ for the UTWT, although the COVID health crisis continues to impact us.  

Looking ahead, the Ultra-Trail® World Tour will indeed cease from January 2022. But a significant number of events from the Ultra-Trail® World Tour will join the UTMB® World Series.  

Were the races of the UTWT circuit aware of the announcement in advance? 

Yes, all races of the 2021 circuit were informed about the evolutions – the launch of the UTMB® World Series and the end of the UTWT in December 2021. I felt it was important to talk to them before the announcement was made and to answer any questions they had. 

Will the races on the 2021 UTWT circuit be part of the new UTMB® World Series? 

We are discussing the opportunity to join the UTMB® World Series with all race organizers. It’s important to note the format of the new Series will not be the same as it is under UTWT. The races will be associated with the UTMB® brand, and the sporting and operational rules will be more consistent. This will allow each event to raise its standards, and to ensure that all athletes have the most memorable experience possible. We are sure this will appeal to the majority of runners.  

So far, the feedback from organizers has been positive. In the UTWT structure, the strength of the UTMB® Mont-Blanc as an event (one of 28 races) did not serve the other races as well as the new circuit will. This change will help the races grow as they will be the only qualifying races for the UTMB® Mont-Blanc, which is huge for an organizer. They all understand the appeal of this new circuit, and the focus on certain things. 

What would a race be interested in joining the UTMB® World Series? 

The races that will be part of the UTMB® World Series will be the only way to qualify for the UTMB® Mont-Blanc, which obviously changes the situation. The UTMB® Mont-Blanc attracts more than 32,000 applicants every year, for 10,000 spots. We will have more runners who want to participate in the main races of the UTMB® Mont-Blanc and allow more runners to live the UTMB experience closer to home. The races that are not sold out now will be so very quickly. They all know it. 

What about the 2021? 

2021 will be a normal year for UTWT. We will continue to support all races on the circuit and promote the UTWT circuit throughout the year. We are 100% committed to promote the races and destinations and focus on the competitive aspect.  

As usual, each race weekend will be dedicated to the race that is taking place. This has always been the case and it will remain so this year. Our team is still working daily and continue to develop new ideas, for example in the promotion of the races, or in the implementation of a new website and a new OTT platform to make the content accessible to all. 

There will also be winners at the end of the year. Of course, the award ceremony at the end of the year will be special for us, and we will also take this opportunity to celebrate the 8 years of the circuit. 

Will you still support elite athletes this year? 

Of course, since the beginning of the circuit we have always supported many athletes. It gives visibility to the races of the circuit but also allows athletes to go and race in places where they might not have had the opportunity to do so. 

How did the athletes welcome the news of the new UTMB® World Series?  

Races’ organizers of the UTWT circuit were informed first. Then, a panel of about 15 elite athletes were consulted to help build and structure this circuit in line with their expectations. 

The main points they raised were:  

1/ the current frustration of elite athletes to see so many competing circuits, which makes their discipline hard to understand for the general public  

And 2/ their support at positioning the UTMB® Mont-Blanc as the World Final across many distances  

Will the Running Stones earned on the races of the 2021 UTWT circuit still work for 2022? 

Yes. Running Stones earned in 2021 will still be valid in 2022 and are cumulative from year to year. If runners cannot use them for 2022, then they can use them to register for UTMB® Mont Blanc 2023 and beyond. 

You recently launched Trail with purpose. Will that project continue? 

The Trail with purpose project is an initiative that we are committed to developing this year. Last year was a unique year for UTWT due to the pandemic, but this allowed us to focus on other aspects of the sport, such as where we practice this great sport and the impact we have. 

We will continue to develop the project this year through the organization of three forums to raise awareness among athletes and races. We want to highlight good practices that everyone can implement. And it is certain that the learnings we will draw from this collective initiative in 2021 will be help to build an even more ambitious environmental and solidarity program on the UTMB® World Series starting in 2022. 

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