Written by Lewis Cooper
In a relatively short ultra-running career GB’s Tom Evans is already incredibly adept at racing and finishing, towards the business end of the field.
The former British Army officer has claimed numerous podium appearances including 3rd at the 2017 Marathon De Sables (a 251km 6 day stage race across the Sahara Desert) and 3rd again at the World Trail Championships (85km) back in May, but this past weekend saw him bag by far his biggest and most impressive result to date – 1st Place at the CCC Race in Chamonix (101km Courmayeur – Champex-Lac – Chamonix).
After the win, I was lucky enough to get a few words from Tom as he reflected on the race
Firstly, Congratulations! What does this win mean to you?
Thank you so much. Winning CCC is like a dream come true, I still can’t quite believe it! It was a real team performance. I had the best crew and amazing support throughout the race and without them, I couldn’t have done it. It means the world, I thought that I was ready to win a big race and proved to myself that that was the case.
What was your thought process on the start line? There was a lot of strong competition in the field.
I tried to stay relaxed and just focus on my race plan and the training I had put in. There isn’t much point in thinking about what the other athletes have done, when the gun goes off it’s anyone’s race.
Was the win always the primary goal? Or was the plan to better your 4th place from last year?
To be honest I just wanted to run to my ability. I knew that I was in much better shape than last year, with much more mountain running experience and confidence. I focus on process, not the outcome. I really wanted to prove myself on the international stage. I have raced well this year but a 1st at CCC is a real game-changer for me.
Your training looked really solid in the months leading up to the race. Is this the best shape you’ve ever been in?
Yes! I felt great and also had the data to back it up. I was lucky enough to spend a week at Red Bull’s Athlete Testing Centre in Austria to do all my fitness testing just before the race. I have been working with Allison Benton and the AB training group for over a year now and my fitness keeps improving. Even now I still feel like there is lots of room to improve. I’ve also been taking my nutrition, psychology and physiology more seriously to be the best possible athlete that I can be.
How much did having the experience of running the race last year help at all?
I think it made a huge difference. I also spent some time in Chamonix this summer to re-run the course, so I knew where I could push and from that, I was able to build a solid and realistic race plan. It also gave me more confidence as I felt at home in the amazing mountains.
Min Qi went off quick and opened up a 10-minute lead early on and at one point, around the 32km mark, had 14 minutes on you. Where you aware of that throughout the race and did you still feel like you could always catch him?
Min’s run was really impressive and brave. I knew that he was going to rush off and, to be honest, I thought I would catch him a lot sooner than I did. He is an amazing athlete and has a very bright future ahead of him. From the 85km point, I knew that I was closing the gap and was going to have to dig deeper than I ever have before in a race to take the lead. It was definitely my biggest mental test to date.
You finally took pole position at around 93km. How tense were those last few miles to the finish line?
I’ve been working really hard on my downhill over this last training block so I knew that I was going to be able to push at the end there. I didn’t look back once, I just ran as hard and as fast as I could until I arrived in Chamonix, fortunately with a 6-minute lead.
Apparently, you suffered an early episode of vomiting in the race. Was there any specific contributing factor to that do you think? And have you had prior experience of that sort of thing before to be able to deal with it so well?
TE: Yeah, really 35-45 km was a low point for me! I’m not sure of any obvious reasons for it but we started pretty quick and then there was a big temperature drop as we hit the highest point of the course. I have had it before in training, so I knew what to do and how to come out of it. I visualise things like this during my training so I can adapt my plan and make sure that I’m still able to race to my limits. It took a lot of mental strength to keep focussed and keep pushing.
You didn’t drop out of top 5 all race. Was there a lot of running alongside the other guys in those positions, Pau Capell and Marco De Gasperi? Going back and forth and changing positions. And if so did that help at all?
I ran a lot with Pau during the race. He is a really good athlete and had a really solid race plan. He was stronger on the uphill and then I would take the lead again on the downhill. I think running with others in training and racing is important as it takes some stress away, as long as you still feel in control and you’re not going too fast then it can work really well.
Other than crossing the line first. Any highlights during the race?
I think just the actual realisation that winning was a possibility, I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. I knew that it was still going to be a serious battle all the way to the finish, but it really gave me some hope.
What’s next on the racing schedule for you?
I’m planning on going to the US at the end of the year to race the North Face 50 in San Francisco. Next year is starting to take shape now. I’m going to be targeting some fast races… I don’t want to give too much away now though!
Away from the running what are your immediate plans for the next few weeks?
Firstly, to recover! I take my recovery pretty seriously as I want to be in the sport for a long time. I’m also going to spend some time with friends and family as I have been away a lot so far this year. Then I’ve also got some ideas for some pretty exciting projects next year so will be speaking to a few sponsors about the possibility of making them a reality!
Pictures courtesy of Tom Evans