Vender continues Italian success as Jenkinson makes history at Snowdon 2018

Llanberis, Wales – Italy’s Alberto Vender and Wales’ young mountain running sensation Bronwen Jenkinson took top honours at the 43rd running of the Jewson International Snowdon race on Saturday.

The highest peak in Wales and England once again provided high drama, as almost 600 runners from across the world tackled the steep slopes of this iconic mountain. For Vender it was a performance that saw him follow in the footsteps of compatriot Davide Magnini who had captured the crown 12 months earlier and adds his name the roll call of Italian winners that includes such greats as Martin May, Fausto Bonzi and Marco DeGasperi.

For local runner Jenkinson it was a day she will surely never forget. After the disappointments of 2016 when she failed to finish and 2017 where she finished 4th, 2018 was to be third time lucky for the 21-year old as she became the first Welshwomen to win at Snowdon since 1989 when Angela Carson won for the second time.

Grey skies and low visibility on the mountain added to the spice for the runners as they embarked on the challenging 10-mile race, which can be traced back to 1976 when a small group of competitors ran from the centre of the village of Llanberis to the 1085 metre summit and back.

As ever the supportive Llanberis community came out in style as hundreds lined the field and streets to see off the runners as they headed out at 12 midday, with race starter Cllr Ioan Thomas, the Gwynedd Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, getting the race underway.

As the race hit the early part of the mountain it was a familiar sight of English vests to the fore as 2016 winner Chris Smith and Chris Holdsworth were joined by local runner and Welsh international Rob Samuel. Through halfway Smith held a healthy advantage, with Northern Ireland man Zak Hanna looking strong in fourth place. At this stage Vender, fellow Italian Guilio Simonetti and 2012 winner Murray Strain were over a minute back on Smith.

However, as the race developed and they passed the iconic milestones of Hebron, Allt Moses, Clogwyn and Bwlch Glas, Vender began to impress himself on the race and joined Samuel in the chase behind Smith as they raced to the summit.

Meanwhile in the women’s event Bronwen Jenkinson was leaving nothing to chance and after a steady start through Allt yr Parc and Penceunant she took hold of the race to hit halfway with a sizeable lead over the trio of England’s Sophie Noon, Scot Miranda Grant and Ribble Valley Harrier Caitlin Rice.

Little changed over the next miles as the women also hit the summit and Jenkinson’s lead had grown to fully two minutes over Grant, with Noon and Rice a further 40 seconds back.

All minds in the men’s and women’s races were now focussed on the bottom of the mountain, and as Englishman Smith turned to head to Llanberis he still held a sizeable advantage over Samuel and Vender.

From here on in the men’s race it would be a battle of wits on the descent, with Smith picking his way through the runners and walkers and Vender on a charge behind, edging closer to the Englishman with every step as they hurtled towards Clogwyn with the steep, marble-like stones of Allt Goch underfoot.

It was here that Vender made a big move and he swept past Smith with his descending skills coming to the fore, and as they passed the halfway descent tracker the times now showed an advantage of 10 seconds for the Italian.

At this point Rob Samuel was still in third, but Englishman Holdsworth was on a charge and had both Samuel and team-mate Smith in his sights as they embarked on the last 1.5 miles of the descent.

Up ahead it became apparent that Vender was pulling away with every stride and as he hit the quad-sapping tarmac plummet to the finish line he could by now start to relax as Llanberis became ever nearer. Behind Smith’s brave attempt to take a second Snowdon title had succumbed to firstly Samuel and then Holdsworth.

Into the final 400 metres and the 22-year old Vender started to realise what he had achieved, finishing to rapturous applause and becoming the latest in a long-line of Italian athletes to win this famous race. As he crossed the line the realisation of what he had done hit home and he collapsed in tears of joy.

His time of 1:06:41 was almost immaterial but was within two seconds of Magnini’s time 12 months earlier in very similar conditions. England athlete Holdsworth had an equally stunning descent as he went two better than his 2017 performance to finish a brilliant runner-up in 1:07:30.

Completing the podium Rob Samuel received one of the biggest cheers of the day. His time of 1:07:53 a personal best on the mountain and one of the performances of his career. Smith finished a valiant fourth, with Italian Simonetti completing the top 5.

In the team race Italy just edged out the English as Vender and Simonetti were backed up by team mate Manuel Solavaggione in 8th.

Meanwhile, in the women’s race Jenkinson majestically raced back into Llanberis, hardly putting foot wrong on the technical sections of Clogwyn and Hebron. As she hit the tarmac descent of Penceunant it was clear the young Welshwomen was making history and after a 12th place in the European mountain champs in June, her GB senior debut, this was to be the performance of her career.

Crossing the line in a fabulous time of 1:20:41, she also recorded the fastest ever time by a Welshwomen in the race.

Performances behind were also impressive as Scottish athlete Grant claimed a brilliant second place (1:22:27), with Sophie Noon finishing third (1:23:00), Caitlin Rice in fourth and Scot Jill Stephen completed the top 5 women.

In the women’s team event it couldnt have been closer as both Scotland and England racked-up 16 points, however with the Scots taking less time to complete the race it was they who retained the international team title, as Steph Provan joined Grant and Jill Stephen on top of the podium.

Speaking after the race a delighted Bronwen Jenkinson said:

“This is a dream come true to win. It’s my local race, but also so special on the international stage. I have grown up watching the race over the years and have seen so many great winners, and now I am one of those winners!

“I was reasonably confident going into the race and I had a few aches and pains this week, so you never know on the day. But it all came together – I can’t quite believe it!”

The day had also seen over 200 junior runners take part in a range of races for under-10 to under-18 athletes. Some of the future winners of the main race have come from these races and the event was fantastically administered by the Cyngor Gwynedd Council Sport for Life / Chwaraeon am Oes team along with their young ambassadors.

Speaking after the event, race organiser Stephen Edwards stated:

“What a day once again in Llanberis! With the 12 midday start the whole morning is a blur leading up to race time, especially as we have the junior races to pack in beforehand. Equally the weather was against us a little, especially on the higher part of the mountain where the visibility was poor due to the low cloud and damp air – and of course the shear numbers of people on the mountain always makes it challenging. But the marshals and volunteers, including the rescue teams on the mountain did a great job as ever.

“We always receive great support from the Italian runners, and this is underlined in our association with Morbegno and of course the Trofeo Vanoni race. The quality they have in depth is amazing and every year they are so competitive. Alberto was a great champion today and deservedly takes the Snowdon title back to Italy. But, I am a little biased in saying the performances of the day for me were Bronwen’s win and Rob’s third place in the men’s race!

“We have a rich history of producing great mountain runners in Wales and I hope their performances today will inspire the next generation to run and to compete at Snowdon and other races in the area.

“I’d like to thank all of the sponsors, especially Charlotte, Dylan, Jason and the team at Jewson for their generous support as headline sponsor this year. Also inov-8, once again for their kind sponsorship of the prizes for all of our winners. Thanks also to the Snowdonia National Park Authority, Cyngor Gwynedd Council and the Chwaraeon am Oes team for their organisation of the junior events and finally, as ever, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all for the volunteers, supporters and of course the Llanberis community for once again making this a day to remember.”

 43rd Jewson International Snowdon Race 2018 – Results

Men’s Top 3

  1. Alberto Vender (Italy) 1:06:41
  2. Chris Holdsworth (England) 1:07:30
  3. Rob Samuel (Wales) 1:07:53

 Team: Italy

 Women’s Top 3

  1. Bronwen Jenkinson (Wales) 1:20:41
  2. Miranda Grant (Scotland) 1:22:20
  3. Sophie Noon (England) 1:23:42

Team: Scotland

Full Snowdon Race race results are online at the TDL Events Services website here

Race images via Sport Pictures Cymru can be viewed here

Race highlights are online via S4Cfrom Sunday evening