It’s night, we hear footsteps. In the dark on these peaks there are only a few of us. With the dim light of the lantern we can’t see much, but we hear everything. We begin to perceive a laboured breathing, but not exhausted.
TORX started a few days ago and the Tor des Géants – TOR330 we could say a few hours ago but, looking at the clock, we realize that it is now almost two days, 42 hours to be exact. We see him running up along the trail: Jonas Russi is in the lead. He is running in record time.
He has a big gap, about half an hour. In second place is Franco Collé, but he is suffering, a volunteer tells us in advance. At the last assistant point he said: “A bad night, I don’t eat and I have to try to limit the damage”, the stomach problems have put him in crisis. So all we can do is wait, hoping that the situation has improved, until we see him arrive with the expected detachment and visibly dejected. But Collé does not give up, he does not stop running. Step by step he advances.
The race is still long and Jonas Russi knows it: “I saw him in difficulty, I’m fine even if I’m a bit tired, Franco has been struggling for 50 kilometres, but I’m waiting for him to come back”. The last word is not yet said.
The sun arrived and finally warmed the spirits of these athletes who, even for the second night since the start of the race, said no to sleep and continued undaunted to run. Along the climbs of Gressoney, amidst the shouts of the Val d’Aosta people and the scent of home, Collé was reborn and caught up again with the Swiss who had been alone in the lead for the whole of the previous day. They walked together for the rest of the day and night, one beside the other, maintaining a rhythm that increasingly made people shout: “A new record is coming”. But nothing is certain at the Tor des Géants, everything can change, especially on the last night.
Evening comes and darkness falls. “Will they arrive at the end together?” the public begins to ask. But something is changing. Franco Collé, after the bad times, seems to have a clear and precise intention: to increase. These two parallel lines, which seemed to have decided to stay that way, suddenly break up. Here comes the rain. It’s time to increase.
Jonas Russi silently took note of a race pace that he was no longer able to cope with and let Collé go, who retook the lead and had no intention of letting go. Little by little the pace of the race becomes impressive and the rumours, which before seemed an unrealistic anticipation, become more and more concrete. “I think we’re going to see a new record tonight,“ says one journalist, and we can only hope.
The public is anxious, nobody expected a pre-dawn arrival. Franco Collè emerged from the darkness, at the end of the fading lights of Courmayeur. It was 4.40am on Wednesday morning. He embraced his wife just before the finish line and they ran a few meters together.
Dopo 66h43’57’’ e tanti momenti difficili, Franco Collé taglia la finish line alle 4:43.
A new record.
“I wanted to get to the finish line at all costs, I promised myself I would not give up despite the problems I had during the race, to redeem my retirement two years ago. I am happy with this record. I thank the public for their warmth. After two years there was a great desire for Tor,” he declared.
Russi, who had been exhausted by the race pace, was an hour and a half behind and would finish in 7:03.