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Tour du Grand Paradis 2014: Mount Ciarforn in the background
Photo by Alexis Courthoud
Tour du Grand Paradis 2014: the start
Photo by Alexis Courthoud
Tour du Grand Paradis 2014
Photo by Alexis Courthoud

Tour du Grand Paradis: in the shadow of Gran Paradiso

14.04.2014 by Simonetta Radice

On Sunday 13 April 2014 Michele Boscacci & Matteo Eydallin and Francesca Martinelli & Roberta Pedranzini won the VI Tour du Grand Paradis - Trofeo Renato Chabod. The report by Simonetta Radice.

It's 10.30am on Sunday 13 April and from the Vittorio Emanuele hut (2735m) I can make out the first athletes competing in the Tour du Grand Paradis - Renato Chabod Trophy that, now in its sixth year, has attracted 119 teams and a total of about 240 athletes. The route winds its way through the Gran Paradiso National Park between the summits of Ciarforon, Tresenta and Monciair as well as Gran Paradiso itself, for a total vertical height gain of more than 2100m.

I am a guest of the Grand Paradis Foundation at refuge Vittorio Emanuele to try to report from the race that, apart from being an important competition, is an event that involves all the inhabitants of Valsavaranche, a community comprised of less than 200 people who live within the boundaries of the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The athletes set off at 8.30am from Praviuex - Pessey, the square opposite the mule track that leads to the Chabod hut. At that time, from my window in Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele, I watched the snow fall. Luckily it didn't last long, even if the wind continued for a bit up high. The athletes reached Rifugio Chabod and, at 3100m, roped up to cross the Laveciau glacier and reach the Schiena d'Asino, the mule's back, at 3600m the highest point of the 2014 competition. According to Renzo Blanc, mountain guide and hut warden of Vittorio Emanuele, due to the continuos high winds the final summit slopes were too icy and so the organisation opted against continuing to the summit of Gran Paradiso (4061 m) due to safety concerns. So from Schiena d'Asino the descent down to Vittorio Emanuele began at breakneck speed, with skins being put on one last time to ascend the short slope to the Ciarfororn col at 2935m. The athletes arrived quickly and the first to reach the Vittorio Emanuele hut were Michele Boscacci and Matteo Eydallin belonging to the Courmayeur military corps. From here the course continued via a traverse below Monciair and the Denti di Broglio to reach the upper section of the Grand Etret valley and the finishing line at Pont.

Michele Boscacci and Matteo Eydallin led the field right from the outset and finished the race in 2:16'29'', followed by Filippo Barazzuol and Davide Galizzi (2:20’35"), and Filippo Beccari and Nadir Maguet (2:23’54")

The women's event went down to the wire and was won by the Valtellina duo Francesca Martinelli and Roberta Pedranzini in 3:10’18", followed by Laura Besseghini and Birgit Stuffer a mere 1'38" behind, while third place went to Federica Osler and Marialucia Maraschinelli 3:24’28". The daughters of Renato Chabod took part in the awards ceremony, held in Dejoz in the afternoon. Born in Valsavaranche, Chabod was a prolific alpinist, academic and president of the Italian Alpine Club from 1965 to 1971 and Vice-President of the Italian Senate (furthermore, some of the illustrations in the historical CAI and Italian Touring Club guidebooks "Guide ai monti d'Italia" were drawn by him).

"Competing here is always fantastic..." said Michele Boscacci "Eydallin and I are on good form, we felt great. What's important now is not to be too tired for the last stage of the Grande Course." The two athletes from Bormio celebrated a superb end of season: "A great competition that ends the 2014 season in style" commented Roberta Pedranzini. "We're happy. Even if we didn't reach the summit, Grand Paradis is always a great competition."

The Renato Chabod trophy is not only a sports competition: for the small Valsavaranche comune - that counts less than 200 inhabitants throughout the valley - this is an event that involves everyone, right from the start of January. From the park rangers to the mountain guides, from the mountain rescue volunteers to all those who, in some way or other, helped the organisation (circa 80 in total) led by Silvia Blanc: for all these the Grand Paradis competition becomes an intense moment to be shared with the entire community. Valsavaranche is one of the wildest valleys in the entire Val d'Aosta region and the park's visitor center at Dejoz is dedicated to wolves, since for many a year it was not uncommon to see them. Nowadays though, according to Rhêmes valley supervisor Stefano Borney, the pack seems to have moved on to Val Soana after the leader was killed a few years ago, even though footprints can be seen every now and then in the area. Despite not having an enormous ski resort, the valley is growing in popularity among those in search of pristine, uncontaminated nature, as well as alpinists wishing to climb Gran Paradiso, Ciarforon and Tresenta.

by Simonetta Radice

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