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Saapunki and Costa Win at Smarna Gora

This weekend the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup returned to a familiar venue for its next Silver Label event. Voted the Greatest Mountain Race of All Time in a WMRA poll in 2020, Smarna Gora is an event that never fails to provide great racing on a stunning course.

The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with the warm-up event of the Smarna Gora Record, an associate member partner race for the World Cup. This short, sharp race of 1.85k with 360m of ascent always gives us an exciting start to proceedings and this year was no exception. Susanna Saapunki (FIN) won the women’s race in 13.06 and Luka Kovacic (SLO) took the win for the men (see top three results below). With a lot of athletes doubling up, would we see the same runners on the podium the following day?

Conditions for Smarna Gora Race were perfect, with Saturday dawning cool but sunny and clear. Temperatures would heat up during the morning, but not enough to create issues for the runners, who would take on the 10k route with 710m of ascent and 350m of descent. Ahead of them was an initial climb to the summit of Grmada at the 4k mark, followed by a 2k descent before a final climb which spirals around the mountain to reach the summit finish at Gostilna Ledinek Inn.

On the start line were two athletes riding high in the World Cup standings, who stood to gain some important points here. Remi Leroux (CAN), after a successful summer in Europe, had 138 points and was just two points off third place in the men’s competition. Susanna Saapunki (FIN) stood on 117 points and in sixth place.

In the women’s race it was a repeat of the previous evening’s Smarna Gora Record, with Saapunki leading it out from the start. After the climb to the first summit she had opened up a lead of about a minute on second placed Varineja Drasler (SLO) and she proceeded to add to this on the ascent up to the finish, eventually winning in 49.41. Drasler held onto second, finishing in 52.21, with Nusa Mali (SLO) completing the podium in 53.20.

The men’s race was much closer with Isacco Costa (ITA), Lengen Lolkurraru (KEN), Remi Leroux (CAN), Timotej Becan (SLO) and Michael Galassi (ITA) changing positions throughout. It was lastCosta and Lolkurraru credit Jonathan Wyatt year’s winner, Becan, who led initially but in the latter stages it was Costa who managed to break away and he took the win in 43.13, just eight seconds ahead of Lolkurraru in second. Leroux completed the podium ten seconds behind him in 43.31, securing some useful World Cup points in the process.


Smarna Gora Record


  1. Susanna Saapunki (FIN) – 13.06
  2. Tea Faber (CRO) – 15.13
  3. Sara Bilban (SLO) – 16.03


  1. Luka Kovacic (SLO) – 11.12
  2. Remi Leroux (CAN) – 11.24
  3. Klemen Spanring (SLO) – 11.25

Records are 12.36 for the women (set by Andrea Mayr in 2022) and 10.59 for the men (Filimon Abraham, 2020).

Smarna Gora Race


  1. Susanna Saapunki (FIN) – 49.41
  2. Varineja Drasler (SLO) – 52.21
  3. Nusa Mali (SLO) – 53.20
  4. Adela Vetcha (CZE) – 54.07
  5. Dominika Zupancic (SLO) – 55.30


  1. Isacco Costa (ITA) – 43.13
  2. Lengen Lolkurraru (KEN) – 43.21
  3. Remi Leroux (CAN) – 43.31
  4. Timotej Becan (SLO) – 43.44
  5. Michael Galassi (ITA) – 43.49

Records are 47.50 for the women (set by Andrea Mayr in 2017) and 41.32 for the men (Alex Baldaccini in a photo finish with Azerya Taklay with both athletes recording the same time in 2012).

See full results here: TIMING Ljubljana

Saapunki win credit Nancy Hobbs 

Current World Cup standings

With the points removed from runners who have done more than six races it's Joyce Muthoni Njeru (KEN) and Philemon Kiriago (KEN) who lead, with 280 and 250 points respectively. For the women Philaries Kisang (KEN) is second with 195 points, Andrea Mayr (AUT) with 190, Lucy Murigi (KEN) with 160 and Scout Adkin (GBR) just behind with 156. But Saapunki has closed the gap here, as she is now on 137 points. For the men Patrick Kipngeno (KEN) is just behind Kiriago with 230 points, but Leroux’s 14 points gained here means that he now leapfrogs Joe Steward (GBR), who has 140 points, to take third position with 152 points, with Andrea Rostan (ITA) behind Steward with 106. See full results and standings here: World_Cup_Results.pdf (

Next race

Next up it’s the final three races in this year’s World Cup at Sky Gran Canaria:

13th October Vertical Uphill race (6.6k, +947m)

14th October Long Mountain Race (35k, +2736m)

15th October Classic Mountain race (21k, +740m/-1970m)

With so many points available here, it will be an exciting finale to the 2023 World Cup. We will be bringing you a preview of the races in the next few days.