Patrouille des Glaciers: Zermatt’s defender of the title Martin Anthamatten is prepared

This year, a record number of 5,400 participants will compete in the Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG). The race will take place between 29 April and 3 May 2014. How have the defender of the title, Zermatt‘s Martin Anthamatten and his team prepared for the event? And how does Martin feel before the race?

The iconic ski-touring race, which is the most challenging team event in the world, covers a distance of 53 km, 4,000 metres in altitude and 110 energy expenditure kilometres. The competitors team up in patrols. Starting in Zermatt, the race passes Arolla and ends in Verbier. Martin Anthamatten’s team of three won the 2010 race in 5:52 hours. Taking place every two years, the event had to be suspended in 2012 due to severe weather conditions. Martin Anthamatten and his team mates Yannick Ecoeur and Florent Troillet will be defending their title in the 2014 race. 

How does it feel to defend the title?

At the moment it doesn’t feel special yet. It’s just a normal race. There will be many excellent athletes competing who may well win the race.

How does your team coordinate itself, for instance when you descend the glacier linked to each other by rope?

That takes years of practice. We have been training together for six years and all three of us work for the Border Guards. We know how each of us moves and understand each other intuitively during tricky glacier descents. Words are rarely necessary. The strongest amongst us leads, both during the ascent and the descent. That means that I go first, set the rhythm and make sure that the other two can keep up.

You use ultra-light equipment. How much does it weigh?

The skis plus bindings weigh around 800 grams, the boots 600 grams and the skins 100 grams. Together, they weigh around three to four kilograms. Nowadays, nobody brings a gun anymore – those times are over, even though the race is still organised by the Swiss Army and some of the patrols are military, both from Switzerland and from all over the world. After all, the race started out as a military competition.

What did you do for your training?

We did two weeks of altitude training at 3,000 m on Gornergrat in December. All other competitions during this season were part of our preparation. In April, we’ll go for another altitude training, this time a bit higher at 3,480 m on Testa Grigia. We will alternate, a few days up there, a few days down in the village. We have access to a Border Guard cabin on Testa Grigia, which will also be used by other racers competing for the Border Guard.

Is the PDG important for Zermatt and for the ski touring sport?

In Zermatt, the PDG extends the spring season as many athletes come here for their training weeks before the race. The event now has cult status, it has become THE Alpine ski race, the Tour de France for ski touring racers. The event attracts a lot of attention among politicians, the media and the guests.

There will be two starts in Zermatt on two different nights. When will your team start and what do you want to achieve?

We’ll be starting in the night from Friday to Saturday 3 May at 3 a.m. Of course it is our aim to win and defend our title. All three of us are highly motivated and will do everything to make this a perfect race. We hope to come in under six hours again, but that depends on the conditions. We have a good chance to win this race.

We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed!

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