Brave Hanna battles to get superb sixth

Brave Hanna battles to get superb sixth

14 October 2020

AFTER a successful racing weekend in Casto, northwest of Brescia, Dromara athlete Zak Hanna decamped on Monday to Chiavenna in the Italian Alps, only 14 kilometres shy of the Swiss border.

He had built further on his reputation as a vertical kilometre specialist with a superb second-place finish in the Vertical Nasego, just 35 seconds behind the Italian number one, Henri Aymonod.

However, he had taken the scalps of world class mountain runners, including those of Scot Andy Douglas and Tim Beçan of Slovenia.

Hanna couldn’t resist running and jumping around all week, exploring the steep-sided valley where the mountains soar to nearly 3,700 metres.

At the same time, he knew he had to recover, so after the minimum of tapers — much reduced climbing on Friday and Saturday — he declared himself ready to do battle on Sunday morning.

Just 30 seconds behind Hanna and last off, was race favourite and top Italian specialist, Henri Aymonod, who had beaten Hanna into second the previous weekend in the Vertical Nasego by 35 seconds. 

Whilst Hanna has developed quite a reputation in Europe as a VK specialist, especially during this year, this particular time trial format does not suit his racing style.

Last week, Aymonod commented after the race that Hanna has taken the whip to the field, threw down the gauntlet and led Aymonod in a break on the rest of the field by winding up the pressure as the race got to halfway. 

This week, there was no real sense of the race as it ‘contre la montre’, a race against the clock. So when Hanna caught the Swiss racer, Anthamatten, early in the climb, he knew he had already closed 30 seconds on him.

However, behind him he had no idea how Aymonod was doing as he had started 30 seconds behind.

As it turned out, it was with round 400m to go that Aymonod finally caught Hanna, closing the 30-second gap. Hanna pushed hard and took every last strength of effort to hold on.

Aymonod pushed hard into the home straight, the climb relentless and crossed the line in 32:31 with Hanna two seconds behind him on the course and 32 seconds overall home in 33:03.

Again with this format there was the agonising wait to find out the finishing position.

In the end, he was confirmed in sixth — a brilliant result in such esteemed company and at the Italian VK Championships.

He was only 32 seconds behind the pre-race favourite and Italian winner, an Italian second place and a Swiss third place. In fourth place was Alberto Vender a regular rival of Hanna’s and frustratingly only two seconds ahead of Hanna. In fifth, another Italian, only one second ahead.

This is why Hanna prefers a straight race, as he is a born-racer and he knows deep down that if they’d all been together on the course, he would have been hard to beat for fourth place.