France Wins Team Title in Mixed Relays in Val Thorens. © Getty Images

Val Thorens hosted the first ISMF Ski Mountaineering World Cup event with a high-level spectacle. In the mixed relays category, the French duo of Emily Harrop and Thibault Anselmet delighted the audience by clinching the first victory of the 2023/24 season after a tough battle with the Spanish team (Oriol Cardona and Ana Alonso), who crossed the finish line in second place. Giulia Murada and Nicolo Canclini secured the bronze medal for Italy.

Sunday brought sunshine to Val Thorens for the second day of competition at the French resort, although temperatures were still below zero. The previous day's session was windy and colder. With the new competition format for this season, 43 teams participated in the qualifying round, with China (11 teams) and France (9 teams) having the broadest representation, while Spain, Switzerland, and Italy had three teams each; Austria, Germany, Poland, and Japan had two teams each, and the rest of the squads had one, totaling 13 different countries.

The qualification was a tough battle for all the teams, as only one team per country would advance to the final, with a maximum of two additional teams from the same country allowed in the B Final.

In the final duel, Emily Harrop started strongly from the beginning, trying to open as large a gap as possible before handing over to her teammate. Behind her, Giulia Murada (ITA), Johanna Hiemer (AUT), Ana Alonso (ESP), and Caroline Ulrich (SUI), who had won the previous day's individual women's event, fought to stay close. The German, Slovakian, and Polish teams were slowly fading behind the group, with Slovenia, China, the USA, and Japan losing ground but avoiding being lapped.

The French team, the current European and World champions, secured victory in the first race of the ISMF. © ISMF
The French team, the current European and World champions, secured victory in the first race of the ISMF. © ISMF

Harrop handed over to Thibault Anselmet clearly in the lead, with almost 30 seconds ahead of the group of four athletes chasing them. However, as soon as Oriol Cardona (ESP) received the baton, he initiated an impressive pursuit. Cardona had been the winner the day before in the first individual event, showcasing excellent form. By the second ascent, Cardona and Anselmet were neck and neck, both handing over to their teammates for the second lap. Behind them, Nicolo Canclini (ITA) tried to open a small gap with Jon Kistler (SUI) and Paul Verbnjak (AUT), all of them still relatively close.

The second lap for Harrop was another display of strength and technique, handing over to Anselmet with a 42-second lead over Cardona—a time that proved decisive for the Spanish athlete. Cardona gave his all in the final climb but couldn't catch Anselmet, who crossed the finish line in first place, embracing Harrop for their first victory of the season. This victory confirmed that they are once again the favorites, being the current world and European champions.

Cardona and Alonso were also pleased with their silver medal, adding to their two victories in the Mixed Relay events last year. The bronze medal ultimately went to Canclini and Murada.