SILVERTON – Race leader Xavier Thévenard of France was disqualified from the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run early Saturday morning. He was less than 10 miles from the finish line in Silverton.
The 30-year-old broke Rule 5 of the Hardrock 100’s Executive Rule Summary that reads: “No stashing of supplies along the course and no accepting aid except within 400 yards of a designated aid station.”
The Hardrock 100 is a 100.5-mile ultramarathon through the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. This is the 25th running of the event that features 66,000 feet of elevation change.
After admitting to the violation, Thévenard was given the option to finish the race in Silverton as an unofficial finisher, but he opted to drop out and was not seen in Silverton as other finishers came in Saturday. Jeff Browning, a 46-year-old from North Logan, Utah, was crowned the winner in a time of 26 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds. He called it a “bittersweet” win because of what happened to Thévenard.
Thévenard is the first runner to ever be disqualified from a Hardrock 100.
“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do as the director of Hardrock,” said run director Dale Garland. “Integrity was very important. That was a major part of this. What message, not only what precedent, but what message are we sending about what Hardrock values and what Hardrock believes.”
Thévenard posted a statement to his Facebook page in which he voiced his disappointment and frustration with the decision.
“The Hardrock 100 adventure, this race which made me dream so much,” Thévenard wrote, “ends for my pacer and friend Bengi Girondel and me at Cunningham after 145 km of race, while we were going to run the loop in less than 24 hours!!!! I don’t contest the facts, but this (organization’s) decision is, according to me, a little bit cruel ...”
Thévenard, who was officially disqualified at the Cunningham aid station at 91.2 miles completed, was photographed about two miles outside the Ouray aid station receiving water and ice from a crew car Friday afternoon.
Thévenard reached Ouray, 43.9 miles into the race, with 8 hours, 48 minutes elapsed. He was 56 minutes ahead of second-place Browning and 62 minutes ahead of third-place Brendan Trimboli of Durango.
Near the Bear Creek Trail, which is closed to the public this year because of washout caused by recent heavy rains, Thévenard was spotted at a crew car that had its back hatch open. This came after Thévenard was in-and-out of the Ouray aid station in a matter of minutes.
The photographer who witnessed and photographed the act asked fellow photographers if outside aid was legal and was advised to contact that Hardrock 100 staff.
The Durango Herald was aware of the violation at 3:48 p.m. Friday. A text message to Garland at 4:09 p.m. was not returned, though Garland said that text got the ball rolling on the investigation.
At 4:22 a.m. Saturday, the Hardrock 100 released a statement on its Facebook page regarding Thévenard’s disqualification. The announcement called Thévenard’s violation “clear and substantive,” but the race did not believe it was made with malicious intent and Thévenard would be welcome to apply for the race lottery again in future years.
“We were made aware of a potential violation of run rules in Ouray by a member who had proof of a rules infraction,” Garland said. “He showed us that proof in Ouray. This is standard protocol. We formed a rules infraction committee of people to review the evidence then come up with a decision.”
Garland found French interpreters to interview Thévenard and is crew. They didn’t want to make a decision without getting their side of the story. Initially, Thévenard denied accepting aid when interviewed at the Sherman aid station at 71.9 miles into the race. Later, the crew called Garland and explained that they were confused by the questions and wanted to talk more. After speaking with the crew again, and partnered with the evidence, it was clear Thévenard had accepted aid not permitted by the rules. Garland departed to Cunningham aid station to meet with Thévenard once more, again with a translator. Thévenard began talking and admitted the infraction. He hoped for a time penalty and was visibly upset by the disqualification. However, Hardrock does not have a policy in place for issuing time penalties, and the committee did not want to institute a new policy mid-race.
“This is our first disqualification; don’t really have precedent,” Garland said. “That was part of the calculus that was part of the decision-making process – whatever we do here will have an impact for the run down the road.”
Thévenard said he would have accepted a time penalty of one to two hours, but a total disqualification, he felt, was too severe.
“600 hours of training since January, a plane trip of 1500 km, an enormous involvement in this Hardrock 100 project. I feel miserable because I didn’t think I was cheating,” he wrote. “And in the rules, there is no sanction for an aid outside of an aid station. I found this sanction a bit excessive, 1 or 2 hours of penalty why not, but this is too unfair. I have difficulty to look to the future.”