Hugo Deck is the new nugget of trail running. In this discipline where experience counts enormously, the one who grew up in the Alpes-Maritimes (in Cannet, then in Saint-Jeannet until he was 18) defies the statistics. At 22, the adopted Varois, based in La Roquebrussanne, got into the habit of crossing the finish line first. In the Alpes-Maritimes, it has already won at Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée (2019) or at UTCAM last year.
But, this Saturday morning, it is on the Promenade des Anglais, on a race stamped UTMB, that he hopes to raise his arms.
Are you ok with being told you’re the favourite?
I am the best ranked in the ITRA rating (854 points), but I have never done such a long trail. The maximum so far is 130km on the Transgrancanaria (February 2021) and 6500 meters of elevation. There, it will be necessary to add 35 kilometers and 2000m of D + and even 3000m of D-. We don’t talk about it much but it will hurt.
How do you prepare for such a race?
it’s not really getting ready. It’s the training for several years that counts, even if you have to increase the volume without injuring yourself when you approach the race. Training sessions of 5-7 hours, i.e. about forty kilometers for 3000m of elevation gain. And then, the last week, it’s just a 45-minute jog a day.
What are your playing fields in training?
I train around my house or in the Toulon mountains, during all seasons except summer when it’s too hot. This summer, I went to Chamonix.
Do you practice other disciplines?
Yes road cycling or mountain biking. Sports worn, especially after races or long workouts. It’s less traumatic.
How did you come to trail running?
I did twelve years of basketball. At 15, I played in U15 France in Antibes, I was part of the departmental selection of the Alpes-Maritimes. Then in high school (Henri-Matisse in Vence), I felt that I was running out of breath in basketball, that I wouldn’t pass the last level, which is hard when you’re a competitor. So I wanted to do something else. For a year, I partied more than sport. I was looking for a discipline where I could flourish. With my family, we hiked a lot, especially around the Baous, I practiced other outdoor sports, such as climbing, canyoning. I was drawn to nature sports.
Was there a click?
Yes, I had gone to follow a basketball match of my friends in Saint-Jeannet and there was the Baous trail that day. My older brother Pierre took part. I went to see him on arrival, he had gone very far in the effort, I said to myself ”this is what I want to do”. I threw myself into it and quickly joined the Team Provence Endurance club.
What is your best racing memory?
My fifth place on the UTMB CCC (in 2021). It’s a race that made me dream, with a very strong field and I found myself playing the leading roles. The arrival in Chamonix for a trail runner was incredible.
You had won the Espoir category 5 hours ahead of the 2e…
Yes, but there are few young people in these races. Trail runners tend to be 30-35 years old. This is something that will change in the future because we see that it is a discipline that is developing among young people, with in particular a trail school in Antibes. I also went to do an initiation in a college near my home.
And you were the youngest Hope on a podium since Kilian Jornet in 2008…
He had won, but it is true that it is a flattering anecdote.
Did you quickly want to switch to the Ultras?
Yes, that’s what I wanted to do, what made me dream. It’s a complex discipline where you have to manage nutrition, cold, injuries, shoes, ups and downs. It’s never linear. You can quickly go from a very good moment to a difficult passage, but that’s what I like.
Is it the mind that makes the difference?
You already have to be good physically to find yourself in front, but then the mind has a dominating role. Even when we win, there are times when you get tired of running. When you have already run 60km and there are as many left, the mind must follow.
What do you think about during these long hours?
You just have to move on, keep a cool head. When I had good races, it was when I stayed focused on three things: the next rubalise, my stride and not blowing too hard. I can also think about what I’m going to take at the next ravito.
Have you ever had scares while racing?
I sometimes go really far in the effort. In Grandcanaria, I had to score points to qualify for the CCC, so I wanted to finish at all costs. At one point, I was really not well. But I make sure not to do anything, so as not to hurt myself. I have already preferred to abandon races. I’m only 22 and I want to last in this sport, at least twenty years. It will be possible if I have as few injuries as possible.
Who will be your opponents in the race?
There is the Chinese Min Qi and Julien Jorro.
Have you established a strategy, with split times?
No, I am mainly thinking of the passage times to take enough water and food until the next refueling point. I will keep my pace and if I manage to finish this race, I think I will play in front.
What will make the difference here?
On such a long course, you always have to manage to run downhill. Have sufficient muscle capacity. I prefer walking uphill so I can run downhill.
Who will come support you on the course?
My father who takes care of the refreshments like on all the races. This is his ordeal. And then I have a lot of friends who will be on the course or on the other races.