Retired Canadian pro cyclist enters 50K trail race on a whim, and wins

50k trail run winner Christian Meier

Nearly seven years after announcing his retirement from pro cycling, Canada’s Christian Meier has topped the podium at a challenging European 50K trail race—an event he entered on a whim, as a training run.

Meier, who hails from Sussex, NB, and is now based in Spain (he’s a business owner in Girona), placed first out of more than 600 runners at the 50K trail race of the Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB on Saturday, finishing the course in 5:42:25. The course, which begins and ends in the village of Ordino in the small landlocked country of Andorra between France and Spain, is listed as a medium-high difficulty race on the event’s website. The course features 3,600 meters of elevation gain through the Pyrenees mountains.

Posting about his victory on Instagram, the 38-year-old expressed surprise and gratitude following the race. “Sometimes things happen when you least expect them, especially winning your first running race. I signed up to the @trail100andorra 50k only a few days before so the bib of an injured mate wouldn’t go to waste, it would be a great day of training,” he wrote.

But he noted he could feel his “day of training” on the course turn into something more remarkable shortly after setting out from the start line. “I set out a pacing, nutrition and hydration strategy. I ran my race, feeling early on that it could be my day but it was up (to) me to make it happen. I kept expecting someone to catch me but at the same time felt like I was moving well, and only in the last couple Ks when I had a good line of sight behind did I feel I could start to savor the moment a bit,” he wrote. “What a day, what an experience, when you feel you nailed it and you grab that tape at the finish line.”

Although Meier had a notable career as a cyclist—he competed in the 2014 Tour de France as a member of the Orica squad—his win in the mountains Saturday was no fluke. Meier has been making a name for himself in the trail-running scene over the past several years.

Earlier this month he represented Canada in the 85-km men’s long trail event at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria. Placing 53rd among 122 finishers at Worlds, Meier wrote that “while it seems it ended poorly … I take so many positives from this race. I felt maybe my strongest yet as a runner. I have trust in my process.”

His victory in Andorra seems to have validated that trust.

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