UTMB 2023 – The male pros used these watches. The winner? Wahoo Rival…lol

Wahoo Elemnt Rival Target PlanUTMB 2023 – The male pros use these GPS watches to race

Sometimes we have to take what brand ambassadors say about their tech with a pinch of salt. Gal Gadot was famously caught by Marques Brownlee tweeting about how great her new Huawei phone was…from an iPhone. Oh dear.

And of course, we know that even Tour de France cyclists sometimes insist on using some of their personal favourite bits of tech despite conflicting team sponsorships, just that they have to tape over the branding in order to use it in the race.

Is it the same for running though? We might be initially inclined to think that a running watch doesn’t make that much, or even any, difference to performance. Even on race day, how many key stats do you actually need? eg Joshua Cheptegie used an ancient Forerunner 35 for his 5K world record, most likely it was used as a glorified stopwatch. UTMB adds some other key stat requirements into the mix along with battery consideration as it’s a long race with big elevation gains.

Cut to the Chase

Without further ado. The winner of course wore a Wahoo ELEMNT Rival…yes really!

Wahoo rival – lowest ever prices for the elemnt triathlon watch

UTMB 2023 – Male

Props to Jerome at Montre Cardio GPS for the primary research for this data. He analysed photos, Strava uploads, and I think was also present during the race itself to come up with this table of tech.

Source: Montre Cardio GPS


The one thing these watches all have in common is that they’re round! Scratch that. The Apple Watch isn’t. Actually, they all do share a barometer which will add accuracy to grade/elevation stats.

Image: UTMB – is that Canyon Woodward taking a selfie with his iPhone?

They are generally lightish watches but certainly, even super lightness doesn’t seem to be a factor they all share. With the Fenix 7X coming in at almost 100g, that’s double the weight of some of the other watches.

Only the very latest generation of brands’ watches have multi-frequency/dual-band reception, that’s the piece of tech that finally gives watches some accuracy when near buildings, cliff faces and the like. surely that’s ideal for UTMB2023? Well, the Pace 2, Fenix 6 and Rival don’t have that tech. So the pros clearly don’t need super accurate GPS tracks; just a vague indication of which mountain they are on seems to be enough!

I’m guessing no one got lost at UTMB and that the trails were pretty well-marked! So who needs a navigation watch? All the Coros Pace 2 runners and Baptise Chassagne clearly either followed a breadcrumb route or the person in front, both tactics which are usually fine in my experience 😉

The course is 172 kilometres (106.5 miles) in length and the winners finish in less than 20 hours so even the 965 and Watch ULTRA with their AMOLED screens are perfectly OK for these durations. Well unless Mr Grinius had the map on display 100% of the time with the Apple…the battery might have just about done 5k in that scenario.

UTMG – Female

Jerome had more difficulty validating what the women wore.

On its victory is quoted as saying

Jim Walmsley’s incredible victory at UTMB is a testament to the power of his determination, unparalleled athleticism, and unwavering dedication. We at Wahoo are honoured to support an athlete whose pursuit of excellence perfectly aligns with our commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation in sports technology. Jim’s much anticipated and well deserved win not only showcases his remarkable talent but also serves as a reminder that with the right tools and mindset, anything is possible. Together, we’ll continue to redefine what’s achievable in the world of ultra-running.

wahoo elemnt rival walmsley utmb

The Moral of this Story

I suppose that if we could stop laughing about Wahoo’s victory and their ability to invest in the right runner at the right time, we might then be able to make some more sensible statements about the rest.

Clearly, Coros has put considerable sums of money into its athlete sponsorship program. It will probably pay off in the long run…just not this time.

All that said, perhaps the true moral here is that your precise choice of sports watch these days probably isn’t quite as important as it might have been, say, 5 years ago. The current crop of mid to top-end watches are all pretty good from a technical point of view. So maybe it’s best to just get one that’s the right colour and size for your wrist and your eyesight. Yes, other physical characteristics like general usability, buttons, weather-proofing and screen durability just might be more important than 4,625 software features that you won’t ever use.

Another cautionary tale for product planners at Garmin perhaps?




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14 thoughts on “UTMB 2023 – The male pros used these watches. The winner? Wahoo Rival…lol

  1. Unlike with Cycling, I think Garmin sponsors nobody or almost nobody in ultra running. Coros is however eager with sponsorships. I wonder if the Suunto Vertical users were largely Suunto-sponsored?

    Another takeaway might be when spending their own money, athletes mostly prefer Garmin.

  2. Garmin sponsors some athletes in ultra running (at least Mathieu “Cryin’ baby” Blanchard, and some others.
    tfk, why can’t you stop laughing at Wahoo’s “winning” the UTMB with Rival ? Because it’s the less “adventure” and mountain oriented watch of the bunch ?
    It looks like Jim Walmsley uses it on regular basis for all his training though.

    1. it’s great a guy with a Wahoo won it.
      I know wahoo is also the UTMB event sponsor but it just seems unusual/unpredictable/funny (I cant think of the word) that heavily sponsored competition from the other brands lost out on the day to a guy with a triathlon watch.

      1. Yeah that’s true that Wahoio watch winning a ultra trail event looks quite out of the place 😀
        After all, Wahoo sponsoring UTMB seems a bit off actually.

  3. Your site on the one from Jerome M. are those that i read multiple times a week. Thanks for your work !

    Beau travail Jérôme !!!

  4. I think that all those watches are accurate enough. In my opinion using something you are used to and which you did set up exactly like you want it is a much bigger motivator to just use a device a few more years more than having your GPS track meanders 2m more than the newest generation.

    If you look at experienced runners in the age groups, this is especially true with older Garmin watches where you had to set it up all on device with 2000+!button pushes

  5. Wearing any watch does not make you fast. Being fast means you get a free watch.
    Should me the stats of those that finish the race in the last 75%. That will show who values a watch as they have paid for their own device.

  6. Looks like the Wahoo watch has some great integration features, such as downloading your plan (pace, heart rate target etc) to keep you on track during the race, as well as the easy features of automatically having your trainingsplans downloaded onto it via trainingspeak.
    Personally, I love and use Polar since many years, very accurate heart rate, GPS and amazing software to plan, analyze and shedule your trainings and races. And yes, so used to it with so much history data online, probably will never change brands because of the effort it would take to transfer data and relearn a new watch. ????

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