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 The Italian athlete Franco Collé, born in 1978, currently lives in Gressoney-Saint-Jean in Valle d’Aosta, at the foot of Monte Rosa. By profession he is a hydraulic engineer who works on river and dam projects in Valle d’Aosta.

With regard to his sporting life, Franco is an athlete who specializes in ultra trail running in the summer and ski mountaineering in the winter — his two great passions. So in the fall and spring, he switches between the two sports, which are complementary to each other.

Ski mountaineering first, then trail running. It was his sister Sonia who signed him up for the Tor des Géants. To achieve this goal, Franco purchased trail running clothing and shoes to start training. To prepare for the race, he also participated in the 60 km Trail Oasi Zegna and the 57 km Gran Trail di Courmayeur.

Franco participated in the Tor des Géants for the first time in 2012, taking fifth place overall and first among the Italians. Since then, his palmarès has been constantly expanding. Without a doubt, Franco is one of the best Italian ultra trail runners.

To begin the interview, we’d like to know more about your experience as a soccer player. You practiced that sport as a child, but the day came when you decided to put away your soccer cleats to pursue your dreams: ski mountaineering and ultra trail. What do these two sports give you?

Soccer was the sport that introduced me to the spirit of competition and teamwork. But when I discovered the mountains, I didn’t think I could stay confined to a soccer field anymore. The urge to go up and down the mountains was too strong — in the summer with trail running shoes and in the winter with skis and boots because the peaks are covered with snow. A passion that made me set my soccer cleats aside.

Your transition to the world of trail running took place in 2012, and it was by chance. Tell us what happened.

The Tor des Géants passes in front of my house, in Gressoney, and it was my sister who signed me up, in 2012, for this race that I thought was crazy. Her words were: “I think you can do it.” That’s where it all started. I got involved with this fantastic sport, and now I can’t let it go. A month later I won my first race, and three months later at the Tor des Géants I finished fifth overall and first among the Italians. A dream come true!

You’ve never stopped participating in the highest-profile races since then. How do you balance work, family, training, and racing?

It’s true! Since 2012 I’ve started participating in increasingly important races, in increasingly beautiful settings and in places that are increasingly distant from my mountains. Without a doubt, it’s not easy to balance sport, work, and family. Over the years, I’ve learned to optimize my free time more and more, training in the evenings or in my spare moments. I feel very fortunate to have a family that fully understands my passion and is always ready to help me achieve my goals. My work colleagues are patient and understanding with me, so I can adopt flexible working hours. I have to make many sacrifices to be able to reconcile these commitments, but with passion you can do anything.

You’ve participated in five editions of the Tor des Géants. Do you think it’s the greatest trail running race?

The Tor des Géants is not a race, but the greatest adventure. An extraordinary journey immersed in nature. A 350 km succession of emotions, through woods, hills, ridges, villages ... in the shadow of the giants of Valle d’Aosta: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, and Gran Paradiso.



How do you prepare for such a demanding challenge?

It’s difficult to feel prepared for a challenge like this. You can’t do simulations like in other sports, such as running marathons, for example. My preparation for this challenge is very precise, in terms of both equipment and training. I try to train by covering gradually increasing distances throughout the season, until I’m doing runs of between 100 and 120 km in July. In August, in contrast, I try to recover my mental and physical energy as I prepare myself for the great challenge.

What qualities does a long-distance runner need to have in order to take on demanding challenges like these?

The main qualities that an athlete preparing for ultra trail races must have are determination and experience. In a race this long, you’ll certainly have moments of crisis. In those moments, you need to be good at managing your energy and not getting discouraged. You have to be patient and hang in there. That’s the only way to overcome the crisis and be able to cross the finish line.

Monte Rosa is a magical mountain for you. After 23 years, in 2020, you beat Bruno Brunod’s record uphill and downhill in 4h30'35". Was it easy? How many times did you try? What difficulty does this undertaking present?

Monte Rosa is my home mountain. Bruno Brunod has always been my idol, as well as a great friend. I’ve always wanted to beat his record. There were no races in 2020 because of the pandemic, so I set myself this goal. On my first attempt, I made my dream come true. The snow conditions above 4,000 meters were not very good; it was powdery and created a lot of challenges for me. My strong point is descending, and that day I was able to run fast all the way down. Unfortunately, with climate change the conditions of the glacier are worsening, so it’s difficult to carry out these feats safely.

In researching your sporting career, we saw that you’ve never participated in the 100-mile UTMB race, which is surprising. Why not?

I will soon be on the starting line of the UTMB race! So far, I’ve preferred to participate in the more technical races that better suit my characteristics. But I will certainly participate in this race too before I finish my sporting career.


Is there a race that you've been unable to finish?

In 2016 I participated in the Diagonale des Fous race, but I couldn’t finish it. I’ll have to tackle it again to try to cross the finish line!

As of today, what race would you like to do that you haven’t attempted yet?

There are many races that I like and that I haven’t participated in yet. The problem is that there are a lot of important competitions and I only have two legs. Seriously, though, I would like to participate in the MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra-Trail) and Hardrock 100 (Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run) races.

What’s on your trail running schedule for the 2022 season?

I have a lot of goals for 2022, but my calendar is still under construction. In May I’ll participate in the Corfu Mountain Trail, in August in the TDS race, and in September I’ll return to the Tor des Géants.

Now let’s talk about the other passion that you’ve been practicing for a lifetime: ski mountaineering. You were also an instructor and coach until 2015. What does this sport offer you that trail running doesn’t?

This sport allows me to climb the mountains in winter and, at the same time, to train at high altitude. It allows me to rest my joints, because in the summer they’re quite stressed by trail running. It’s a sport I really like, and it’s complementary to trail running.

If you had to choose only one sport, which one would you choose?

It’s a difficult choice, but I must admit that maybe I’d choose to run on the trails.

You’ve participated in 10 editions of the Trofeo Mezzalama. What’s so special about it that’s made you take part in it so many times?

The Mezzalama is a race that’s shaped the history of ski mountaineering. From an early age, I used to go to the finish to see the heroes who reached Gressoney after starting in Cervinia and traversing all of Monte Rosa. My dream was always to be one of those heroes. It’s a fantastic race!


What other ski mountaineering competition deserves more attention, in your opinion, and why?

The Sellaronda Skimarathon, a spectacular night ski mountaineering competition that introduced me to a different way of experiencing the mountains.

In both sports you’re sponsored by the Italian outdoor brand Karpos. Does this brand represent you? What does it mean to you?

From the very beginning of the partnership with Karpos, I’ve felt at home. An Italian brand that’s a leading producer of clothing for the two sports that I love the most. A company that fully embraces my philosophy. What more could I ask for?

You and Giuditta Turini share the same passions. Do you think this sharing strengthens your relationship as a couple?

I’m very lucky to have found a life partner who shares my same passion. Now, we’ve become a real team, which is key to my ability to achieve my goals. Sharing the same sport with Giuditta is truly remarkable. We help each other in our daily training and in racing. This support has strengthened our relationship! We feel very close, both in victory and in defeat.

To conclude the interview, we’d like to know your plans for the future ...

I hope to be able to travel and see the world for many more years and to be able to find races that allow me to have new experiences in different places that I’m still not familiar with. I also like to dedicate part of my time to young people, to pass on to them some of my experience and my passion.




10 participations in the Trofeo Mezzalama (5th place in 2015 together with Marcel Marti and Yannick Ecoeur)
2nd place – Italian Individual Freestyle Championships in 2011
2nd place – Individual Italian Cup – Trofeo 3 Funivie in 2011
2nd place – Italian Cup – Trofeo Parravicini in 2011 together with Dennis Brunod
3rd place – Italian Championships in 2012 – Giro del Gran Paradiso together with Filippo Barazzuol
1st place – Italian Cup – Trofeo Fiou in 2012 together with Matteo Stacchetti
3rd place – Italian Individual Freestyle Championships in 2012 and 2013
4th place – Sellaronda Skimarathon in 2013 together with Filippo Barazzuol
1st place – Les Diablerets 3D in 2013 together with Dennis Brunod
1st place – MonterosaSkiAlp in 2015 together with Tadei Pivk
2nd place – Sellaronda Skimarathon in 2017 together with Fabio Bazzana


5th place – TOR DES GÉANTS – 84:15:59
3rd place – COURCHEVEL X-TRAIL (54 km) – 06:53:08
1st place – MATTERHORN CERVINO XTRAIL (55 km) – 05:27:54
1st place – GRAN TRAIL VALDIGNE (57 km) – 05:32:31
2nd place – TRAIL OASI ZEGNA – 08:20:37

3rd place – TOR DES GÉANTS – 72:05:23
1st place – GRAN TRAIL COURMAYEUR GTC (90 km) – 09:10:45
1st place – MATTERHORN CERVINO XTRAIL (55 km) – 05:49:09
1st place – GRAN PARADISO TRAIL – 05:31:45
1st place – GRAN TRAIL RENSEN – 07:13:46

1st place – TOR DES GÉANTS – 71:49:10
3rd place – MONTEROSA WALSER ULTRA TRAIL (50 km) – 03:23:13
2nd place – EIGER ULTRA TRAIL E101 – 12:11:05
2nd place – MATTERHORN CERVINO XTRAIL (55 km) – 05:45:22
1st place – LICONY TRAIL – 06:31:39

1st place – ADAMELLO ULTRA TRAIL (70 km) – 07:13:00
1st place – RUN THE RUT (50 km) – 05:16:58
2nd place – MARATHON DU MONT-BLANC (80 km) – 11:03:11
1st place – LICONY TRAIL – 06:08:43

3rd place – UTMB® – TDS® – 15:32:45
1st place – MATTERHORN CERVINO XTRAIL (55 km) – 06:20:43
2nd place – GRAN TRAIL RENSEN – 05:09:31

1st place – SANT’OLCESE TRAIL – 04:28:54
1st place – MATTERHORN CERVINO XTRAIL (60 km) – 07:08:16
1st place – TRAIL OASI ZEGNA – 06:16:22
1st place – GRAN TRAIL RENSEN – 05:16:33
2nd place – VESUVIO SKY MARATHON – 04:03:18

1st place – TOR DES GÉANTS – 74:03:00
1st place – GRAN TRAIL COURMAYEUR (105 km) – 13:48:55
1st place – QUARTRAIL DES ALPAGES (50 km) – 05:59:18
1st place – GRAN TRAIL RENSEN – 05:16:10

1st place – ADAMELLO ULTRA-TRAIL – 24:00:55
1st place – MONTEROSA EST HIMALAYAN TRAIL (60 km) – 08:09:37
1st place – LICONY TRAIL – 09:05:50
1st place – TRAILAGHI – TRAIL DEI MIRTILLI NEW – 02:09:23
1st place – S1 TRAIL LA CORSA DELLA BORA – HALF – 01:43:49

1st place – SWISSPEAKS TRAIL 360 – 62:46:33

1st place – TORX – TOR330 TOR DES GÉANTS – 66:43:57
1st place – MONTEROSA EST HIMALAYAN TRAIL (105 km) – 15:53:57
2nd place – QUARTRAIL DES ALPAGES (50 km) – 06:08:37
1st place – GRAN TRAIL RENSEN – 03:05:12

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