NAIROBI, December 1 – Former World Junior cross Country champion Linet Masai captured top spot in style at the 25th ‘Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’ held on a cold and rainy Sunday in Spain.
The women’s 7.36km contest featured two top-ten athletes from this year’s World XC Championships in the guise of Masai and Margaret Muriuki Wangari, who placed third and eight respectively in Edinburgh.
Eighteen year old Masai provided ample evidence that her bronze medal in Edinburgh was no fluke and from the second kilometre she was in full command of the event thanks to an injection of terrific pace which proved simply unaffordable for the rest.
The Beijing Olympic 10,000m fourth placer built a massive margin of 20 seconds before halfway on Portugal’s Ines Monteiro, herself ten seconds clear of Margaret Muriuki Wangari, while Hungary’s Aniko Kalovics ran in fourth.
The remaining laps just confirmed Masai’s overwhelming authority as her advantage become bigger and bigger to reach the amazing figure of 40 seconds at the bell on Monteiro, a brilliant winner at the opening IAAF permit in Oeiras earlier this month.
There were not major changes in the closing 2km loop and the 2007 World Junior Cross Country champion extended her winning gap to one full minute (25:12-26:12) on the in-form runner-up Portuguese who defeated Margaret Muriuki Wangari by the handsome margin of 29 seconds.
In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele edged out World silver medallist Leonard Komon to win the race.
The first remarkable movement of the 9.4km men’s race came when Komon managed to reduce the leading group to just seven units after a change of speed.
However the 20-year-old soon began to falter on Llodio’s muddy surface once Spain’s Ethiopian born Alemayehu Bezabeh took charge of the race.
At the halfway point, the Spaniard was making most of the pace duties with Bekele consistently staying two metres behind the leader.
By then, the 2007 World Junior XC silver medallist Vicent Chepkor was running four seconds behind the leading duo, while Komon’s chances of winning had vanished as he travelled another ten seconds adrift alongside his fellow Kenyan Mike Kiptoo and Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem.
Shortly before the bell (2km to go) Bezabeh’s dream of succeeding in front of his new home crowd also disappeared as he fell on a muddy section of the circuit, losing valuable seconds before regaining his balance, and was overtaken by Chepkor.
At the finish line, the reigning World Indoor 3000m champion, Bekele had a seven-second margin over Chepkor, himself 100m clear of Bezabeh, who at least kept Kiptoo at bay and made the minor podium position.
As for a tired Komon, he had to be satisfied with a 8th place over one minute behind Bekele in his fourth consecutive appearance on Spanish soil in November.