Ethiopia’s Mule Wasihum and Kenya’s Josephine Chepkoech took victories after a thrilling finish on Sunday (27) at the 35th edition of the well-known Marseille-Cassis 20km, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
The men’s race opened at a fast pace on the streets of Marseille and nine runners emerged, driven by Wasihum. Because of the Ethiopian’s acceleration bursts, the group progressively disintegrated.
His teammates Tamirat Tola and Tesfaye Abera took the lead, while Belete Assefa and Dawit Wolde couldn’t hold on to the pace in the first uphill section of the race, after the fifth kilometre. There, the runners sensibly slowed down and were looking at each other, gauging any signs of fatigue.
One of the favourites, Kenya’s Silas Kipruto, dropped during the ascension of the Col de la Gineste, a painful 327-metre climb which caused several changes at the front of the race.
The half-way point was reached in 30:02 with five runners remaining at the front. Suddenly, Kenya’s Cyprian Kotut, who finished fourth in this race last year, injected a surprising attack right as the road changed into a long downhill towards Cassis.
Only Wasihum was able to stay in contact, and after 41 minutes it was his turn to try to escape. He did just that, soon opening up a 30-metre gap over his rival. Passing 15km in 46:15, the leader, wearing a bright yellow vest, kept increasing his advantage along the Mediterranean Sea in warm weather and still wind conditions.
After 52 minutes of running, the Cote des Pompiers had no effect on the Ethiopian, who was coasting to a clear victory. Behind, Kotut was joined by Tola who came from a long way behind, and both began a gradual acceleration.
As he entered Cassis Port with 400m to go, Wasihum was checking his stopwatch when Kotut and Tola caught him by surprise. Woken up by the shock, Wasihum began to sprint hard and almost fell over on the last turn of the road but still managed to cross the finish line in 1:00:09, two seconds ahead of Kotut.
Chepkoech leads Kenyan sweep
The women’s race was dominated by Kenyans, Cynthia Jerotich, Gladys Kipsoi, and favourite Josephine Chepkoech who took convincing wins last month over 10km in Prague and at the Mattoni Half-marathon.
The trio managed to dispose of the other favourite, Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, during the first uphill stage just outside Marseille.
Meanwhile, Chepkoech was displaying her current great shape in setting the tempo, a few meters in front of her rivals Jerotich and Kipso, who finished second and third respectively in this race last year.
The three Kenyans ran shoulder to shoulder up to 45 minutes, at which point it still seemed it was all to play for and either one could win.
Kipsoi was the victim of the Cote des Pomiers, letting Chepkoech and Jerotich battle in a storming finish along the streets of Marseille.
Chepkoech emerged as the winner in 1:00:03, with a two-second margin, just like in the men’s race. New Zealand triathlete Andrea Hewitt finished just outside the top three.
Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF
1 Mule Wasihum (ETH) 1:00:09
2 Cyprian Kotut (KEN) 1:00:11
3 Tamirat Tola (ETH) 1:00:14
4 Tesfaye Abera (ETH) 1:01:22
5 Charles Ogari (KEN) 1:02:03
6 Shimelis Belay (ETH) 1:02:16
1 Josephine Chepkoech (KEN) 1:10:03
2 Cynthia Jerotich (KEN) 1:10:05
3 Gladys Kipsoi (KEN) 1:10:44
4 Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 1:13:48
5 Worknesh Degefa (ETH) 1:15:45
6 Hafida Gadi (FRA) 1:17:25