Eleni Gebrehiwot's margin of supremacy wasn't as decisive as last year but the German-based Ethiopian still ran out a dominant winner at the ING Eurocross in the Luxembourg town of Diekirch on Sunday (9).
The 31-year-old, who first broke the sub-2:30 barrier for the marathon last September with 2:29:12 in Munster, prevailed over a much shorter 5.5km course at the penultimate IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting of the winter, winning in 20:28.
The threat from 2012 winner and arguable pre-race favourite Almensch Belete, from Belgium, never really materialise. The 24-year-old, who has been in good cross country form this winter with top-three finishes recently on home soil in Hannut and at the IAAF Permit race in Antrim last month, finished second and 20 seconds adrift of Gebrehiwot.
Four German women have won the senior women's race in the past but Sabrina Mockenhaupt, who was also beaten by Gebrehiwot at the German Cross Country Championships last year, had to settle for third in 21:03.
The men's 10.275km race also went to form with Alex Kibet, an impressive winner of the IAAF Cross Country Permit race in Brussels at the end of last year, improved on his runner-up finish here from last year.
The Kenyan-born Qatari, who looks set to smash his track bests of 7:55.57 for 3000m and 13:20.57 for 5000m based on his crosscountry form, took a largely unopposed victory, winning in 33:03 and 28 seconds ahead of the Belgian-based Ethiopian Dame Tasame.
Dame, in turn, was almost one minute ahead of his compatriot Yomif Kejelcha, who was racing internationally on this type of terrain for the first time. The 16-year-old 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships 3000m gold medallist made a solid debut in third in 34:18 but the distance was perhaps slightly beyond the youngster’s comfort zone.
Yonas Kinde, an Eritrean who has been based in Luxembourg since 2012, was a creditable fourth in 34:23. Three-time Diekirch winner Onesphore Nkunzimana, from Burundi, was a non-finisher in his first race of the year.
The Chiba IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Japan, also scheduled for Sunday (9) unfortunately had to be cancelled at short notice owing to severe snow storms in the area.
A winning start for Tadese in 2014
Zersenay Tadese recorded a DNF in his last high-profile race in the Chicago Marathon last October but the 32-year-old Eritrean dropped down to a distance he is much more comfortable with for the Gran Premio Caceres de Campo a Traves in Torrejoncillo, Spain, on Sunday (9).
Tadese, making his 2014 debut, employed his preferred front-running tactics and the attritional game-plan worked, as the 2007 World Cross Country Championships gold medallist built up a winning margin of 25 seconds over his compatriot and regular training partner Amanuel Mesel, winning the 11.2km race in 31:52.
Former European junior 3000m steeplechase champion Antonio Abadia, fresh from an outright 3000m best of 7:51.69, was the first Spanish finisher in third in 32:42, eight seconds ahead of the highly experienced two-time European Cross Country Championships silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem.
Reigning European cross country champion Alemayehu Bezabeh didn't figure at all again, and has now finished no higher than sixth in any of his five outings since the start of the year, on this occasion finishing seventh in 33:15
Well-known Spanish international Jacqueline Martin, now 39, won the women's 7.3km race in 26:50.
Guests including two-time Olympic steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi and former Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir were in attendance for the inaugural Mau-Egerton University Cross Country Championships held at the Egerton University Njoro campus in Nakuru on Saturday (8).
The winners of the senior races were Philip Langat over 12km in 32:22 and Joyce Chepkemoi over 8km in 24:50.
Steve Mills for the IAAF