Llodio, Spain Tanzania’s World Half Marathon silver medallist Fabian Joseph captured a convincing win at the ‘20th Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’, the second IAAF cross country permit race of the season, which was held today.
Joseph, who will turn 18 next 24 December, defeated a powerful field but the big surprise came from the Europeans, who in the guise of Spain’s Juan Carlos de la Ossa and Portugal’s Eduardo Henriques took second and third respectively behind Joseph.
It was Joseph who made most of the early running with the pre-race favourites Kenya’s Benjamin Limo and Abdullah Ahmad Hassan of Qatar in close attendance alongside de la Ossa, Henriques, and the Kenyan pair of John Cheruiyot Korir and David Chemweno.
By halfway the race had become a fierce African-European clash with five men in contention: Limo, Hassan, Chemweno, Henriques and the Spaniard de la Ossa, the latter taking over the lead to the delight of the crowd. Korir and Portugal’s Paulo Guerra ran 20m behind, while Hassan - who got flu the day - started to fade.
With 17 minutes on the clock it was Hassan’s training mate Kenya’s Benjamin Limo who was now in trouble and finally couldn’t live with de la Ossa’s pace. Henriques decided then to take turns sharing the lead with the Spaniard and it seemed for a while that the miracle of a European victory could come true.
Shortly afterwards Chemweno dropped from the leading group and only Joseph remained at the top to up-hold African pride, and he finally did so, storming away from de la Ossa and Henriques as they entered the last 2200m lap.
With one kilometre left Joseph had built a 25m gap over the extremely thin Spaniard (47.5kg) who was 15m up on Henriques with Limo another 20m behind. Joseph widened his lead in the final kilometre and romped home in 28:19, ahead of de la Ossa who beat Henriques by 2 seconds.
Limo came fourth while Paulo Guerra finished strongly and was about to catch Chemweno for fifth as the line was reached. With four Portuguese athletes among the first 11 the duel between Spain and Portugal to take the gold team medal in the forthcoming European Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh in two week’s time should be full of excitement.
Joseph who clocked 6:49, 6:45 and 6:49 again for the last three loops of the race declared, “I’m happy having won this race against four Kenyan-born athletes. I felt fine throughout the race and decided to step up the pace in the last lap. I’ll next compete in Alcobendas on Sunday, possibly”.
Timbilil denies Denboba
In the women’s race Kenya’s Alice Timbilil, 20, a former (2000) World Junior Cross Country silver medallist as a junior, grabbed a thrilling victory. The Eldoret-based athlete out-sprinted Ethiopia’s Merima Denboba, so preventing Denboba taking her third consecutive win in Europe. Timbilil, a late addition to the starting line-up, romped home only one second ahead of Denboba.
Britain’s Liz Yelling set the early pace. The Briton was running her second cross country race this season and has her short-term goal in the Europeans next 14 December. By the second kilometre mark only four women remained with chances of winning, Yelling, Denboba and a couple of Kenyans, Timbilil and Elizabeth Rumokol.
However, before halfway Yelling lost ground and the race became a private African party again. It was with 2.5km to go that Denboba and Timbilil finally left Rumokol behind...for a new and thrilling Kenyan-Ethiopian showdown.
Denboba and Timbilil shared the lead throughout an exciting last lap. The knowledgeable crowd in Llodio was waiting for Denboba’s usual devastating kick in the closing stages but it was Timbilil who injected the final burst to take victory in 19:56, just one second clear of Denboba, while Yelling overtook Rumokol for third 80m behind the winner.
A late surge from Ines Monteiro was not enough to pip Yelling and the Portuguese had to settle for fourth ahead of a fading Rumokol. Russia’s Alla Zhilyayeva, 5th at the Worlds in Paris in the 10,000m was a disappointing 15th 1:29 adrift Timbilil.
Coached by David Letting, Timbilil came 15th at the World Cross Country championships in Lausanne last March. She commented after the race: “I was confident of my sprint, that’s why I didn’t make the pace at any time during the race”.
Men (9210m course)
1 Fabian Joseph (Tan) 28:19
2 Juan Carlos de la Ossa (Esp) 28:26
3 Eduardo Henriques (Por) 28:28
4 Benjamin Limo (Ken) 28:31
5 David Chemweno (Ken) 28:44
6 Paulo Guerra (Por) 28:45
7 John Cheruiyot Korir (Ken)28:51
8 Hicham Chatt (Mar) 29:09
9 Abdullah Ahmad Hassan (Qat) 29:10
10 Helder Ornelas (Por) 29:11
Women (5630m course)
1 Alice Timbilil (Ken) 19:56
2 Merima Denboba (Eth) 19:57
3 Liz Yelling (Gbr) 20:10
4 Ines Monteiro (Por) 20:11
5 Elizabeth Rumokol (Ken) 20:27
6 Helena Sampaio (Por) 20:29
7 Rosa Morato (Esp) 20:46
8 Alessandra Aguilar (Esp) 20:53
9 Nebat Habtemariam (Eri) 21:01
10 Silvia Montane (Esp) 21:01