Competing in warm and sunny conditions, Kenya’s Emmanuel Bett and Eritrea’s Nazaret Weldu confirmed their pre-race roles as athletes to beat by capturing their respective wins at the 19th ‘Cross Internacional de Soria’ on Sunday (18). This afternoon’s meeting was the second leg of the IAAF Cross Country Permit series 2012/2013.
Bett continues Kenyan dominance in Soria - men's race
The men’s 10km contest offered a nearly pedestrian pace early on as the strongest men in the field remained comfortably in the middle of the pack. Spain’s Francisco España, the younger brother of the 2006 European 5000m champion Jesús España, took advantage of the Africans’ conservative tactics and pulled away some two kilometres into the race but his lead was to be short-lived.
Shortly afterwards it was the local hero - and reportedly Bett’s training-mate over the week - Daniel Mateo who injected a much brisker rhythm boosted by his fans to lead the race at the halfway point. But the 22-year-old’s escape came to an end when the 2012 world 10,000m leading performer Emmanuel Bett decided to open gas with some 4000 metres to go.
Bett’s change of speed was covered by his fellow Kenyan John Kipkoech, Uganda’s Moses Kibet, Eritrea’s Amanuel Mesel and the Spanish triumvirate of Ayad Lamdassem, Antonio Jiménez and Javier Guerra.
The local athletes were the first to lose ground before the closing lap and only Kibet dared to join Bett in the lead but the Ugandan’s movement proved to be too risky and he finally finished out of the medal places in fourth. He was overtaken by Mesel and Kipkoech to share the podium with Bett, who had unleashed a devastating kick with 300 metres remaining to go to grab the victory in 30:48, three seconds ahead of Mesel, who in turn was six seconds clear of Kipkoech. The first Spaniard home was the double European XC silver medallist Lamdassem in fifth 21 seconds adrift of Bett.
The winner, who managed his first ever win on Spanish soil after his third spot in Atapuerca last weekend, declared: “I liked the race a lot, especially because of the sunny weather as I consider that’s an advantage for me. I had tough opponents, mainly the Eritrean Mesel but I was finally the fastest.” Asked about his 2013 ambitions, the 29-year-old said that “in the short-term, my main goal is next March’s IAAF World Cross Country championships so these events are a perfect dress-rehearsal for me.” Bett became the sixth Kenyan man in a row to win in Soria.
Miler Weldu outsprints Martín - Women’s race
There was no surprise in the women’s race held over 8km where Nazaret Weldu of Eritrea recorded a narrow two-second win for a successful kick-off to her season after having been celebrating her honeymoon earlier this autumn. In addition, the Madrid-based athlete became the first Eritrean woman to snatch the Soria permit.
The opening 2000 metre circuit witnessed a leading trio in the guise of Weldu and the Spanish pair of Vanesa Veiga and Lidia Rodríguez. Some 30 metres behind Diana Martín headed the chasing group before being able to join the lead at the beginning of the second lap.
There were no remarkable changes over the mid-race section - actually the second and third laps were the slowest by far. At the bell, six women still had winning chances: Weldu, Martín, Veiga, Rodríguez, Azucena Díaz and Ireland’s Sara Treacy.
Simultaneously to the bell, Martín – a 9:35 3000m steeplechaser – stepped up the pace to built a 20 metre gap on Weldu, her only close chaser by then. Over the uphill metres prior to the final homestraight Martín began to falter slightly and Weldu caught her to finally outsprint the Spaniard thanks to her 1500m pedigree.
While the winner was not quoted, the runner-up Martín said: “When I pushed hard throughout the closing lap, I realised I had opened a slight gap on Weldu and tried to keep it to the end but I just couldn’t.
“I will likely race in Alcobendas next Sunday prior to my main goal, the European Championships in Budapest (9 December) where I’ll be aiming for a top-ten place. I have sustained stomach problems over the last couple of weeks but I hope to be fully healthy for Budapest.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Men (10km) -
1. Emmanuel Bett (Kenya) 30:48
2. Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) 30:51
3. John Kipkoech (Kenya) 30:57
4. Moses Kibet (Uganda) 31:04
5. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) 31:09
6. Antonio Jiménez (Spain) 31:15
7. Abdelaziz Merzougui (Spain) 31:29
8. Javier Díaz (Spain) 31:30
9. Javier Guerra (Spain) 31:30
10. Roberto Alaiz (Spain) 31:38
Women (8km) -
1. Nazaret Weldu (Eritrea) 28:36
2. Diana Martín (Spain) 28:38
3. Azucena Díaz (Spain) 28:54
4. Lidia Rodríguez (Spain) 29:00
5. Sara Treacy (Ireland) 29:07
6. Marisa Casanueva (Spain) 29:16
7. Vanesa Veiga (Spain) 29:18
8. Irene Pelayo (Spain) 29:30
9. Rehima Jewar (Ethiopia) 29:37
10. Teresa Urbina (Spain) 29:47