Bolzano, ItalyUkraine's Sergiy Lebid beat Italian Olympic Marathon champion Stefano Baldini, and the surprising American Dathan Ritzenhein, in a very close finish which was the highlight of the 30th edition of the traditional Silvesterlauf 10km road race on 31 December 2004.
The festive end-of the-year atmosphere of the famous Bolzano race also inspired Ethiopia's World 10,000m champion Berhane Adere to win her fourth 5km Boclassic women's race. She finished ahead of a high-quality field which included the Kenyan Edith Masai, the three-time World Cross Country short race champion, and Merima Denboba, the 2003 World Cross Country long race bronze medallist.
MEN – Africans “surprisingly” denied a podium finish
Lebid, who won his fifth European Cross Country title three weeks ago, yesterday took victory in the Bolzano 10km, for the fifth time in his career, on this occasion beating Baldini, Ritzenhein and the World Marathon champion Jaouad Gharib from Morocco. Lebid had previously won in Bolzano in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Baldini set the initial pace ahead of a seven-men group on the first lap of a course which circuits eight times (1250 metres for each lap) through the streets of this northern Italian town
The World Junior Cross Country champion Meba Tadesse from Ethiopia briefly took the lead in the third lap ahead of the Kenyan Ronald Kipchumba, the World Junior Steeplechase champion, but Baldini and Ritzenhein, a 27:38 10,000m track performer kept pace, stayed with them.
Lebid, who started more conservately in the first laps, went into the lead for the first time on the fourth lap. After a 3:35 split during the fifth lap Ritzenhein took the lead from Baldini while Lebid stayed on their heels. The young American pushed the pace and dropped the Africans, and as such just three athletes remained in contention for the final victory.
An attack launched by Ritzenhein made the pace faster during the penultimate lap, and he remained in the lead for much of the race until Lebid, who found ideal running conditions on a sunny but chilly afternoon, launched a devastating kick during the last lap near the Railway Station Square, the point where the battle for victory traditionally hots up.
It was at this point that Lebid pulled away last year and the same winning tactic paid off again this year. The Italian-based Ukrainian Lebid crossed the finish-line in 28:23, with Baldini just denied the win (same time) after a close battle with Lebid in the final stages of the race in the Walther Platz. Third was Ritzenhein with 28:24. The first African was Jaouad Gharib in 28:54.
"I have not seen three non-African athletes taking the first three spots in a road race for so many years. It was a bit surprising,” confirmed the winner.
“Bolzano is a special place for me because I always receive strong support here. It is nice to celebrate the end of the year with a victory. Bolzano is one of the highlights of my season. I am planning to compete in Fuensalida on 9 January and Edinburgh on 15 January."
"My Italian fans will have the chance to cheer me again in February when I will start at the Cinque Mulini (6 February) and at the Campaccio in San Giorgio su Legnano (13 February) which this year is the Italian Club Cross Country Championships and is very important for my Cover Verbania team. My preparation for the World Cross Country Championships includes a five-week training camp in Kislovodsk where I trained before the recent European Cross Country Championships,” concluded Lebid.
The two major Italian cross country races in San Vittore Olona and San Giorgio su Legnano will feature again the clash between Lebid and Baldini.
"I have decided my plan for the next season,” said Baldini. “On 10 January I will fly to Namibia with some of the leading Italian marathon runners like Alberico Di Cecco, Ruggiero Pertile and Danilo Goffi for a training camp until the end of the month before the Cinque Mulini. I will return to Namibia for three more weeks after the Campaccio. I will test my form at the Half Marathon in Lisbon before the much-awaited marathon race in London against the 'who's who' of long distance running,” confirmed Baldini.
"This is the icing on the cake of a magic season for me. I really wanted to finish on the podium in Bolzano. In eight participations in this race my best performance here was a fifth place in 2002. I have never been in such good form at this time of the year. What is making me stronger is the extra motivation after my Olympic triumph in Athens. I am still full of adrenalin", concluded Baldini.
Dathan Ritzenhein was also delighted with his third place which marks a starting point for his future road racing career: "I ran 27:38.50 in Stanford last April but I think that my future is road racing. I would like to tackle the marathon in the years to come. This winter I hope to make the US team at the World Cross Country Championships."
WOMEN – Adere’s preparations are going well for the indoor season
The women's race was nearly entirely an African affair. Berhane Adere took her fourth Bolzano win in 16:14 with a three-second gap over Edith Masai. The first laps were a slow and tactical race. Masai went to the lead briefly although none of the leading contenders really took the initiative in the early stages of the race.
The race reached its climax with two laps to go when the Italian Silvia Weissteiner, a local favourite, pushed the pace closely followed by Masai, Denboba and Adere. Weissteiner had returned to competition after being forced to miss the European Cross Country Championships due to a bout of flu.
The Africans increased the pace and the leaders clocked a 4:06 split for the second lap and 4:00 for the third lap.
With about 600 metres to go Adere opened a decisive gap over Masai and went to win in 16:14, with the greatest ease from Masai. Adere is another "local favourite" of the fans in Bolzano because she had already won here in 1997, 2002 and 2003.
"I am preparing very well back home, so I expected to win today. Tomorrow I will fly back to Ethiopia to prepare for the indoor season. I am planning my first race on 29 January in Stuttgart where I will run the 3000 metres", said Adere.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Results from the Boclassic Road Race in Bolzano:
Men (10 km):
1 Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) 28:23
2 Stefano Baldini (Italy) 28:23
3 Dathan Ritzenhein (USA) 28:24
4 Jouad Gharib (Morocco) 28:54
5 Ronald Kipchumba (Kenya) 29:02
6 Meba Tadesse (Ethiopia) 29:02
7 Pedro Rui Silva (Portugal) 29:22
8 Gabriele De Nard (Italy) 29:24
Women (5 km):
1 Berhane Adere (Ethiopia) 16:14
2 Edith Masai (Kenya) 16:17
3 Merima Denboba (Ethiopia) 16:25
4 Justina Bak (Poland) 16:29
5 Renate Rungger (Italy) 16:35
6 Rosita Rota Gelpi (Italy) 16:38
7 Anna Incerti (Italy) 16:42
8 Silvia Weissteiner (Italy) 16:42