Rwandan Dieudonné Disi produced an astonishing finish to win the 31th edition of Marseille-Cassis “Classique Internationale”, on Sunday morning (25) in 1:00:21. Meseret Mengustu (Ethiopia) took the women’s race in 1:10:35.
The Marseille-Cassis “Classique Internationale” is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Some 12,000 runners lined-up at 9:30 am at Marseille’s Velodrome in cool and sunny weather on one of the most beautiful roads of South of France.
A group of men who included favourite Dieudonné Disi, who had been second in the 2008 edition, took to the front. But the Rwandan chose a different tactic this year, by not taking the lead and not pushing from the start.
This lead role in 2009 was taken on by Samuel Shari of Tanzania, a regular visitor who placed third here in 2007 and fourth in 2008, and was determined to win the 2009 edition. Also in the group were Eritreans Michael Tesfay, who had been second to Disi in the Paris 20km and Reims Half Marathon in the previous couple of weeks, and Samson Kiflemariam, who ran 28:19 at 10km a week ago. Other contenders included Ugandan Martin Toroitich and French star Driss El Himer, seven times a National Cross Country champion and a 2:06:48 marathon performer back in 2003.
While ascending the Col de la Gineste (a 327m climb), it appeared that Disi was not as ease but impressions were deceptive.
“Last year, I started fast in order to get money bonuses at various points of the race which were offered on the occasion of the 30th edition, and this probably cost me the win. This year, my tactics were different. I know from my training that I’m not good running uphill, and much better going downhill, so my goal was to limit the gap at the top of the hill and finish strong.”
Yet, at the top of the Gineste, which is the half way point of the 20.308 km race, Disi was only 11th and some 600m behind the leader Shari.
But this was the actual start of the race for the Rwandan, who caught the ten runners one after the other. With 150m to go, entering in Cassis’ port, the unstoppable Disi passed Shari and won by 6 seconds in 1:00:21. Toroitich was a distant 3rd in 1:01:06.
Disi’s race was even more impressive since it was his fourth win in four weeks, after a 10,000m in Beirut (29:38.68), a 20km in Paris (59:33) and a Half Marathon in Reims (1:01:13).
“I still have one more race in New Delhi in six days time”, said the prolific runner. The winner in India in 2007, 6th last year, Disi’s aim this year will be to break his personal best of 59:32.
“I’m able to go from race to race like this thanks to my training for Marathon. My preparation was geared towards the Berlin (World Championships in August), but I withdrew after 28km due to a knee pain. I was in shape and looking for a place on the podium. All this work and the withdrawal made me very strong for the autumn road races,” he explained.
“After New Dehli, I will take some holidays and prepare for a Marathon race in the spring of 2010. For this project, I will train in Kenya until April with some of the world’s best specialists. My goal is to run 2:06 - 2:05,” he said.
As expected, the women’s race turned out to be a dual between Kenyan Helah Kiprop and Ethiopian Meseret Mengistu. The Ethiopian, only 19-years-old, the Reims Half-Marathon winner (1:10:45) on 18 October, opened the race on a fast basis and was soon left alone in front.
The dual was joined when Kiprop managed to come back to catch-up with her rival. But on the downhill, Mengistu easily dropped the Kenyan and cruised to a 1:10:35 win. Kiprop placed second in 1:11:01, followed by two other Kenyans, Emily Rotich (1:14:27) and Charity Theury (1:19:50).
P-J Vazel for the IAAF
1. Dieudonné Disi (RWA) 1:00:21
2. Samwel Shauri (TAN) 1:00:26
3. Martin Toroitich (UGA) 1:01:06
4. Kiflemariam Samson (ERI) 1:01:16
5. Driss El-Himer (FRA) 1:01:44
1. Meseret Mengistu (ETH) 1:10:35
2. Helah Kiprop (KEN) 1:11:01
3. Emily Rotich (KEN) 1:14;27
4. Charity Theury (KEN) 1:19:50
5. Delphine Ader (FRA) 1:20:35.