Uganda's Wilson Busienei is just at "70 per cent" of his shape in his come back after a right hip injury, and yesterday (1 May) with a breathtaking sprint won the Oderzo Città Archeologica, a 9.8km road race near Treviso.
European indoor 3000m bronze medallist Silvia Weissteiner took the honour in women's race with a course record of 17:22 (5.4km).
Both victories were repeat wins.
MEN: Busienei - recovered from injury
Last February, during a half marathon in South Korea, Busienei fell down and injured his hip. He tried to make a very fast recovery ahead of the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa on 24 March, but he closed-out in 37th position, far from his best. But in Oderzo he once again showed some good shape, even if "I'm just at 70 per cent", he said after the race.
For 8 of the 9 laps of 1.09km, Busienei never went to the front of the lead pack which was steadily reduced lap after lap because of the pace set by Italy's Gabriele De Nard, who lacking any sprint finish of note was trying to whittle down the opposition. In the end only Busienei was able to resist De Nard’s pace, along with Italy's Salvatore Vincenti and surprising Romania's Marius Ionescu.
During the last lap, with 600 metres to go, Ionescu attacked and Vincenti and Busienei immediately followed him, while De Nard lost ground. In the final straight Busienei changed pace again to overcome both the Italian and Romanian. He won the race with the same time as his victory in 2006, 28:25. De Nard closed out in 4th place, 8 seconds behind.
Italy's Ruggero Pertile was 5th, just a couple of weeks after his 7th place at the Boston Marathon. He is one of the favourites for a team berth in the Italian squad for the World Championships in Osaka, and on 27 May will marry his long-time fiancée Chiara and then leave for a 10 day honeymoon in Mauritius Islands.
A world medal in Udine
"In 2007 I have big goals," Busienei continued. "I would like to break 13 and 27 minutes, respectively in the 5000m and 10,000m on the track." Now his PB are 13:11.08 and 27:21.55, both set last year. In Osaka he will focus on the 25 lap distance. "I will try to be in the top three, but it is very hard."
Busienei is more confident for the World Road Running Championships (at half marathon), which will take place in Udine, Italy, on 14 October. In Debrecen last year he finished in 4th at the 20km distance. "In Udine I would like to improve last year's place," he added. "I want to catch a medal."
WOMEN: Weissteiner - Osaka on her mind
For Weissteiner this was her first race after the bronze medal she took in Birmingham's NIA on 4 March. She also set a national record of 8:44.81, which launched her on the international stage. "This is why I stayed in the pack for the most of the race, waiting for the last lap, I did not know how I would run," she said. When she increased the pace, nobody could follow her.
She crossed the finish line with a time of 17:22, the fastest ever on this course. It was her third win in a row in Oderzo, after 2005 and 2006. Other Italians Agnes Tschurtschenthaler and Silvia Sommaggio made up the rest of the podium, while Romania's Paula Todoran was 4th. Todoran was one of the four women from Romania the LOC had invited to the race. The most famous of the group, 20-year-old Ancuta Bobocel, who had won many international medals in the cross country and 3000m steeplechase as a junior, finished a disappointing 9th.
"Now I will focus again just on the track," continued Weissteiner. "This year will be very important for me, I would like to get close to 15 minutes for 5000m and to run a good race in Osaka. I'm confident I can do so."
Another comeback was Bruna Genovese's. She is the number one Italian women’s marathon runner, but after 5th place in European Championships in Gothenburg last year she injured her leg. She is still out of her best shape and closed out in 11th yesterday.
"I need to race and race in order to improve my stamina even if it is hard when you find such strong fields," she said. "Now I have no pain in my right leg, I hope to be able to run a marathon this autumn."
Alberto Zorzi for the IAAF
Men's race (9.8km)
1. Wilson Busienei, UGA, 28:25
2. Salvatore Vincenti, ITA, 28:26
3. Marius Ionescu, ROM, 28:27
4. Gabriele De Nard, ITA, 28:33
5. Ruggero Pertile, ITA, 29:00
Women's race (5.4km)
1. Silvia Weissteiner, ITA, 17:22
2. Agnes Tschurtschenthaler, ITA, 17:27
3. Silvia Sommaggio, ITA, 17:33
4. Paula Todoran, ROM, 17:36
5. Fatna Maraoui, ITA, 17:37
9. Ancuta Bobocel, ROM, 18:00
11. Bruna Genovese, ITA, 18:30