A Kenyan double highlighted the 30th edition of the Marseille – Cassis International Classic, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, as favourites Wilson Chebet and Ines Chenonge faced tough opposition to win on the 20.308km road race along Mediterranean Sea.
Men's race - Chebet defends
Rwandan Dieudionné Disi, the best performer of the field at Half-Marathon with a 59:32 career best, led the race into a fast rhythm, leading a group of aa runners including Kenyans Chebet, Kiplagat, Kyui, Ugandese Kosgei, Tanzanian Shauri and the two French, El Himmer and Munyutu. The group soon ceased with the rest of the field as they passed the 5th kilometre before slowing down the pace.
Samwel Kwaangw Shauri, third here last year, attacked after 18 minutes, followed by Kiplagat, which reduced the lead pack to six runners. Two minutes later, as the climb to the Col de Gineste was increasing, Tsega and Chebet aggressively tried to escape. Eventually, only Chebet, the favourite and 2007 winner of the race, managed to maintain the effort and was now by himself at the front. Disi, about 10 metres back, emerged as the only contender at mid-way and finally managed to close the gap at the mid-way on the top of Gineste.
On the other side of the hill, a rejuvenated Chebet left Disi once more, who was joined by Kosgei and Shauri. With 7 kilometres to go, the order was Chebet, Kosgei, Shauri and Disi, who had a kind of rollercoaster race and was accelerating again on the downhill to chase the leader.
Chebet increased his lead while entering Cassis, while incredible Disi came close in front again. Shoulder to shoulder, Chebet’s attitude seemed to show some fatigue while the unpredictable Disi was looking for another opportunity to accelerate. Downtown, the last uphill was fatal to the Rwandan, and last year’s winner Chebet crossed the finish line on one hour race exactly, 59sec short of the race record held by Kenyan James Kwambai since 2002. Kosgei and Shauri faded to 3rd and 4th places, respectively.
Chebet, based in Kenya, didn’t get his French visa until Friday and was more than happy to be able to run and retain his title.
“I was afraid because I found somebody was on my back (Dieudonné Disi) so I had to do my best,” reckoned Chebet. “However I still had a lot of strength. Next year I’ll try to break the race record but today the weather was too hot.”
Favourite Ines Chenonge didn’t let anyone lead the women’s race, accompanied by her teammate Gladys Cherono and Ethiopian Shewaye Kebede. 20 minutes into the race, surprising Meseret Mengistu was at the front. An18-year-old, she was not seen as one of the favourites, having an 11th place showing at the recent World Half Marathon Championships as her only credit. On her side, the other Ethiopian junior Shewaye Kebede seemed to be at ease as well. Chenonge was third in a safe and waiting position.
With 8 kilometres to go, the Kenyan took the lead and cruised to the finish line increasing the margin, as the Ethiopian team race strategy didn’t paid off. The winner, who didn’t compete in 2007 to take maternity leave and had a couple track races this year showed she is getting back to her best shape.
Like the men’s race, the women’s winner was only about one minute off the race record as a consequence of the high temperature in South of France this weekend.
Pierre Jean Vazel for the IAAF
1. W. Chebet (KEN) 1:00:00
2. D. Disi (RWA) 1:00:16
3. S. Kosgei (UGA) 1:00:41
4. S. Shauri (TAN) 1:01:03
5. D. El Himmer (FRA) 1:02:05
6. I. Kiplagat (KEN) 1:02:19
7. J. Kyui (KEN) 1:02:28
8. S. Munyutu (FRA) 1:02:58
9. D. Tsega (KEN) 1:03:10
10. D. Getnet (ETH) 1:03:11
1. I. Chenonge (KEN) 1:09:39
2. M. Mengistu (ETH) 1:09:50
3. S. Kebede (ETH) 1:10:12
4. M. Kibarus (ETH) 1:12:11
5. H. Gadi (FRA) 1:12:25
6. F. Yvelain (FRA) 1:13:52
7. A. Barsosio (KEN) 1:15:37
8. D. Ader (FRA) 1:19:22
9. A. Camboulives (FRA) 1:19:39
10. E. Murat (FRA) 1:23:14