27 July 2011Boston Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai added his name to the prestigious list of long-distance stars who won the Giro di Castelbuono, the oldest road race in Europe which celebrated its 86th edition on Tuesday (26).
This year the very popular Sicilian race in Castelbuono read as the “Who’s Who” of long distance running as it featured the winners of three of the most famous Marathon races in the world: Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai, first in Boston 2011 in 2:03:02 and second in Rotterdam and Berlin in 2010; Gebreegziaber Gebremariam from Ethiopia, the 2010 winner in New York; and Emmanuel Mutai from Kenya, first in London 2011 with his 2:04:40 PB. Others in the field included Moroccan Abderrahim Goumri, second in New York in 2007 and 2008 and in Chicago 2009; Matthew Kisorio from Kenya, fourth at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria and winner of the 2011 Stramilano Half Marathon.
Castelbuono, a small village of 10,000 in the mountains of Sycilian Madonie, every summer becomes the centre of long distance running when it stages this race, famous for its fascinating but very hard course and its uphill section of Via Mario Levante. The race is also famous for the vociferous support from the knowledgeable and passionate crowd which pack the streets of Castelbuono creating a unique and magical atmosphere which is so special for the world class athletes who make the trip to this beautiful corner of Sicily on 26th July, the local festival which celebrates Saint Anna, the Patron Saint of Castelbuono.
This year the Giro Podistico di Castelbuono was marked by a major change, as is it now held on a certified 10Km loop course and not on its previous traditional 11.3 km course. The race will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year – the first race was held in 1912 - but to avoid the clash with the Summer Olympic Games in London, the race will take place on 13 September 2012 instead of the traditional July date.
This year the top runners had to run nine laps over the ancient streets which starts and finishes in the Piazza Margherita.
Geoffrey Mutai, Gebremariam and Matthew Kisorio pushed hard from the third lap when they pulled away from the rest of the field with 9:50 on the clock and formed the leading trio.
At halfway Mutai, who is also a fine 10,000m runner on the track with a 27:27.79 at altitude last year, broke away from Gebremariam and Kisorio by unleashing a devastating attack on the uphill section of the course of Via Mario Levante during the sixth lap and increased his lead lap after lap. Mutai, also the winner of last month’s Boston BAA 10Km road race in 27:19, continued to run a smooth and unchallenged race, what was surprising considering his strong rivals. Despite the tough course Mutai increased his lead over the chasing pair to 32 seconds with 22 minutes on the clock and to 48 seconds during the last lap. Gebremariam and Kisorio then battled it out for second place. Gebremariam broke away from Kisorio in the final stages of the race to finish runner-up in 30:13 holding off the Kenyan by one second.
Italian 5000m champion Stefano La Rosa finished eighth and first among Italian runners in 31:01 beating fresh 10000m European Under 23 silver medallist Ahmed El Mazoury, a talented runner of Moroccan origin who has been living in Nortern Italy since he was a child.
“I felt very well but I felt very soon that the it was a very hard race,” Mutai said. “The support from the crowd really pushed me. I changed gear from the sixth lap and this tactic paid off because I broke away from my rivals.”
Mutai romped home in Piazza Margherita in 29:05 following in the footsteps of such legendary runners who made the history of Castelbuono in the past, such as Italian Gelindo Bordin (1987 and 1988, some weeks before his Olympic triumph in Seoul), Kenyan Paul Tergat (1994 and 2003), Khalid Khannouchi (1998), South African Hendrick Rammala (1999), Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (2006), Martin Lel (2004) and Eritrean Zersenay Tadese (2010) to name just a few.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1. Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) 29:05
2. Gebrehegziaber Gebremariam (Ethiopia) 30:13
3. Matthew Kisorio (Kenya) 30:14
4. Geoffrey Kusuro (Uganda) 30:30
5. Rachid Kisri (Morocco) 30:37
6. Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) 30:48
7. Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) 31:00
8 Stefano La Rosa (Italy) 31:00
9. Ahmed Mazoury (Italy) 31:01
10. Abderrahim Goumri (Morocco) 31: 04