Rovereto, ItalyUkraine’s Sergiy Lebid stormed to victory in the men’s race at the 26th edition of the Vallagarina - EAA permit (8990m) - cross country race on Sunday. It was the third consecutive win of 2003 for the Italian-based Lebid after first place finishes at Campaccio and Belfast.
The leading pack, which pulled away from the rest of the group after the first two laps, included Lebid, Italy’s Maurizio Leone (14th at the 2002 European Cross Country Championships), Kenya’s Abel Cheruiyot the 2002 World Junior silver medallist, and Paul Wakou from Uganda, who was the major surprise of this race with his second place finish behind Lebid.
The group ran at a 3:15 pace during the second lap (each lap was 1070 metres), and with five laps to go the Ukrainian left his rivals behind and increased his lead lap after lap.
“I saw my rivals struggling along the ups and downs of the Vallagarina course and I decided to pull away from the rest of the group after only three laps”, said Lebid.
Lebid accelerated and increased his lead to 15 seconds over Said Boumhandi of Morocco, Leone, Wakou and Italian steeplechaser Gianni Crepaldi. A disappointing Abel Cherouyot lagged behind.
Running the sixth lap in 3:05, none of Lebid’s opponents could pose any resistance and he took the win in 26:44.4. Wakou overhauled Leone with 250 metres to go and took second place 19 seconds behind Lebid.
”It was not so easy as many would think today. The course is full of ups and downs. I am getting used to these kind of courses when I prepare in the Caucasian mountains. I will return for three-weeks training after one more race at Tourcoing in France next week, and the Italian Club Cross Country Championships in Modena on 9 February. In Modena I hope to contribute to the team win of the ‘Cover Verbania’, the Italian club for which I compete. We will have to face the opposition of the strong Italian military clubs.”
The Cover Verbania team headed by the brothers Alberto and Giampaolo Pizzi won the team title in 2001 and finished second at the European Cross Country Club Championships in 2001.
“After Modena I will fly back to Ukraine. I will return to the Cinque Mulini scheduled exactly three weeks before the World Championships in Lausanne. This year I changed the training schedule. I am competing less than last year to be ready for the clash against Bekele and the Kenyans in Lausanne.”
This was the second time Lebid had competed at Vallagarina, finishing fifth in the race.
Yesterday's 4.5 Km women’s race was won by Dorcus Inzikuru from Uganda, the 2000 World Junior 5000m champion, who pulled clear of Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo just before the finish line.
The two Africans broke away from the rest of the field after the first two slow laps. Jeptoo used the hills to her advantage to establish a lead but Inzikuru responded by closing the gap on the flat. During the last lap Inzikuru finally out-kicked Jeptoo, but the final battle didn't come until just before the finish line. The twenty-year old runner of Uganda, who set her PB of 15:18 for 5000 metres at last summer’s Commonwealth Games, crossed the finish line in 15:27, with a 1.6 seconds advantage over Jeptoo, who won here last year.
“The race was tough. In the middle of the competition I suffered from cramps in my legs because of the cold temperatures which I am not used to. For this reason I preferred staying in the pack in the first lap and to kick away at the bell….I will be competing in the long course race at Lausanne”, said a delighted Inzikuru.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Men (8.990 metres):
1 Sergiy Lebid (Ukr) 26:44.4
2 Paul Wakou (Uga) 27:03.9
3 Maurizio Leone (Ita) 27:05.3
4 Gianni Crepaldi (Ita) 27:23.6
5 Umberto Pusterla (Ita) 27:29.1
6 Danilo Goffi (Ita) 27:31.4
7 Stefano Scaini (Ita) 27:32.4
8 Said Boumhandi (Mor) 27:34.4
Women (4630 metres):
1 Dorcus Inzikuru (Uga) 15:27.0
2 Rita Jeptoo (Ken) 15:28.6
3 Marzena Mikalska (Pol) 15:51.2
4 Silvia Weissteiner (Ita) 15:53.9
5 Rossana Martin (Ita) 15:56.4