Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin and Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar captured the top spots in commanding fashion at the 27th ‘Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’ on Sunday (28).
??In so doing, the Madrid-based 21-year-old Medhin confirmed he is in stellar form, clinching his second win of the Cross Country season following his victory over the reigning World champion Joseph Ebuya earlier this month at the IAAF permit meeting in Atapuerca.
In the absence of any African ace, Aguilar still snatched a creditable victory from her fellow Spaniard Rosa Morató, who is the current European Cross Country silver medallist although it was Analia Rosa who was her stiffest opponent throughout the race until the 34-year-old Portuguese sustained an injury over the last lap to lose any chance of winning.
?MEN – Medhin maintains momentum??
Contested on a cold (7ºC) but partly sunny day, the men’s 9.79km race featured a powerful Eritrean triumvirate in the guise of Medhin, Samuel Tsegay, the fifth place finisher at last Worlds in Bydgoszcz, and Kidane Tadese – a 27:06.16 10,000m specialist - plus Kenya Kiprono Menjo, the 2010 World leader over 10,000, who was fresh from a fine win at the ‘Jean Bouin’, a 10km road race held last Sunday (21) in Barcelona.
Held on a quite muddy circuit, the race’s early stages were dominated by Spain’s Javier Guerra, a member of the victorious Spanish Cross Country team at the last two European Cross Country championships while the African squad ran comfortably behind him with no hint of effort.
By the 4000m point the leading group was whittled down to six, Guerra and Spain’s Ricardo Serrano being the only Europeans in the mix. The first serious movement was made by Tadese just at midway when Zersenay Tadese’s younger brother injected a much brisker pace to leave the Spaniards well behind.
It was later Menjo who ruled the race and the front running soon paid dividends as only Medhin was able to remain at his shoulder; that was not surprising as the successive 2.1Km laps were timed at 6:50, 6:45 and 6.40. By the bell the leading duo ran five seconds ahead of Tadese, himself another three clear of Tsegay.
With exactly 25:30m on the clock, some 1800 metres from the finish, Medhin pulled away from Menjo effortlessly to build a sizeable margin on the Kenyan while a faltering Tadese was overtaken by Tsegay in the closing stages. At the tape the in-form Medhin romped home nine seconds clear of Menjo to retain his title from last year, which thrust him into prominence when defeating Kenyan ace Leonard Komon among others.
Reportedly, Medhin was strongly inspired by Zersenay Tadese when his fellow Eritrean managed the Olympic 10,000m bronze medal in Athens 2004, while his primary goal this winter is to improve on his runner-up spot from the last Worlds when the IAAF World Champinships takes place on the Spanish soil of Punta Umbría next 20 March.
?WOMEN – Aguilar prevails nine years later ??
The women’s 7.64km contest offered the presence of Portugal’s Analia Rosa, the winner of the IAAF permit contest in Oeiras last 13 November, South Africa’s Dina Lebo Phalula, fresh from a fine win in Soria last Sunday (21) and the Spanish pair of Alessandra Aguilar and Rosa Morató.
While Phalula was never a factor and finished a disappointing sixth one minute adrift the victor, the race saw respective front-running displays, first by Aguilar, a creditable seventh at last summer’s European Championships in the Marathon, and later by Rosa.
The 32-year-old Spaniard took command of the race from the gun and her relentless rhythm paid off as only Rosa and Morató could live with her pace.
Some 13m into the race Morató began to lose ground and the contest became a two-horse battle between Aguilar and Rosa with the latter pushing hard from midway. Actually the Portuguese opened a gradually bigger and bigger gap on Aguilar and her win seemed beyond all doubt.
But, for the surprise of everyone assembled, it was shortly after the bell that Rosa decreased her pace dramatically while her face showed a painful expression as a result of a muscle injury. However, the brave Portuguese didn’t drop out and eventually finished ninth.
The closing lap witnessed Aguilar’s magnificent display of courage and determination while Morató was never a real threat for the winner, 20 seconds being the difference between them at the tape. Morocco’s Aicha Bani – fifth in Soria last Sunday – completed the podium six seconds behind Morató.
A more than joyful Aguilar, who had already won in Llodio back in 2001, declared: “Over such a heavy circuit, the race was very tough but I felt great at any moment.”
Asked on her ambitions for the European championships to be held in Albufeira, Portugal, on 12 December, the Madrid-based Aguilar said: “I know that Rosa Morató, the current silver medallist, will be one of my stiffest rivals. It’s true that I have beaten her three times recently, in Atapuerca, Quintanar and Llodio but I prefer to remain cautious thinking on my chances in Albufeira. One thing is for sure, I’ll go out at 100% as I have nothing to lose.” Aguilar won in Quintanar on 14 November beating Kenya’s reigning Olympic 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist Eunice Jepkorir among others.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Leading Results –
?1. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) 31:24?
2. Kiprono Menjo (Kenya) 31:33?
3. Samuel Tsegay (Eritrea) 31:40
?4. Kidane Tadese (Eritrea) 31:50?
5. Ricardo Serrano (Spain) 32:28
?6. Javier Guerra (Spain) 32:29?
7. David Solís (Spain) 33:49?
8. Francisco España (Spain) 33:05
?9. Iván Fernández (Spain) 33:09
?10. Sebastián Martos (Spain) 33:18??
?1. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) 28:02?
2. Rosa Morató (Spain) 28:22
?3. Aicha Bani (Morocco) 28:28
?4. Diana Martín (Spain) 28:39
?5. Irene Pelayo (Spain) 28:55?
6. Dina Lebo Phalula (South Africa) 29:02
?7. Jacqueline Martín (Spain) 29:10
?8. Estela Navascués (Spain) 29:13
?9. Analia Rosa (Portugal) 29:17?
10. Alba García (Spain) 29:21