Nathalie Harvey from Great Britain delivered a very confident effort to finish comfortably ahead of the field in the women's Eurocross in Diekirch.
The men's race was a thriller with a strong group of African-born athletes battling in front. Sultan Khamis Zaman from Qatar accelerated in the penultimate lap and that move proved to be decisive and owed him victory in the end.
Twice second Nathalie Harvey finally returns to win in Diekirch
It had been snowing all over Luxemburg in the past week, except in the region of Diekirch. And when on Saturday strong winds were disturbing the organisers when they were preparing the course, on the competition day the weather was dry and calm. The racing conditions were just fine.
The Diekirch course is famous for its steep hill with a few steps in it. Some athletes like it, most of them fear it, but they all think it is a true cross country course. So does Briton Nathalie Harvey, who finished second in the Eurocross 2002 and 2004 editions.
However she told meeting organiser Antoine Moureaud before the race that she came back to win it this year.
Kenyan Helen Cherono went off furiously and spread the field apart. Nathalie Harvey was not going to sit back and wait, but she took over and kept the pace very high. Poland’s Justine Lesman and Germany’s Susanne Ritter, fancied by many as the favourite for this race, found themselves in a defending position from very early on and couldn't respond to the strong solo effort of Harvey.
"I was feeling strong today and very confident too. I wanted so much to win this race and it certainly wasn't as easy as it looked," said the 30 year old former Australian, who runs for Great Britain since March 2004.
Lesman never allowed Ritter to close in and secured second place before the German.
Short race specialist Khamis Zaman ideally prepared in high altitude camp
The men's leading group was reduced in the fourth of seven laps from 12 athletes to 5 when Mushir Salim Jawher went into the lead and tried to dominate the race from the front. But the Bahraini could not respond when Sultan Khamis Zaman suddenly accelerated.
Mustapha Mohamed from Sweden, who won the Eurocross as a junior, tried to catch up with the Qatari, but he was himself overtaken by Wilson Kipkosgei Chemweno in the last kilometre.
Both made it a breathtaking sprint for second place, won by the Germany-based Kenyan.
"I wanted to repeat my win from last year, but Sultan Khamis Zaman proved to be too strong", said Chemweno, who was not in the leading group of five and made a spectacular comeback to finish second.
The winner from Qatar, who was 8th in the World Cross Country Championships Short Race in 2004, attributed his success to a high altitude training camp.
"In Kenya we did a lot of hill running and that's what’s made the difference today. Climbing the hill felt easy for me and that's where I could hurt my adversaries every time."
Khamis Zaman is certainly hoping to demonstrate this form in his following races. If he can, he will be a serious contender at the World Championships in France next month.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF
1 Nathalie Harvey 17:09
2 Justina Lesman 17:24
3 Susanne Ritter 17:33
4 Sally Jemutai 17:44
5 Michaela Schnedler 17:50
1 Sultan Khamis Zaman 32:06
2 Wilson Kipkosgei Chemweno 32:09
3 Moustapha Mohamed 32:10
4 Mushir Salem Jawher 32:20
5 James Kwalya 32:30