27 OCT 2012 Preview Marseille, France

Kenyans looking for Marseille sweep

Gilbert Masai in Kavarna 2012, IAAF World Half Marathon (Bob Ramsak/IAAF)Gilbert Masai in Kavarna 2012, IAAF World Half Marathon (Bob Ramsak/IAAF) © Copyright

Marseille, France – For its 34th edition, the popular Marseille-Cassis to be held on Sunday (28) will become a 20km race as the traditional 20.308km course has been slightly reduced in order to match a usual standard.

However, the trademark that makes this IAAF Silver Label Road Race so attractive remains the same: a 327m climb during the ninth kilometre in ascending the Col de la Gineste followed by a long descent along the beautiful Calanques and towards the Port of Marseille.

No less than 15,000 runners (with a record 23% of women) will take part to this difficult race, lining up at 09:30 local time. A trio of Kenyans appear to be the favourites for the win. Ezekiel Chebii, 21, showed that he is in top shape in winning the Lille Half-Marathon on 1 September in 59:05, a time good enough to be ranked fourth in the world this year. Pius Kirop, 22, placed fourth in Berlin this spring, (a spot behind Chebii) and again fourth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria earlier this month. Gilbert Masai, the elder of the group at 31, set his personal best in Lille in placing fifth in 59:57.

Ethiopian Dawit Wolde might be the main challenger. A World Youth bronze medallist at 1500m, he was eliminated in the heats in the event at the London Olympics and also moved up to road races this year, running 1:00:49 in January for his debut at Half Marathon.

As for the women’ race, another trio of Kenyans is set to dominate the race. Cynthia Jerotich has the advantage of knowing the Marseille-Cassis course after placing third last year. In 2012, she won three races: Humarathon, 20km de Paris and Paris-Versailles. Each time she beat her rival Gladys Kipsoi who has raced a lot this year but is yet to win a race and who will be eager to take revenge on Marseille’s port. However, one can expect a Kenyan team race with Farida Chelanga, in order to counter the plans of the outsider Natalya Volgina, who was fourth at the Marseille-Cassis last year.

According to the weather forecast, the mistral is expected to blow strongly on the coast, with sunny and cool weather, and a chance of showers.

Jean-Pierre Vazel for the IAAF