Marseille, FranceKenyan Philemon Limo and Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia are the favourites for the 33th edition of the Marseille-Cassis Classique, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (30).
The race, whose distance of 20.308km is some 800 metres shorter than the usual Half Marathon, will have no less than 15,000 participants lining up for the 09:30 CET start. The course runs along the Mediterranean Sea, from the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille and ends in the Port of Cassis via a 327-metre climb mid-way on the Col de la Gineste.
This year, Marseille-Cassis will have a revenge flavour as the 2010 edition’s winner Limo will again meet his runner-up, Ethiopian Assefa Belete. The Ethiopian had been very unfortunate to miss a turn and had to retrace his steps in the final kilometres of the race last year, preventing him from the chance to sprint against his Kenyan rival.
Belete hasn’t raced much recently, even though he improved his 10km personal best in May (28:14). His Ethiopian teammates have also been discrete on the circuit this season. Tilahun Regassa has no result of note, but has serious references from 2010, with 27:52 at 10km and 59:19 for his win at Abu Dhabi’s Half Marathon. Azmeraw Bekele hasn’t competed much after his 59:39 record in March. And former Steeplechase specialist Yakob Jarso (4th at the 2008 Olympics and 5th at the 2009 World Championships) only has two major race appearances to his credit in February and March (8th at both San Juan 10km and Lisboa Half Marathon).
On the other hand, Limo has been more present on the 2011 circuit, breaking personal bests too at 10km (27:34) and Half Marathon (59:30). Two other Kenyans who have broken the hour at Half Marathon will line-up on Sunday: Kenneth Kipkemoi and Titus Masai.
An outsider from Tanzania, Dickson Marwa, a former track specialist, could be a factor in this classic Kenya versus Ethiopia contest.
In the absence of the title defender Diane Chepkemoi, the women’s race is wide open. The Kenyan Lydia Cheromei, winner of the Prague Marathon (2:22:34) and Half Marathon (1:07:33), has strong arguments for the victory. But Ethiopian Atsede Baysa, winner of the last two editions of the Paris Marathon with a 2:22:04 best over the distance, has not shown yet her true potential over shorter distances. Her Half Marathon best, 1:08:43, might not represent her actual abilities. Sarah Chepchirchir, the other Kenyan, has an impressive record this year in France, with wins in Puy-en-Velay in May at 15km (50:28), in Melun in June at 10km (32:07) and at Half Marathon in Vitry-sur-Seine (1:08:07) and Nancy (1:10:10).
However, the uphill and downhill road between Marseille and Cassis make it a technical race that has offered surprises and upsets in the past editions. Unlike last year, the forecast predicts sun and warm temperatures.
Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF