Ethiopian teenager Muktar Edris took a gun-to-tape win in the men’s 9 km race at the 36th edition of the Cross della Vallagarina with a gap of 42 seconds over Italian Stefano La Rosa and nine-time European cross-country champion Sergiy Lebid in a breath-taking final sprint on Sunday (13).
In the women’s 6km race, Silvia La Barbera held off Valeria Roffino in an all-Italian battle.
Edris a class apart
At the Campaccio IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in San Giorgio su Legnano last week, Muktar Edris won by a very narrow margin in a dramatic final sprint. Here in Rovereto on his 19th birthday his tactic was completely different. With a fast start, he took the lead from the early stages and pushed hard to open up a huge gap over the chasing group formed by Sergiy Lebid, Stefano La Rosa and Kenyan Robert Ndiwa. His gap grew lap after lap.
There was competition for the second place. Edris, the World junior 5000m champion, was simply too strong and built up a gap of 28 seconds during the third of eight laps of the fascinating but challenging hilly course.
Ndiwa and Lebid led the chasing group. La Rosa and fellow Italian Yassine Rachik followed behind in the third group before catching up with Lebid and Ndiwa. During the fourth lap that quartet fought it out for the minor places on the podium. Ndiwa hit the front and pushed hard, closely followed by Lebid and La Rosa, while Rachik was dropped.
African junior cross-country champion Edris increased his pace, widening the margin to more than 40 seconds at the bell before romping home comfortably in 26:43. Behind him La Rosa launched his attack on the uphill section of the course but Lebid responded to the Italian 5000m champion. The race for the runner-up place came down to the wire in a fantastic sprint to the finish-line with La Rosa finally getting the better of Lebid, both being given the same time of 27:25
“It was an easy race,” said Edris. “I ran my final race in Europe before returning to Ethiopia to prepare for the World Cross Country Championships.”
Since winning the World junior 5000m title, Edris has taken part in a lot of Italian races. He finished third at the Giro di Castelbuono, second at the Giro di Trento, second at the Boclassic and first in San Giorgio su Legnano.
He becomes the third Ethiopian to win at the Cross della Vallagarina after Abera Chane in 2010 and Kinde Atanaw in 2012.
La Barbera is top Italian in domestic battle
The women’s race developed into an all-Italian affair between Silvia La Barbera, Valeria Roffino, Agnes Tschurtschenthaler, Layla Soufyane and local favourite Silvia Weissteiner in the first of five laps.
During the second lap Weissteiner, a former World Championships 5000m finalist and European Indoor 3000m bronze medallist, lost ground and dropped out with two laps to go, having been suffering with the flu during the past week.
La Barbera and Roffino engaged in an exciting neck-to-neck battle for the win. The race wasn’t decided until the final straight where La Barbera edged Roffino by three seconds with 22:44, becoming the first Italian to win in Rovereto since 2009.
The Cross della Vallagarina was launched in 1978 to celebrate local runner Cristina Tomasini who finished fifth at the 1977 World Cross Championships in Dusseldorf.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Muktar Edris (ETH) 26:43
2 Stefano La Rosa (ITA) 27:25
3 Sergiy Lebid (UKR) 27:25
4 Robert Ndiwa (KEN) 27:31
5 Daniel Santa Cruz (ESP) 27:50
6 Yassine Rachik (ITA) 27:51
7 Hosea Nailel (KEN) 28:05
8 Gabriele De Nard (ITA) 28:08
1 Silvia La Barbera (ITA) 22:44
2 Valeria Roffino (ITA) 22:47
3 Agnes Tschurtschenthaler (ITA) 28:07
4 Layla Soufyane (ITA) 23:23
5 Renate Rungger (ITA) 23:49
6 Livia Toth (HUN) 23:57