Ethiopia’s Imane Merga, the 2011 World Cross Country Champion, and Kenya’s two-time IAAF World Championships 5000m silver medallist Sylvia Kibet, clinched their second win each at the 38th edition of the famous Boclassic Sylverlauf in Bolzano over 10km on Monday (31).
Merga won the Boclassic in 2010 when he beat Great Britain Mo Farah in a dramatic sprint for the line.
This year, Merga repeated his feat, duelling with his 18-year-old compatriot Muktar Edris, the 2012 World Junior Championships 5000m winner, all the way to the finish.
Double delight for Merga
On the first of eight laps, Italy’s Scaini paced a big group of runners which included Merga, Edris, nine-time European cross country champion and five-time Boclassic winner Sergiy Lebid, Italy’s Stefano La Rosa and Kenya’s Silas Kipruto.
Merga, Edris, Lebid, Kipruto, La Rosa and American runner Scott Bauhs were together at the front through the second lap, going through in 7:35.
The race then really heated up during the fourth lap when Edris made his first breakaway attempt but Merga and Kipruto followed him closely. Edris reached the halfway mark in 14:55 closely followed by Kipruto and Merga while Lebid was two seconds behind the leading trio but joined them during the fifth lap.
Merga and Edris then broke away during the sixth lap and opened up a gap of eight seconds over Lebid and Kipruto with two laps to go, the leaders passing 7.5km in 22:06. Bauhs was another six seconds further back.
Straight after the bell, Merga produced his first kick but Edris did not throw in the towel and responded. The race was not decided until 300m to go when Merga kicked again to come home in front of held off his younger compatriot but both men were given the same time of 29:12.
“I am happy to win after my third place last year. It was a very tough sprint. Edris was very strong. He is the future of Ethiopian distance running. It was great to win in Bolzano for the second time. The conditions were ideal for running and I enjoyed the race,” commented Merga.
Lebid finished third in 29:30, two seconds ahead of Bauhs.
“The third place came as a surprise. After three laps, I realized that I was in good form. I am as fit today as I should have been at the European Cross Country Championships in Budapest (on 9 December. It was great to finish on the podium especially because my last win was eight years ago,” said Lebid.
Kibet’s killer kick
Sylvia Kibet, a winner in 2007 and third in 2008, scored her second consecutive win but she had to fight hard to beat Ethiopia’s Afera Godfay by just one second.
Godfay repeated her second place from 2011 when she finished close behind double Kenya’s 2011 5000m and 10000m World champion Vivian Cheruiyot in a dramatic final sprint.
Local favourite Silvia Weissteiner went to the front in the early stages of the race and led after the first lap from Kibet, Godfay and Ethiopia’s Workenesh Degefa.
The African trio then increased the pace and pulled away from Weissteiner during the second lap and opened up a gap of six seconds over Weissteiner.
Degefa was in the lead at the bell closely followed by Godfay and Kibet but the Kenyan launched her kick with 500m to go and held on to win in 16:21.
“I could not have ended the year better. Bolzano is like a second home. I enjoy running here. It’s a nice course and I was cheered on by the crowd during the race. It’s always prestigious to win in Bolzano. This year it was not easy, the Ethiopians were very strong, but I waited the right moment to launch my attack,” said Kibet.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Men’s race (10 km)
1. Imane Merga (ETH) 29:12
2. Muktar Edris (ETH) 29:12
3. Sergiy Lebid (UKR) 29:30
4. Scott Bauhs (USA) 29:32
5. Silas Kipruto (KEN) 29:32
6. Stefano La Rosa (ITA) 29:36
7. Ahmed El Mazoury (ITA) 30:09
8. Yuri Floriani (ITA) 30:19
9. Yassine Rachik (ITA) 30:23
10. Simone Gariboldi (ITA) 30:38
Women’s race (5 km)
1. Sylvia Kibet (KEN) 16:21
2. Afera Godfay (ETH) 16:22
3. Workenesh Degefa (ETH) 16:24
4. Silvia Weissteiner (ITA) 16:41
5. Margherita Magnani (ITA) 16:49
6. Ibtissam Lakhouad (MAR) 16:53
7. Angela Rinicella (ITA) 16:58
8. Alessandra Giulia Viola (ITA) 17:06
9. Valeria Roffino (ITA) 17:16
10. Sara Sig Moller (DEN) 17:17