02 FEB 2014 Report Albufeira, Portugal

Moustaoui and Ayalew take the honours at Almond Blossom Cross Country

Mohamed Moustaoui wins at the 2014 Algarve Almond Blossom Cross Country / European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country (Marcelino Almeida)Mohamed Moustaoui wins at the 2014 Algarve Almond Blossom Cross Country / European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright

Morocco’s Mohamed Moustaoui, running in the colours of French club Ales Cevennes Athletisme, provided the big surprise at the Algarve Almond Blossom Cross Country on Sunday (2), with the IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting this year incorporating the European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country.

Moustaoui broke away at the halfway point in the 9.85km race with Spain’s Ayad Llamdassem, the Cup winner in 2008 and 2012 running for the Spanish team Atletismo Bikila, and Brazil’s Daniel sa Silva, from the Dutch team AV Cifla, for company.

As the trio battled for supremacy over the final kilometre, Moustaoui proved to be the strongest and crossed the line in 29:13 with the Spaniard one second in arrears and da Silva another two seconds further back.

Despite the fact that there were no directly invited African runners this year, with competitors solely coming from participation clubs, Moustaoui’s victory meant that there has been an African winner in the Almond Blossom men’s race on 16 of the past 17 occasions the event has been staged.

Better known as a 1500m runner, having made the final at this distance at the past three IAAF World Championships, Moustaoui didn’t contest a single cross country race after finishing 14th in the now-defunct short race at the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships until the spring of 2013 and his triumph in Albufeira can certainly be considered the biggest cross country win of his career.

Bikila retained the continental team title they won 12 months ago on home soil in Castellon.

They packed four men into the top nine, with Lamdassem following home Javier Guerra and the reigning European cross country champion Alemayehu Bezabeh in fifth and sixth place, and Ivan Fernandez ninth and completing their scoring quartet, which tallied 22 points.

Ayalew again in Albufeira

There was a less surprising outcome of the women’s race when Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew extended her winter unbeaten streak to six races with a comfortable victory, taking the individual honours in the Cup for the third successive year.

Running for the Turkish club Usküdar Belediye SK and running at the front for most of the 6.175km race, the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medallist crossed the line in 20:15.

She finished 11 seconds ahead of Italy’s Nadia Ejjafini, who was competing for CS Esercito.

The leading pair were followed by a quartet of Russian runners in the vest of defending champions Sport Club Luch Moscow: Natalya Gorchakova, Lyudmila Lebedeva, Natalya Leontyeva and Natalya Vlasova.

This made it an easy calculation that the Cup would return to the Russian capital for the second successive year, with Sport Club Luch Moscow putting together a total of just 18 points.

The two teams from Turkey dominated the junior men’s race.

Fenerbahce’s Saffet Elkatmis took the individual honours over 6.175km, winning in 19.05, while Kocaeli Darica Belegitim took the team gold medals.

In the junior women’s race over 3.825km, Sweden’s Sara Lahti won in 13:05 but Sport Club Luch Moscow provided the blueprint for their senior women later in the days and took the team title.

Antonio Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF