Kenya’s Mike Kigen and Britain’s Gemma Steel captured respective wins at the 50th edition of Madrid’s San Silvestre Vallecana, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, over the 10km course on Wednesday (31).
They succeeded in different ways as Kigen led from the gun to become an overwhelming victor, 38 seconds ahead of Spain’s Jesus Espana, while the Briton secured her win in the second half of race, eventually romping home well clear of Morocco’s Malika Asahssah.
Right from the gun, Kigen set a brisk pace which could only be followed by Espana and his fellow Spaniard Adel Mechaal but the latter soon lost ground and by the third kilometre (8:15) only Espana lived with the Kenyan’s terrific pace.
Some 11 minutes into the race, Kigen managed to leave the Spaniard behind to build a solid 10-second margin at halfway, reached in 13:37. About 100 metres behind, Espana travelled an eight-unit group which included some of the top contenders, such as Antonio Abadia and Roberto Alaiz, but surprisingly France’s European 1500m champion Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was not among them as he was running another 50 metres adrift.
The second part of the race proved to be an impressive solo run for Kigen who extended his lead to 23 seconds over Espana, himself no fewer than 30 seconds clear of the chasing group.
The closing two-kilometre uphill section was no barrier for the Kenyan who crossed the finish line in 27:51 to follow in his compatriot Leonard Komon’s footsteps, also a commanding winner last year.
For Kigen it was his first and only victory of 2014, capping a year in which he finished a close second to Mo Farah at the Great South Run and set a marathon PB of 2:06:59 in Frankfurt.
“I felt OK today but some days prior to the race I had a cold and could not breathe properly,” said 28-year-old Kigen, whose next race will be the cross-country meeting in Amorebieta on 4 January. “I’m not targeting the World Cross Country Championships, but a marathon in spring, probably Boston. I also would like to return to Frankfurt next autumn.”
In second, Espana equalled his best ever finish here from 2001, breaking the long-standing PB he set on that occasion with 28:29.
“I went for the win and I held off Kigen’s challenge for 4km but he just proved to be the strongest tonight,” said Espana. “Anyway, I’m very satisfied with my performance as it suggests my build-up for the European Indoors in Prague next March is on the right path. I would like to contest the Karlsruhe permit on 31 January.”
Behind Espana, attention turned to the exciting fight for the third place which eventually went to Abadia after overtaking Morocco’s Zakariae Mazouzi in the closing stages, 28:45 and 28:47 their respective clockings.
After the race, Mekhissi-Benabbad explained why he was never a factor. “After the Europeans, I had a two-month rest so this race only intended to be a kick-off for the 2015 season, with no pressure for winning at all,” he said. “Today’s race was my first ever 10km,so I have to be satisfied with my time.”
Mekhissi-Benabbad will skip the European Indoors as his only goal this season will be the World Championships in Beijing. “I’ve already won bronze twice, so my objective there is to improve on that,” said Mekhissi-Benabbad, who is ruling out a possible 1500m-steeplechase double in the Chinese capital. “I know the Kenyans are so strong but I’m convinced I can beat them.”
Asahssah carves out race but Steel finally succeeds
Morocco’s Spain-based Malika Asahssah led the women’s race for no fewer than 8km, but Britain’s newly-minted European cross-country champion Gemma Steel threateningly travelled 30-40m behind her throughout.
The Moroccan led at the 2.5km point (7:51/7:56), at halfway (15:33/15:39) and even with some 2.5km left (22:59/23:06) but the Briton came strongly from behind to catch Asahssah during the ninth kilometre.
From then on, Steel built a sizeable margin to finally become a commanding victor in 31:52, becoming just the second British woman to win in Madrid, nine years after Paula Radcliffe’s victory in 2005.
A fading Asahssah had to settle for the runner-up position – as was the case last year – and third place went to France’s European marathon champion Christelle Daunay, who prevailed over Poland’s Iwona Lewandowska by the narrow margin of one second, 32:24 to 32:25.
“I had been warned of the tough closing couple of kilometres so I decided to save some energy for that final section and it paid off,” said Steel.
The Briton’s next race will be at the IAAF Cross Country Permit race in Edinburgh on 10 January. She is aiming to make the top 10 at the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang on 28 March, but is planning on skipping the World Championships in Beijing to instead focus on making her marathon debut in the autumn, possibly in Berlin or Amsterdam.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1 Mike Kigen (KEN) 27:51
2 Jesus Espana (ESP) 28:29
3 Antonio Abadia (ESP) 28:45
4 Zakaria Mazouzi (MAR) 28:47
5 Alberto Sanchez (ESP) 28:51
6 Javier Guerra (ESP) 28:53
7 Roberto Alaiz (ESP) 28:56
8 Fernando Carro (ESP) 28:57
9 Artur Kozlowski (POL) 28:58
10 Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (FRA) 28:59
1 Gemma Steel (GBR) 31:52
2 Malika Asahssah (MAR) 32:18
3 Christelle Daunay (FRA) 32:24
4 Iwona Lewandowska (POL) 32:25
5 Carla Salome Rocha (POR) 32:24
6 Desiree Linden (USA) 33:02
7 Caterina Ribeiro (POR) 33:28
8 Marisa Casanueva (ESP) 33:41
9 Marta Silvestre (ESP) 34:06
10 Diana Martin (ESP) 34:08