The Eritrean pair of Yossief Tekle and Azeria Teklay had plenty of reasons to be happy after the International Smarna Gora Mountain Running Race, close to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, on Saturday (5).
Tekle, the 2010 world junior mountain running champion and still only 21, took the honours at the last of this year’s six WMRA Grand Prix events and crossed the line after 10km of running in 41:38, just six seconds off the course record set last year by Italy's Alex Baldaccini.
His compatriot Teklay, a three-time silver medallist at the World Mountain Running Championships, followed him home 12 seconds in arrears but his second place was enough to for him to retain his WMRA Grand Prix title with 377 points.
After Teklay had made the running in the early stages of the race during the first climb up to the summit of Smarna Gora, the two Eritreans were together at the bottom of the descent 6.6km into the race, with 2012 winner Baldaccini just a stride behind.
However, as Tekle started to exert the pressure on the second climb, Baldaccini also lost contact with his African opponents and finished third in 42:00.
With four third places finishes in his quartet of scoring races in the 2013 WMRA Grand Prix events, Baldaccini finished second in the series overall with 315 points, replicating his position from the 2012 Grand Prix.
The women’s race was won in convincing fashion by Italy’s recently crowned world champion Alice Gaggi, who stopped the clock in 49:59.
She won by almost a minute from her compatriot Antonella Confortola, the 2013 WMRA World Long Distance Challenge winner, who was second in 50:43.
Slovenia’s Mateja Kosovelj was a distant third in 51:42 but, having won two races earlier in the season and also having a second place to her name, and in the absence of her nearest challenger Great Britain’s Emma Clayton, the local star easily managed to hold onto pole position in the Grand Prix standings and take the series title with 375 points.
Confortola lead Gaggi at the first summit by almost eight seconds but the latter went through the gears on the 3km descent and had a lead of almost 45 seconds as she started the second climb.
However, Confortola garnered enough points to overtake Clayton and finished second overall with 323 points, while Gaggi was third in the Grand Prix series with 305 points despite only contesting three races.
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