Gelete Burika takes the win at the Cross de Venta de Baños (c) © Copyright
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Burika and García go unchallenged in Venta de Baños

Ethiopia’s World Junior Cross Country champion Gelete Burika Bati captured a convincing win in the ‘26th Cross Internacional de Venta de Baños' held today (Sunday) on a windy and cold (5ºC) morning. The men’s race witnessed a commanding victory for Spain’s Alberto García only seven days after his silver medal at the European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg.

WOMEN – Burika wins Helsinki rematch over Ghezielle

In the early stages of the 6.64km women’s event it seemed that the European contingent of Britain’s Liz Yelling and the Spanish pair of Rosa Morató and Marta Domínguez might threaten the usual African supremacy. It was Yelling (8th at the Europeans last Sunday) who took charge of the race for the first two kilometres with the Spaniards, Burika, Eritrea’s Meras Batha and France’s reigning World 1500m bronze medallist Bouchra Ghezielle tucked behind.

Just at halfway point when the clock was reading ten minutes both Domínguez and Yelling dropped from the leading group and two minutes later it was the Moroccan-born Ghezielle who injected a brisker pace which only Burika could follow. These athletes took the bronze medal (Ghezielle) and the eighth place (Burika) at last summer’s World Championships on the track in Helsinki over 1500m. Today the head to head between them took nearly two kilometres as the Ethiopian broke away with 800m left and opened a whopping margin in a matter of few strides over her rival.

Burika ran in majestic style to the finish line which she crossed in 21:05, with a handsome advantage of 15 seconds over Ghezielle, who was herself 6 seconds ahead of Spain’s Rosa Morató, who confirmed her great shape after a praiseworthy top-ten (9th) position in Tilburg.

Short race at the Worlds and 5000m focus in summer

“It has not been a difficult win for me” explained Burika after the race. “Despite Ghezielle having beaten me at the Worlds over 1500m I was not worried running at her shoulder as I felt very comfortable and I knew I could pull away at any time. My primary goal for this winter season is the IAAF World Cross Country championships in Fukuoka (Japan) next 1-2 April, where I will probably contest the short race. In the nearer future term, my next appearance will be in Edinburgh on 14 January. This year I’m doing a lot of endurance work as I plan to compete over 5000m more often next summer”. Asked on who (male or female) is her favourite athlete the 19-year-old answered adamantly: “Kenenisa Bekele”. 

MEN – García stamps his authority

Spain’s Alberto García, 34, cruised to a comfortable win in the men’s race. Despite having ‘only’ four seconds advantage over his fellow countryman Juan Carlos de Ossa, García’s success was never in danger during the final 2.1km lap.

Already by the second kilometre only five men still had chances of winning, the Spanish trio of García, De la Ossa and José Manuel Martínez, Algeria’s Ali Saïdi-Sief and Portugal’s Fernando Silva. The Spanish athletes took turns trying to shake off the Algerian, a 3:29 1500m athlete who would be potentially dangerous in a tight final. In the sixth kilometre García pushed hard and only two-time European XC silver medallist De la Ossa could live with his frantic pace which left Saïdi-Sief and Martínez behind.

The key moment came with 22 minutes on the clock when De la Ossa could not resist García’s pace for longer and at the bell (2.1k to go) he had built a 8-second margin over his pursuer while in the tussle for the minor place on the podium Saïdi-Sief and reigning European 10,000m champion had already lost 16 seconds.

In the final lap there were not major changes with García keeping De la Ossa at bay to clinch a fine win over his compatriot, while Saïdi-Sief’s finishing speed was enough to take third two seconds ahead of Martínez who proved to be in more than reasonable form after his no selection for Tilburg. It should also be mentioned that Britain’s reigning European U-23 5000m silver medallist Mohammed Farah - the youngest top-ten athlete today by far (22) - completed a promising performance in sixth. 

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

Results 

Men
(10.68km)
1. Alberto García (Esp) 31:34
2. Juan Carlos de la Ossa (Esp) 31:38
3. Ali Saïdi- Sief (Alg) 31:44
4. José Manuel Martínez (Esp) 31:46
5. Fernando Silva (Por) 32:16
6. Mohammed Farah (Gbr) 32:23
7. Rafael Iglesias (Esp) 32:29
8. Gian Marco Buttazzo (Ita) 32:32
9. Isaac Viciosa (Esp) 32:41
10. José Ríos (Esp) 32:42

Women (6.64km)
1. Gelete Burika (Eth) 21:05
2. Bouchra Ghezielle (Fra) 21:20
3. Rosa Morató (Esp) 21:26
4. Meras Batha (Eri) 21:39
5. Ines Monteiro (Por) 21:45
6. Claudia Pereira (Por) 21:45
7. Ana Dias (Por) 21:47
8. Liz Yelling (Gbr) 21:49
9. Marta Domínguez (Esp) 21:49
10. Rosemary Ryan (Irl) 22:03.