Abraham Cherkos Feleke from Ethiopia, the reigning World Junior 5000m champion, won the 53rd edition of the Campaccio International Cross Country race – EA Permit - which took place today (6) in San Giorgio su Legnano.
Cherkos beat last year’s Campaccio winner Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge by one second thanks to his devastating kick on the final bend.
Aniko Kalovics from Hungary won the women’s race for the third time in her career (2004 and 2009 her previous wins) in her comeback race after being sidelined by a hamstring problem which forced her to miss the Florence Marathon at the end of November.
Four Kenyans - Kipchoge, Titus Kipchumba Mbishei, Moses Masai, and Josphat Bett - Cherkos and Italy’s Andrea Lalli, the 2008 European U23 XC champion, made up the leading group of six which went through the first of 5 laps which made up the 10km race in 6:01.
With the pace becoming too strong for Lalli, a gang of five - Kipchoge, Mbishei, Cherkos, Masai and Bett - pulled away after 3km during the second lap of the famous Northern Italian course which played host to the 2006 European Cross Country Championships.
Masai, Mbishei, Kipchoge and Cherkos were in charge through at 6km in 17:28, with Bett following one second behind. Ukraine’s Sergiy Lebid, eight-time European Cross Country champion and winner in San Giorgio su Legnano in 2003, was trailing in sixth place ten seconds behind the leading pack with Lalli in seventh place reaching the 6 km mark in 17:46.
After 4 laps, Kipchoge, Masai, Mbishei, Cherkos had totally broken Bett, and this quartet battled it out for the win in the final 2 kilometres. They clocked 23:16 at 8km when the bell sounded. Bett, was at that point 18 seconds adrift (23:34) was to be caught by Lebid during the last lap.
Kipchoge, the 2003 World 5000m champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, led for most of the final circuit, while Cherkos was content to remain quiet just behind. Kipchoge remained in the front until 250 metres to go at the entrance into the athletics track 'Angelo Alberti', and it was there that Cherkos launched his devastating kick off the final bend taking the win in 28:52 by one second over Kipchoge.
Masai, the World 10,000 metres bronze medallist in Berlin, completed the star-studded podium finishing third, four seconds behind Feleke in 28:56.
Mbishei, World Junior cross country silver medallist in Amman 2009, took fourth place in 28:57. Lebid took fifth in 29:30, twelve seconds ahead of Bett, and Lalli was seventh, another eight seconds behind.
So Cherkos added his name to the prestigious list of famous Ethiopians who have won the Campaccio in the past like Haile Gebrselassie (1994), Fita Bayesa (1995), Kenenisa Bekele (2002).
“It’s a big honour to win this race previously won by Haile and Kenenisa. I prepared very well for this race. I like this course. It was my second Campaccio. I finished third here in 2008 behind Edwin Soi and Sergiy Lebid. I am planning to run in Spain next week but I am preparing for the World Indoor Championships in Doha,” said Cherkos who won the 2008 World Indoor 3000m bronze medal.
Kipchoge, who famously won the Campaccio in 2009 on a very snowy day, was happy with his second place. “It was my first race in 2010, so I am happy with my debut. I am planning to run in Edinburgh against Bekele and Gebremariam on 9 January. Then I will go back to Kenya to prepare the World Cross Country Championships,” said Kipchoge.
There was a repeat of the 2008 podium finish with Kalovics coming home first ahead of Romagnolo and Dal Ri, although this year the weather conditions were totally different from 2009 when a blanket of snow covered the course of San Giorgio su Legnano.
Romagnolo, Kalovics, Briton Stephanie Twell and Russia’s Irina Sergeeva, the European Under 23 silver medallist, formed the leading group in the first lap of the 6km course but then Twell took the initiative going through the 3km mark in 10:03 with Romagnolo and Kalovics following.
At 4km Kalovics launched her first attack at the entrance of the athletics track shortly before the second of three laps passing in 13:33. Romagnolo followed three seconds adrift, while Twell clocked 13:37 with one lap to go.
During the last lap Kalovics went through 5km with a seven seconds lead over Romagnolo (16:41 to 16:48) who was in second place and who in turn at that point held a solid gap of 7 seconds over Twell. However, the Briton began fading and Federica Dal Ri, fourth at the bell, caught up with the young briton overtaking her in the final metres to take third place.
By the finish Kalovics had increased her lead to 8 seconds over Romagnolo and began celebrating her third win in San Giorgio su Legnano raising her arms way before the finish-line.
“I am coming back from a hamstring injury. I missed the Florence Marathon because of this problem. I missed a lot of training. I may run my next cross country race in Seville,” said Kalovics.
For steeplechaser Romagnolo, her second place in the Campaccio was a return to form after last year’s disappointment at the World Championships in Berlin where she did not get through the first round. “It is a great feeling to finish second in San Giorgio. It was difficult to repeat the second place from last year. Today I changed tactic from 2009 because I decided to run in the front group from the beginning”, said Romagnolo.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Men’s race (10 km)
1 Abreheam Cherkos Feleke (Ethiopia) 28:52
2 Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) 28:53
3 Moses Masai (Kenya) 28:56
4 Titus Mbishei (Kenya) 28:57
5 Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) 29:30
6 Josphat Bett (Kenya) 29:42
7 Andrea Lalli (Italy) 29:50
8 Vasyl Matvichuk (Ukraine) 30:01
9 Atalay Tegegne (Ethiopia) 30:07
10 Collins Kosgei (Kenya) 30:13
Women’s race (6 km)
1 Aniko Kalovics (Hungary) 20:17
2 Elena Romagnolo (Italy) 20:25
3 Federica Dal Ri (Kenya) 20:27
4 Stephanie Twell (Great Britain) 20:37
5 Irina Sergeeveva (Russia) 20:42
6 Valentina Belotti (Italy) 20:48
7 Fatna Maraoui (Italy) 20:57
8 Simona Santini (Italy) 21:12
9 Laila Soufyiane (Italy) 21:23
10 Claudia Finielli (Italy) 21:29