Kenya’s Leonard Patrick Komon and Italy’s Nadia Ejjafini captured the top spots in commanding fashion at the 28th ‘Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’ – an EA permit - on Sunday (27) on a sunny day for weather.
The former (2008) World Cross Country silver medallist Komon proved to be in stellar form to clinch a convincing win from Eritrea’s Kidane Tadese, while in the women’s race, in the absence of any African ace, Ejjafini snatched a creditable victory ahead of Portugal’s Leonor Carneiro, who was back to the competition after becoming a mother.
MEN – A relaxed Komon finds no opposition
The men’s 9.79km race featured an interesting Kenya vs Eritrea fight in the guise of Komon and the 2008 World Junior 10,000m champion Josphat Bett for the Kenyan side while Tadese, Adhanom Abraha and Kiflom Sium compounded the Eritrean squad.
Surprisingly, the 23-year-old Komon kicked off the race so conservatively that he travelled outside the top-ten once covered the opening kilometre; the early leaders were Spain’s Álvaro Lozano and the 40-year-old Chema Martínez, who reached the 3000m point in 9:07. By then, Komon ran 60m behind the head of the race but he joined the main group with absolute easiness just before halfway.
Following successive 2.1km laps of 6:33 and 6:23, Komon took the lead with 2 laps to go to inject a much brisker pace which could only be followed by Tadese while Bett, Abraha and Sium began to lose ground gradually.
Komon’s penultimate loop of 6:01 killed the race as his only pursuer Kidane started to falter just after the bell. The final circuit became an exhibition by the reigning World 10km record holder Komon (26:44). Tadese (a 27:06.16 10,000m athlete) had to settle for second on this occasion despite a desperate late effort which reduced Komon’s margin to a couple of seconds.
At the finish the Kenyan was timed at 29:14, for Tadese’s 29:16 while the 21-year-old Bett – holder of an impressive 26:48.99 10,000 time - completed a classy podium 14 seconds adrift the victor. First Spanish home was Youssef Aakou in sixth although well behind (56s) Komon while Martínez finished seventh another 9 seconds back.
“I decided to run quietly in the early stages and open up the gas only in the second half. Today’s has not been a very difficult win. I look forward to competing in more XC races in January. In the absence of the Cross Country World championships I’ll be focused on the Olympic Games, I hope to make the Kenyan team for the 10,000m event,” confirmed Komon, whose previous race at the Great South Run in Portsmouth (UK) on 30 October saw him win a 10 Mile race in 46:18.
WOMEN – Ejjafini from gun to tape
The women’s 7.64km contest offered the presence of Portugal’s Leonor Carneiro, fresh from a fine win last weekend (20 November) in Torres Vedras plus the Moroccan-born Nadia Ejjafini, who placed 34th at last March’s World XC Championships in Punta Umbría.
The 31-year-old Ejjafini set a brisk rhythm from the start and only Uganda’s Rebecca Cheptegei and Ethiopia’s Marta Tigabea remained at her shoulder after the first lap. By the 3km point the Italian had built a 30m gap on Cheptegei, herself another 20m ahead of Tigabea.
By halfway, the contest already seemed decided in Ejjafini’s favour and the main news during the second half was a coming-from-behind Carneiro, who first joined Tigabea and Cheptegei to break away from them with still 3000m left.
At the bell. Ejjafini led comfortably some 12 and 18 seconds clear of Carneiro and Cheptegei respectively.
Despite slowing down a bit throughout the successive laps (7:09, 7:15, 7:17) Ejjafini romped home unopposed with no less than 32 seconds of advantage on Careniro and 41 over Cheptegei.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1. Leonard Patrick Komon (Kenya) 29:15
2. Kidane Tadese (Eritrea) 29:17
3. Josphat Bett (Kenya) 29:28
4. Adhanom Abrah (Eritrea) 29:49
5. Kiflom Sium (Eritrea) 30:02
6. Youssef Aakou (Spain) 30:11
7. Chema Martínez (Spain) 30:25
8. Antonio Jiménez (Spain) 30:35
1. Nadia Ejjafini (Italy) 26:03
2. Leonor Carneiro (Portugal) 26:35
3. Rebecca Cheptegei (Uganda) 26:44
4. Marta Tigabea (Ethiopia) 27:14
5. Analia Rosa (Portugal) 27:23
6. Elena Espeso (Spain) 27:34
7. Isabel Macías (Spain) 27:39
8. Irene Pelayo (Spain) 27:42