Venta de Baños, Spain – Kenya’s Philemon Kimeli Limo and his compatriot Priscah Jepleting clinched respective victories at the ‘32th Cross Internacional de Venta de Baños' held today on a less cold than usual day with the thermometer marking 6ºC by the time of races.
The men’s 10.6km event witnessed the overwhelming dominance of the 26-year-old Kimeli Limo, a creditable 7th at last March’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships held on Spanish soil in Punta Umbría. Reportedly, Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro involuntarily collided with Limo in the first kilometre on that occasion which forced Limo to run without one of his shoes for virtually all the race!
The early stages were led by Portugal’s Thiago Costa (16th at last Sunday’s European champs in Velenje) but some 13 minutes on the clock the main group whittled down to six athletes in the guise of Limo, Eritrea’s Adhanom Abraha and the Spanish quartet of the newly-minted European XC medallist Ayad Lamdassem, Javier Guerra (6th in Velenje), the 40! year-old reigning European Marathon silver medallist Chema Martínez and Juan Carlos Higuero, the 2008 World indoor 1500m bronze medallist.
Shortly afterwards Limo injected a much brisker pace and only Lamdassem and Abraha managed to hold off his rhythm. Following the first couple of laps in 6:44 and 6:22, Limo’s 6:03 to cover the third circuit killed the race and found no opposition from the rest as Lamdassem travelled a lonesome second way back. With still 4000m remaining all seemed decided except for the minor spot on the podium between Abraha and Martínez.
At the bell (2.1km to go) Limo, a 59:30 Half Marathon performer, had built an 8-second margin on Lamdassem, himself 18 seconds ahead of Abraha and Martínez. Throughout the last lap, Limo increased his lead dramatically to no less than 120m over the Moroccan-born Lamdassem while Martínez could get rid of the Eritrean for the delight of the crowd.
The winner said “My plan was to run inside the main pack for much of the race to pull away over the last lap. Obviously, I’m delighted with my win today but I’m also a Real Madrid football team fan and I could watch on TV his 2-6 victory against Seville at the Spanish League last night so I’m doubly happy (laughs). I’ll likely run in Seville XC (IAAF Permit on 15 Jan) on my build-up for the Praha Half Marathon in February” confirmed Limo.
WOMEN – Jepleting over a threatening Ejjafini
The women’s 6.8km contest was billed as a clash between Kenya’s 2006 World Cross Country silver medallist in the short race Priscah Jepleting and the in-form Italian Nadia Ejjafini, fresh from a fine 4th place at the European champs last weekend.
Jepleting, who finished fourth at last Worlds in Daegu over 10,000m, succeeded more clearly that what her one second advantage on Ejjafini at the tape might suggest.
It was the Moroccan-born Ejjafini – a commanding victor in the Llodio permit last 27 November – who set the early pace closely followed by Portugal’s Analia Rosa, the Spanish duo of Dolores Checa and Marta Domínguez plus a conservative Jepleting, fresh from a convincing win in Alcobendas a fortnight ago.
Despite performing in front of her native village, the 36-year-old Domínguez could not follow that kind of pace and began to lose ground before the second kilometer as Checa did a bit later. Meanwhile, Jepleting and Ejjafini took turns at the top and Rosa was a solitude third ahead of the Spaniards.
Midway the penultimate loop a fading Rosa was overtaken by Checa (a 14:46.30 5000m runner), herself 14 seconds behind the leading tandem at the bell. It was exactly with 1400m to go that Jepleting found another gear to break away with ease from Ejjafini, her advantage ranging from 5 to 7 seconds but the Italian didn’t surrender at any time to narrow the gap already inside the track, although Jepleting’s win (22:47 for Ejjafini’s 22:48) didn’t seem in jeopardize at any time.
Spain’s Checa completed a classy podium well behind (33s) the victor, while the European 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Domínguez came a distant 7th 1:24 adrift the winner.
Jepleting declared: “I had a clear advantage on Ejjafini but she closed the gap at the end. I’ll come back in January to compete in Seville and Elgoibar XC races. Prior to today’s event I had been told that a 10ºC below zero temperature is usual here so to run with 5ºC above zero isn’t too bad! (laughs).
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
1. Philemon Kimeli Limo (Kenya) 31:57
2. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) 32:18
3. Chema Martínez (Spain) 32:26
4. Adhanom Abraha (Eritrea) 32:38
5. Juan Carlos Higuero (Spain) 32:44
6. Thiago Costa (Portugal) 32:51
7. Ricardo Serrano (Spain) 32:56
8. Javier Guerra (Spain) 32:58
1. Priscah Jepleting (Kenya) 22:47
2. Nadia Ejjafini (Italy) 22:48
3. Dolores Checa (Spain) 23:20
4. Diana Martín (Spain) 23:56
5. Analia Rosa (Portugal) 24:02
6. Marta Silvestre (Spain) 24:04
7. Marta Domínguez (Spain) 24:11
8. Dorotea Peixoito (Portugal) 24:13