Nick Davies for IAAF
Rain, 40 mile per hour winds, churned up mud, downhill bends with 4 foot cambers nature and the organising committee would have struggled to make conditions more authentically "European". And although Kenyas Jackline Maranga showed that the fittest runner will win regardless of the conditions, taking the title in 15.09, France did spring a surprise by winning the team gold the first won by non-Africans at this event since 1990.
Maranga cruised over the demanding course and her loping stride - reminiscent of John Ngugi didnt falter even on the cruellest climb in the middle of each lap. After a gentle start, the second kilometre was covered in 3:39 which was slower than any split in yesterdays long race, the Kenyan was content to stay with the pack before breaking away from Teresia Mbugua and Kutre Duleche just before the start of the second lap. Behind her, two Europeans not the much fancied Anita Weyermann who was never a factor after slipping badly on one descent but Finlands Annemari Sandell and Yamna Belkacem of France moved into medal contention. Sandell, a winner of the junior race in 1995, was 22nd yesterday in the long race while the Moroccan born Belkacem had placed fourth over 3000m at the recent World Indoor Championships, and they fought hard for silver over the last lap. Despite a spirited challenge by Sandell, the French woman gritted her teeth and held off her rival to the line 15:16 to 15:17. With her colleagues Fatima Maamma-Yvelain, Blandine Bitzner-Ducret and Celine Rajot finishing 9th, 10th and 19th, France made sure of the team golds, with Ethiopia second, Morocco third and Kenya a surprise fourth. But at least the individual gold went to the East African country.
Maranga, Commonwealth 1500m champion and record holder with 3:57.41, said after the race: "The weather made it very difficult today. I found myself in front and feeling strong and since the other girls couldnt keep up I just took it from there. My goal for the summer is still the 1500m."