Early new Year celebration - Kiprono Menjo winning Madrid 10 km (Negami) © Copyright
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Menjo, Cheruiyot the victors in Madrid

Madrid, SpainKenya’s Kiprono Menjo (28:34) and Vivian Cheruiyot (31:50) clinched victories at the ‘San Silvestre Vallecana’, a 10km road race held in the Spanish capital during the evening of New Year’s Eve (31 December). Their wins were not decided until the final stages as they had to hold off the tough challenges provided by Ethiopia’s Alemayehu Bezabeh and Britain’s Kate Reed respectively.

Menjo destroys Spanish hopes – men’s race

Unlike previous years when world distance stars such as Australia’s 2004 winner Craig Mottram, Kenya’s 2005 & 2006 victor Eliud Kipchoge and Eritrea’s Tadesse Zersenay took part – the latter two credited with outstanding clockings of 26:54 last year well ahead the Spanish contingent – this year’s foreign line-up had strengthened the chances of the Spanish armada headed by the in-form Chema Martínez and Jesús España who led host nation Spain to the European Cross Country team title three weeks ago.

The men and women joint-race started cautiously on the opening down-hill section. The leading group went through the 3000m point in a slow 8:39 split to reach mid-way in 14:15 with Spain’s Pablo Villalobos, seventh at Gothenburg Europeans over 5000m, making most of the pacing duties. While Menjo and Bezabeh didn’t seem interested in taking the lead, no less than 15 men were still in contention by then. Three time European Cross Country silver medallist Juan Carlos de la Ossa took command of the race over the following two kilometres but the key movement only happened when the 36-year-old Martínez launched a brave attack with the clock reading 22:40 (8000m) and only Menjo, the Madrid-based Bezabeh and España could live with that sudden change of speed.

The final two up-hill kilometres were again full of excitement for the crowd which every year packs the streets to cheer on the athletes. By the 9000m point the podium places were already decided as España was unable to match Martínez’s rhythm. Inside the final 1000m Menjo and Bezabeh built a 5m lead over Martínez but they negotiated a bend on the outside by mistake with 500m left and the Spaniard took advantage of that to join the African duo again.

However, Menjo, who was eighth at the Osaka Worlds over 10,000m, unleashed a devastating kick immediately to built a sizeable margin over his pursuers and he entered the Vallecas stadium in full command of the race to romp home in 28:34, four seconds ahead of the 21-year-old Bezabeh. The Ethiopian finished runner-up in 28:38 while 2003 winner Martínez had to settle for third in 28:41, five seconds clear of reigning European 5000m champion España.

Menjo, who is 28, has a fine 10,000m PB of 27:04.61 and Monday’s was his fourth appearance on Spanish soil over the last couple of months with a good tally of one win (Jean Bouin, 10km road race, 27.46), plus a runner-up and 4th  positions at the EAA Cross Country permit races in Llodio and Alcobendas respectively.

Cheruiyot narrowly beats superb Reed - women's race

Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot may be the reigning World 5000m silver medallist and the second fastest ever over the distance, but Britain’s Kate Reed gave her a serious scare over the 10,000m course.

Sandwiched between men throughout the race (Cheruiyot finished 39th overall and Reed 42nd) the Briton proved to be a real threat for the petite 24-year-old Kenyan who finally succeeded in 31:50 while Reed was credited with 31:52. Although they had 10km road PBs of 32:07 (Reed) and 32:08 (Cheruiyot) those new figures won’t be recognised for official purposes as they had the benefit of a downhill circuit (705m of altitude at the start, a lowest point of 610 at the eight kilometre point and an uphill final two kilometres to conclude at 650m).

Reed, who took sixth at the European Cross Country Championship in Toro to lead her country to the silver medal, defeated Spain’s newly minted European cross country champion Marta Domínguez by a massive 35-second margin. The 32-year-old Spaniard had to settle for the minor place on the podium on this occasion with a 32:27 clocking, four seconds clear of her compatriot Alessandra Aguilar, who was also part of the Spanish squad which claimed team gold in Toro.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

Results (10km) -
1. Kiprono Menjo (Kenya) 28:34
2. Alemayehu Bezabeh (Ethiopia) 28:38
3. Chema Martínez (Spain) 28:41
4. Jesús España (Spain)  28:46
5. Juan Carlos de la Ossa (Spain) 29:04
6. Sergio Sánchez (Spain)  29:10
7. Iván Galán (Spain)   29:12
8. Javier Alves (Spain) 29:14                                                  
9. Alberto García (Spain) 29:29
10. Isaak Sibathu (Mor) 29:31

1. Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya)  31:50
2. Kate Reed (Great Britain) 31:52
3. Marta Domínguez (Spain) 32:27
4. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) 32:31
5. Azucena Díaz (Spain) 33:10