Sergio Sánchez took down some big names in Venta de Banos (Miguel Alfambra) © Copyright
General News Venta de Baños, Spain

Sánchez defeats European champion Bezabeh in Venta de Baños

Spain’s Sergio Sánchez and Kenya’s Veronica Nyaruai clinched convincing victories at the ‘30th Cross Internacional de Venta de Baños' held Sunday (20) on a sunny but frozen morning with the thermometer marking  9ºC below zero!

The men’s event witnessed Sánchez’s surprise supremacy over top Kenyan Joseph Ebuya and newly minted European champion Alemayehu Bezabeh while the 2006 World Junior 3000m champion Nyaruai got the better of Britain’s three-time European XC junior champion Stephanie Twell.

Sánchez takes revenge for Dublin  – men’s race

The men’s event, contested over a quite flat 10,575m course, featured the full Spanish squad which brilliantly retained the European Cross Country team title a week ago in Dublin – except from Ayad Lamdassem who withdrew through flu -  and headed by the new ‘king of Europe’ Bezabeh and Sergio Sánchez (4th). However, the pre-race favourite was Ebuya, fresh from an overwhelming win in Yecla (Spain) last Sunday (13) where he finished a full minute ahead of world-class athlete like Eritrea’s Kidane Tadese.

Right from the start, the 27-year-old Sánchez took charge of the race along with the 2008 World XC 4th finisher Ebuya while Bezabeh ran tucked behind. Despite the extremely low temperature, the brave Sánchez increased the rhythm gradually (6:30, 6:18 and 6:03 for successive loops) and his front tactics paid off with 18 minutes on the clock when the Ethiopian-born Bezabeh lost touch with the leader and Ebuya. The former (2006) World Junior 10,000m silver medallist Kenyan barely managed to stay with Sánchez for two further minutes but the Spaniard’s pace proved to be too strong and Ebuya also dropped from the head and ran in solitude for the rest of the event.

Meanwhile, the home crowd saw how Sánchez – who already gave Ethiopia’s reigning World XC champion Gebre Gebremariam a run in Soria (29 November) – broadened his leadership more and more to romp home in 30:59 with an eleven-second margin over Ebuya while last year’s winner Bezabeh had to settle for third on this occasion 38 seconds in arrears.

A more than joyful Sánchez said: “Today’s win is just the confirmation that I entered the Dublin Europeans at my peak, I think my kind of form was worthy of even the victory there but the mud hampered me a lot and I had to settle for fourth. Leaving Bezabeh behind today was a huge confidence booster for the rest of the race. I felt full of beans performing without any pressure and after several days of rest following the Europeans. Maybe I ran in Dublin a bit tired,” the Spaniard reflected.

Asked on his plans for the coming weeks, the rising star confirmed his appearance at the San Silvestre Vallecana on New Year’s eve (10km road race) but his primary winter goal is the 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha. Sánchez  recorded a 4th place at this year’s European indoor in Torino over the distance. 

Nyaruai in a class on her own –  women’s contest

The women’s 6775m race had been billed on the eve as a fascinating duel between two accomplished junior specialists  in the guise of Kenya’s Veronica Nyaruai – who collected two silver and one bronze medal at the World XC championships from 2005 to 2007, and Briton Stephanie Twell, herself the European junior gold medallist from 2006 to 2008.

But once the event got underway the 20-year-old Kenyan set a quick pace to break away from the rest with ease. The chasing group was formed by Twell, the Portuguese duo of Sara Moreira and Ana Dias plus the Spanish contingent comprising Iris Fuentes-Pila, Diana Martín, Alessandra Aguilar and the local heroine Marta Domínguez –the reigning World 3000m Steeplechase champion – who received a tribute from the organisers for the silver jubilee of her first participation in the Venta de Baños permit at the age of 9.

However, the long-legged Nyaruai decided not to join the Domínguez celebrations to keep on running in majestic style while Twell managed to pull away from the chasing group to find some consolation from her below-par performance in Dublin where the reigning World Junior 1500m champion could not go beyond 10th place in the U-23 category.

At the finish line, Nyaruai built ten seconds on Twell while 1500m specialist Fuentes-Pila get ride of fellow Spaniard Martín and Dublin 10th placed Moreira to take the minor place on the podium six seconds behind Twell.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

Leading Results -
Men (10.6km)
1. Sergio Sánchez (Spain) 30:59
2. Joseph Ebuya (Kenya) 31:10
3. Alemayehu Bezabeh (Spain) 31:37
4. Carles Castillejo (Spain) 32:00
5. Javier Guerra (Spain) 32:04
6. Juan Carlos Higuero (Spain) 32:12
7. Chema Martínez (Spain) 32:17
8. Fernando Silva (Portugal) 32:25
9. Francisco Javier López (Spain) 32:31
10. Jordi Comas (Spain) 32:40

Women (6.8km)
1. Verónica Nyaruai (Kenya) 22:47
2. Stephanie Twell (Great Britain) 22:57
3. Iris Fuentes-Pila (Spain) 23:03
4. Diana Martín (Spain) 23:13
5. Sara Moreira (Portugal) 23:21
6. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) 23:24
7. Marta Domínguez (Spain) 23:31
8. Ana Dias (Portugal) 23:40
9. Sonia Bejarano (Spain) 23:54
10. Gema Barrachina (Spain) 23:56