World Cross Country and Road Race champion Zersenay Tadese today added his name to the prestigious list of winners of the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona, the Italian leg of the IAAF XC Permit series. The Eritrean, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on 9 February, beat Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge after a hard fought 10km race over a muddy course.
Pauline Korikwiang from Kenya, the 2006 World Junior Cross Country champion, took the honours in the 6km women’s race holding off Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton by seven seconds.
This year's event was the 76th edition of the Cinque Mulini.
With 4 minutes on the clock a group of four men had taken the lead in the men's race. They were Zersenay Tadese and three Kenyans, 2003 World 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge, last year’s World Junior Cross bronze medallist Matthew Kisorio, and Thomas Longosiwa, who ran 12:51.95 for 5000 metres in 2007.
Tadese and Kipchoge broke away from their two opponents with 15 minutes on the clock. Tadese, who in 2004 became the first Eritrean athlete to win a medal at the Olympic Games, launched his first attack with two laps to go but Kipchoge did not give up and was able to reduce Tadese’s lead, and so the race became a neck and neck battle over the difficult and muddy course.
Then at the bell Tadese surged again and this time was able to drop Kipchoge, with the popular Eritrean finishing strongly to the delight of the group of Eritrean fans who followed their hero along the course.
Tadese crossed the finish-line in 31:06, comfortably beating Kipchoge who finished in 31:22. Matthew Kisorio made it to the podium finishing third in 32:08, ahead of Thomas Longosiwa.
“It was a very hard race,” said the World champion. “It was too muddy but it was the best preparation for the World Championships in Edinburgh. I tried three-times to break away from Kipchoge but he managed to reduce the gap. I knew that Eliud was stronger than me in a final sprint” (which is why he went early), said Tadese.
After crossing the finish line Tadese waved the Eritrean flag, celebrating his victory with members of the Eritrean community who live in Milan. The race was attended by the Eritrean Consul in Italy.
Despite losing the race Kipchoge was confident for the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh. “It was a tough race but it’s fine”, said Kipchoge.
It was Britain’s former European Cross Country champion Hailey Yelling who went to the front in the early stages of the race but soon Kenyan Pauline Korikwang took a solid lead in the first lap of the 6km race.
Korikwang dropped the chasing group with ease leaving 2006 European U23 Cross Country silver medallist, Fionnuala Britton from Ireland and Italian Fatna Maraoui, who was born in Morocco but became Italian by marriage, to battle it out for second place, a duel which developed in the second lap.
It was an intriguing battle for second which, with 16 minutes on the clock first saw Maraoui drop the Irish runner by 10 metres. However, in the final lap Britton managed to catch-up with Maraoui again and ultimately took the runner’s-up spot.
Up-front and away Korikwang crossed the finish-line in 19:54 beating Britton by seven seconds. Maraoui finished third four seconds behind second place. Italian 3000m Steeplechase record holder Elena Romagnolo ended up in fourth place holding off Briton Hayley Yelling.
“It looked like an easy race but it was not. It was very tough. This win is for Kenya”, said Korikwang, who hails from Eldoret, one of the worst-hit areas during the recent civil unrest in Kenya.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Results of the 76th Cinque Mulini:
1. Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) 31:06
2. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) 31:22
3. Matthew Kisorio (Kenya) 32:08
4. Thomas Longosiwa (Kenya) 32:26
5. Jamel Chatbi (Morocco) 32:34
6. Günther Weidlinger (Austria) 32:37
7. Said Beroui (France) 33:11
8. Gianmarco Buttazzo (Italy) 33:16
9. Mike Skinner (Great Britain) 33:33
10. Lorenzo Cannata (Italy) 33:33
1. Pauline Korikwang (Kenya) 19:54
2. Fionnuala Britton (Ireland) 20:01
3. Fatna Maraoui (Italy) 20:05
4. Elena Romagnolo (Italy) 20:20
5. Hayley Yelling (Great Britain) 20:34
6. Abeyo Achamo Netsanet (Ethiopia) 20:40
7. Melissa Peretti (Italy) 20:51
8. Renate Rungger (Italy) 20:58
9. Federica Dal Ri (Italy) 21:10
10. Maizena Mikalska (Italy) 21:28