Moses Mosop uncorks the champagne after his 10km win in Trento (Alberto Zorzi) © Copyright

Elgoibar cross country unveils formidable line-up - PREVIEW

Armed with a 100,000€ budget race elite coordinator Zigor Díez has brought together a quality field for the “65th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza” cross country meeting which will be held next Sunday (13 Jan) in Elgoibar (Spain).

Mosop vs Tola – men’s race

Heading the cast will be two medallists from last March’s World Cross in Mombasa in the guise of the Kenyan pair of Moses Mosop and Bernard Kiprop Kipyego who snatched the silver and bronze medals respectively on that occasion.

Their only presence should guarantee a top-class spectacle but the start list is further strengthened thanks to other remarkable names such as Michael Kipyego also of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Tadesse Tola, both top-ten finishers in Mombasa too.
The 23-year-old Mosop was scheduled to compete at the Campaccio EAA Cross Country race last weekend but he finally didn’t contest it and so this 26:49.55 10,000m performer will be making his winter debut in Elgoibar.

Mosop’s assignment of keeping his Mombasa supremacy over the rest should be tough as his three major rivals have shown excellent form in recent races particularly at the Venta de Baños permit held on 16 December when Tola recorded a fine win ahead of steeplechaser Michael Kipyego and Bernard Kiprop who took third and fourth respectively. Zimbabwe’s Cuthbert Nyasango completes the powerful African squad.

Spanish hopes rest on the in-form Chema Martínez who will be joined by Juan Carlos de la Ossa and Juan Carlos Higuero. Martínez came third in his last outing at the San Silvestre Vallecana on New Year’s Eve (10km/28:41) and faces the task of matching his superb performance from last year when he finished runner-up. De la Ossa will be competing for the third time after the injury which prevented him to take part in the European Championships in Toro and will look to improve on his performances in Venta de Baños and Madrid where he finished far from the top spots.

As for Higuero, the reigning European 1500m indoor champion is fresh from a praiseworthy second place at the Gimnástica de Ulía 10km road race held last Sunday in San Sebastián (50km away from Elgoibar) only bettered by Ethiopia’s Alemayehu Bezabeh, 28:45 and 28:55 their respective times.

Jepleting hot favourite – women’s race

On the women’s side no less than three athletes from Mombasa’s top-ten will be in contention headed by the reigning World 5000m bronze medallist Priscah Jepleting Ngetich. The 27-year-old Kenyan takes on Ethiopia’s Wude Yimer and Eritrea’s Simret Sultan, the latter on her fifth outing on Spanish ground this XC campaign topped by a win in Atapuerca (4 November) and a runner-up place behind Spain’s Marta Domínguez the following Sunday in Quintanar.

Keen to break the African dominance will be Rosa Morató and Mariya Konovalova. The 28-year-old Spaniard is in her best ever shape following her brilliant bronze medal at the Europeans in Toro while the Russian finished fourth there and should be eager to take revenge from the Spanish 3000m steeplechase record holder. More recently, the 33-year-old Russian clocked 5:40.26 in a 2000m appearance in Yekaterinburg last 7 January.

Another Spaniard like Alessandra Aguilar could well be a factor on Sunday after her fine 10km outing in Madrid (31 December) where she came fourth with a 32:31 clocking.

At the pre-race press conference Zigor Díez pointed out that “it’s an enormous pride for a 10,500-inhabitant town like Elgoibar to assemble so many world-class athletes. Let’s hope that the sad civil conflict in Kenya doesn’t prevent the presence of their athletes this weekend.”

Throughout its 65-year history no less than nine Olympic Champions have taken part in this meet. As it has become a tradition there will be a strong junior race with representatives from Portugal, Italy, France, Great Britain and Spain in the fight for the Mamo Wolde prize, an award set in 2003 in memory of the Ethiopian legendary twice Marathon Olympic champion who is fondly remembered in Elgoibar after winning the annual race ‘Cross International Juan Muguerza’ four times in 1963, 1964, 1967, and 1968. 

Among other many victorious names of the past that we should underline are the two five-time World Cross Country Champions Kenya’s Paul Tergat (successful in 1999) and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele (2003) plus the latter’s brother Tariku (2005).

On the women’s section the most remarkable names are two Olympic 10,000m champions such as Portugal’s Fernanda Ribeiro (1995) and Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu (1996), Kenya’s three-time World XC champion (short race) Edith Masai and Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey.

Weather forecasters predict a high temperature of 13ºC and a 65% of rain likelihood for the day’s race.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF