Following successes in 2013 and 2015, Cornelius Kangogo of Kenya will be looking to win for a third time at the Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, whose 45th edition will take place in the north western suburbs of Paris on Sunday (18).
Last year Kangogo sprinted away from Ethiopia’s Haymanot Alewe to regain his crown over the 10km course clocking a 28:10 personal best. Even if Alewe won’t be in the running in Sunday’s race, Kangogo will nevertheless face tough opposition, starting with Dawit Fikadu.
The Ethiopian, 21, prevailed in 10km contests in Rio and Casablanca earlier this year, improving his PB by eight seconds in the latter in May with his 27:56 run.
Fikadu has already shined on French roads as he won the Paris Versailles 16 km last year. He appears to be the main protagonist to counter Kangogo’s bid but it’s hard to gauge his form. Kangogo hasn’t raced since early September but he did improve his lifetime best in the 5000m on the track to 13:10:80 earlier this year.
Ethiopia’s Yimer Mekonnen, who was runner-up at the Istanbul 15km in November, cannot be ruled out in the battle for the podium.
Other podium contenders include Kenya’s James Kangogo, who won the Cross de Hyères last month and Abdallah Mande of Uganda. Mande finished third in Houilles last year with a 28:20 career best, and showed good form in early October with his victory at the Giro Al Sas in Trento in 28:47.
Not to be discounted is Thierry Ndikumwenayo. The Burundian, 19, finished fifth in the competitive Cross de l’Acier three weeks ago and will line up for the first time in a 10km contest.
Another man to watch is the young Franco-Swiss Julien Wanders. The 20-year-old set a French junior record of 28:49 in Berlin in October and will be aiming to stick with the leaders as long as possible.
Other French hopes rest on the shoulders of Bouabdellah Tahri and Yoann Kowal. Tahri, 37, has moved to road running after a track career that included a bronze medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2009 IAAF World Championships. Kowal was fifth in the steeplechase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and will be looking to improve his best of 29:01 set in Houilles five years ago. A Frenchman hasn’t won in Houilles since Paul Arpin in 1987.
The field also includes Britons Dewi Griffiths and Ben Connor. The course record is 27:47 set by Imane Merga in 2010.
Jepksogei leads women’s field
On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Zerfie Limeneh won’t be returning to defend her title leaving Kenyan Carolyn Jepkosgei, with a career best of 32:10, as the woman to beat.
Her countrywoman Viola Kibiwot looks to be her main rival. While she hasn’t yet contested a 10km on the roads, the 32-year-old comes armed with solid credentials: a 14:29.50 career best in the 5000m set in Rabat this year, and fourth and sixth place finishes over the distance at the 2015 IAAF World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games, respectively.
Uganda’s Stella Chesang was the runner-up in Houilles in 2015 and will be attempting to move up this year. Italia’s Fatna Maraoui and Ukraine’s Yuliya Shmatenko should also be in contention for the podium.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF