Meselech Melkamu wins the women's senior race at the 24th Jan Meda Cross Country International (Nahom Tesfaye) © Copyright
Preview Llodio, Spain

Melkamu-Cheruiyot showdown in Llodio - PREVIEW

The 24th edition of the ‘Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio, which is one of the two Spanish legs of the current EAA Cross Country permit season, will take place this Sunday (18 Nov) at the Ellakuri venue.

Race organiser Javier Aparicio has assembled - as happens every year in Llodio - a vast array of talent. To the delight of the knowledgeable crowd that every year gathers here the circuit is expected to be slightly muddy which adds a plus of interest and will make the event even more spectacular.

Women – 2006 podium on show again

The women’s event offers a re-match from last year’s event with Ethiopia’s ‘defending champion’ Meselech Melkamu battling against Kenya’s runner-up Vivian Cheruiyot and Hungary’s third placer Aniko Kalovics. The Ethiopian is also the reigning World Cross Country bronze medallist from Mombasa.

However, things might well be different this time after Cheruiyot’s major breakthrough on the track last summer when she snatched silver at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka over 5000m.

Previously, the 24-year-old Kenyan had startled the athletics world by setting the second fastest ever time in the women’s 5000m by clocking an impressive National record of 14:22.51 at the Golden League leg held in Oslo (15 June) only bettered by Ethiopia’s World record holder Meseret Defar.

As for Kalovics, she grabbed a fine victory at the Carpi Marathon last 21 October with a 2:28:17 clocking to her credit. The Hungarian has played a key role the last two years in Llodio - victor in 2005 and third last year - thanks to her trade-mark tactics of pushing hard from the gun. The question mark will be to find out whether the brave Kalovics is fully recovered from her demanding 42,195m last month’s effort on Italian soil.

Eritrea’s Simret Sultan and Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew Yimer complete a star-studded women’s field with no less than four athletes having finished among the first ten at the Worlds Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.

Sultan will be in contention for the third consecutive weekend in Spain following an easy win in Atapuerca and a 2-second defeat to European 5000m champion Marta Domínguez last Sunday in Quintanar while Kenya’s Eunice Chepkorir and Portugal’s Analia Rosa and Marina Bastos will be also in the line-up.

Men – Macharinyang, Kogo…a Kenyan party?

The stellar presence of Uganda’s surprise World bronze 5000m medallist Moses Kipsiro had been announced at the official pre-event press conference held earlier this week but unfortunately the 21-year-old Ugandan has suffered an injury during a training session and has now little chance of competing in Llodio.

In his likely absence, the men’s competition features a bunch of top Kenyans headed by this season’s fastest athlete over 10km on road in the guise of Micah Kogo. The London-based young talent signed a 27:07 time to add to his 26:58.42 track performance in Brussels. Kogo also dipped under the tough 27:00 barrier in 2006 thanks to a PB and World leading mark of 26:35.63.

However, the most accomplished cross-country runner in Llodio will be Hosea Macharinyang, who finished a creditable fifth at the Mombasa World Championships and was also sixth the previous season in Fukuoka (long race). His fellow Kenyans Joseph Ebuya – 5000m PB of 12:51.00 although he didn’t advance to the final in Osaka -  and Robert Sigei and Kiprono Menjo - both of them with 27:04 10,000 clockings in 2007 - seem to assure the presence of his country on Sunday’s podium.   

The Madrid-based Eritrean duo of Ali Abdallah and Kidane Tadese should also be in the hunt for a top place. The former, runner-up last year, arrives in Llodio fresh from a brilliant win (12 seconds) from Spain’s Alberto García in Quintanar (Spain) last Sunday (11 Nov) and will be looking for breaking the theoretical Kenyan dominance while Zersenay’s Tadese younger brother was also successful at a low key 6km race a fortnight ago in Toledo.

Spain’s Moroccan-born Ayad Landassem will carry the local hopes along with Half Marathon national champion Ricardo Serrano and European 3000m steeplechase silver medallist José Luis Blanco.

Weather forecasters predict a cloudy day on Sunday with 45% of rain likelihood and a high temperature of 13ºC.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF