Running in cold and snowy conditions, Kenyan Jairus Birech and Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain took the honours at the 87th edition of the Cinque Mulini, or Five Mills race, in San Vittore Olona, the penultimate leg of the 2019 IAAF Cross Country Permit series.
In the men’s 11.5km race, 2014 European marathon champion Daniele Meucci and European 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Yohanes Chiappinelli took the lead in the early stages. Then, training partners Oscar Chelimo and Albert Chemutai from Uganda went to the front at the entrance of the mill during the first lap closely followed by world 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali, Getnet Wale and Birech. The first, and longest of the four laps, was covered in 9:10.
Steeplechase specialists Birech and Chemutai pushed the pace breaking away from Wale and El Bakkali by four seconds on the second lap, covering it in 17:05. Crippa followed in fifth place in 17:13 ahead of Chelimo and Meucci.
Twice Diamond League 3000m steeplechase winner Birech and world U20 fourth placer Chemutai ran a neck and neck race and built up a lead of six seconds over Wale and El Bakkali on the third lap. Wale overtook El Bakkali inside the mill and moved into third with a five-second lead over the Moroccan.
Wale reduced the gap to three seconds on Birech and Chemutai on the fourth lap. Birech stumbled on the slippery course but maintained the lead, followed closely by Chemutai. Wale caught the lead duo and joined them at the front as they approached the entrance of the Cross Country Stadium where they launched into a dramatic final sprint. In a close finish both clocked 33:05, but Birech held off Chemutai to win the race for the second time in three years. Wale finished third, three seconds behind in 33:08, 20 seconds clear of El Bakkali. Ugandan teenager Chelimo rounded out the top five in 33:40 ahead of Crippa and Meucci.
“I am very happy with the win after an unbelievable finish in very difficult weather conditions,” Birech said.
In the women’s 6000m race, Kenyan Gloria Kite, the winner at the Soria and Alcobendas permit meetings, took the early lead with Feysa Anbesa Adanech and Mutile, going through the first of three laps in 8:52, 26 seconds ahead of Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix, Jasmijn Lau from the Netherlands, European U20 cross country champion Nadia Battocetti and Giulia Viola.
Yavi pushed the pace over the second lap building up an eight-second lead over Anbesa and Kite. Anbesa began to struggle during the final lap and fell further back as Yavi pulled away before reaching the finish line in 17:50. Anbesa finished runner-up in 17:58, two seconds ahead of Kite. Battocletti was the first European, finishing fourth in 18:33 five seconds ahead of Felix.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF