Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich and Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland captured convincing victories at the 35th Cross Internacional de la Constitución, the second leg of 2016-17 IAAF Cross Country Permit series, on Sunday (27).
Toroitich’s victory was his second of the season and his fourth consecutive podium finish at this event in the outskirts of Madrid while McCormack dominated the women’s contest, winning by 38 seconds.
The men’s 10,060m event featured a breakaway group of five by the second kilometre consisiting of Toroitich, Eritreans Aron and Goitom Kifle, Bahrain’s El Hassan El Abbassi and Kenyan Jairus Birech. It was Toroitich who controlled the early going with Aron Kifle running closest.
Shortly after the third kilometre the Ugandan built a small lead but Kifle and Birech met the challenge and rejoined the leader.
The following 2300-metre loop, covered in 6:58 by the leading trio, didn’t offer any dramatic changes. My the midway point, El Abbassi and Goitom Kifle ran in solitude six and nine seconds behind while Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem and Italy’s Yemanem Crippa fiercely battled to be first European home.
Some 16 minutes into the race Birech could no longer match Toroitich’s rhythm turning the race into a two-horse battle just as a rain began to fall. Much as had been the case last weekend in Soria, Toroitich’s relentless pace reaped dividends by the seventh kilometre when he dropped Kifle.
By the bell (7:01 for the penultimate circuit), the Ugandan led Kifle by eight seconds, who in turn was three seconds ahead of Birech. Crippa was running sixth as the top European, 37 seconds adrift with Lamdassem another four seconds back.
Facing a course mixed with rain and mud, the last lap proved to be especially tough for the competitors. Toroitich seemed unaffected, padding his lead throughout the closing stages to romp home in 30:52, nine seconds clear of the 19-year-old Eritrean. Birech completed a classy podium 14 seconds behind the victor.
With El Abbassi and Gotom Kifle securing the fourth and fifth spots, respectively, attention turned to the fight for sixth place, with Lamdassem prevailing over Crippa in the very last metre, with both athletes credited with the same time of 31:43.
“I had already competed here several times in the past and knew the circuit was tough but this year was even more difficult and there was a lot of mud and I sometimes found it difficult to remain upright,” said Toroitich, who’ll now return home to prepare for the Ugandan trials for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.
“That’s an important campaign for me as the world cross country championships will take place in my country, although it’s still early days to know what kind of performance I can expect there.”
McCormack in a class of her own
Held before the men’s race, the women’s 8060m event saw a magnificent display of determination by McCormack, the 2011 & 2012 European cross country champion.
The 32-year-old kicked off quietly, running comfortably at Ethiopian Etenesh Diro’s shoulder for the first half of the race. Shortly after the 2000m mark McCormack and Diro were already a class apart, with only Spanish champion Trihas Gebre, running five seconds behind still maintaining contact.
But the in-form Irishwoman broke away with incredible ease some 14 minutes into the race and from then offered a brave solo effort to the delight of the large crowd assembled. Even with her win secured before the final lap, McCormack maintained top gear to cruise to a 38-second victory, 200 metres ahead of the Ethiopian. Gebre was third another 25 seconds back.
McCormack produced fourth, sixth and fourth place finished respectively at the European championships after her back-to-back victories, and is eager to return to the continental podium in the Italian city of Chia in two weeks’ time.
“Wow, it was a very tough race because of the muddy circuit,” McCormack said. “Sometimes it wasn’t easy to know how close or far the others were so I just decided to run as quickly as possible.”
When asked about how her pre-championships form compares with that of 2012, McCormack was cautious.
“That was long ago so I don’t remember now exactly, but I feel OK now and look forward to fighting in Chia.”
McCormack confirmed that she’ll likely not compete on the track indoors in 2017, choosing to prepare instead for a spring marathon. McCormack clocked a lifetime marathon best of 2:31:22 at the Rio 2016 Olympics, finishing 20th.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
MEN (10,060m) -
1. Timothy Toroitich (UGA) 30:52
2. Aron Kifle (ERI) 31:01
3. Jairus Birech (KEN) 31:06
4. El Hassan El Abbassi (BRN) 31:14
5. Goitom Kifle (ERI) 31:36
6. Ayad Lamdassem (ESP) 31:43
7. Yemanem Crippa (ITA) 31:43
8. Sergio Sánchez (ESP) 31:57
9. Adel Mechaal (ESP) 32:03
10. Ayoub Mokhtar (ESP) 32:06
1. Fionnuala Mc Cormack (IRL) 28:18
2. Etenesh Diro (ETH) 28:56
3. Trihas Gebre (ESP) 29:21
4. Irene Sánchez (ESP) 29:53
5. Alessandra Aguilar (ESP) 30:11
6. Iris Fuentes Pila (ESP) 30:15
7. Azucena Díaz (ESP) 30:17
8. Veronica Inglese (ITA) 30:18
9. Ana Lozano(ESP) 30:26
10. Tania Carretero (ESP) 30:36