Yasemin Can pips Eva Cherono at the World Cross Country Tour Gold meeting in Serradilla (© Marcelino Diaz Zabala)
Turkey's Yasemin Can and Burundi's Thierry Ndikumwenayo grabbed thrilling victories at the Gran Premio Caceres Campo a Traves – the final meeting in this season's World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold series – on a sunny but windy day in Serradilla on Sunday (6).
Blanket finish between Can and Cherono
Right from the start the women's contest witnessed a leading trio featuring Can and the Kenyan duo of Eva Cherono plus Lucy Mawia. This group kicked off fairly fast to leave Ethiopia's Likina Amebaw Ayel in a lonesome fourth place.
Covering each 1450m lap in around 4:35, Can and Cherono soon left Mawia behind with the Turkish athlete always making the pacing duties while Amebaw dangerously approached Mawia in the fight for the minor place on the podium. Meanwhile, Slovenia's European U23 medallist Klara Lukan travelled behind them throughout, but remained head and shoulders clear of the Spanish contingent.
By midway the clock was reading 13:45 and the first four ran in single file separated by 20 metres. Can was at the helm, Cherono was in second, Amebaw in third and Mawia in fourth. The four-time European cross country champion Can managed to open a 40m margin on Cherono over the following circuits but the Kenyan always seemed a threat.
At the bell, just five seconds separated the leading duo and the closing kilometre turned into a thrilling chase as the Kenyan bit by bit clawed Can back, to such an extent that the duo ran home virtually even, with Can finally prevailing by the narrowest of margins.
While Amebaw secured the third spot well behind the first two, a fast-finishing Lukan was about to pip Mawia in the closjng stages. Further back, Cristina Ruiz, the European U23 5000m sixth-place finisher, was the quickest Spaniard ahead of Irene Sanchez-Escribano.
Can, who claimed 5000m and 10,000m gold at the European Championships in 2016, said: "I knew Cherono was going to be a tough rival so I tried to break away from the beginning but she never surrendered and finally gave me a scare. I'm delighted with the win and the circuit and hope to be invited again next year."
Kifle carves out race, Ndikumwenayo succeeds
Fresh from a 7:53.79 3000m indoor clocking last Wednesday in Madrid, Eritrea's Yemane Hailesilassie was the early leader in the men's 10,000m contest, closely followed by his compatriot and pre-race favourite Aron Kifle and Burundi's Ndikumwenayo. Shortly before covering the opening kilometre, Kifle took command of the rhythm and injected a terrific pace (3:56 for the circuit) which could only be maintained by the Burundian, while Haileaselassie began to gradually lose ground.
(© Jose Ignacio Fernandez)
The pace then slowed as the leading duo clocked 4:13 and 4:10 over the next laps but even so their advantage on Hailesilassie increased to 20 seconds by midway. The Eritrean waws another 10 seconds ahead of the Spanish trio of Ayad Lamdassem and steeplechasers Daniel Arce and Ibrahim Ezzaydouni. With the clock reading 19 minutes, Ndikumwenayo moved to the front for the first time with Kifle at his shoulder, but the cadence (4:23) proved to be slower and Kifle soon regained the leadership.
After a 4:17 circuit the leading duo reached the bell and the key movement came midway through that closing lap, when the Burundian broke away with incredible ease from Kifle. At the tape, Ndikumwenayo crossed the finish line unopposed while Kifle suffered some discomfort over the closing stages and could only finish limping, 20 seconds behind the winner.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympics 3000m steeplechase fifth-place finisher Hailesilassie was a quiet third, 11 seconds clear of another Tokyo fifth-finisher, 40-year-old Lamdassem.
Ndikumwenayo, who timed 28:04 for exactly the same clocking that he managed last Sunday at the Castellon 10km, said: "It was hard to stay close to Kifle throughout the race but I finally could win. I dedicate this win to my team, Playas de Castellon, for its help and also to my training mate Rodrigue Kwizera, who could not compete today here. It's an honour to be the winner of the last event of this season's World Cross Country Tour."
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
1 Yasemin Can (TUR) 27:24
2 Eva Cherono (KEN) 27:25
3 Likina Amebaw Ayel (ETH) 28:15
4 Lucy Mawia (KEN) 28:23
5 Klara Lukan (SLO) 28:24
6 Cristina Ruiz (ESP) 30:04
7 Irene Sanchez-Escribano (ESP) 30:07
8 Carla Gallardo (ESP) 30:12
9 Lucía Rodríguez (ESP) 30:19
10 Blanca Fernandez (ESP) 30:39
1 Thierry Ndikumwenayo (BUR) 28:04
2 Aron Kifle (ERI) 28:24
3 Yemane Hailesilassie (ERI) 28:43
4 Ayad Lamdassem (ESP) 28:54
5 Ibrahim Ezzaydouni (ESP) 28:59
6 Santiago Catrofe (ESP) 29:05
7 Carlos Martín (CHI) 29:18
8 Víctor Ruiz (ESP) 29:27
9 Adam Maijo (ESP) 29:31
10 Yago Rojo (ESP) 29:33