(© Asociacion ADOC)
Spain’s Abdessamad Oukhelfen and Eritrea’s Dolshi Tesfu captured respective victories at the Cross Internacional de Alcobendas on the outskirts of Madrid during the sixth Gold leg of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour on Sunday (28).
On a sunny but cold day (8ºC), Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera was an overhelming winner in the men's race but he was later disqualified for not wearing the vest of his Spanish club, Playas de Castellon.
Kwizera in a class of his own
The first big news in the men’s event came when organisers confirmed the late signing of the in-form Kwizera to play the role of hot favourite in the tough men’s 10,060m contest. Once the race got under way, an early lead was built by Spain’s reigning European indoor 3000m champion Adel Mechaal, eager to secure his berth for the upcoming European Cross Country Championships in Dublin. The 30-year-old was joined at the helm by Kwizera, Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko and the Spanish trio of Carlos Mayo, Abdessamad Oukhelfen and Raul Celada.
Following an opening 2200m loop covered in 6:44, it was Mayo – 13th at the Tokyo Olympics over 10,000m – who took command of the pacing duties, with Kwizera, Ayeko and Oukhelfen always in close attendance. First Mechaal and later Celada began to lose some ground. At half way, shortly after another lap of 6:43, Kwizera decided to step up his cadence and his change of speed could only be aswered by Oukhelfen. The 22-year-old Burundian killed the race thanks to a lethal penultimate loop timed at 6:30.
At the bell, Kwizera led by five seconds from the Spaniard, while Mayo and Ayeko travelled together 20 seconds behind the leader. Kwizera strenghtened his lead over the closing circuit, running majestically, much to the joy of the crowd assembled. In the fight for a place on the podium, Mayo got rid of Ayeko some 1300m from home. At the tape, Kwizera crossed unopposed in 29:09, with a handsome 14-second margin on Oukhelfen, while Mayo completed the original podium 16 seconds behind his fellow Spaniard but six seconds clear of Ayeko.
Following Kwizera’s disqualification, the reigning European U23 cross country bronze medallist Oukhelfen was upgraded to first place, to become the first Spanish athlete to win in Alcobendas since 1995 world marathon champion Martin Fiz’s victory in 1992. Before knowing he would become the winner, he declared: "I feel very strong this cross country campaign and look forward to the Europeans in Dublin on 12 December. I’ll try to get a medal there."
Tesfu prevails over Mawia
Right from the gun, the pre-race favourite Dolshi Tesfu dictated the rhythm and only Kenya’s Lucy Mawia dared to follow in her footsteps. After the opening small lap, that duo led by four seconds ahead of Ethiopia’s Likina Amebaw, while the rest of the contenders ran way back, headed by Morocco’s Siham Hilali and the Spanish duo of Irene Sanchez-Escribano and Blanca Fernandez.
After a 7:38 circuit, Amebaw began to close the gap on the leading pair and she was about to catch them with the clock reading 15 minutes, but it wasn't to be and she remained a lonesome third throughout the whole race.
The 22-year-old Tesfu upped the pace in the second lap, which took her 7:36, but Mawia remained on her shoulder, with Amebaw seven seconds in arrears. Mawia briefly took the lead on the last lap but it was short lived as Tesfu regained the top spot. It was over the final undulating section where the Eritrean managed to leave her fellow 22-year-old behind to reach the finish line in style with a 26:45 clocking after a 7:32 closing circuit. Mawia had to settle for the runner-up place, four seconds adrift, and Amebaw completed the top three another 14 seconds back.
In the fight to become first Spaniard home, Fernandez got the better of a surprise fast-finishing Laura Luengo, who secured her berth for the European Championships and beat Hilali and Sanchez-Escribano.
"The race was not easy but I’m in great shape," said Tesfu. "It’s an honour for me to write my name on the list of victors here as it includes my compatriots Zersenay Tadese, Kidane Tadesse and Teklemariam Medhin. I’ll face the Eritrean nationals in early January but all my build-up is planned thinking of the World Championships in Oregon, where I would like to improve on my 15th place in Tokyo."
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
1 Dolshi Tesfu (ERI) 26:45
2 Lucy Mawia (KEN) 26:49
3 Likina Amebaw (ETH) 27:03
4 Blanca Fernandez (ESP) 28:00
5 Laura Luengo (ESP) 28:01
6 Siham Hilali (MOR) 28:07
7 Irene Sanchez-Escribano (ESP) 28:10
8 Lidia Campo (ESP) 28:18
9 Emine Mechaal (TUR) 28:23
10 Rosalía Tarraga (ESP) 28:23
1 Abdessamad Oukhelfen (ESP) 29:23
2 Carlos Mayo (ESP) 29:39
3 Thomas Ayeko (UGA) 29:45
4 Adel Mechaal (ESP) 29:47
5 Raul Celada (ESP) 29:57
6 Juan Antonio Perez (ESP) 30:04
7 Andreu Blanes (ESP) 30:17
8 Ibrahim Chakir (ESP) 30:29
9 Jesus Ramos (ESP) 30:33
10 David Bascunana (ESP) 30:51