The 'Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’ which is one of the two Spanish legs of the current European Athletics Cross Country permit season, will celebrate its Silver Jubilee edition (25 years) this Sunday (30 Nov) at the ‘Ellakuri’ venue.
To commemorate this feat, race organiser Javier Aparicio has assembled - as happens every year in Llodio - a vast array of talent despite a 10% budget decrease due to the current economic crisis. However, the full podium from last Sunday’s IAAF permit men’s race in Soria – plus remarkable additions - will be on show here to the delight of the knowledgeable crowd that gathers each year in Llodio.
November has been a very rainy month and the course is expected to be quite muddy which will only add to the contest’s interest and will make the event even more spectacular.
Men – Tariku Bekele and Komon pursue different hat Tricks
The men’s 9400m event offers a star-studded line-up headed by two of the most talented young distance runners from the last couple of seasons in the guise of Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele and Kenya’s Leonard Komon.
The younger Bekele returns to the country where he managed the most remarkable accomplishment in his athletics career, as the still 21-year-old grabbed an overwhelming 3000m win at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia last March, succeeding his older brother Kenenisa as world titleholder in the process.
Tariku took a respectable sixth place at the Beijing Olympics in the 5000m and holds a 2008 PB of 12:52.45 set in Berlin last 1 June. More recently, the 2006 World junior Cross Country bronze medallist clocked 44:04 at the ‘Seven Hills’ event, a 15km road event held in Nigmegen (The Netherlands) recording a fourth place just behind his brother Kenenisa.
Bekele might become on Sunday the only athlete having succeeded in Llodio three times, following his victories in 2005 and 2006. His fellow Ethiopian Fita Bayesa (1993/94) and Kenya’s Osoro Ondoro (1991/92) has also triumphed twice so Bekele would be delighted to break the deadlock.
But that task promises to be really tough since the reigning World Cross Country silver medallist Leonard Patrick Komon will line-up for the fourth consecutive weekend this month looking for a third win in a row after respective top places in Quintanar and Soria. The in-form 20-year-old will arrive at the close Bilbao airport from his European base in Belgium.
The field also features a slew of top Kenyans such as Mike Kiptoo, runner-up in Soria last Sunday and Vincent Kiprop Chepkor, the 2007 World Junior XC silver medallist while Eritrea’s Kidane Tadese, a 27:06.16 10,000m performer and Portugal’s Licinio Pimentel (fourth at the Oeiras permit) should be dangerous outsiders.
The European charge will be lead by the Swedish pair of reigning European XC silver medallist Mustapha Mohamed and Erik Sjöqvist, who snatched the fourth place on that occasion; top steeplechaser Mohamed (NR of 8:05.75 and Osaka Worlds fourth placed) has just spent some time training in Ethiopia and so the Llodio permit should already provide some reliable hint of his current shape.
Sunday’s competition will also act as Spain’s second and last selection event for the next month’s Europeans in Brussels and most of the leading Spaniards so far this winter season including Alemayehu Bezabeh, Ayad Lamdasem and Carlos Castillejo will also be in contention.
Women – Masai tops the bill
The 7360m women's event witness an interesting showdown between two top-ten athletes from last March’s World Cross Country championships in Edinburgh such as Linet Masai, who snatched the bronze medal in the Scottish capital and Margaret Muriuki, eighth on that occasion, the latter being in fine form as she proved by taking the Atapuerca race and being runner-up in Soria.
Masai, who will turn 19 next Friday 5 December, made a major breakthrough also on the track with a formidable fourth place at the Beijing Olympics over 10,000m to break the Kenyan record and the World Junior record thanks to a stunning 30:26.50 time.
European hopes rest on the in-form Portuguese Ines Monteiro (3rd in Atapuerca and 4th in Soria), Spain’s reigning European XC bronze medallist Rosa Morató, fresh from a commanding win in Quintanar (16 Nov.) and Aniko Kalovics. The 31-year-old Hungarian has managed a podium place the last three years, as she took top spot in 2005, finished runner-up in 2006 and third last year.
There is no less than a 90% chance of rain and the weather forecasters also predict a high temperature of 9ºC.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF