Three years ago at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Zersenay Tadese was able to force Kenenisa Bekele out of gear and stop his dream to win a sixth consecutive title. Yesterday (26) something similar occurred in Castelbuono, where Olympic Marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru, a pre-race favourite, was forced to stop early in the race by the Eritrean's strong pace.
Competing for the first time in Sicily, Tadese, winner of the last four IAAF World Half Marathon titles and the World record holder over the distance at 58:23, took the honours at the 85th Giro di Castelbuono, one of the oldest road races in Europe. It's a very challenging race, given the hilly course of ten 1.13km loops. Just after the start of every lap the runners actually have to climb a very though uphill.
Tadese ran briskly from the start. By the end of the first lap he had already created a gap on pursuers Abraham Cherkos and Vincent Kipruto. At that point Wanjiru was far behind and during the third lap he dropped out, claiming a problem in his chest.
The Eritrean kept pushing hard alone and by halfway had built a 19 seconds advantage over his closest rivals. Only in the final lap did he slow down to cheer the win with the large crowd that traditionally fills the streets along the course.
"The course is very hard," he said. "It's the first time I've run here, I'm very happy."
In the final lap Cherkos was able to drop Kipruto and closed three seconds ahead of him, while James Kwambai, the second fastest Marathon runner ever, finished fourth, just shy of a minute behind the winner.
Another pre-race favourite, Boston Marathon reigning champion and record holder Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (not to be confused with Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot), closed in a disappointing sixth place, behind the first Italian Gabriele De Nard.
Alberto Zorzi for the IAAF
Leading Results (11.3 km) 1. Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 34:20 2. Abraham Cherkos (ETH) 34:31 3. Vincent Kipruto (KEN) 34:34 4. James Kwambai (KEN) 35:17 5. Gabriele De Nard (ITA) 35:35 6. Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (KEN) 35:54 DNF - Samuel Wanjiru (KEN)