Mikhail Ryzhov at the 2014 IAAF World Race Walking Cup (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Taicang, China

Ryzhov leads home rampant Russian team – senior men's 50km report Taicang 2014

Mikhail Ryzhov produced a dominating performance over the second half of the men’s 50km race walk at the 26th IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Taicang, China, to win in a world-leading time of 3:39:05 on Saturday (3).

Ryzhov, the silver medallist on home soil at last summer’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, capitalised on the absence of Ireland’s world champion Robert Heffernan, who will instead contest the 20km on Sunday, to win his first major international title and the US$30,000 first prize.

At just 22, the Saransk-based walker becomes one of the youngest ever senior men’s winners at the Cup and the sixth Russian winner in the 50km at the last seven editions.

Russian walkers filled four of the top five spots in Taicang and comfortably retained the team title, equalling the best ever score of seven points, which the Russians themselves had achieved back in 2002

Rzhov’s compatriot Ivan Noskov, who walked stride-for-stride with his team mate until the last three kilometres, had the best race of his life to take the silver medal in a personal best of 3:39:38, completing the distance 1:58 faster than he had ever done before.

"It was our plan to work together then at 47km I decided to surge," said Ryzhov, another member of Russia's famed walking centre in Saransk.

The slight pre-race favourite, Australia’s Jared Tallent, a medallist over 50km at the last two Cups, found that the gold medal once eluded him on the global stage and had to settle for the bronze medal in 3:42:48.

Completing the winning Russian team, the veteran two-time bronze medallist Yuriy Andronov was fourth in 3:43:52, walking a solitary race for almost 45km.

In retrospect, the shape of the race evolved very quickly.

Quick start

Almost from the gun, a group of four formed at the front – Ryzhov, Noskov, Andronov and Tallent – but by 5km Andronov was already starting to drift backwards as his three rivals went past that checkpoint in a swift 22:14.

Ryzhov pushed hard over the next five kilometres and took Noskov with him as Tallent decided not to go immediately shoulder-to-shoulder with the Russian pair, who went through 10km in 44:26 with Tallent two seconds adrift.

Over the course of the next three laps that was very much the same story, 15km being passed in 1:06:31, but Tallent closed quickly as they approached the end of the eighth lap and then surged into the lead.

Over the next lap, the Olympic silver medallist built up a lead of 25 metres over the Russian pair, a gap which stayed the same on the 10th lap.

Tallent passed 20km in a respectable 1:28:27 with Ryzhov and Noskov three seconds further back.

The leading trio kept to the same rhythm over the next three kilometres before Ryzhov decided it was time to close down on Tallent as the trio approached the end of the 12th lap and just edged in front with Noskov, as always, following closely in the footsteps of his compatriot.

"We talked and decided not to follow Tallent and just work together," commented Ryzhov, suggesting that, despite Tallent looking comfortable at that stage in the race, the Russian pair were not seriously worried about eventually getting back on level terms with him. 

Tallent in trouble

Ryzhov led the way through the halfway point in 1:50:33 as Tallent suddenly started gradually to look less sprightly.

However, Tallent managed to hang on for the next four kilometres before conceding some daylight to the two Russians who then passed 30km in 2:12:31 with their antipodean rival three seconds further back.

The gap then started to open up between the Russians and Tallent considerably from 32km.

"The pace was fairly easy at the start and I decided to push it. At 30km I started to feel the pinch," reflected Tallent on the ebb and flow of his challenge.

With Ryzhov still pushing the pace and his team mate following his lead, the Russians passed 35km in 2:34:27 with Tallent now 19 seconds back.

The gap between Tallent and the Russians stayed basically the same for the next two kilometres but then he started to drift further back from 37km onwards as Ryzhov and Noskov passed 40km in 2:56:29, with Tallent now 39 seconds in arrears.

The gap continued to grow over the next five kilometres, with Tallent obviously realising that the gold had slipped from his grasp and losing about 10 seconds a kilometre, with the Russians going through 45km in 3:18:22 and their closest rival now 1:23 back.

"I managed to claw back a bit of the deficit between about 41 and 42 kilometres but then it really started to hurt and I decided just to hang on and make sure I got the bronze as Andronov was looking strong," added Tallent.

As always, Ryzhov was driving the train and with three kilometres to go started his push for home and Noskov, operating in unknown territory, had no answer to his compatriot’s decisive move.

After Tallent and Andronov had crossed the line, Aleksey Bartsaykin finished fifth in a personal best of 3:46:36.

Oleksey Kazanin was the first Ukrainian walker across the line in sixth with 3:47:01, another personal best, and had the reward of leading his colleagues to the team silver medals with 25 points, moving one place up the podium from their breakthrough performance in 2012 when they made the team podium for the first time when finishing third.

Getting bigger cheers than even the winner, China's Zhang Lin was the first man home for the hosts in ninth place, with a personal best of 3:48:49, steering China to the team bronze medals with 40 points.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF