Joyce Muthoni Njeru on her way to winning the Trofeo Ciolo (© Marco Gulberti)
Kenya’s Joyce Muthoni Njeru and Eritrea’s Petro Mamu were victorious at the Trofeo Ciolo mountain running race in the Puglia region of Italy on Sunday (26), banking valuable points at the 11th competition in the WMRA World Cup series.
Instead of a traditional mountain setting, the Trofeo Ciolo takes place on a coastal 11.7km course, featuring 640m of ascent and 518m of descent in almost continual climbing and descending on technical, rugged paths.
As a taste of what was to come, the race started with a steep, short uphill, which immediately started to spread out the field of runners. Because this first climb was on a narrow path, the organisers set the women’s race off five minutes ahead of the men to ensure minimal disruption.
Njeru and Kenyan compatriot Lucy Murigi struck it out from the start of the women’s race. By 5km they had opened up a comfortable lead over Italy’s Alice Gaggi and Alessia Scaina and current WMRA World Cup leader Charlotte Morgan of Great Britain. Morgan had sustained cuts and bruises from falls in winning the last World Cup race at Canfranc-Canfranc, but declared before the race that she was fully recovered. In the early stages she was as good as her word, staying in touch with the leaders.
By the time the runners reached the famous Ponte Ciolo, some 10km into the race, the rocky undulations had shaken up the field somewhat. Njeru came through first for the women, but Murigi was just five seconds behind her, with a bigger gap back to Gaggi and Scaini.
Njeru increased her lead again in the final stages, eventually winning by nine seconds in 57:12. Murigi was second (57:21) and Gaggi completed the podium in 1:01:17.
The men’s race started a lot closer but Mamu’s victory was ultimately more decisive. The Eritrean led it out from the start but Kenya’s Geoffrey Ndungu and Italy’s Alberto Vender, Alex Baldaccini and Daniel Pattis were hot on his heels with about 15 seconds separating them.
At 10km, Mamu had increased his lead to 50 seconds. Behind him, Baldaccini, Vender and Ndungu led the chase with just one kilometre to go.
Mamu eventually won in 50:22, almost a minute ahead of Ndungu (51:19) with Baldaccini in third (51:23).
There are just five races left in this year’s WMRA World Cup and they come thick and fast over the next two weeks. The Broken Arrow (1-3 October) in the USA and the Zumaia Flysch (3 October) in Spain each host two races within the series. The WMRA World Cup will then reach its conclusion at the Kilometro Vertical Chiavenna Lagunc in Italy on 10 October.
Kirsty Reade (WMRA) for World Athletics