TEKLEMARIAM Medhin of Eritrea confirmed his status of favourite to pull out a convincing victory at the 72th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza, the sixth of this winter’s IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings, in the Spanish town Elgoibar on Sunday (25).
Unlike last weekend’s gruelling conditions in Seville, the sun shone on Elgoibar and there was little wind although some parts of the circuit were quite muddy due to the rain that had fallen throughout the week and even the night before.
The men’s 10.8km race kicked off at a frantic pace as the opening 400m lap on the track was covered in a brisk 1:01 by a quintet comprising of Turkey’s European champion Polat Arikan, Kenya’s Jairus Birech, Uganda’s 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships 10,000m gold medallist Joshua Chpetegei and the Eritrean pair of Medhin and Goitom Kifle.
To the surprise of the large and knowledgeable assembled crowd, Kenya’s Paul Tanui, the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medalist never joined the heading group and very quickly seemed to lose any chance to repeat his 2012 win here.
The leading pack kept on its quick pace with the first kilometre taking just 2:48.
The man making the pace was Birech while Medhin ran comfortably at his shoulder alongside Cheptegei, Arikan and Kifle.
The first 2.086km lap was timed 6:21, a pace which initially proved to be too fast for Kifle who lost ground but then managed to rejoin the leading group when Birech’s rhythm slowed down noticeably on the second loop, covered in 6:37.
At the midway point in the race, the heading five-man pack had built a 20-second advantage over a chasing triumvirate comprising of Tanui and the Spanish pair of Javier Guerra and Antonio Abadía.
Medhin makes his move
Midway into the closing lap, Medhin and Cheptegei moved to the front, leaving Arikan and Kifle ran 25 metres adrift while Birech started to fade after his courageous early effort.
With around 700 metres remaining, Cheptegei fell in the muddiest area of the circuit and despite the speed he showed in regaining the balance, and keeping on running, the long-legged Medhin pulled away to triumph by three seconds, while the unlucky Cheptegei was also overhauled by Arikan in a thrilling sprint finish for second place.
Medhin’s win meant completed a brilliant month with successive victories in San Sebastian, Seville and Elgoibar during January.
“I think I’m in the form of my life but I finished the Itálica (Sevilla) race really tired because of the tough conditions we faced there, and so this previous week has been very quiet and calm (while living) in Madrid.
“After 20 days in Spain, I will go back now to Eritrea as I have to contest our trials for the Worlds Champs in China. Definitely, that’s my primary goal in 2015,” commented Medhin.
Medhin confirmed: “After Guiyang, I’ll first run a half marathon but I don’t know yet where, then a 10,000m track race in Oregon on 30 May where I’ll try to better my 27:16.69 PB, thinking of the Bejing Worlds, where I’ll contest the longer track event.”
The big news came with his last statement. “After Beijing, I’ll begin my build-up for my marathon debut, my future is there.” However, he didn’t specify where he plans to make his debut over the classic distance.
LEADING RESULTS (Men (10.8km):
1. Teklemariam Medhin (ERI) 33:02
2. Polat Kemboi Arikan (TUR) 33:04
3. Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) 33:05
4. Goitom Kifle (ERI) 33:06
5. Jairus Birech (KEN) 33:30
6. Paul Tanui (KEN) 33:45
7. Antonio Abadía (ESP) 33:49
8. Javier Guerra (ESP) 33:52
9. El Hassan Oubaddi (MOR) 34:10
10. Adam Hickey (GBR) 34:14