Ethiopia’s Roza Dereje and Eric Kiptanui of Kenya raced to victories at the eDreams Mitja Marato Barcelona, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday.
While the 21-year-old Dereje was an overwhelming winner ahead of her fellow Ethiopian Dibabe Kuma in the women’s race, Kiptanui took the top spot over Ethiopia’s Abebe Degefa after a thrilling sprint in the men’s.
The men’s race didn’t feature pacemakers so the usual fight against the clock and hunt for a quick time never materialised. Victory was the lone target today.
The pedestrian pace led the leaders through the opening five kilometres in 15:03.
It was then that Sweden’s debutant Napoleon Solomon, an 8:23.54 3000m steeplechase specialist, took charge of the race, upping the pace to reach 10 kilometres in 29:26, accompanied by the Kenyan triumvirate of Kiptanui, Jonathan Korir and Meshack Koech, the Ethiopian pair of Abebe Degefa and Betesfa Getahun and Ugandan Moses Kurong.
The latter dropped back from the main group shortly afterwards, eliminating his chance of reaching the podium again after finishing third last year.
The remaining sextet went through 15 kilometres in 43:52 after another 14:26 five kilometres split, with Solomon doing most of pacing.
Shortly before the 20-kilometres (58:16) point Degefa and Getahun, upping the tempo, moved to the front.
From then on they increased their speed but Kiptanui remained on their shoulders.
The 28-year-old Kenyan has clocked 3:37 over 1500m at the high altitude of Nairobi, and used that speed to overtake the Ethiopians in the closing metres to romp home in 1:01:44, after covering the final kilometre in 2:30.
Degefa was runner-up one second back with Getahun rouding out the podium another two seconds in arrears.
The women’s race had been billed as a serious attack on the world record by the rising star Dereje. She came up short, but still clocked 1:06:01 to clip a full minute from her previous lifetime best. The Ethiopian came within 16 seconds off the national record set by Senbere Teferi in Ras Al Khaimah on Friday.
Paced throughout by her fellow Ethiopian Fekele Darsema, Dereje’s early rhythm proved too slow for the record assault, with the opening five kilometres covered in 15:37, some 15 seconds behind world record pace. By then only Kuma and Kenyan Lucy Cheruiyot remained with Dereje, with Kenya’s Sally Chepyego another 12 seconds back and her compatriot Celestine Chepchirchir a distant fifth, 48 seconds behind the leaders.
The following five kilometres section was covered slightly faster, with the leaders reaching the 10-kilometre point in 31:10 with Dereje at the front and Kuma, last year’s runner-up, tucked in behind. Chepyego travelled 24 seconds adrift.
Dereje found the required world-record pace (3:04/3:05/km) over the following kilometres to pass 15 kilometres in 46:51. Kuma couldn’t respond to that turn of speed, dropping some 30 metres behind with Chepyego now 1:16 behind Dereje.
Another 15:52 five kilometres split led the leader through 20 kilometres in 1:02:43, keeping prospects alive for a sub-1:06 performance. Dereje stepped up the pace in the waning stages but nonetheless just missed the barrier, clocking 1:06:01.
Kuma duplicated her finish from last year, taking second in 1:06:45, a massive improvement of nearly two minutes on her previous best of 1:08:37 set here a year ago. Chepyego finished third in 1:08:30 some 37 seconds outside her lifetime best.