Ethiopian pair of Dejene Kelkilew and Tejitu Siyum claimed the title at the 10th edition of the Marathon des Alpes Maritimes, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, in southern France on Sunday (6).
With the exception of the initial kilometres on the “Promenade des Anglais” in Nice, runners had to cope with a strong headwind –and some light rain– en route to the finish line in the coastal city of Cannes.
In the men’s race, a group of seven –Kelkilew, Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, Kenyans Alfred Kering, Alex Bartilol and Daniel Yator and Azmeraw Mengistu of Ethiopia– hit the first 10-kilometre checkpoint in 30:48, suggesting a possible finish time of exactly 2:10:00.
Spearheaded by Ethiopia’s Cosmas Birech –who replaced Cornelius Kangago as main pace setter– the leading group slowed slightly, reaching the halfway point in 1:05:20. There were still six men in contention for the victory as Mengistu started to struggle with the pace.
While the second part of the race is tougher than the first, Kelkilew, Kering and Bartilol were still together at 30 kilometres, along with Birech who was still setting the pace.
With four kilometres to go, Kelkilew made his first move and Bartilol dropped back.
The trio hit 40 kilometres in 2:05:12, seven seconds ahead of Bartilol. A few metres later Kelkilew made his second effort and built a small gap over Birech and Kering. He then managed to hold his lead to break the tape in 2:12:09, ten seconds ahead of Birech, who achieved a strong performance as he set the pace almost from the start.
Kelkilew notched his second career win over the distance following a success in Reims in 2015 in a PB of 2:11:21.
Kering, who was the fastest man of the field courtesy of a best mark of 2:07:10, rounded out the podium in 2:12:30, 21 seconds adrift of the winner while his compatriot Bartilol finished fourth in 2:12:46.
Kawauchi faded 24 kilometres into the race and covered the final 17 kilometres alone, crossing the line in 2:15:02 in what was his ninth marathon in 2017.
“I didn’t feel fresh,” said Kawauch, who was ninth at the IAAF World Championships in London, commenting on his debut on the French roads.
SIYUM WINS ON DEBUT
On the women’s side, a head-to-head between the Ethiopian pair Meseret Gola and Tigist Shetu was expected. But a third Ethiopian, Tejitu Siyum, who arrived with modest 34:28 10km credentials, reaped the benefits.
Siyum and Gola passed the 10-kilometre mark in 36:27, one minute faster than Shetu. The duo then extended their lead to more than three minutes, reaching halfway in 1:15:34. They slowed slightly over the next ten kiometres, reached 30 kilometres in 1:47:52.
Despite the headwind hilly sections of the course’s second half, Siyum managed to maintain a steady pace over the remaining 12 kilometres which Gola couldn’t live with.
Siyum hit the 40-kilometre mark in 2:25:17 with a lead of 1:10 over the latter and pulled off her first victory in 2:33:21, more than three minutes ahead of Gola who fell back in the closing stages.
Tigist Shetu was third in 2:43:58, more than ten minutes behind her countrywoman.