Muthoni Njeru does the double at Canfranc-Canfranc
After the vertical uphill race gave us a flavour of Canfranc-Canfranc and the Aragonese Pyrenees on Friday, today’s 16k classic mountain race, the next stage of this year’s Valsir Mountain Running World Cup was highly anticipated.
On Friday we saw Joyce Muthoni Njeru (KEN) and Joe Steward (GBR) take the victories in the vertical uphill race. Muthoni Njeru was back for the 16k. Could she do the double? After a storm the night before conditions were clear again but the rain had left parts of the route very slippery. Would this have an impact on the times and, in particular, the difficulty of the descent?
Much of this route was on very rugged terrain and the 1600m of ascent makes it a challenging course. Starting from just over 1000m the runners start with a short, flat section before starting the steep climb up to La Moleta (2572m) at the 5.8km point. Then begins the long but technical descent all the way down to the finish.
Many of the athletes who ran on Friday were also taking on today’s race. In the women’s race this meant we would see Joyce Muthoni Njeru and Lucy Murigi of Kenya duel it out again at their more favoured event. Camilla Magliano (ITA) and Charlotte Cotton (BEL) would also be back to challenge, although Olivia Magnone (FRA), our runner-up on Friday, would not return. In the men’s race we would see Remi Leroux (CAN) and Adil Moussaoui (MOR) from Friday’s top five return. But the men’s race in particular was wide open, with a deep field of local talent.
In what is becoming a familiar sight in this year’s World Cup, Muthoni Njeru went out hard right from the start. She immediately established a lead and she certainly wasn’t going to coast to victory. It is clear that she is comfortable front running and that’s clearly what she set out to do here. Behind her Murigi led the chase, with Magliano staying in contact just behind her.
By the highest point in the race, at La Moleta, it was clear just how much Muthoni Njeru had stamped her authority on the rest of the women’s field. She hit the summit in 1.09.14, with Murigi (pictured, credit Marco Gulberti) five minutes behind. At this point Magliano was 90 seconds behind Murigi, so the race for second and third was still very much alive, even if the victory seemed in little doubt. Behind them lay Bel Calero (ESP), Cotton and Ainara Alcuaz (ESP).
Muthoni Njeru continued to stretch out her lead on the long descent but at times it looked as if she was limping and could be in trouble. But when she hit the bottom of the descent she moved into a smooth stride again and powered to victory in 1.58.57 absolutely devastating the rest of the field. Murigi kept second place, finishing in 2.10.32 and Magliano was two minutes behind in third. Afterwards Muthoni Njeru said that she had slipped on the technical, slippery downhill, injuring herself. Murigi also took a tumble and required some medical attention after the finish line.
Women’s top five
- Joyce Muthoni Njeru (KEN) – 1.58.57
- Lucy Murigi (KEN) – 2.10.32
- Camilla Magliano (ITA) – 2.12.41
- Bel Calero (ESP) – 2.19.03
- Ainara Alcuaz (ESP) – 2.22.22
If the women’s race was settled right from the start, the men’s race couldn’t have been more different. It was a very close run race, with the top three changing constantly in some exciting racing. In the initial stages there was a group of athletes close together including Leroux, Alvaro Asanz (ESP) and Eduardo Hernandez (ESP).
At the summit of La Moleta it was still all very close. Leroux hit the summit first, in 1.03.49, but Osanz was right on his heels. Behind them there was a gap of just under a minute to Hernandez (pictured, credit Marco Gulberti) and then a small gap of 20 seconds to Marcelo Goncalves (POR), with Adil Moussaoui (MOR) just behind. A further minute behind lay Alric Petit (FRA) and Ondrej Fejfar (CZE). It was all going to come down to the technical and slippery descent.
On this final descent we saw some incredible racing and it remained very close. Eventually it was Moussaoui who took the win in 1.47.52 but he was chased all the way by Hernandez in a sprint finish, who took second just 12 seconds behind him. Osanz was just 20 seconds behind him in third place, with another sprint finish for fourth and fifth between Villamuera and Leroux.
Men’s top five
- Adil Moussaoui (MOR) – 1.47.52
- Eduardo Hernandez (ESP) – 1.48.04
- Alvaro Osanz (ESP) – 1.49.24
- Remi Leroux (CAN) – 1.50.18
- Marcos Villamuera (ESP) – 1.50.19
Full results available at: CANFRANC CANFRANC 2023 - TEMPO FINITO LIVE
Photo credit: Rafaromero15
Valsir Mountain Running World Cup
The next gold label race in this year’s World Cup will be at Sky Gran Canaria, where there will be a vertical uphill race, a long mountain race and a classic mountain race. This will decide the competition this year. Find out more about the races at https://skygrancanaria.net/
The key effect on the World Cup standings this weekend have been an additional 100 points for Muthoni Njeru, extending her lead, and 70 points for Murigi. In the men’s competition Steward has moved up into third and Leroux has added to his tally and moved up into fourth place.