Beatrice Chebet and Gideon Rono took the honors at the 91st edition of the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona, the 12th leg of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold.
European 10000m gold medallist Yemaneberhan Crippa crossed the finish line in second place, becoming the first Italian athlete to finish in the top three in the famous Italian Cross Country race since 2005 when Stefano Baldini took third place behind Saif Saeed Shaheen and Boniface Kiprop.
Five athletes went to the lead during the second lap. The leading included Gideon Rono, Benson Lingokai from Kenya, Mohammed Jhinnaoui from Tunisia, Yeman Crippa and Emil Millan De la Oliva from Sweden. De la Oliva was the first athlete to lose ground after taking the initiative in the race's early stages. After 4 km, the quartet formed by Rono, Crippa, Linokai, and Jhinnaoui built a lead of three seconds over De la Oliva and five seconds over Nekagenet Crippa.
The leading pack was whittled down to three athletes after Rono forced the pace at the front. Only Yeman Crippa and Lingokai managed to keep pace with Rono. Crippa took the lead for the first time, but Rono responded in the penultimate circuit before launching his decisive attack during the last lap.
Rono triumphed in 29:00, holding off Crippa by five seconds.
Rono set the second fastest time in the world at under U 20 level last year with 27:11.03 in Abashiri in Japan. Last year he also improved his PB to 13:16.53 last May. The young Kenyan athlete could continue the tradition of the Cinque Mulini as a springboard of future athletics stars. In recent years Selemon Barega and Jakob Kiplimo won the Cinque Mulini in 2017 and 2018 respectively and went on to reach the podium in the 10000 meters at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.
"I did not expect to win. It was a tough race. I am planning to run the 5000 meters on the track", said Rono.
Crippa ran his final race ahead of his marathon debut in Milan on 2 April.
"I gave everything until the end. I managed to keep up with Rono in the first laps. I started dreaming about winning the race. But Rono was a tough opponent", said Crippa. "I cannot be disappointed because I ended a positive winter season with second place. I have some regrets but am happy because I ran a good race. I thank the crowd for the support. I will now focus on my preparation for the Milano Marathon on 2 April. I will return to Monte-Gordo in Portugal for a training camp until 28 February before six weeks of training at altitude in Kenya until 20 March. I want to run a good time in my first 42 km race, but I don't want to focus on the attack to the Italian record".
Mohamed Jhinaoui took third place edging Ligokal with the same time of 29:45 in a close sprint for third place. Yeman Crippa's brother Nekagenet Crippa ran a good race finishing fifth in 29:47.
Chebet wins the women's race:
Beatrice Chebet won her second World Cross Country Tour race this season after her triumph in Atapuerca last November.
Chebet broke away from Maiwa during the second lap, taking a lead of eight seconds. After the bell, the Kenyan athlete increased her gap to 15 seconds and remained unchallenged to cross the finish line at 19:41.
Maiwa finished second in 20:24 after her three wins in this season's World Athletics Cross Country Tour in Bydgoszcz, Soria and Alcobendas.
A chasing trio formed by Francine Nyomokunzi from Burundi, Giovanna Selva from Italy, and Likina Amebaw from Ethiopia battled it out for third place 30 seconds behind Chebet.
Nyomokunzi increased her gap over Amebaw and Selva to cross the finish line in third place in 20:24. Amebaw took third place in 20:33, holding off Selva by three seconds.
Chebet won the world under 20 cross country gold medal in Ahrus 2019, the world silver medal in the 5000 meters in Eugene 2022, the gold medal in the 5000 meters at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and the Diamond League title in Zurich over the same distance.
Chebet has followed in the footsteps of her compatriot Teresiah Muthoni Gateri, who won last year's edition. The list of past winners in the most recent editions features top athletes like Faith Kipyegon (2014 and 2016), Letesenbet Gidey (2018), and Wilfred Yavi (2019 and 2020).
"I ran a good race, but it was very cold today," said Chebet. "It was a good preparation for the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, where I aim to reach the podium."