Previews03 Feb 2023

Schrub and Kimeli renew cross country rivalry in Calzadilla


Yann Schrub competes at the Cross Cup in Hannut (© Tomas Sisk for organisers)

The Gran Premio Caceres Campo a Traves, the penultimate Gold leg of this season's World Athletics Cross Country Tour, again brings together solid fields.

Interesting races are on the cards in the Spanish village of Calzadilla on Sunday (5), just under two weeks before this year's cross country campaign reaches its pinnacle with the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23.

Schrub-Kimeli showdown

The 10,000m men’s race is billed as a rematch of the event held in Hannut a fortnight ago, when France’s reigning European 10,000m bronze medallist Yann Schrub defeated local star Isaac Kimeli by 19 seconds. The 28-year-old Belgian had claimed bronze at the Euopean Cross Country Championships six weeks earlier when Schrub had to settle for seventh, so Sunday’s clash promises to be fierce in the hunt for the win.

A third top 10 man from Venaria Reale will be in contention, Spain’s Abdessamad Oukhelfen surely eager to bounce back from his below-par performance at the national championships held last weekend in Ortuella where he was 15th in gruelling wet and muddy conditions. There Oukhelfen, who will compete in Bathurst, was beaten by athletes including the 3000m steeplachase national record-holder (8:05.69) Fernando Carro, also on show in Calzadilla.

Watch out too for France’s European U23 10,000m bronze medallist Valentin Gondouin, who placed 20th in Venaria Reale, and Uruguay’s Spain-based Santiago Catrofe, a 1500m 3:35.82 athlete, as both should also be in the fight for a top-five berth.

They will be joined by Kenya’s Peter Kariuki Wanjiru, fresh from a 1:04:23 runner-up place in the Santa Pola half marathon last weekend.

Bakker versus Chepleting

The women’s contest will also be held over 10,000m and the cast includes Kenyan Nancy Chepleting Meli plus Veerle Bakker and Silke Jonkman, both of the Netherlands.

The 21-year-old Chepleting has raced the last three Sundays, having managed respective lifetime bests of 31:54 at the Valencia 10km (15 January) and 1:10:48 in the Santa Pola half marathon the following week, before a half marathon win in Tarrasa last weekend timed at 1:12:40.

As for the Dutch 1997-born pair, Bakker finished 10th in Venaria Reale, while Jonkman came 18th on that occasion after being 11th at the European Championships in Munich over 10,000m, boasting a 32:25.14 career best for that event. 

The local challenge will be headed by Laura Luengo, who finished third in Soria and fourth in Alcobendas earlier this Cross Country Tour Gold season. The 25-year-old finished just outside the medals in fourth at last weekend’s national championships in Ortuella and has been selected to compete in Bathurst.

Luengo will be joined by the reigning European U20 cross country champion Maria Forero, who grabbed silver in Ortuella as an U23 athlete.

The list of illustrious past victors at the Caceres Grand Prix features Portugal’s 1993 world cross country champion Albertina Dias (1995 and 1996), her compatriot the 1997 world 5000m silver medallist Domingos Castro (1994), Morocco’s 1999 world 5000m champion Salah Hissou (1996) and Ukraine’s nine-time European cross country champion Serhiy Lebid (2000, 2005, 2011).

Weather forecasters predict a pleasant and sunny day on Sunday, with the thermometer reaching 14ºC by the time of the event.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics