Almensh Belete on the way to her first victory in Diekirch (© Rosch Kohl)
Almensch Belete took the spoils on home soil at the sixth leg of the Lotto CrossCup in Rotselaar, Belgium, on Sunday (16).
The 24-year-old acquired her first victory of 2014, following on from a runner-up finish in the IAAF Cross Country Permit race in Diekirch, Luxembourg, last week and third-place finishes in Antrim and Hannut in January.
Belete covered the muddy 6.3km course in 20:39 to defeat the evergreen Veerle Dejaeghere, 16 years Belete's senior, by seven seconds.
Jeroen D'Hoedt, who just missed out on the bronze medal at the 2013 European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade in December, won the men's 9.8km race by a comfortable margin.
The 24-year-old former European cross country junior champion, who is best known as a 1500m runner on the track, stopped the clock at 28:19 to defeat his compatriot Bashir Abdi, eighth in Belgrade and also a member of Belgium’s silver medal winning senior men’s team in the Serbian capital, by eight seconds.
Pieter-Jan Hannes, the winner of the 2013 European Cross Country Champoionships under 23 title, dropped down distance and took the men's short 2.8km race in 8:00.
The men's 12km went to form at the USA Cross Country Championships as Chris Derrick took a repeat victory at altitude in Boulder, Colorado, on Saturday (15).
The 23-year-old renowned on this surface as he was the second man home in the USA's silver medal winning team at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz last March.
Clued-up about Colorado conditions
Derrick was arguably among the best prepared for the testing conditions as the 27:31.38 10,000m runner has been training in Colorado in the build-up to this race.
The reigning champion began to show at around the halfway point of the 12km race. Bobby Mack, who also helped the USA to a team medal in Bydgoszcz, and Sean Quigley were the only runners from the pack to cover Derrick's move but the pre-race favourite began to forge a winning gap at 8km.
Derrick's margin of ascendancy extended to 25 seconds as he crossed the line in 36:14, with Luke Puskedra coming through for the runner-up spot in 36:39.
Mack comprised the podium in 36:43 while Quigley drifted back to fifth in 37:02.
“I want to be the best cross country runner in America,” said Derrick. “I feel really strong in my training, especially training at altitude at Colorado Springs. I've never done two-hour runs before, and now I'm doing those. I felt the guys were letting me have it, and I felt like I was in a groove, so I went.”
Flagstaff-based Amy Van Alstine scored by far the biggest win of her career so far as she defeated 2011 IAAF World Championships 1500m gold medallist Jenny Simpson over 8km.
Van Alstine, who set personal bests over 5km and 10km on the roads last autumn, carried this vein of form to the Flatirons Golf Course as the 26-year-old made a determined effort just before the 6km mark.
This move, much to her surprise as she later admitted, proved decisive as she cruised to victory over the last 2km.
“I tried to pick it up a bit, as I could feel everyone breathing on me,” explained Van Alstine, who crossed the line in 27:35. “I felt really good, and I was kind of surprised that I won, and that Jenny (Simpson) wasn't in front of me. I'm really happy and amazed.”
Simpson, one of the few renowned track exponents not to shirk this race in favour of the Millrose Games, came through for second place in 27:57 while Mattie Suver, a top-30 finisher in Bydgoszcz last year, was third in 28:01.
Steven Mills (with assistance from Christa Mann) for the IAAF