(© Mark Shearman)
Charlotte Arter and Hugo Milner took top honours at the Cardiff Cross Challenge on Saturday (16) in what was the first Gold standard meeting in the newly launched World Athletics Cross Country Tour.
Many of Britain’s top distance runners were met with pleasant conditions at Llandaff Fields in the Welsh capital for the first big domestic cross-country fixture of the season.
Arter and training partner Jenny Nesbitt had chosen different ways to prepare for the start of the cross country season with the former choosing competitive road races and the latter training at altitude in Font Romeu.
The pair were locked in battle after the first large lap in the women’s 6.4km race, having already pulled clear of 2014 European cross-country silver medallist Kate Avery, Jess Gibbon, Hannah Irwin and Izzy Fry.
Arter showed her class at the end and appeared on the finish straight of the flat and fast course, winning in 20:11. Nesbitt was next to finish, taking second place in 20:15 ahead of the fast-finishing Jess Gibbon (20:17).
“It was a fantastic race,” said Arter, who finished seventh at the 2018 and 2019 European Cross Country Championships. “Jenny made it such a tough race right from the start and it came down to an exciting sprint finish. I was really happy to get the win to kick start the cross-country season and I’m really excited now for the rest of the season.”
The men’s 9.6km race saw a leading group including UK-based Ethiopian Omar Ahmed, local athlete Jake Smith, 2019 English champion Zakariya Mahamed and Hugo Milner forging clear over the first 3.2km lap.
This was whittled down further, leaving just Ahmed and Milner as they overcame the final mound with Ahmed a touch ahead but unable to overcome Milner’s finishing speed as he sprinted to victory in 27:18.
Ahmed was just two seconds back in 27:20 with Smith finishing third in 27:29. Mahamed and Sam Charlton finished in fourth and fifth.
“Today was good,” said Milner, who represented Britain at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships. “I knew it was going to be a tough race with Jake and Omar in the race. It was surprisingly hot which I wasn’t expecting for the first cross-country race of the year. I thought I was going to get dropped on the last lap but I just had something left in the tank in the last 200m which was a bit of a surprise because I don’t usually win sprint finishes.”
The Cardiff Cross Challenge is the first of 14 competitions in the 2021-2022 Cross Country Tour Gold series. The tour, which takes in many of the stops that formed part of the old Cross Country Permit series, will next head to Spain for six high-quality international meetings, before heading on to Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Kenya.
Organisers for World Athletics