Joyce Njeru on her way to winning the Fletta Trail (© Marco Gulberti)
After the previous day’s Piz Tri Vertical, where both of the course records were broken, the excitement continued at the Fletta Trail on Sunday (16) in Malonno, where Joyce Njeru and Philemon Kiriago took top honours to bank valuable points in the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup.
At 21km long and with 1,100m of ascent, the Fletta Trail is a fast course with long, runnable ascents and descents. Starting in Malonno (525m) the runners climb steadily for 4km up to 960m, before heading downhill for a kilometre, then climbing again up to the highest point of the course at 1,271m. Then begins the fast and furious 7km descent all the way back to Malonno.
Conditions were already warm – approaching 32C as the race progressed – as the women’s race set off, and initially it looked like it could be a carbon copy of yesterday’s Piz Tri Vertical, with Andrea Mayr striking out for the front from the start. She slowly carved out a lead on the first long uphill, just as she had on the vertical uphill race yesterday, but she was chased initially by Britain’s Scout Adkin and Njeru.
Njeru never fully lost touch with Mayr on the uphill, while Adkin, Romania’s Monica Florea, Finland’s Susanna Saapunki, and Kenyan duo Philaries Kisang and Lucy Murigi were relatively close together chasing the lead duo.
By the highest point on the course, Mayr had built up a significant lead over Njeru, while the race for third was still open with six athletes in with a chance. Njeru saved her effort for the descent back to the finish, and she was the first athlete to reach the streets of Malonno.
The Kenyan won in 1:39:05, 40 seconds ahead of Mayr. Kisang completed the podium in 1:41:13 with Florea fourth and Adkin fifth.
Like the women’s contest, the men’s race was stacked with former winners, a world champion and many other strong contenders, including four of the top five finishers from yesterday’s Piz Tri Vertical.
From the start, Philemon Kiriago – the runner-up at the Piz Tri Vertical – seemed determined to better his second place from 2022 and he struck out in the lead. He was chased hard by Germany’s Filimon Abraham, Sylvain Cachard of France, and an ever-changing chase group a bit further back.
On the long final descent, Kiriago stretched his lead from 30 seconds to almost three minutes by the time he emerged on the streets of Malonno. He crossed the line in a course record of 1:24:22, achieving the target he had set himself going into the race.
Abraham held on to take second place in 1:27:14, but perhaps the biggest surprise came from Italy’s Cesare Maestri, who worked his way steadily up to third place in 1:28:49. Cachard was fourth and Filosi finished fifth.
After a double header weekend, with many athletes taking part in both races, some athletes have added significantly to their World Cup points. Kiriago, with his second place yesterday and first place today, shoots to the top of the men’s World Cup standings with 90 points. Adkin adds a second and a fifth place to her tally, and now sits in the joint lead of the women’s competition with Joyce Njeru, whose fifth and first also give her a total of 110 points. Andrea Mayr’s highly successful weekend puts her just behind Adkin and Njeru, alongside Anna Gibson on 90 points.
Kirsty Reade (WMRA) for World Athletics
1 Joyce Njeru (KEN) 1:39:05
2 Andrea Mayr (AUT) 1:39:45
3 Philaries Kisang (KEN) 1:41:13
4 Monica Florea (ROU) 1:43:04
5 Scout Adkin (GBR) 1:43:24
1 Philemon Kiriago (KEN) 1:24:22
2 Filimon Abraham (GER) 1:27:14
3 Cesare Maestri (ITA) 1:28:49
4 Sylvain Cachard (FRA) 1:29:14
5 Marco Filosi (ITA) 1:29:29