Lucy Wambui Murigi celebrates her Zumaia Flysch Trail win (© Carreras de Montana)
Two-time world mountain running champion Lucy Wambui Murigi raced to the overall women’s long mountain title in the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup, winning the Zumaia Flysch Trail, a Gold Label race, on Sunday (2).
Victory in the men’s race was claimed by Loic Robert, who moved from fourth to second in the final ‘long’ category standings.
The penultimate race in this year’s World Cup served up thrilling racing and fast times on a perfect day for mountain running the Basque Country.
Kenya’s Murigi was looking to go one better than the second place she claimed last year, while Italy’s Camilla Magliano was running her 10th World Cup race of the season. Respectively sitting second and third in the long category standings and third and second in the overall World Cup standings, there was a huge amount on the line for these athletes.
Among those keeping them on their toes were the Basque pair of Leire Fernandez Abete and the legendary Oihana Kortazar.
France's Robert, meanwhile, was on the hunt for a repeat of the Gold Label win and course record that he achieved at Canfranc-Canfranc last month, a result that would see him move on to the long category podium. Raul Criado was racing on familiar ground, having taken the win in the 42km race last year, but again a strong Basque contingent would push them all the way, including Ismail Razga and Hassan Ait Chaou.
Robert and Murigi set their stalls out early, pushing the pace while Criado, Magliano and Kortazar chased hard. Despite the efforts of those behind, both athletes would only increase their advantage, making the most of the conditions to come home in impressive course records.
Robert's 1:28:41 was eight minutes faster than Geoffrey Ndungu's winning time from last year and over four minutes clear of Criado, who high-fived his way into the finish to take a jubilant second. Ait Chaou ran a strong second half, overtaking Borja Fernandez and gaining ground on Criado, finishing 49 seconds back in third. Fernandez held on for fourth ahead of Asier Labairu in fifth.
Murigi's winning margin was smaller, but not by much. She crossed the line in 1:39:59, wrapping up a dominant performance that saw her win by almost four minutes. Behind, having run more or less together for most of the race, Kortazar was able to create a gap on Magliano and claimed second place with an 18-second margin. Charlotte Cotton took fourth while Ainara Uribarri was fifth.
Murigi's win was enough for her to leapfrog Joyce Njeru to take overall victory in the long category. Magliano came tantalisingly close to also overtaking Njeru, falling just two points short and taking third.
The overall category win was always out of reach for Robert, who trailed Petro Mamu by 55 points before the race, but he did manage to climb from fourth to second, overtaking Patrick Kipngeno and Philemon Kiriago who have been so prolific this season. Kiriago had already done enough to finish third overall.
All eyes now turn to the Valsir World Cup Final, the Kilometro Verticale Chiavenna-Lagunc, on Saturday (8). Njeru and Kipngeno already have the overall titles sewn up, but with podium spots available and bonus points on offer, the racing will be frantic.
WMRA for World Athletics