Kipngeno and Njeru Unstoppable at Giir di Mont Uphill
Kenyan pair continue their winning streaks in a new addition to an old classic on the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup.
There were wonderful conditions for the first edition of Giir di Mont Uphill as the 4th Gold Label race of the 2022 Valsir World Cup took place under clear blue skies in the mountains around Premana, Italy. The brand new race saw athletes race 9km from the town centre to the spectacular setting of Alpe Solino, 1,050m up above.
Against international fields containing World Cup winners and World and European champions, and with the race's place in the Italian Championship bringing in the best domestic talent, the Team Run2gether duo of Joyce Njeru and Patrick Kipngeno continued their phenomenal 2022 seasons, each taking their 4th straight Gold Label win in the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup.
The women's race was the first to get underway. After a cautious start, Njeru made her move with 2 kilometres run, looking to capitalise on the race's fast first 5km. Nobody followed and the defending World Cup champion carried an advantage over the rest of the field as the course steepened in the second half.
In her first World Cup appearance of the year, the great Andrea Mayr battled hard to close this gap, coming agonisingly close, but there just wasn't enough race left for the 6 time World Champion to make the catch and Njeru held on to take the win by 20 seconds.
Madalina Florea of Romania, silver medallist in the Up and Down race at the European Championhips, stayed within touching distance of the front pair, finishing just 25 seconds further back to claim the third spot on the podium. Scout Adkin was 4th and Francesca Ghelfi was first Italian in 5th, taking the national title in the process.
Camilla Magliano and Lucy Murigi, 2nd and 3rd in the World Cup standings going into the race, finished 9th and 7th, adding valuable points to their tallies. Murigi is one of the athletes who will attempt the double this weekend, coming back in the morning to race the full 32km and 2,400m+ of Giir di Mont.
Unlike Njeru, Kipngeno pushed the pace right from the start, shadowed by his compatriots Lengen Lolkurraru and Philemon Kiriago. Lolkurraru faded but once again the Run2gether athletes stayed strong.
The margins were smaller than they were at La Montée du Nid d'Aigle 2 weeks go, but the result was the same; a 4th season win for Kipngeno in 46:09 with Kiriago second in 46:58. Were it not for his teammate's superlative success, Kiriago would be the talk of the town; today marked the 3rd successive 2nd place finish on the Valsir World Cup for the 19 year old.
The pair were pushed all the way by French and European champion Sylvain Cachard, who finished 3rd just 24 seconds behind Kiriago. Andrea Rostan, the first Italian, and Zak Hanna both had excellent races finishing 4th and 5th respectively, narrowing the gap between them as they vie for the 3rd spot in the overall standings. Hanna hangs on to it for now.
Cesare Maestri's 6th place was enough for him to seal the Italian championship and defending World Cup Champion Henri Aymonod made a welcome return to racing after time out due to injury, finishing 8th.
In the U20 races Axelle Vicari and Elia Mattio once again proved too strong for the competition, adding uphill victories to the wins that they took last month's up and down Italian Championship race in Gazzaniga.
The action continues tomorrow with the 28th edition of Giir di Mont, the 5th Gold Label race of Valsir World Cup. Stay tuned!
Full results from today's race are available here.
World Cup Standings after 7 races are here.
Photos by Marco Gulberti. Check out a full gallery here.
You can find results for all this year's World Cup races, any more more besides, on the World Mountain Running Ranking.