Lucy Wambui Murigi reeled in Australia’s Andrea Mayr to win the fifth and final WMRA World Cup race in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Saturday as compatriot Geoffrey Gikuni Ndungu collected a first overall title despite finishing third in the men’s race.
Mayr got off to a strong start but then paid for her early exertions on the descent of Smarna Gora before Wambui caught up with her and went on to open up an 11-second gap by the finish, winning in 47:51.
The Australian placed second in 48:02, which was enough for her to win the World Cup title once again. Ireland’s Sarah McCormack finished third in 51:48, comfortably ahead of Pavla Matyasova Shorna in fourth.
Murigi’s performance in Smarna Gora means she will end the season in second place in the World Cup standings, one position ahead of McCormack.
In the corresponding men’s race, Johan Bugge’s victory pose under the arch of the finish line has become a familiar sight in Smarna Gora and the Norwegian was celebrating there again on Saturday.
The race lived up to expectations as more than 160 athletes contested the course of almost 10 kilometres including two challenging climbs, interrupted by a short but steep and technical descent that once again proved the decisive watershed in the competition.
Eritrea’s Filimon Abraham and Italy’s Bernard Dematteis went right into the lead from the outset, a few strides ahead of Bugge and Kenya’s Geoffrey Gikuni Ndungu.
Dematteis moved into the lead on the downhill stretch and was followed by Ndungu as Filimon dropped to third. Jan Janu of the Czech Republic was fourth at that point with Bugge a further eight seconds behind.
Having been 20 seconds behind the leaders, Bugge then produced an exciting comeback and entered the grounds of the medieval castle that dominates the hill of Ljubljana in first place.
He crossed the finish line a comfortable winner in 42:33, 10 seconds ahead of Dematteis, the European champion.
Ndungu finished third in 42:47 which, in the absence of World Cup leader Francesco Puppi, was more than enough for the Kenyan to climb to the top spot in the end-of-season World Cup standings and take his first ever overall title.
Although he did not run in Smarna Gora, Puppi had amassed enough points in the World Cup series to finish second overall ahead of Britain’s Andrew Douglas, who finished sixth in Smarna Gora.
Janu placed fourth in Smarna Gora, replicating his finishing position from last week’s Adelholzen Hochfelln Berglauf in Germany.