Ethiopia claimed a double victory for the first time at the 41st edition of the Boclassic New Year’s Eve Race in Bolzano with Tamirat Tola and Netsanet Gudeta taking the honours on a cold afternoon in northern Italy on Thursday (31).

Tola, whose 2015 year also included personal bests of 27:22.64 in the 10,000m, 1:00:08 for the half marathon and sixth place at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Guiyang 2015, crossed the finish line in the Wather Square after 10km of running in 28:28, beating last year’s Boclassic winner and his compatriot Muktar Edris by the impressive margin of 16 seconds.

Three-time Boclassic champion Imane Merga completed the all-Ethiopian men’s podium in 28:56, holding off Kenya’s 3000m steeplechase Diamond Race winner Jairus Birech, who was fourth in 28:58. Zane Robertson, from New Zealand, who finished third last year, had to settle for fifth this time in 28:59.

A 10-man leading pack featuring Birech and Thomas Longosiwa from Kenya, Merga, Edris Tamirat, and Robertson as well as Switzerland’s Abraham Tadesse, Great Britain’s Ross Millington and the Italian pair of Said El Otmani and Ahmed El Mazoury took the early lead covering the first two of eight 1250m laps in 7:17.

The leading group was whittled down to six men after four laps: Tola, Merga, Edris, Robertson, Birech and Longosiwa went through halfway in 14:27.

The race then gradually turned into an all-Ethiopian battle between Tola, Edris and Merga, who pulled away from Birech with three laps to go.

Tola ran the fastest split of the race on the fifth lap, clocking 3:27 with only Edris initially able to go with him and he gradually edged away from his compatriot on the sixth lap, putting three seconds between himself and his last rival with two laps to go.

Over the last two laps, Tola continued to increase his lead and he has now won his last three races, the hat-trick of wins – over 10km at the Great Ethiopian Run, at the well-known Alcobendas cross country race in Spain and now the BoClassic – coming in the last five weeks.

“I am in my best shape of my life at the moment. I was very confident I would be able to take the win. I will run a marathon next spring and attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics in the 10,000m during the summer,” commented Tola.

Gudeta, the bronze medallist in Guiyang last March, won in 15:57, coming home five seconds ahead of Kenya’s 2014 Boclassic winner Janet Kisa, with another Kenyan, Viola Kibiwot, who was fourth in the 5000m at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last summer, finishing third with in 16:08.

Gudeta and Kisa were out on their own from early in the race, with the Ethiopian leading as they went through halfway in 8:08.

However, there was drama at the end of the third lap as both runners started to sprint for the line, unaware they had one lap to go.

After being ushered on for one further lap, Gudeta clearly had more in reserve than her Kenyan rival over the final kilometre.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF