HIGHLIGHTS: Kosgei defends, but Kipchoge eighth in London Marathon as Kitata wins; Ulissi takes Giro d’Italia stage 2

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Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Athletics ● In a year of shocking, unbelievable news, the 40th edition of the London Marathon delivered more.

The elites-only races were run on a cold, rainy morning in central London and while defending women’s champion Brigid Kosgei of Kenya confirmed her status as the world’s finest, superstar countryman Eliud Kipchoge lost a marathon for the first time in seven years.

The women’s race was run first, essentially in the dark at 7:15 a.m., on a 2.15 km loop course in St. James Park. Kosgei led right from the start and the race had formed by 15 km, with five Kenyans separated from the rest by 18 seconds: Kosgei, current World Champion Ruth Chepngetich, Sheila Chelangat, Vivian Kiplagat and Valary Jemeli.

By the halfway mark, Kiplagat, Chepngetich and Kosgei had 53-second gap on the field and then Kiplagat was dropped by 25 km. With five laps remaining, Kosgei broke away and was 46 seconds clear by 35 km and breezed home in 2:18:58, the third-fastest time of the year.

Behind her, there was quite a race going on. After being dropped from the lead before 32 km, Chepngetich still had a big lead on Ethiopia’s Ashete Bekere and American Sara Hall, who had moved up from ninth to fourth since the half.

With a lap to go, Chepngetich was still 40 seconds up on Hall as Bekere had dropped to fourth. But Hall was closing and passed Chepngetich on the finishing straight for an astonishing second-place finish in a lifetime best 2:22:01!

The effort involved showed on Hall’s face as she finished, more in pain than anything else, but with a stunning career comeback. In her last five marathons – including the U.S. Olympic Trials in February – Hall, 37, had been crushed: did not finish-15th-5th-did not finish-did not finish. Her 2:22:01 maintains her place as the sixth-fastest American ever.

Chepngetich finished third in 2:22:05 and Bekere was fourth in 2:22:51. American Molly Seidel, a member of the U.S. team for Tokyo, was a creditable sixth in 2:25:13, a lifetime best in her second marathon ever! She moves to no. 9 all-time U.S. The third American in the race, Lindsay Flanagan, was 17th in 2:37:16.

The men’s race followed, again in damp and cool conditions, with Kipchoge seeming to have no peer. He had won 11 of his 12 career marathons and 10 in a row since finishing second in Berlin in 2013. And he showed no signs of giving anything away as he ran in the lead pack of 10 through the halfway point in 1:02:55.

By 35 km – a little more than three laps to go – the lead group remained at nine. But on the penultimate lap, Ethiopians Sisay Lemma, Mosinet Geremew, Shura Kitata and Mule Wasihun, plus Kenyan Vincent Kipchumba, surged ahead and dropped Kipchoge.

On the final lap, Wasihun and Geremew were dropped and Kipchumba sprinted to the lead heading to the line, but Kitata has the most finishing speed and crossed first in 2:05:41, no. 7 on the season. Kipchumba was one second behind and Lemma finished in 2:05:45, with Geremew fourth in 2:06:04. Kipchoge was eighth in 2:06:49 – his second-slowest ever – and American Jared Ward was 17th in 2:12:38.

Kitata’s win was his first since Frankfurt in 2017; he loves London, having finished second in 2018 and fourth last year. His three fastest career marathons: 2:04:49-2:05:01-2:05:41 have all comes in this race.

Kipchoge tweeted after the race, “After 25 kilometers my ear blocked and it couldn’t open anymore. But this is how sport is, we should accept defeat and focus for the winning next time.” He will turn 36 on 5 November and now will face the inevitable questions about his health and fitness, ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games. If anyone doubted his motivation to continue after such dominance in the event, he has plenty to run for now.

In Nairobi (KEN), the Kip Keino Classic – a World Athletics Continental Tour event – was held Saturday, featuring strong performances by World Champions Tim Cheruiyot and Hellen Obiri.

Distance star Ferguson Rotich (1:44.78) won the 800 m while Cheruiyot won his ninth straight 1,500 m race in 3:34.31, just ahead of Kumari Taki, who scored a near-lifetime best of 3:35.00. World 10,000 m leader Nicolas Kimeli took the 5,000 m in 13:08.32.

Former Kenyan Nelly Jepkosgei – for running for Bahrain – won the women’s 800 m in 2:02.07, ahead of Eunice Sum (KEN: 2:03.73) and Obiri outlasted countrywoman Agnes Tirop in the 5,000 m, 15:06.36 to 15:06.71. World-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech won the Steeplechase in 9:29.05.

Cycling ● The re-arranged UCI World Tour saw the start of the 103rd Giro d’Italia in Sicily with World Time Trial Champion Filippo Ganna winning once again, this time in 15:24 over the downhill, 15.1 km course that finished in Palermo.

He was well clear of Joao Almeida and Mikkel Bjerg (DEN), who both finished 22 seconds back.

Ganna led the pack with 5 km left on Sunday, a 149 km route from Alcamo to Agrigento with an uphill finish over the final 3.7 km. On the climb, Valerio Conti (ITA) took the lead with 1.4 km to go, followed by attacks from Luca Wackermann (ITA) and Slovakian star Peter Sagan. But the best finish came from Italian veteran Diego Ulissi, who got to the line first ahead of Sagan and Mikkel Froelich Honore (DEN).

Ganna retains the pink leader’s jersey, up 22 seconds on Joao Almeida (POR) and 23 seconds on Britain’s Geraint Thomas.

There are two more stages in Sicily, including a punishing uphill finish in Etna on Monday, before the race moves to the mainland. The 21 stages include five mountain routes, three time trials and seven hilly route along with six sprinter’s stages.

The 16th BinckBank Tour, held strictly in Belgium this year due to the coronavirus regulations in The Netherlands, was cut down to four stages and finished on Saturday with Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel scoring a tight win over Soren Kragh Andersen (DEN).

Dane Mads Pedersen had a seven-second overall lead after the three flat stages, but on Saturday’s hilly finale, van der Poel managed a four-second win over Belgium’s Oliver Naesen, Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) and Kragh Andersen, and moved from fifth to first overall, as Pedersen finished 18th.

Van der Poel, 25, scored his first career win in a multi-day stage race on the UCI World Tour.

The 106th running of Liege-Bastogne-Liege over a hilly, 257 km course, and the fourth women’s edition, on a 135 km route, were both held on Sunday.

The women’s race finished first, with Britain’s 2015 World Champion Lizzie Deignan attacking with 30 km remaining and finishing nine seconds ahead of Australia’s Grace Brown in 3:29:48. Deignan decided that she had to push hard to get away from Dutch stars Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten and it worked.

Seven other riders, led by 3-4-5 finishers Ellen van Dijk (NED), Marianne Vos (NED) and Amy Pieters (NED) were in a chase pack. Van der Breggen, looking for a fifth straight win on the roads, finished 26th.

The men’s race came down to a final sprint between four of the stars of the season as Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic edged World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), emerging star Marc Hirschi (SUI) and Tour de France champ Tadej Podgacar (SLO). Alaphilippe attacked and Hirschi countered with 11 km to go and the top four were clear with 10 km remaining.

Dutch star van der Poel, riding just a couple of days after winning the BinckBank Tour, finished sixth, 14 seconds behind the winner!