11-15-2004 - Ritz Wins in Belfast XC defeating Top Kenyans

Dathan Ritzenheim scored one of the most unexpected victories of the season in Saturday's Reebok international cross-country race in Belfast.

The little-known 22-year-old American tactically outpointed his more fancied Kenyan rivals to score a runaway success over a muddy nine kilometre course at Stormont Castle.

Leading from start to finish, the former world junior cross-country bronze-medallist roared home 10seconds ahead of Ernest Meil, with Barnabas Kosgei a further second behind his colleague.

Ritzenheim took the race by the scruff of the neck after it started at a very sedate pace - and after the first of the five circuits he was pushing out a testing tempo.

After the second lap, he held an 11secs lead on Gavin Thompson - with the quartet of Kenyans who had been expected to challenge for the 5,000 US dollars top prize much further back.

Thompson fell off the pace on the next circuit, but Ritzenheim pushed along even harder - increasing his lead to 16secs with his uninhibited front-running.

Ritzenheim held an 18secs advantage by the last lap, and victory was a formality.

"They started so slowly I decided to go early," said the American, who on New Year's Eve was a brilliant third in the Bolzano San Silvestre 10K road race.

The Colorado man had no fears about racing against the normally dominant Africans, who in the last 10 years have provided the Belfast winner on eight occasions.

"I've raced against them before and each time I've finished higher and higher," said Ritzenheim, who will return home for the US indoor season where his first race will be over 3,000m in Boston on January 29.
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