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    Bouchikhi steals the show on home soil in Hannut

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    • Bouchikhi steals the show on home soil in Hannut

    Three European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meetings took place on Sunday (21) and at the Easykit Cross Cup in Hannut, Belgium’s Soufiane Bouchikhi made a big impression at home.

    It has been a fine spell for the 27-year-old and after finishing fifth at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samorin last month - and fourth at the Great Edinburgh XCountry last weekend - he could celebrate victory as he won over 9km in 29:10.

    It was a comprehensive triumph for Bouchikhi as he beat reigning champion Andy Vernon from Great Britain by 17 seconds with fellow Belgian and 2016 U23 European cross champion Isaac Kimeli in third in 30:00.

    Vernon was the defending champion and though he led early on, Bouchikhi had too much strength for him over the second half. Just before halfway, Kimeli took over in front but Bouchikhi made his mark and there was nothing the rest could do as he moved away.

    “I felt super strong,” said Bouchikhi. “I did not want to wait, so I went away and I saw that [Andy] Vernon was suffering. I am even stronger than I was in December.”

    He is targeting a big year on the track, with his aim being the 10,000m at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin in August.

    Ethiopia’s Birtukan Fente retained her title in the senior women’s 6km in 23:31, finishing six seconds ahead of Romania’s Roxana Barca.

    European winners in Kerkrade; Bottarelli impresses in Rovereto

    At the Abdijcross in Kerkrade in the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark had good reason to be cheerful as their athletes took top honours in the senior races.

    It was never going to be easy on a bright day on the course at Abbey Rolduc where there was a great deal of mud to contend with underfoot and tricky paths to pass through.

    The senior men’s race was held over 10.5km and though it was much closer than in Hannut, it was still a fine performance from Chakib Lachgar. The Spaniard won in 34:02 from Germany’s Samuel Fitwi in 34:04 and Denmark’s Abdi Ulad Hakin, also in 34:04.

    The leading domestic runner was marathon specialist Michel Butter who finished fourth in 34:14.

    Ten seconds was the victory margin in the women’s 7.4km race as Denmark’s Sylvia Medugu won in 27:17 from Kenya’s Beatrice Cherono and the Netherlands’ Julia van Velthoven (27:34).

    At the 41st Cross Internazionale della Vallagarina in Rovereto, Italy’s Sara Bottarelli produced an excellent performance for the runner-up spot despite being better known as a mountain runner.

    As Kenya’s Norah Tanui Jeruto dominated proceedings in the senior women’s 6.44km in 21:05, Bottarelli came through for second in 22:29 with reigning champion and teammate Valeria Roffino third in 22:36.

    Ethiopian Telahun Bekele won the senior men’s race in 26:59 with Cesare Maestri the leading Italian - and European finisher - in fifth in 28:26.