Ritzenhein spent most of the 2014 season sidelined with a groin and ankle injury but the three-time Olympian, despite admitting he wasn’t at full fitness, still ran out victorious at the 58th running of this race which was held over 10km.
The American crossed the finish-line in 29:08 to dash the hopes of home favourites Andrea Lalli and Daniele Meucci, who were looking to become the first Italian winner of the Campaccio since Francesco Panetta in 1993.
“I’m very happy as I have not run a cross-country race for a long time,” said Ritzenhein, who was limited to just one competitive race last year. “I am not in very good shape at the moment. Lalli and Meucci made it a very good race. Meucci took it out at the beginning, then Lalli put it down in the middle.”
Lalli finished one second in arrears, with European marathon champion Meucci slightly further back in third in 29:23.
The top three finishers in the men’s 10km will be turning their attention to the roads in due course. Lalli and Meucci are targeting spring marathons in Paris and Lake Biwa respectively, while Ritzenhein also wants to run one marathon before the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles next February.
But before that, Ritzenhein will line up over 4km for the Great Edinburgh Cross Country on Saturday.
Kisa leads Kenyan 1-2-3
In the women’s 6km race, the Kenyan trio on show led by Commonwealth 5000m silver medallist Janet Kisa proved a class apart as they scored Kenya’s first ever clean sweep in the long history of this race.
The 6km race proved was just as competitive as the men’s 10km with Kisa winning by a margin of one second in 19:00 ahead of the in-form Peres Jepchirchir, who has showed good form on the European roads over 5km, 10km and the half-marathon this winter.
Betsy Saina completed the Kenyan clean-sweep in third in 19:04 with Ethiopia’s Etagegn Woldu a distant fourth in 19:45.
“It was a good race, but it was too windy,” said the winner, who is looking to make the Kenyan team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang in March.
No fewer than 1500 runners from all ages and categories took part on a sunny with a temperature of 8C.