Silas Kipruto hasn’t necessarily had the greatest year on the American road racing scene.
His only victory this year had been in a 4-mile race in Buffalo although he had top-10 finishes in a couple of the country’s other big events.
But there’s just something about the Quad-City Times Bix 7 that brings out the best in him.
The 31-year-old Kenyan ran a shrewd tactical race and even had to get a bit physical Saturday on his way to winning the 42nd annual trek through the streets of Davenport.
It is the third time Kipruto has won the Bix 7, making him only the second men’s runner ever to accomplish that feat. John Korir has won it five times. Bill Rodgers, Meb Keflezighi, Joseph Nzau, Mark Curp and Leonard Korir each has won twice.
“I like the course,’’ Kipruto said. “I win two times here. … It’s a nice course. I like the race.’’
Ethiopia’s Belay Tilahun finished second, just four seconds behind Kipruto, with Kenya’s Isaac Mwangi third.
Kipruto, who also finished second in the Bix 7 in 2013 and fourth last year in addition to his victories in 2011 and 2012, was the subject of only the second post-race protest in the race’s 42-year history.
Ethiopia’s Teshome Mekonen was right on Kipruto’s heels on Kirkwood Boulevard during the fifth mile of the race and Kipruto felt Mekonen was making contact with him from behind. The Kenyan finally turned and whipped backward with his right hand and may have made contact with Mekonen.
Mekonen, who finished eighth, filed a formal protest but after looking at video, Bix 7 officials determined that Kipruto had not done anything “flagrant.’’ Elite athlete coordinator John Tope said he was told it was “incidental contact.’’
The only previous protest in Bix 7 history came in 2002 when other runners claimed that winner Colleen De Reuck was being paced during the race by her husband, Darren. That one also was overruled.
Kipruto hung back in the pack for more than half the race Saturday before making his move.
“Because I know the course,’’ he said.
The Olympic-bound Keflezighi and fellow American Elkanah Kibet actually were the first two runners to the halfway point of the race, going around the McClellan Boulevard turnaround side by side.
“The first mile was a little tight but we kept consistent, like 4:35, 4:40,’’ said Keflezighi, who used the race as a tune-up for the Olympic marathon but still finished in seventh place.
“I came here to be competitive and get me out of my comfort zone,’’ he said. “Otherwise, I would just do it myself in Mammoth Lakes (California). But at the same time, here it was an amazing crowd.’’
Kibet, a Kenya native who is now a U.S. citizen, finished a strong fourth, but he said it was apparent in the second half of the race that he wasn’t going to be able to keep up.
“We kept pushing, me and Meb, to Mile 4 and then we came down this hill …’’ Kibet said. “I tripped a little, but I said I have to keep pushing. And then after Mile 5, I said I have to keep pushing.’’
By then, Kipruto had moved to the front with Tilahun and Mwangi close behind him. Those three quickly separated themselves from the pack and eventually Mwangi also fell back.
“I said, ‘Let me try my best to push,’’’ Kipruto said of his strategy in the last two miles.
For much of that time, he kept looking behind him to find Tilahun only a few steps away, but he finally pulled away in the final sprint down 4th Street.
His winning time of 33 minutes, 3 seconds was considerably slower than what he ran in his two previous Bix wins — 32:36 in 2011 and 32:31 in 2012 — and does not even rank among the 100 best times in Bix 7 history.
Keflezighi tied a Bix 7 record with his eighth top-10 finish and his time of 33:40 is the second best time ever run by a runner over the age of 40. John Campbell ran the race in 33:05 in 1990.
Kibet’s fourth-place finish is the best by an American runner since Keflezighi was fourth in 2007 in a year in which the Bix includes an international field.
“It was a good finish for me,’’ Kibet said. “This is a very hard course but some of the guys here are just faster than me.’’