I'm not old enough to remember world xc in 1981 so am wondering if anyone can confirm the followind and provide more details.
The IAAF wrote:
Packing well at the front, a group of Ethiopian athletes, decked in their familiar green vests, made what appeared to be their victory dash for the finish-line in the senior men’s race. However, this was not to be the day of Ethiopian individual success as the team had committed an almighty miscalculation – they had timed their winning bid a lap too early.
Naturally sapped of both physical and mental energy, the group could not sustain their dominance as USA’s Craig Virgin successfully defended his title. Despite the mix up, Ethiopia’s Mohamed Kedir plugged on gamely to earn the consolation of individual silver while the East African nation, somewhat miraculously, came away with the team title by virtue of providing five of the first 15 finishers.