Europe’s best to clash in Tilburg ahead of Chia

Hassan opens her season in style in Tilburg
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Some of Europe's top athletes will test themselves at the International Warandeloop in Tilburg with less than one month until the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Chia.

A fortnight before the European Cross Country Championships take place in Chia on 11 December, some of the leading aspirants will have a chance to see how their main rivals have wintered when they line up for the Warandeloop in Tilburg on Sunday 27 November.

Sifan Hassan won by 30 seconds in last year’s race before going on to strike gold in Hyeres and while the world and European indoor 1500m champion will be absent this year, the Dutch runners will still be to the fore in the senior women’s race in Tilburg.

Susan Krumins (nee Kuijken) hasn’t raced in Tilburg since 2005 when she won a bronze medal in the junior race at the European Cross Country Championships. Eleven years later, the 30-year-old will be vying for senior honours on home soil.

The Dutch contingent also includes sub-four minute 1500m runner Maureen Koster along with road racers Andrea Deelstra and Elizeba Cherono. Deelstra made her breakthrough last autumn by finishing fifth in the Berlin Marathon in 2:26:46 to gain qualification for the Olympic Games while Cherono was one of the in-form runners on the road last month, winning the Great Birmingham Run and finishing third in the Great South Run.

But the pre-race favourites might come from Sweden in the form of Meraf Bahta and Charlotta Fougberg. Bahta won a bronze medal in the senior race at the 2014 European Cross Country Championships while Fougberg has picked up a string of noteworthy wins this winter, most recently at the Nordic Cross Country Championships where she also led Sweden to the team title.

Other top contenders include perennial continental medallist Ana Dulce Felix from Portugal, Olympic steeplechase finalist Fabienne Schlumpf and three-time Winter Olympian Eva Vrabcova, who also made the Czech Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro this summer after clocking 2:30:10 in the Prague Marathon in May.