Twelve months after Albufeira was the venue for the European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country, the event returns to Portugal on Sunday 4 February 2018, but this time it will be the town of Mira that will play host.
The ECCC Cross Country, to give the event its widely-used abbreviated name, will celebrated its 55th edition this year, and is the second oldest regional cross country competition in the world after having come into being in 1962.
Portugal has been an enthusiastic and committed supporter of the event and has staged one competition or another 16 times previously – the men usually had a separate competition to the women after the latter were incorporated into the ECCC Cross Country structure in 1982 until combined competitions started to be held in 2005 – but this will be the first time Mira has been the destination for the runners.
In contrast to the usual Algarve locations of Albufeira or Vilamoura, Mira is close to the northern Atlantic coast, just an hour’s drive south of Portugal’s second city Porto.
Istanbul BBSK and Uskudar Belediye will return to Portugal to defend their team titles after their unique double in 2017, the first time Turkish clubs had won both the senior team gold medals.
Last year was the first time that Istanbul BBK was triumphed but Uskudar Belediye are the three-time defending champions and have won the women’s title six times in total.
Historically, over the last decade or so, the representatives of Italy, Spain and Portugal have also sent strong teams to the competition so the Turkish teams’ bid to retain their crowns as Europe’s top cross country clubs will not be an easy one.
Playas de Castellón were the slightly surprising men’s junior champions in 2017 so it will be interesting to see how strongly they will defend their title. By contrast, women’s junior winners Bursa Büyükşehir Belediyesi Spor Kulübü had been to the top of the podium before and are the two-time defending champions.
Individual titles are also at stake in the four races.
Notable among the 2017 winners was Italy’s Yermaneberhan Crippa, competing for Fiamme Oro Padova, who went on to win the 2017 European U23 5000m title.
Only 20 at the time of his success in Albufeira, one of the youngest senior champions ever, and his imperious victory for a continental title on the track in Bydgoszcz suggests that he could be a factor at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships 5000m.