Twelve months after sub-zero temperatures and a frozen course greeted the runners in the Turkish city of Kastamonu, participants can look forward to temperate conditions at the 54th European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country which return to Albufeira, Portugal on 5 February.
Turkish clubs have proved especially strong in recent editions of this long-standing fixture and Uskudar Belediye will be looking for a hat-trick of team titles in the women’s senior race next February.
But the Portuguese also have a rich tradition at cross country - particularly at continental level - and Sport Lisboa e Benfica will be looking to improve on their third-place finish last year. Their star runner is the experienced Ana Dulce Felix, the 2012 European 10,000m champion and a five-time medallist at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.
The Turks scooped three of the four team titles twelve months ago but French team Ales Cevennes Athlétisme prevented a whitewash by denying Istanbul BBSK the team title in the men’s senior race. Bekir Karayel still came away with the individual honours and could spearhead their challenge again next February.
One of the standout performers of last year’s event was the highly-rated junior Anna Emilie Moller. The 19-year-old won the 4km race for her Danish team Blovstroed Loeverne by 27 seconds before going on to qualify for the Olympics where she set a European junior steeplechase record of 9:32.68 in the heats.
Albufeira is one of the long-standing stops on the cross country circuit. Not only has the Portuguese town staged multiple editions of this competition, Albufeira also staged the 2010 European Cross Country Championships and the annual Almond Blossom Cross Country event which has been won in the past by Portuguese greats such as Rosa Mota, Aurora Cunha, Albertina Dias, Fernanda Ribeiro, Fernando Mamede and Dionísio Castro.