With temperatures expected to be in their 60s, the Portuguese coastal city of Albufeira will host the 54th staging of the European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country on Sunday.
It should be a brilliant day of competition and here’s a preview to what lies ahead…
WOMEN (Senior race 11:55am, U20 race 10:30am)
Just over six years Dulce Felix experienced winning medals at a major event on the home surface in Albufeira and now she has the chance to do it all again.
One of Portugal's most successful and consistent runners ever, Felix will once more lead the home challenge for Sport Lisboa e Benfica at this European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country.
Along with Silvana Dias, Vanessa Fernandes and Monica Silva, Felix is part of a squad bidding for success in a 6.09km women’s senior race where Turkish side Uskudar Belediye are chasing a hat-trick of team titles.
Last year in the cold of Kastamonu, Uskudar won from Spain’s Bilbao Atletismo and Benfica, with Irene Cheptai and Ozlem Kaya achieving a one-two in the individual race for the host nation.
They are both back in a strong Uskudar squad who will be favourites for victory again but in Felix, who was 12th last year, the lure of more glory in front of her own fans will surely provide an additional surge of adrenaline.
The 2012 European 10,000m champion was able to hear the Portuguese national anthem boom out in Albufeira as she stood on the podium in December 2010 after winning team gold at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships where she also took individual bronze.
The women’s race is packed with eye-catching names.
A year ago Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller won the under-20 race and though still 19, she is in the senior Blovstroed Loeverne team this time, while Spain’s Bilbao Atletismo, the 2016 runners-up, are packed with strength including Trihas Gebre and Romanian Ancuta Bobocel and for Great Britain, Steph Twell should be among the leaders in the colours of Aldershot, Farnham & District.
As Moller won individual gold in that under-20 race, the team prize went to Turkey’s Bursa Buyuksehir Belediye.
They return to defend their title over 3.77km, and will face a big challenge from their own country as Emine Akbingol, who was second behind Moller, is back for Fenerbahce Sport Club with Gulnaz Uskun at the helm of the Bursa squad after finishing eighth in Kastamonu.
MEN (Senior race 12:40pm, U20 race 11:20am)
Runners from the French side Ales Cevennes Athletisme achieved four positions in the top seven to win the team crown in 2016 and three of them return looking for more success.
Romain Courcieres, who was third, El Hassane Ben Lkhainouch (fifth) and Freddy Guimard (seventh) will face the defending champion, Turkey’s Bekir Karayel, who running for Istanbul BBSK won the individual title by 24 seconds (from Othmane El Goumri, of Ales Cevennes).
The French team success last year denied Turkey a cleansweep in the four team events as Ales Cevennes scored 17 points from Istanbul (31) and Norway’s IK Tjalve (43).
These two nations should have a big say as they have both entered two teams in this men’s race over 9.73km, with France also represented by Athletic Trois Tours and Turkey by Galatasary Spor Kulubu.
But entering the picture is the Spanish squad of Atletismo Bikila who include double SPAR European cross country champion Alemayehu Bezabeh and Ayad Lamdassem, who together won team gold at the 2015 SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Hyeres.
It was in those championships in France where Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa celebrated gold in the under-23 race and here in Albufeira he runs for the Fiamme Oro Padova Club while Sporting Clube de Portugal carry the host nation’s hopes.
In the men’s under-20 event held over 6km, Turkey also look strong as they aim to defend the gold won by Kocaeli Darıca Bel. Egitim SK and have two teams in this race aswell: Fenerbahce Sport Club and Darica Belediyesi Spor Kulubu.
Fenerbache, with 28, took second, eight points adrift of Kocaeli, in 2016 with Spain’s Playas de Castelon (49) also back having had the individual champion then in Thierry Ndikumwenayo. This time Said Mechaal and Reda Sebie could be among their top men.