Will Spain clinch another clean sweep at the European 10,000m Cup?

Adel Mechaal won European indoor 3000m gold in Belgrade earlier this month.
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European indoor 3000m champion Adel Mechaal will make his 10,000m debut at the European 10,000m Cup in London on Saturday

When the gun fires for the European 10,000m Cup ‘A’ race on the cool of Saturday (19) evening at the Parliament Hill Athletics Track in London, Spain’s Juan Perez may look across at his rivals and think: maybe my time is now.

His teammate Antonio Abadia will have other ideas, though, as he looks to become only the second man in the history of the event to successfully defend his crown.

Twelve months ago in Minsk, Abadia was ruthless in victory, winning by over four seconds in 28:31.16 from Perez to once more show his strength at the distance.

Perez has become used to finishing second in this race; it was the third time in a row after also being runner-up in the individual competition in Mersin in 2016 and Chia-Pula in 2015. Will London be the scene of his moment of glory?

His bid is one of the fascinating stories ahead of what should be an outstanding race, with Spain looking strong throughout. In Minsk, Perez still left with a gold medal after his country won the team event with Carlos Mayo third, ensuring a ninth title as a collective.

Mayo is not here this time but the Spanish have a good squad of six including Adel Mechaal, the European indoor 3000m champion, who is making his debut at the distance.

The rest of their line-up is made up of Fernando Carro, Mohamed Jelloul and Yago Rojo and they will be strong contenders to claim their tenth team title.

Since Barakaldo first staged the European 10,000m Cup (under its previous alias of the European 10,000m Challenge) in 1997, Turkey’s Polat Arikan - in 2014 and 2015 - is the only man to win the men’s race two years in a row.

This time, Ramadan Ozdemir carries the flag for Turkey in a race were France and Italy have standout entrants also running the distance for the first time.

Back at the European Championships in Helsinki 2012, France’s Florian Carvalho won silver in the 1500m. He is joined in the French quartet by Mourad Amdouni who is also making his 10,000m debut, Mohamed Serghini and Yann Schrub.

At last summer’s European Athletic U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa sprinted to victory in the 5000m to add to his two U20 titles at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

Now comes the challenge of a longer distance, with the need to hold something in reserve for a final few laps where the race is so often decided. Having recently broken the long-standing Italian U23 5000m record with a 13:18.83 clocking, Crippa could have his sights set on the 10,000m record of 27:44.65.

Runners from 21 nations will compete in the men’s event. The hosts will also be fielding squad of six runners led by 2016 Olympian Ross Millington, who will start with the quickest personal best in the whole field.

The only man to have broken 28 minutes, his 27:55.06 clocking came in Leiden in June 2016 and he knows this track in Parliament Hill well. A few weeks before that lifetime best performance, he won the 10,000m title at this venue which, as it will be on Saturday, will double up as the British Championships and the trial race for the summer’s championships.

Then it was the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, now is it for the chance to be in Berlin, when the city co-hosts the first multi-sport European Championships with Glasgow in August - a date that Germany’s Richard Ringer, their sole representative, will surely have on his mind when the gun fires on Saturday night.