Lebid leading Team Europe into battle at Bupa cross country | 04.01.2013
|Fionnuala Britton and Sergiy Lebid lead Team Europe's charge at the
Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry on Saturday.
If he needed any reminding of how special it felt to be at the top of the podium at the event, tomorrow is the perfect place when he runs in the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry.
The event is now a major regular part of the winter calendar and it is being staged at Holyrood Park in Scotland's capital, the venue of the 2003 European Cross Country Championships which Lebid won in 30:47.
That victory was the fourth of his nine titles and though he will be 38 by December, his bid for more gold remains.
In Budapest last month, he was 15th, 35 seconds behind Italian Andrea Lalli who won in 30:01 but Lebid has started the year in style.
On New Year's Day he was third at the BOClassic 10km in Bozen/Bolzano and now faces Spain's Ayad Lamddassem who is defending his title.
Lamdassem, twice a European Cross silver medallist, did not have the greatest of times in Hungary when he was sixth in 30:14 but like Lebid, he has responded in style and on New Year's Eve, he was second at the Madrid Sylvestre 10km.
It makes for a superb race on a day when a strong Team Europe, sponsored by Spanish clothing manufacturer Joma, pit their wits against Great Britain and the USA.
The men's senior European team also includes Hassan Chahdi, of France, Spain's Carles Castilllejo, Bashir Abdi, of Belgium and the Czech Republic's Milan Kocourek.
At the helm of the British challenge will be their captain Steve Vernon.
He said: "It was so close here last year - I was only about seven seconds off a podium - so I want to be top five.
"That would be a good run, although I could finish 10th and it still be a decent run."
There will be great rivalry in the women's races with a re-match in the 6km between the top three from Budapest.
Double European Cross Country champion Fionnuala Britton was in outstanding form over 6km here a year ago and she will be looking to repeat that success.
From her own European team, she will face Ana Dulce Felix, of Portugal, and Adrienne Herzog, of the Netherlands, who won silver and bronze respectively in Budapest.
Team Europe is completed with France's Sophie Duarte, Linda Byrne, of Ireland, and Croatia's Lisa Christina Stublic.
There will be much home excitement for the appearance of Scotland's Freya Ross.
She has defended the Scottish cross country title for the past four years and said: "I always love running in Edinburgh. I went to university here, I grew up not far away from the city and I know Holyrood Park quite well."
One of the greatest rivalries in world athletics - Kenya against Ethiopia - will be played out in the women's Invitational 3k.
The race brings together world champions Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai of Kenya against Meseret Defar of Ethiopia.
Defar was one of the stars of last year's Olympic Games in London when she won the 5000m just ahead of Cheruiyot, who won the long-distance double at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011.
And then there is Masai, who at 23 is six years younger than Cheruiyot and Defar but was the 10,000m world champion in 2009 and has finished second three times in a row at the World Cross Championships.
It is no wonder that Britain's Lisa Dobriskey knows how tough the challenge will be.
Dobriskey, a 2009 world silver medallist, said: "I must admit I thought it was going to be a lot lower key than it is, but it's always a pleasure to line up against such pedigree."
It is a big weekend for Dobriskey, who is running injury free for the first time in more than three years.
A regular at this venue at Holyrood Park which staged the 2003 European Cross Country Championships, Dobriskey, 29, said: "I am really looking forward to racing as I haven't been able to race this time of year for a while due to injury, so I'm grateful to be healthy. I love running in Edinburgh as the supporters are amazing."
On a big day in Edinburgh, one of Europe's leading junior women will be looking to make her mark again too.
Emelia Gorecka, 18, who won double gold in the individual and team events at the European Cross Country Championships in Velenje in 2001, is favourite to retain her 4km crown.