Final rehearsals before SPAR Euro Cross

Final rehearsal before Belgrade
European Athletics

Ireland's Fionnuala Britton is among the well-known faces getting ready for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships women's race.

Most of Europe’s best cross country runners competed in European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meetings on Sunday, adding the finishing touches to their preparations for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade.

Almensch Belete and Bashir Abdi were far too strong for the other mostly Belgian competitors as they won the Lotto CrossCup van West-Vlaanderen in Roeselare, Belgium.  

Almensh Belete, of Ethiopian origin and Belgian nationality, just came back from three weeks of training and showed her condition right from the start.

Without visible effort she made a gap to win the race easily ahead of Belgian’s 12-time Lotto CrossCup series winner Veerle Dejaeghere.

Belete who finished fourth last year at the Budapest 2013 SPAR European Cross Country Championships, said after the race: “This time I hope to be on the podium. I’m feeling fine, I have huge ambitions.”

Abdi, a Belgian runner born in Somalia, was outstanding. From the start he pulled away to finish almost 20 seconds before Jeroen D’Hoedt.

Abdi, who ended ninth in Budapest, said, “I hoped to have stronger competition today, but I’m happy with the result. The European Cross Country Championships are a lottery. No one can say who will win but I’ll be ready for the challenge.”

Surprisingly the best European at the Cross de l'Acier in the Northern French commune of Leffrinckoucke was not reigning European champion Fionnuala Britton from Ireland, who finished seventh in 23:03, but French Sophie Duarte, fifth in 22:54.

This race has proved a good omen in the past for the championships ahead, with Britton finishing third in the two previous editions, and then going on to be crowned European champion both times.

Duarte, who was sixth last year in Budapest, showed she has what it takes to bother Britton in Belgrade.

A large field of European athletes took part in the International Warandecross in Tilburg.

It was newly naturalised Dutch representative Sifan Hassan who took the victory in 27:09 ahead of Helsinki 2012 European champion Ana Dulce Felix from Portugal (27:29).

Meraf Bahta from Sweden, Dominika Nowakowska from Poland and Maureen Koster completed the top five positions.

Dame Tasama from Belgium won the men’s 10km in 29:58 far ahead of the best Dutch runner Khalid Choukoud (30:11).