A leading number of the continent's best distance runners will begin the New Year with an exciting challenge when they take part in the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country on Saturday 11 January as part of “Team Europe”.
It is the annual international match between Britain, Europe and the USA, with a formalised European team selected by European Athletics, on the basis of their final individual results at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade.
2014 will be the 25th staging of the Great International XCountry event, which has featured some of the world’s best athletes since its inception in 1988 .
Taking place in the picturesque surroundings of Holyrood Park, the Bupa Great Edinburgh XCountry also features a men’s 4km race and a mass participation 5km called the Bupa Great Winter Run, which will see around 2,500 hardy amateur runners tackle a multi-terrain course ahead of the elite races.
Irishwoman Fionnuala Britton will have the same opportunity she had in Belgrade, hoping to win the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country for the third consecutive time.
She was unable to extend her streak of success in Serbia and was beaten by France’s Sophie Duarte who will try to carry her excellent form to Scotland.
One of the beauties of this event is that not only is the course tough, with a series of difficult hills and tricky descents, but the time of year brings other barriers to overcome, such as snow, which can be tough to tackle.
Last year Britton ploughed herself around the 6km course causing a stir and some concern when she slipped and fell at a brook around a half a mile from home. Thankfully, she quickly recovered her balance and dashed towards the line to win by 16 seconds in 20:40.
In the men's 8km race, Europe will try to regain the title it lost last year to Bobby Mack of the USA. With strong showings in Belgrade, Spain’s Alemayehu Bezabeh and Turkey’s Polat Kemboi Arikan will be among the favourites to win this year.
They will have to cover the absence of Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem, who generally performs quite well in Edinburgh, having won in 2011 and finishing third last year.
Last year Team Europe proved to be the strongest overall side in the International Team Match with 154 points over Great Britain & Northern Ireland (175) and the United States (201).
This year's Team Europe (finalised team still to be confirmed) is:
Senior: Alemayehu Bezabeh (Spain), Polat Kemboi Arikan (Turkey), Jeroen D’Hoedt (Belgium), Hassan Chahdi (France), Mohamed Marhum (Spain), Richard Ringer (Germany), Bashir Abdi (Belgium), Pieter-Jan Hannes (Belgium), Mitko Tsenov (Bulgaria), François Barrer (France), Oleksandr Kuzmichov (Ukraine), Djilali Bedrani (France).
Junior: Yemaneberhan Crippa (Italy), Aleksandr Novikov (Russia), Mehdi Belhadj (France), Alexis Miellet (France), Maxime Hueber Moosbrugger (France), Nikolaus Franzmair (Austria).
Senior: Fionnuala Britton (Ireland), Dulce Félix (Portugal), Iris Fuentes-Pila (Spain), Sophie Duarte (France), Almensch Belete (Belgium), Veronica Inglese (Italy), Carla Rocha (Portugal), Amela Terzic (Serbia), Gulshat Fazlitdinova (Russia), Ekaterina Sokolenko (Russia), Svetlana Riazantceva (Russia), Esma Ayedemir (Turkey).
Junior: Sofia Ennaoui (Poland), Alina Reh - TO BE CONFIRMED (Germany), Emine Hatun Tuna (Turkey), Ebba Andersson (Sweden), Johanna Geyer-Carles (France), Heidi Martensson (Norway).