The big race

The 17th European Cross Country Championships will take place in Albufeira on Sunday.

The event, one of the biggest on the international athletics calendar of the year which was held in Dublin in 2009, comes to Portugal for the first time.

Local support will be firmly behind CB Faro’s Ana Dias, who will attempt to make history together with Jessica Augusto, Ines Monteiro and Dulce Felix in becoming the first ladies team ever to achieve three consecutive European titles.

The Portuguese bid for glory will be seriously challenged by Spain, which fields a powerful side including Barcelona gold and bronze medal winners Nuria Fernandez and Natalia Rodriguez. Also expected to make at least the podium are Britain’s ladies featuring the experienced Hayley Yelling, Louise Damen and Hatti Dean as well as exciting newcomer at senior level Stephanie Twell.

Among the men, Spain must also count as favourites boasting several top athletes of African origin such as Alemayehu Bezabeh and Ayad Lamdassem as well as the aptly named European 5000m silver medallist Jesus Espana.

Portugal will look towards Licinio Pimentel to lead its team while Britain has to make do without Mo Farah, who has chosen to compete on the indoor circuit.