Preview: Britton returns to defend title in Edinburgh

Euro Champions Fionnuala Britton and Jess Coulson to take on leading East Africans at Bupa Edinburgh Cross Country

Fionnuala Britton (Mark Shearman)

The Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country sticks with the format which sees Great Britain, whose athletes will be aiming to convert the form which helped them to top the European Cross-Country Championships medal table, taking on teams from Europe and the United States in four races for the overall team challenge title.

Instead of an international men’s 3km, the organisers have arranged a top-class women’s race with Meseret Defar and Vivian Cheruiyot rounding off the programme.

While the snow-laden course in Szentendre last month wasn’t dissimilar to the under-foot conditions in recent editions of this event, heavy rainfall combined with the notoriously undulating profile of the course means a true cross-country test is very much on the cards.

The course is renowned as one of the most spectacular and traditional in the world and races will be televised live on BBC1 from 13:00 – 14:30.

» Men’s 8km

The European squad is expected to dominate as their team contains three of the top six finishers from Szentendre.

This includes Hassan Chahdi from France and the Spanish duo of Carles Castillejo and Ayad Lamdassem.

The British team isn’t as strong as it could be, although Steve Vernon will be hoping to convert the good form he displayed in Szentendre. UK trials winner and 11th-placer at the Euro Cross, Jonathan Taylor, should also be to the fore of the British team along with Andy Vernon.

» Women’s 6km

Fionnuala Britton became the first athlete in the history of the European Cross-Country Championships to defend her title and the Irishwoman now has her sights sets on retaining this crown. However, the 28-year-old faces a field which includes Ana Dulce Felix, who was only two seconds behind her in Szentendre last month.

Dutchwoman Adrienne Herzog, the Euro Cross bronze medallist, also lines up in the European team with Sophie Duarte from France, Linda Byrne of Ireland and Lisa Stublic from Croatia

Jess Coulson was the convincing winner of the under-23 race in Szentendre and will challenge for top honours as she steps back up to the senior division. The 22-year-old is joined on the British team by double Olympic eighth-placer Julia Bleasdale and Steph Twell.

» Women’s 3km

Meseret Defar is to make a rare cross-country appearance in a high-quality women’s 3km race as the Ethiopian takes on two of Kenya’s finest in Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai.

The British challenge is led by 1500m specialists Lisa Dobriskey and Charlene Thomas. They might seem somewhat outclassed on paper but they should take encouragement from Jonny Hay’s shock second-place finish in last year’s men’s race when many of the big names faltered.

» Find a more detailed Bupa Edinburgh Cross Country preview, including an event timetable, in the Jan 3 issue of Athletics Weekly, out now.

» Read more on the loss of the short-course men’s race in the AW blog.

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