Aweke Ayalew, left, is back to defend his title in Burgos ©IAAF

Defending champions Aweke Ayalew and Senbere Teferi will both defend their Cross de Atapuerca titles in Burgos when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Cross Country Permit season begins in Spain tomorrow.

The first of seven legs of the campaign will see Bahrain's Ayalew hoping to continue the form which saw the 24-year-old win three races last season.

However, he could only finish 24th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Uganda's capital Kampala and will face stiff competition tomorrow from Ethiopia's Imane Merga.

Known as "Mr Atapuerca", 23-year-old Merga won in Burgos five times in a row before Ayalew broke that streak last year.

Ethiopia will have another contender in Muktar Edris, who won the 5,000 metres track title at this year's IAAF World Championships in London and dented the home hopes of Britain's Mo Farah in the process.

Senbere Teferi will hope to defend her women's title ©IAAF
Senbere Teferi will hope to defend her women's title ©IAAF

Farah, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, had been hoping to achieve the 5,000m/10,000m double for the third World Championships in a row.

In the women's race Ethiopia's Teferi won convincingly last year, denying compatriot Belaynesh Oljira a hat-trick of consecutive victories.

The duo will resume their rivalry but Kenyans Alice Nawowuna Aprot and Lilian Kasait Rengeruk, the silver and bornze medallists respectively at the Kampala World Championships, will also be keen challengers. 

Another huge name in the field will be Bahrain's Ruth Jebet, the Olympic champion in the 3,000m steeplechase who was seventh in Kampala.

After Burgos, the Cross Country Permit season will continue with races in Antrim in Northern Ireland and San Giorgio su Legnano in Italy, both on January 6.

Elgoibar and Sevilla in Spain, and San Vittore Olona in Italy will then stage legs before the season concludes in Albufeira in Portugal.