Morocco’s world 3,000 metres steeplechase silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali starts as favourite in tomorrow’s Almond Blossom Cross Country in Albufeira, which will bring to a close the 2017-2018 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Cross Country Permit series.
El Bakkali, fourth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, finished third at the Antrim Cross Country earlier this season and three days ago he clocked 7min 41.88sec over 3,000m at an indoor race in Lievin in France, again finishing third.
Expected to provide a strong challenge over the 9,350m course in the 41st running of this race are Kenyans Daniel Kipchirchir Komen and Benard Ngeno.
Komen earned 1500m silver at the 2006 and 2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships and is also, with a 3:33.08 best, the fourth fastest ever over the distance indoors.
Ngeno is a less established talent, although he finished second at the 2017 Philadelphia Half Marathon, clocking 1 hour 02min 38sec.
Among the Portuguese, Rui Pedro Silva leads the challenge.
The 36-year-old was second at this year’s national road race championship and sixth at the European Champion Clubs Cross Country Cup.
Portugal’s Carla Salomé Rocha is favoured to earn another home victory in the women’s race on the course where she won in 2016.
Rocha’s victory two years ago earned her the national cross country title and she has been in similarly promising form this year.
She finished ninth in the Cross Italica in Seville and followed up with 12th place at the European Champion Clubs Cross Country Cup in Mira.
Last weekend she finished third at the Caceres Cross Country.
Her major threat In the women’s 6,150m race could come from Kenyans Emily Jepkoech and Mercyline Jeronoh, winner of the Morlaix 10 km in 32:46.
Other Portuguese athletes are expected to be in the mix: Doroteia Peixoto, third in the Viana do Castelo half marathon in 1:18:40, and locals Vera Fernandes and Catarina Guerreiro, 15th and 19th in the national road race championship.
Ana Dias, a former international who competed in 12 European Cross Country Championships and seven World Cross Country Championships, is also among the entrants.