Kenya’s former IAAF World Half Marathon Championships winner Wilson Kiprop will top the bill at the legendary 10km Giro Podistico di Castelbuono, an IAAF Gold Label Race, which is celebrates its 101st edition on Friday (26).
This race, one of the oldest road races in Europe, is the event of the year for Castelbuono, a small Sicilian village of 10000 inhabitants in the mountains.
Kiprop is no stranger to Italy but will compete in the race for the first time. One of his first high-profile wins was when he won the first of two back-to-back editions of the Vallagarina Cross Country race, near Rovereto, in 2008.
He clinched the World Half Marathon title in the Chinese city of Nanning 2010 breaking the unbeaten streak of Eritrean Zersenay Tadese.
Kiprop also triumphed last March at the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in 59:20. He has a Half Marathon personal best of 59:15, set in Berlin last year.
He will take on group of strong compatriots like Paul Lonyagata, who has dipped under the one hour barrier with a lifetime best of 59:53, and 2:05:46 Marathon performer Dickson Chumba, who set his personal best when winning in a course record time at the Marathon Eindhoven last year and who also won the Rome Marathon in 2011.
Other top Kenyans in the field include Emanuel Kipsang, William Kibor and Ezekiel Kiprotich.
Italian hopes lie with Andrea Lalli, the winner of the 2012 European Cross Country Championships. The red-haired runner from Campochiaro in the southern Italian region of Molise, who became the first runner in history to win continental titles in all three age-groups - junior, under 23 and senior - was forced to cancel his much-awaited marathon debut that was originally scheduled to happen in Rome last March due to a injury but he is bouncing back over the shorter distance and has a 10km road best of 28:55.
Lalli will not be the only Italian runner in the field, as the home contingent also features the well-known 38-year-old Gabriele De Nard and Marathon specialist Giovanni Gualdi.
It will not be only a battle between Italy and Kenya, as Morocco is also well represented by Rachid Kisri.
The Castelbuono race is traditionally held on 26t July, the holiday which celebrates Saint Anna, the Patron Saint of Castelbuono.
The race is not known only for its fascinating scenery and very tough course, but also for the knowledgeable crowd who pack the streets of Castelbuono to create a magical atmosphere. The course record was set by Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai who clocked 29:05 in 2011.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF