Madrid’s San Silvestre Vallecana once again offers high-class line-ups in both the men’s and women’s races at the IAAF Silver Label road race on Sunday night (31).
The race is held on a slightly downhill 10km point-to-point course and starts alongside Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium before finishing on the pitch of another football team, Rayo Vallecano, in Madrid’s southern suburbs.
In the men's section, following the last-minute withdrawal of Spain’s newly minted European cross-country silver medallist Adel Mechaal through injury, the role of favourite should go to Eritrea’s Nguse Amlosom. The 31-year-old, who lives in Madrid and trains under the guidance of the Spanish coach Jerónimo Bravo, is the defending champion but has not raced since the IAAF World Championships in August.
Amlosom was unable to finish that race in London because of a psoas injury and only resumed training in October. Reportedly, he is now fully recovered and ready to run close to the 28:09 time which led him to the win here last year. The Eritrean finished ninth in the 10,000m at the 2016 Olympics, clocking 27:30.79. He is also an accomplished road runner and boasts a half-marathon PB of 59:39.
The Kenyan pair of Amos Kirui and Eric Kiptanui will try to deny Amlosom the top spot. 19-year-old Kirui is the world U20 steeplechase champion and has enjoyed a brilliant 2017 campaign, lowering his career best to 8:08:37 in Rome. Kirui’s only road 10km performance took place in late October when he clocked 29:21 in the 2300m altitude of Nyahururu.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Kiptanui holds a 1500m career best of 3:37.73 set in Nairobi, also at altitude. Sunday’s race will be his first competitive outing outside of Africa.
A safe bet for the top spots is always the 2006 European 5000m champion
Jesús España is always a safe bet for a podium finish. The 2006 European 5000m champion, now 39, has finished runner-up at this race 16 years ago and at the 2014 edition. More recently, España took a team silver medal at the European Cross Country Championships earlier this month. He will compete at the Seville Marathon on 25 February looking for a berth on the Spanish team for the European Championships in Berlin in what would be the last competitive event of his successful athletics career.
España will be key part of a powerful Spanish contingent which also includes two-time European cross-country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem, European 10,000m bronze medallist Toni Abadía and Javier Guerra, a 2:09:33 marathon runner.
Watch out too for Ireland’s Paul Pollock, who finished 14th at the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships, and Britain’s 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson, who won the Great South Run in October in 48:32.
The women’s race had been billed as a clash between past victors Tirunesh Dibaba and Gelete Burka, but visa problems have meant that multiple world and Olympic champion Dibaba will not be in Madrid.
But Burka showed in 2012 that she doesn’t need someone pushing her the whole way; on that occasion she set a race record of 30:53 to win by an 80-second margin.
It has been 11 years since she won the world short course cross-country title and nine years since she won the world indoor 1500m title, but Burka is still a fierce competitor. The 31-year-old Ethiopian this year won the Ethiopian 10,000m trial race for the World Championships, clocking 30:40.87 – the second-fastest time in the world this year – and more recently she set a half-marathon PB of 1:08:18 in Valencia.
Her rivals on Sunday will include Portugal’s Catarina Ribeiro, who placed 18th at the recent Europeans Cross Country Championships, and British marathon specialists Alyson Dixon, who finished 18th at this year’s World Championships, and Sonia Samuels, who placed seventh at last year’s Berlin Marathon.
Local hopes to make the podium rest on a trio of doctors: 1500m specialist Marta Pérez, steeplechaser Irene Sánchez-Escribano and Marta Esteban. Azucena Díaz, who finished fourth here last year in a PB of 33:08, should also fight for the minor place on the podium.
Forecasters predict a mild night on Sunday with temperatures ranging between 8-10C and a low likelihood of rain by the time the gun goes for the last IAAF Label road race of 2017.
In addition to the elite contest, there will be a mass race with no fewer than 40,000 entrants taking to the streets two-and-a-half hours before the main event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF