Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich will return to Alcobendas as the man to beat at the 35th Cross Internacional de la Constitución on Sunday (27), the second of three Spanish races scheduled for the 2016-17 IAAF Cross Country Permit series.
The 25-year-old has kicked off the season in strong form having been narrowly beaten by Aweke Ayalew in Atapuerca two weeks ago and winning last weekend’s Campo a Traves Internacional de Soria in style. The Ugandan will be looking for his second win at this event in the outskirts of Madrid after his 2014 success to secure a third consecutive appearance on the podium following his runner-up finish behind Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola last year.
Toroitich’s most dangerous rival over the 10km contest should be Eritrea’s Aron Kifle who finished second in Soria last weekend, 10 seconds behind the victor. Just 18, Kifle is the world U20 10,000m silver medallist and holds an impressive career best of 27:26.20. Coached by Jerónimo Bravo, the Madrid-based rising star will be joined by Goitom Kifle (no relation) who is still rounding into form. He was 12th in Atapuerca and a distant third in Soria.
Kenyan sub-eight-minute steeplechaser Jairus Birech was a creditable fifth in Atapuerca and should also be in the hunt for the podium. The same goes for Bahrain’s El Hassan Elabbassi, a fine 15th at last year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships and third at the IAAF permit meeting in Elgoibar back in January.
European championship berths on the line
The Spanish armada will be composed of European 5000m silver medallist Adel Mechaal, Ayad Lamdassem, Fernando Carro, Daniel Mateo, Sergio Sánchez, former European 5000m champion Jesús España and Carlos Mayo, who was tenth in Atapuerca. While Mayo will fight for the U-23 European medals in Chia, Italy, in two weeks' time, the others will fiercely battle for the berths still at stake for the Spanish team.
Italy will line up with the young and talented triumvirate of Yemaneberhan Crippa, Pietro Riva and Johannes Chiappinelli. The former is the current European junior 5000m bronze medallist who also finished eighth at the European Championships last summer. More recently Crippa was tenth at a 10km road race in Trento in early October.
Riva won the European junior 10,000m title in 2015 and set a PB of 29:25.09 to finish tenth at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz last summer. Still a junior, he dipped again under the 30-minute barrier (29:58) for third at a 10km road event in Rennes last October. Chiappinelli is the European junior 3000m steeplechase champion.
The women’s 8km competition will be led by Ireland’s two-time European cross-country champion Fionnuala McCormack.
The 32-year-old proved to be in fine form in Atapuerca where she was fifth and should be regarded as one of the key favourites alongside Ethiopia’s Etenesh Diro, a 9:14.07 steeplechaser who finished fifth at the London 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
More recently, Diro ran the final two laps of her steeplechase heat at the Rio Olympics minus one shoe after losing it in a collision. She advanced to the final on appeal where she finished a distant 13th. The 25-year-old also boasts a 14:33.30 5000m PB set in September’s IAAF Diamond League fixture in Brussels.
Italy’s Veronica Inglese might well complete the top three on Sunday as the 26-year-old grabbed silver at the European Championships last summer over the half marathon distance. More recently, Inglese won a 10km road race in Bari, clocking 31:52.
The local challenge will be headed by the Ethiopian-born Trihas Gebre and 40-year-old Nuria Fernández, who raced to the 2010 European 1500m title in Barcelona.
Some of the illustrious past winners in Alcobendas include Zersenay Tadese (2005), Gebre Gebremariam (2008 and 2009), Joseph Ebuya (2007 and 2010), Sally Barsosio (1995) and Linet Masai (2008 and 2015).
Weather forecasters predict partly cloudy conditions with a 50% chance of rain, and a start time temperature of 11C expected.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF