A look ahead to the European Cross Country Championships in Italy

Great Britain has a very healthy relationship with the Spar European Cross Country Championships. For 13 years in a row, the nation has finished top of the medal table, with the senior women striking team gold on the last three occasions.

For this year’s event on Sunday (December 11) the 36-strong British squad have high ambitions and more gold medals on their minds as they set off to see what lies in store in Chia, Italy.

The last time this event was held in Italy – 10 years ago — also happens to be the last time that a Briton tasted victory in the senior men’s race. Andrew Butchart hopes to follow in the footsteps of 2006 winner Mo Farah and heads a British team which is rich in ability and also includes some crucial experience.

An individual honour in Chia, following a season which brought a sixth-place finish in the Olympic 5000m in Rio and a string of Scottish record-breaking performances, would be a fitting end to Butchart’s 2016.

Given that he is joined in the senior race by Callum Hawkins, Ben Connor, Dewi Griffiths, Ross Millington and Andy Vernon, optimism abounds concerning the chances of Britain’s men matching the team bronze they secured last year at the very least.

Standing in the way, among others, will be a formidable Turkish line-up which includes the Kenyan-born 2014 winner Polat Kemboi Arikan – who finished 13th in the Olympic 10,000m in Rio.

As has been already outlined, Britain’s senior women are no strangers to success when it comes to this event. For Gemma Steel it will be the 2014 champion’s fourth straight appearance at the European Cross, following her fourth straight trials win.

Trials runner-up Charlotte Arter’s presence, along with that of Olympian Steph Twell (sixth last year), enhances the women’s team further. They are joined by Katrina Wootton, Emily Hosker-Thornhill and Pippa Woolven.

There will be fierce opposition in the form of Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack and Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal, a bronze medallist last year, is likely to be in the mix as well.

Britain’s Jonathan Davies has a title to defend in the under-23 race, while Rebecca Murray surprised herself by coming home as first under-23 in Liverpool and will now be looking for further cause for celebration in Chia.

The focus of British attention in the men’s under-20 race will be triathlete Alex Yee. Harriet Knowles-Jones came close to women’s under-20 gold in Hyeres last year but was outsprinted by Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen and had to settle for silver. The two will meet again in Chia, with Klosterhalfen starting as favourite, while Victoria Weir won the trials at Sefton Park ahead of Knowles-Jones.

The full GB team can be found listed here.

» See the December 8 edition of AW magazine for our full three-page preview, including a timetable and GB team list. The December 15 magazine will include coverage of the event, which will be televised live on the BBC Red Button from 9:10am GMT