After the thrilling racing at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships earlier this month, attention for aficionados of this discipline turns to the 2023 European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country in Spanish town of Oropesa del Mar on Sunday 5 February.
Hosted by the reigning ECCC Cross Country women’s and mixed relay champions from 12 month ago, Playas de Castellón, this will be the 58th edition of the event.
In little mor than five weeks’ time, the picturesque Mediterranean venue just 90 kilometres north of Valencia will welcome more than 400 athletes from an expected 25 countries competing for honours in the senior and U20 men’s and women’s races and the mixed relay, that latter being and popular and successful addition to the programme in 2022.
This will be the third time that Playas de Castellón have staged the event after well-received editions in 2012 and 2013, while Spain last hosted the ECCC Cross Country in 2015 when it was in Guadalajara.
The 1920m circuit (details of which can be found here) will also be familiar to runners for local teams as the Spanish cross country championships have been held there three times in the last decade.
Despite being almost flat, the circuit designed for the event will certainly be challenging as each lap, runners will have to negotiate approximately 260 metres of sandy beach, which the organisers described in a rather unstated manner as “something very unusual in cross country events”.
In addition, this section of the course is also where the runners will face one of the most difficult parts of the circuit, what the organisers have dubbed ‘La Curva de la Muerte’ – or ‘The Death Turn’ in English – a 180-degree turn on a sandy surface which runs downhill.
The majority of the course, about 1500 metres, will be natural grass per lap but additional difficulty will come from a series of narrow sharp turns which will have little room in which to pass.
Playas de Castellón have a budget of approximately €250,000 to stage the event, much of the funding coming from the local public authorities including Castellón Provincial Council, the Oropesa City Council and the Generalitat Valenciana (the Valencia regional council).
Este año no falla https://t.co/WOnQwx6NR1— CA Playas de Castellón (@atletismoplayas) November 26, 2022
Although teams have yet to be declared one of the stars of the event could be Playas de Castellón’s very own Rodrigue Kwizera, the defending men’s senior champion.
Kwizera has had a stunning winter on Spanish soil with by beating world-class opposition with victories at the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold meetings in Amorebeita, Alcobendas and Venta de Baños as well as finishing second in Sevilla. The Burundi international is based in Spain has been proudly competing in his green Playas de Castellón club vest all winter.
He will be looking to become the first man since Spain's Ayad Lamdassem won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Tracing its history back to 1962, the ECCC Cross Country can boast of being the second oldest regional competition in the world after the Balkan cross country championships.
The 2023 ECCC Cross Country will be live streamed with further details to be announced closer to the time.