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Will Italy regain the team title in Skopje after a rare defeat in 2017?

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  • Will Italy regain the team title in Skopje after a rare defeat in 2017?

In the 23 previous stagings of the European Mountain Running Championships, Italy’s men have won the senior team title on 21 occasions.

The two times they failed to top the podium, that prized place was taken by France - in 1996 in Llanberis, Wales, and then 12 months ago in Kamnik, Slovenia - not that Italy did not have reason to celebrate last year as Xavier Chevrier won the senior title, as his nation topped the medal table with four medals.

On Sunday (1) in Skopje, as the event returns to being an up-and-down course as is customary in ‘even’ years, Chevrier is not defending his crown but his country should not panic.

He may be absent but there in the blue colours will be two of the greatest mountain runners of all-time, the Dematteis twins - Bernard and Martin. They take their place on the start line again after not running the event last year.

Just their presence alone will ensure the rest of the 83-man field will know how tough an early afternoon it is going to be on a course where the runners reach a highest point of 950m, with ascents of +700m and descents of -700m over the two loops across the 11km.

Bernard Dematteis won this title in 2013 and 2014 and his brother was champion in 2016 and history will be very much in the mind of the double gold medallist.

If Bernard triumphs again, he will match the record of fellow Italian Antonio Molinari, who was the European champion on three occasions: 1998, 1999 and 2001.

Now 32, the experience the Dematteis brothers will bring to this occasion will be immense, sharing 19 world medals.

In between their European successes from 2013 to 2016, Johan Brugge took the title in 2015, and the Norwegian is back again to challenge for more glory. Bugge was also sixth in 2017 where in third was Francesco Puppi, who takes his place once more in what is looking such a strong Italian squad.

But France will be a huge threat again as their team for Skopje includes three returning members of their gold medal-winning team from 2017 who will take to the Vodno Mountain to the south-west of the city looking to repeat that success.

In Kamnik, Emmanuel Meyssat was fourth, Didier Zago was fifth – 20 seconds behind him – and Julien Rancon was eighth, with this trio joined this time by Alexandre Fine.

There will be live results and live streaming from the event here.

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