Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa takes the tape to win the 1997 BUPA Great North Run (© Getty Images)
Following the withdrawal through injury of James Moiben (KEN), winner of the Brussels Cross in December, South Africa's Hendrik Ramaala will start firm favourite to win this year's Coca-Cola Belfast International Cross Country, which will take place on the Barnett Demesne/QUB playing fields in Belfast at 2.30 pm local time tomorrow, Saturday, 24 January.
Ramaala will be closely pressed over the 8km course by the man following him in the standings, Yann Millon of France, who currently is just three points behind Ramaala with 43 points to Ramaala's 46, both after three races.
But neither man should underestimate the challenge which could come from British runner Keith Cullen (currently 8th in the Standings) and Seamus Power from the Republic of Ireland. Both are likely to receive strong support from the local crowds and both placed ahead of Ramaala in Durham on 3 January this year.
In the 4.8km women's race, the support and the money will be on Britain's 5000m record holder Paula Radcliffe. With the withdrawal of veteran Elena Fidatov (ROM) through injury, who was undoubtedly Radcliffe's strongest challenger, and assuming that Radcliffe is now over the debilitating influenza which caused her to drop out of the Durham race on 3 January, she should only be challenged for supremacy in Belfast by Joyce Chepchumba (KEN), who is running her first race of the Cross Challenge this year and Mariana Chirila of Romania, who came third in Durham on 3 January and 12th in Amorebieta a week later.
Full results and a report from Belfast will be posted on the IAAF web site shortly after the event.