Kenya will seek an unprecedented second sweep of all six gold on offer at Sunday's World Cross-Country Championships to further wrest power away from traditional rivals Ethiopia.
The Kenyans dominated proceedings in Bydgoszcz, Poland, last year, Joseph Ebuyer and Emily Chebet claiming the individual senior titles, while the junior races and both team events also all went the way of the east African nation.
Neither Ebuyer nor Chebet will be back to defend their crowns having failed to even finish their national trials, but such is the depth in running talent in Kenya that their replacements are installed among the firm favourites.
Further Kenyan success would be a hammer-blow to Ethiopia, whose athletes won 20 of the 30 individual titles between 2004 and 2009, but are now slightly rudderless in the absence of Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba.
On offer to the athletes is a total prize fund of $280,000 in the senior races at the coastal Spanish resort southwest of the southern city of Seville. It is also the final time the world championships will be held before it becomes biennial.
In the senior men’s 12 km race, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai and Ethiopian Hunegaw Mesfin come in as the bookmakers’ favourites, having both won their respective domestic trials.
Mutai is better known as a top-rated marathon runner, the 29-year-old policeman having clocked the sixth fastest time ever (2:04:55) in Rotterdam last April.
Also in the running for a medal will likely be last year's silver and bronze medallists, Teklemariam Medhin of Eritrea and Ugandan Moses Kipsiro respectively.
“I want to win the World Championship in Spain," said Medhin. "It would be fantastic as I spend some time here based in Madrid. This is a fast circuit with perfect grass. It's a good course to run fast.”
Kipsiro, who won the 5000-10,000m double at October's Commonwealth Games, has since suffered problems with his knee, but should be there at the finish of the 12 km course raced over six 2 km-laps.