World record holder Paul Tergat has backed Haile Gebrselassie to win Sunday's Flora London Marathon.
FLORA LONDON MARATHON
Sunday 23 April
BBC One: 0830-1350
BBC Two: 1810-1900
Kenyan Tergat was forced to pull out of the race with a calf injury on Wednesday, leaving Gebrselassie as a clear favourite to triumph.
"I would bet on Haile - he is a smart guy, he has learned a lot about tactics," Tergat said.
Despite Tergat's absence, the men's field is still one of the finest in the history of marathon running.
Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini, world champion Jaouad Gharib and 2005 winner Martin Lel will line up alongside double Olympic champion Gebrselassie.
For the first time at a major athletics event, the leading men's contenders will wear different coloured racing strips.
Baldini will sport a yellow vest, Lel will wear red and Gebrselassie blue.
Ethiopia's Gebrselassie has been in superb form coming into the race and is the bookmakers' 2-1 favourite to win.
He set a world-record 58 minutes 55 seconds for the half-marathon in Phoenix in January and then clocked another world record of 1:11:37 for 25km in Holland on 12 March.
But the 33-year-old is playing down talk of a world record for the full marathon on Sunday.
"When you talk of world-record times, you have to understand everything must be perfect - the weather, the course, the temperature. It is not always enough to be in good shape."
Gebrselassie also said he would run a more tactical race than he did in 2002, when, on his marathon debut, he was beaten across the line by Khalid Khannouchi.
"In 2002 I ended up being the pacemaker for almost 40km," he said. "That won't happen this time. I will treat it more as a championship."
Deena Kastor and Constantina Tomescu-Dita are expected to contest the women's title in the absence of three-time winner Paula Radcliffe, who will not be able to defend her crown because of a foot injury.
America's Kastor held off Romanian Tomescu-Dita to win by just five seconds in the Chicago Marathon last October.
The leading women contenders in London line up without Radcliffe
Kastor, 33, plans to make her win more emphatic in London and has set her sights on becoming the seventh woman to go under two hours and 20 minutes.
"I always aimed to run fast here - I am excited about my fitness levels and am definitely in shape to break 2:20," she said.
Former world 10,000m champion Berhane Adere from Ethiopia is another name to watch as she makes her debut over the distance.
Kenyan Margaret Okayo is out to add to her 2004 crown and will be challenged by compatriots Susan Chepkemei and Selina Kosgei.
The British challenge is led by Mara Yamauchi who finished 10th last year and has a personal best of 2:27.38.
Sportsmen: Sir Steve Redgrave, James Cracknell, Matthew Pinsent, Mark Bright, Luther Blissett, Michael Thomas
Models & actors: Nell McAndrew, Sophie Anderton, Jason Fleming, Patricia Potter, Tony Curran, Jennifer James, Chinna Wodu
Other: Gordon Ramsay, Lady Isabella Hervey, Princess Tamara, Rebecca Loos, Adam Crozier, Adrian Chiles, Zoe Salmon
The Japan-based athlete tuned up for her London bid by winning 10,000m bronze at the Commonwealth Games in March.
Nearly 34,500 runners will be taking part in the 26th London Marathon.
Five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave is bidding to raise £1.3m - the largest amount ever raised in a single event.
He will go head-to-head with former Olympic rowing team-mates Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell, who make their marathon debut.
Other celebrity runners include TV chief Gordon Ramsay, model Sophie Anderton, Jade Goody and fellow TV reality show star Rebecca Loos.