Sunday, July 16, 2006

WOC-12: The French Connection

And so we come to the first WOC I attended, based in Gerardmer-La Bresse near the French border with Germany. It seemed obvious to take in the 2-Day event in Holland on the way down, and we then managed a day of non-sightseeing in Amsterdam. For reference the Rijksmuseum is closed on Mondays (or at least it was in 1987). For some reason we decided that Strasbourg was the next place to visit on the way south, and eventually arrived at some sort of hostel that I can't remember at all. As a spectator it pays to know a few people, and this time round we managed to tag along with the GB B Team Tour, on the basis that two of them (Rob Lee and Mark Seddon) were in the car with us.

I vaguely remember getting to the qualification race as it finished, and then going to a training area covered in nettles in the rain. This was Les Xettes and for a long time had the distinction of being the only area I had run on beginning with the letter X. Some years later it was joined by Xian Yang, one of the areas for the Chinese 3-Day in 1995.

This was still a time when WOC was only a long race and a relay. British hopes focused squarely on Yvettte Hague, as they would do for several years to come. I seem to remember she'd won a World Cup race in France the year before, which was being optimistically seen as some sort of form guide. GB spectating at WOC is characterised by high hopes before the big races followed by what are normally pretty reasonable results considering, but not quite what you had hoped for. Every now and then the team slip in something completley unexpected, but that was yet to come, and for now we were still at the "not bad but not quite what we'd hoped for" stage.

Yvette managed 17th, and Bilbo managed 16th on the men's course. Not bad but not quite we were hoping for, as I said. So we left the sun-baked hillside after a day of spectating and settled for an evening of ethical discussion. The next day there was a French National event, and everybody knew that they would be running the World Champs course. Should you look at the course beforehand? I was pretty convinced it would make no difference to me, so I looked. Lots of others pretended not to, but who knows for sure? Anyway, the next day I got to run up the ski slope and out into the open area where the TV cameras weren't any more and down the staggeringly steep final hill and finally dragged myself round the 17k with 1000m of climb (or so it felt). My time was quite reasonable I thought, but we'll never know for sure since I don't think the French have yet got round to publishing the results even to this day. Running the actual World Championships course was one of the real attractions for spectators, but it seems to be one of the things that has now disappeared.

I don't rememebr much about the relays at all, other than waiting at the changeover to take a photo of Julie Martindale starting for Ireland on the last leg. Julie was in LOK, the same club as me, which is another of the attractions of orienteering at this level. It doesn't seem to take long before you get to know somebody who is a competitor, or at least that you run against regularly, or see at events. As another example of the rather small world of orienteering, the person handing over to Julie in France was Anne May, who I didn't know at the time. I have since got to know both her and her husband, who will turn up in a few days time sharing a hotel room with me on a trip to WOC 2001 in Finland.

Meanwhile back in Denmark I see that Jamie Stevenson won the middle test race. Probably doesn't mean a great deal at this stage, but one thing to note is how tight the times have been on all the courses so far. Looks like we might be in for some very close races indeed.

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