Saturday, August 11, 2018

WOC 2018 Shorts Day 4

Picnic time

Peter leads the way
Just time for another not properly numbered day before we get to the Relay. The spectator race only used the southern part of the WOC middle area, so we missed the steep green hills north of the Gauja river. That just left us to run round the steep green hills south of the Gauja river, although to be honest it wasn't as green as it could have been. But it was pretty steep, and my route choice through loose sand between cliffs was not ideal and required significant clinging to trees. We had the expected leg through the flat reedy area, and my compass and hope route choice was going really well until I found a control that wasn't mine on the direct line and decided to cut my losses and relocate off the path (™ Kinneberg, Hubmann and others, but they had it easier since their depression was closer to the path).

After that it was the traditional GB team picnic. This has taken many forms in the past, including a memorable taking over of a hotel corridor in the Ukraine in 2007, but this year everyone descended on the GB team hotel just south of Sigulda. It was the standard mix of athletes, coaches, parents, hangers-on (that's us) and even honorary Brits (Warren Key and some of his family). Peter had gone fully prepared with the photos he wanted, and all the athletes were brilliant in joining in.

GB Women's day to forget

Relay day brings us to the grounds of the castle at Turaida. Helen is happy because there is somewhere to sit on the slope above the finish run-in, thus avoiding hours more standing as it was for the sprint races. The British women have one of those days. Jo Shepherd has a steady run to hand over just over three minutes down in 13th. Megan attempts a novel round route choice near the end that gets her stuck in an area of rough open, and then gets confused right at the end around the castle. Cat starts fast but investigates a hill that no-one else had been to, and in the end the team failed to register a result since Megan had run straight past her penultimate control without punching it. Mystery of the day was why Tove Alexandersson hesitated so much in the parkland at the end of the last lap and allowed Judith Wyder to run Switzerland to victory.

GB Men's day to remember

Team GB
And then it was the men's turn. Peter Hodkinson ran out in the pack, came through the arena passage in the pack, agonisingly chose the wrong gaffle at control 11 and dropped 45 seconds as we watched the GPS tracking, but then took a good long route choice and found himself sprinting up the run-in to hand over to Kris Jones in third place. Kris had his normal storming relay run and Ralph went out in second place just four seconds behind Norway, but with eight teams in the next 90 seconds. Frenzied GPS watching in the media tent (with a short interruption to nip out to take photos at the arena run-through) and it got to control 13 and decision time: round to the right with climb early and a long flat run, or drop left down to the road, a flat run and a final killer 50m climb to the castle. Nine people were faced with the decision in about 30 seconds. The Norwegian went right, seven others went left (including Ralph) and Sweden went mad, gambling on a contouring route through green that dropped them nearly two minutes. The pack of seven started the final climb together, with Norway already at the top of the hill but with a long way still to go. And when it was all over Norway just managed to hold on to the lead, Switzerland and France won the race up the hill to take silver and bronze, and Ralph was left racing the Czech Republic before finally crossing the line in sixth place, just 37 seconds behind the winners.


37 seconds behind the winners sounded like quite a good result, so I had a more detailed look. This showed that it would have won 26 silver medals, six bronze medals and two fourth places in the previous 34 WOC relays. The Latvians can feel even more hard done by. They ended up 58 seconds down in eighth place, and the stats for that are almost identical.

The other two major stats of the week so far were the first medal for New Zealand (Tim Robertson in the sprint) and the first medal for a French woman (Isia Basset in the middle). France become the tenth country to win individual medals for both men and women, joining Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Great Britain and Ukraine.

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