Thursday, 11 September 2008

Junior European Cup, Belgium, 31st August - 1 September

Six Irish Juniors ran at the Junior European Cup in Belgium at the beginning of the month, accompanied by leaders David Healy and Ruth Lynam. Nick Simonin was out of action due to illness, so the team was: M20 Ruairi Short, Colm Hill, Fiach O'Rourke, and M18 Alan Lane, Kevin O'Boyle, Niall Ewen.
Based in Arlon, on the Luxembourg border, the terrain was generally flat forest with a few steep-sided valleys, intricately mapped vegetation, and myriads of charcoal-burning circles & tree stumps. Apart from a couple of route choice legs among the valleys, the navigation relied largely on compass work, counting off paths, and interpreting vegetation changes near the controls - the straight route was nearly always best.
The competition consisted of Middle Distance on Saturday, Long on Sunday and Relay on Monday. Switzerland, France, Czech Republic & Russia hogged the prizegiving in the individual events. The turnout was poor though - only 12 countries attended, and the standard was very high - the Irish results should be judged by relative times rather than by placings. In general the Irish – and notably the inexperienced M18s Alan, Kevin & Niall - ran well-controlled races, not error-free but keeping time losses small and relocating very well. Fiach fell foul of Emit in the Middle Distance, and Ruairi mispunched in the Long, redeeming himself somewhat with a very good run in the Relay.
The Relay provided the most excitement. The terrain was similar to that of the previous two races, with the addition of a small very technical contour area which caught out lots of the best teams. Austria & Germany surprised everyone including probably themselves by taking 1st & 2nd in the Mens' Relay. From the Irish point of view Colm, Kevin & Niall set up a suspense-filled final leg against Spain. Full results are here.

Ruth Lynam.

Niall Ewen adds ...
The 2008 Junior European Cup was held in the spacious forests surrounding the city of Arlon in southern Belgium. The team consisted of Ruairi Short, Colm Hill and Fiach O’Rourke running M20 and Niall Ewen, Kevin O’Boyle and Alan Lane (M18), all under the watchful eyes of Ruth Lynam and David Healy.

Receiving a telephone call while still in bed at 5:50 on Friday morning announcing the car is waiting outside, and fully believing that I had another hour before I had to go, is always fun but it was decided that some of us were already working on Belgium time.
After a short hop to Brussels Charleroi we drove to Neufchateau about 30 km north of Arlon where it was possible to stay in a sports centre that night and collect training maps.
We woke early on Saturday morning and drove to Arlon and the Middle Distance event.
At this point it should be mentioned that the maps consisted of about 1500 tree stumps marked “x” and an equal number of charcoal burning platforms marked “o”, wide contours, every shade of vegetation and one shoe-stealing fence just before the run in. This required a completely different thought process and approach to routes (mainly straight through everything).
The accommodation was in the grounds of a sports centre in six-bed chalets, food was spot on - mainly pastas and fruit. A free pool sealed the deal and provided a cool place to pass the day post-race.
The long distance was, well, …. long and the temperature was pretty high. That night I woke to see one of the squad members (who will remain unnamed) leaving the chalet and after sleepwalking into the Czech chalet woke to find one of its occupants staring at him, so, dazed and confused, he ran back into what he thought was the Irish chalet, only to awake to the sound of two of the JEC organisers talking, but third time he returned to our chalet.
Day three and we arrived at the relay passing signs for army tanks in the forest. Teams were, Team 1 Fiach, Ruairi, Alan and Team 2 Colm, Kevin and myself. The men’s relay started and slowly started to return through the first spectator control. Fiach passed and began loop two, still no Colm. Fifteen minutes later Colm arrives through the first spectator shouting that he had stood in a wasps’ nest and needed sting cream at the second spectator control. When Colm stood on the nest he had to run in any random direction away from a cloud of angry wasps and map contact was somewhat lost. Colm then flew through the second spectator control saying very politely that he in fact did not require any cream at that point and would continue the race. Kev was tagged and flew through his course. I waited in the start box next to the last Spanish runner. Kev came down the run-in followed by the Spanish second leg. After a mistake in the forest the Spaniard had 20 seconds on me at the first spectator control; by the second spectator control I had 20 on him seconds after dropping him in a technical contour section; at the third last control I made my move and lost the Spaniard and as I punched the control I could hear Colm’s voice echoing through the trees.

Driving back to the airport after the largest chicken dinner ever in the sport centre, we came upon some road works, first there were rows of six inch high nails sticking out of the road, then a series of deep pits. Dave made a joke saying it was like something out of the prince of Persia computer games and was waiting for swinging blades or something. A minute later we passed four huge circular saws sticking out of the road: the car erupted in laughter.

Results in brief:
Middle Distance
H18 4.3km, 37 competitors: 1 Lucas Basset FRA 24:39, 28 Alan Lane IRL IRL 39:57, 29 Kevin O'Boyle IRL 40:13, 32 Niall Ewen IRL 43:37
H20 4.6km, 29 competitors: 1 Benjamin Lepoutre FRA 28:51, 16 Ruairi Short IRL 37:46, 24 Colm Hill IRL 56:02, Fiach O'Rourke IRL nc
Long Distance
H18 9.9km, 37 competitors: 1 Florian Howald SWI 59:32, 30 Alan Lane IRL 79:42, 32 Kevin O'Boyle IRL 85:14, 36 Niall Ewen IRL 104:19
H20 10.8km, 29 competitors: 1 Thibaut Poupard FRA 65:38, 24 Colm Hill IRL 88:29, 26 Fiach O'Rourke IRL 89:52, Ruairi Short IRL mp
Relay 5.2km, 19 teams + 3 mixed: 1 Austria 31:34, 31:59, 31:39. 16 Ireland 1 Fiach O'Rourke 44:45, Ruairi Short 35:10, Alan Lane 51:30. 17 Ireland 2 Colm Hill 60:13, Kevin O'Boyle 49:05, Niall Ewen 53:55.