International Orienteering Relay
The 58th Jukola Relay and the 29th Venla Relay
Jukola 2006 took place near the small Finnish town Salo, some 80 Km from Turku. A record number of teams took part, 1362 teams of 7 men in Jukola and 871 teams of 4 women in Venla. The estimated attendance was about 30,000 people, with support crew, spectators and media giving the 24-hour Jukola village an exciting atmosphere.
The terrain was reasonably typical for south-western Finland with detailed bare rock areas high up on the hills with tough, green forest in between. The terrain in Salo is known to be tougher than is usual for the region with bigger climbs – the difference in altitude between the lowest and the highest point in the terrain was 75 metres. Single climbs in the races were up to 60 meters and total climb was over 5 %.
The women’s Venla relay was first on Saturday afternoon and Allison Jones (OK Linne Team 2) ran a respectable first leg to bring her team home around 4.5 minutes behind in 81st place. A disqualification of the Linne 1st Team on the 3rd leg added some pressure to Jones’ team which finished in 62nd place. Mace Neve raced the 2nd leg for IFK Moras 2nd team . She wasn’t pleased with her race and dropped some places to finish in 121st place. After a bad start Ulricehamns OK from Sweden charged through the field and finished strongly with World Champion Simone Niggli to take their 3rd consecutive victory in Venla. Fellow Swiss runner Vroni König-Salmi held Turun Suunistajat in 2nd place and Norwegian national team runner Marianne Andersen similarly held her team Nydalens SK in 3rd.
The nights are not very long in Finland in June and sunset on Saturday was at 10.49 p.m., just 11 minutes before the start of Jukola. Rob Walter (Malungs OK Skogsmådarna) and Ben Rattray (OK Hällen) started in the mass start of over 1300 runners on the first leg for their teams. As the sun disappeared and the stream of headlights wound its way down the start chute and steeply up into the forest Walter got himself into a good position and ran near the front of the field for most of the race. A small mistake on the second last control on a technical, rocky hillside cost him slightly over 2 minutes and 8 places, but 17th over the line and only 3 minutes down meant he’d kept his team in the game. Rattray didn’t fare so well in the twilight, making some large mistakes and struggling to pass the slower runners he dropped behind, finishing 487th.
Sunrise on Sunday morning was at 3.54 and for those who hadn’t slept it brought some warmth back to the Jukola arena after a clear and cold night. Walters team Malungs had taken the lead during the night and some big mistakes had dropped some strong teams further down the leaderboard than they would have liked. Troy de Haas was sent out on the 6th leg for Rasti-Kurikka in 24th place. He had a solid race with 38th fastest time (7 minutes behind) on his leg against some stiff competition, to send his team out in 25th on the 7th and final leg. “Near the end I lost the ever important contact, 2mins mistake” said De Haas, who will stay in Europe in preparation for the World Championships in Denmark in August.
As Finish club Vehkalahden Veikot (Tero Föhr) started the last leg with a 1.37 lead over Halden (Mats Haldin) the final places were still up for grabs. Halden was quickly gaining time on Vehkalahden Veikot and just 2.5 minutes behind Halden was a pack including Kalevan Rasti (Thierry Gueorgiou), Södertälje Nykvarn (Matthias Muller), Tampereen Pyrintö (Evgeny Fadeev) and Delta (Valentin Novikov). Veikot managed to hold on for the win, Gueorgiou showing he is looking good for a 4th straight World Championship title by moving his team into second place and pulling in all but 43 seconds (of 4.10) on Veikot. In an unusually scrappy race Mats Haldin dropped Halden down to 5th, with Tampereen Pyrintö 3rd and Södertälje 4th. Rob Walters team Malungs dropped some places during the final legs but finished in a respectable 9th place. De Haas’ team Rasti-Kurikka held their place (and stay on the podium) to finish 24th. David Shepherd, running for Swedish club Göteborg-Majorna OK, was sent out in 44th place and made up some places his team lost through mistakes during the night. Shepherd started with 2003 Sprint Distance World Champion Jamie Stevenson (Farum-Tisvilde) and Mats Troeng (OK Linne), chasing 2005 Long Distance World Champion Andrej Kramov (Pan Åhus). With just 4 controls and around 1Km to go Shepherd had pulled GMOK up to 34th place and had a lead of around 20 seconds on Kramov, Stevensson and Troeng, but a steep, rocky downhill and long finish chute favoured the chasing group and Shepherd dropped back to be 38th over in the finish, with 33rd fastest time on the 14Km last leg.