Wow! How good was that!
Monday evening in the old town section of Trento-Piazza Duomo, was the scene for the first ever WOC Sprint Relay, a format that had divided opinion of the relevance of it as part of the WOC program. After the experience yesterday maybe there will be a different perspective on this format in the future as it was certainly very exciting for the spectators and we hope those of you in Australia who were watching it were just as excited about the event.
The format with the women starting first in a mass start meant that we had 34 women lined up on the start line and they had to navigate their way to the first controls through a very narrow funnel of spectators for over 200m, just like the peloton in the Tour de France. As well there were cafes to be avoided and many locals just wandering around. Rachel Effeney was our first starter and what a great start she had. She was seen to run into the first passage way in third place and held this position until towards the end of her course. Rachel put Australia in a great position coming into the finish in sixth place 14 seconds down on the leader, sending Julian Dent out on the second leg. Julian tried to hold onto some impressive runners around him and had a pretty clean run but just could not maintain the speed required to stay in touch. He handed over to Simon Uppill with the team in 10th place 50 seconds behind the lead. Simon also had a relatively clean run but just could not maintain the speed to stay in touch. The rain had been threatening all afternoon and after some light rain since the beginning of the race, it started to rain heavily as Simon was running the third leg. Simon handed over to Hanny Allston with the team in equal 12th place but Hanny was not too far behind some runners so we were optimistic that the position could be improved on the last leg. Hanny was running in heavy rain and we were trying to follow her on the GPS in the arena but things were happening so quickly we weren’t sure what was happening. On the run through it was clear Hanny had gained some places and on the long leg in the second part of the course she took a left route choice and the runners around her went right. This turned out to be a good choice as she managed to get in front of the group including Norway. At the end Hanny was in a sprint with the Lithuanian runner for 9th place. There was a sharp turn into the finish and Hanny was unable to get past. She made up 2 places on the fourth leg- so the team finished a fantastic 10th place- 2:41 seconds behind the winners Switzerland. There were some very excited team members as well as Australian spectators when Hanny finished in the pouring rain.
The winners of the sprint were the Swiss team of Rahel Friederich, Martin Hubmann, Matthias Kyburz, Judith Wyder who were clear winners after Matthias Kyburz took the lead away from Denmark on the third leg. These two countries were the favourites and were in first and second place throughout the race. With the combination of two big screens showing the live GPS and TV pictures, great commentary from Per Forsberg and also a run through the arena was a very exciting place to be for the duration of the event.
A great day for Australia to be in the top 10 countries in this inaugural sprint relay. The team has a rest day today and are planning for the Long Distance event on Wednesday when we will have Hanny Allston and Vanessa Round in the women’s event and Simon Uppill in the men’s. The long distance will be held in the hills and valleys of Lavarone with stretches of alpine, pine, spruce and beech forest. The terrain is a mix of areas with good visibility, forest with good runnability, and areas where vegetation is more dense and running speed is reduced. The women have a distance of 11km and a winning time of 77 minutes, the men have a distance of 16.4km and a winning time of 97 minutes. The first start for the women will be at 12:00 (20:00 EST) and the men start at 12:50 (20:50 EST). The start interval is 2 minutes and the start order is determined by the athletes World ranking.