Today was the first race of this year’s edition of European Youth Orienteering Championships. Based in Banská Bystrica, in central Slovakia, the team had an early start to catch the bus to the sprint area in Banksá Štiavnica, a UNESOC world heritage centre around an hour away.
Despite several bus drivers getting lost on the way, everyone arrived to quarantine with plenty of time before their starts. After some Mario Kart, puzzles and cake (for the coaches) in quarantine, the first of the runners made their way through the -15(!) minute call up, as the racing got underway.
The area and courses were very different from at home; the race was held in a town on the side of a valley, with steep roads and narrow alleys between gardens. There were only 1 or 2 route options each leg; but it was often tricky to decide which to take, as the climb and surfaces varied a lot. With a spectator control, and then final run in next to the castle on the hill in the town, courses involved a considerable amount of climb and were physically very challenging. The hills, however, did mean there was good value spectating, trying to spot the GB vests on the narrow paths through the houses, on the other side of the valley.
GB's best result of the day came from debutant Eilidh Campbell, as she recorded a fantastic 11th place in the W16 class.
Eilidh reflected after the race saying:
"I lost time in a couple of places and with a cleaner race, I could have been even higher, which is great news, as it gives room for improvement in the future!" There was early GB excitement in the arena when Freddie was announced coming in in the lead in M18, but unfortunately, he had mispunched, having missed out the spectator control. Finlay and Ali (also M18) had good races, both finishing just outside the top 20, and only one second apart having run very similar races. In W18, our best placing was Laura in 30th place. After a tough day in the town, everyone is looking forward to getting out into the forest tomorrow in the Long race and seeing what the team can do on the slopes of Munto."