The final international junior competition of the 2017 season saw a strong contingent from Great Britain make their way across to the small thermal spa town of Fürstenfeld in south-east Austria to compete against several of the best nations in the Junior European Cup. The format of the weekend comprised the Relay at the woodland adjacent to the Fürstenfeld Open air pool on Friday afternoon, followed by the Long race on Saturday morning in Commendewald forest and then finally the Sprint running out of the JUFA hotel accommodation and into the old town of Fürstenfeld. The three races took place over a short, 40 hour period, so the athlete’s recovery strategies would be put to the ultimate test.
The relay saw six GB teams take to the field and some strong first leg performances, in particular by Fiona Bunn (2nd) for GB Women’s 1, Freddie Carcas (5th) for GB Men’s 2 and Alex Carcas (8th) for GB Men’s 1, saw several of them in early contention for medals. However, it was not to be, as gradually the team’s second leg runners fell back amongst the pack and the third leg runners were left to fight for pride and placings. The best GB results were the Men’s 2nd team (12th overall and 8th nation) and GB Women’s 1st team (14th overall and 9th nation). Overall, the squad could take confidence from several good individual performances and many of the six GB debutants acquitted themselves well and this set the expectations high for the remaining individual races.
Freddie Carcas (M18) discussed his relay race, where he brought the Men’s 2nd team back in 5th, and said: “The relay race went pretty well. I was riding my luck occasionally, but generally I was in touch with the pack and although I dropped a bit of time to number 1, because of route choice, and I made a small mistake towards the end, overall it went really well and it was nice to beat my brother!”
The squad knew that the Long race terrain was due to be quick, with only a few steep slopes and green patches in places to slow the runners down. Early athletes emerging from the forest confirmed these expectations and the planner’s EWT of 50-60 minutes was easily beaten, with the M/W18 classes being won in 45 and 47 minutes respectively. In terms of GB performances, Fiona continued her good form, running up a class and coming in 7th, and Laura King registered her first top 20 of the summer, coming home in 18th in W18. However, the stand out performance was that of Grace Molloy, who returned to form, following a disappointing relay the previous day, to finish in 3rd and take her first GB medal in an international junior competition.
Finally, early on the last day, the Sprint race unfolded, with the promise of good results from several athletes who had shown previous form in this discipline. This they duly delivered, with six top 10’s being recorded across the classes and with all M/W18 runners finishing in the top half of their fields. Fiona repeated her 7th from the previous day, Laura moved up into 10th, Alastair Thomas (M18) also sneaked into the top 10, Freddie Carcas followed up his relay performance with a creditable 7th and Eddie Narbett (M18) finished an excellent 6th in his first international sprint race in a GB vest. Again, top of the pile, was Grace, repeating her bronze medal run from the day before and recording an outstanding double medal achievement.
Grace reflected on her podium performances this weekend: “I knew from the relay that I was in good physical shape, but I also knew that I needed to improve and hold my navigation together better for the Long race. I thought the terrain would be fast, with minimal route choice, so it was all going to be about finding the controls in the most efficient fashion. I made a mistake early on, but after the 1st control, I was pretty much clean the rest of the way around. Regarding the Sprint, I didn’t have many aspirations going into it, having not done much speed work recently. However, FVO are running a new local sprint series and this seemed to help me and this, along with the specific geeking of the previous JEC map and the ‘open’ embargo of the area beforehand, allowed me to prepare really well. On the day, I didn’t feel particularly quick, but I was clean and this proved to be enough!”
Fiona Bunn was asked about her strong showing over the weekend and she said about her second place in the relay: “I felt the pace was comfortable and I focussed on ensuring I kept the navigation clean and could put Grace out in the best possible placing. I came in to JEC with a calf niggle and couldn’t push to the max on the dead running sections. It improved over the weekend and the adrenaline of racing certainly helped in this regard. The two 7th’s in the Long and Sprint were solid results and I was pleased with my consistency, but maybe the injury took away some of my top pace.”
Overall, the team had much to be proud of from their efforts in Austria and can take a lot of confidence from this competition into their winter training. A brief transition phase will now take place before the squad begin their base phase in November and the first camp in Edinburgh.
Photos supplied by JEC organising club, Furstenfeld OC.
More photos from the weekend events can be found here.