It was back to Tesserete for the Men’s and Women’s Relays, the penultimate races of this years European Championships.
The forests which would meet the competitors were open and fast beech woods, with little in the way of vegetation to impede the runnability. This meant that the runners would have to cope with an extremely high running pace throughout the race, which would mean the risk of over running and making a mistake was extremely high.
The Women’s relay kicked off proceeding, with Jess Tullie of GBR1 (supported by Cat Taylor and Hollie Orr) and Jo Shepherd for GBR2 (followed by Charlotte Watson and Alice Leake) leading off for the Brits. The pace was high right from the start, with Switzerland’s Judith Wyder for their first team taking the lead and never relinquishing it. Behind, the chasers could only scramble for positions in the pack, with the Fins and Swedes leading the charge, but Jess and Jo well placed.
Onto the second Leg and the Swiss first teams lead began to come under pressure from one of their own runners. The second team runner Simone Aebersold slowly began to close down on her teammate Elena Roos, catching her by the second TV split at the “Tower of Spirits”, before turning what had begun as a 30-second deficit into a minutes lead by the changeover. Behind a chasing pack of Russia, Sweden and Finland had formed but could do nothing to impact on the pace of Aebersold. Cat Taylor for GBR1 was slowly moving through the places from 14th and would change over in 8th place just ahead of Ida Bobach of Denmark, sending out Hollie Orr and Maja Alm together, 3 and a half minutes down on the lead.
Sarina Jenzer of SUI2 would feel the pressure from behind almost immediately, with her teammate Julia Gross slicing her lead in half by the first radio. To the TV control at the “Tower of Spirits”, it was Sui1 ahead of the chasers, with SUI2 falling back but still holding onto second and Sweden’s Karolin Olsson closing the gap to the lead. Olsson would soon create a gap to her fellow chasers, but not enough to make any major inroads into the lead of Gross until she made a mistake on the third to last control. This allowed Denmark’s Alm, who had been running the quickest out of everyone in the forest and had bridged the minute or so gap to the chasing pack back into the hunt for the silver medal. Both women entered the finishing straight together, but it was Sweden who would have the better sprint finish and take the silver, with Denmark settling for bronze. Sadly, Alm’s relentless pace was too much for Orr, who would bring the team home in a commendable 7th place.
Onto the men’s race, and with the favourable terrain, the race was wide open for a fantastic British result. Kris Jones would start first for GBR1 (followed by Peter Hodkinson and Ralph Street) with Hector Haines - making his debut this week - running for GBR2 (supported by Sasha Chepelin and Ali McLeod). The pace from the start was ferocious, with the Swiss teams wanting to romp away with another gold and the Swedish (who have had a sub-par championships for their men’s team) looking to put their championships back on track.
There was much changing in the lead throughout the first Leg, but Kris remained in the top-three throughout, even breaking away with Florian Howald of Switzerland 2 at the arena passage, before they were closed down; but Kris didn’t falter, coming in in the lead of a quartet of runners.
It was a lead, but a small one. Peter Hodkinson was under pressure in a pack which included several world champions, including Matthias Kyburz, Fabian Hertner and Magne Daehli. Peter kept his cool, did his own navigation and by the time of the long, ungaffled leg back to the arena he was in the pack and holding on. Sadly the elastic snapped after the arena passage and Pete would lose a minute from an additional small mistake but had done a fantastic job at keeping GBR in touch for a bronze.
Out on last Leg and Ralph Street was being hunted down by some of the best last leg runners in the world. A couple of small errors at the start of the Leg meant that Ralph was on the back foot, with Czech, France and Russia hunting him down. It was France who would sneak ahead, with Fredric Tranchand breaking away from the chase and clear into bronze. Small mistakes from all the runners would creep into their runs, with Ralph entering the long Leg back to the arena in fourth place. By the run through though the Czechs have snuck ahead and by the finish, it was as precious, with Ralph finishing in 5th, just behind Vojtech Kral of Czech in 4th.
1) Switzerland 1 1:45:56
2) Sweden 1 +2:11
3) Denmark 1 +2:13
Cecilie Friberg Klysner
1) Norway 1 1:55:40
2) Switzerland 1 +0:30
3) France 1 +3:07