After the madness of April there has been relatively little activity in May up until the last two weeks. These have seen the final WOC training camp in Estonia, on which Lizzie Ingham reports below, and then the first round of the World Cup giving another wonderful sprint performance from Tim Robertson. Both perhaps give some pointers to WOC which now looms on the horizon and for which we look at what is realistic from the point of view of NZL.
World Cup Round 1
With WOC just around the corner the first round of the 2017 World Cup, held in Finland, gave a few interesting pointers ot what might be expected, as well as giving the NZL JWOC team a look, via the live-tracking and TV presentation, at the kind of terrain that they may experience in July.
The undoubted highlight for New Zealand was Tim Robertson’s performance in the individual sprint, more of which below, but the proceedings started with a Sprint Relay. Sprint relays are becoming an ever increasing part of the elite international scene, with 3 such races part of the 2017 World Cup. NZL, with only 3 athletes in Finland, did not have an official team in this one although Tim, Laura Robertson and Kate Morrison did team up with an extra Australian to hit the start line. Unfortunately, after Laura came in in 25th place on Leg 1, Tim appears in the results as DSQ with no subsequent mention of the next two legs, although looking at the tracking Kate, at least, did run. Not a great start to the week! In terms of the rest of the field the most glaring feature of the Sprint relay was the absence from the top 6 of reigning world champions Denmark who, albeit with a changed team from their victory in Stromstad last year, finished 8th. After their remarkable successes of the last few years perhaps the wheel is turning.
1. Sweden 53-15, 2. Switzerland 53-28, 3. Great Britain 54-28, 4. Russia 54-34, 5. Finalnd 54-54, 6. Norway 55-41.
Unlike WOC where the individual sprint qualification and final will be on separate days, the qualification and final at WC1 were held on the same day. This in itself presents a challenge for athletes in terms of how much effort is required to qualify whilst leaving enough gas in the tank for the final. With fields of nearly 120 for both the men and the women and only 40 of each to qualify there was little margin for error. This is illustrated by the fact that in the mens qualification only 50 seconds covered the top 40 athletes. The margin was 67 seconds for the women but this was not enough for either Laura or Kate, with Laura being closest 26s away from the final. In the mens race Tim had a reasonably comfortable time finishing 15th equal about 30s back from the top qualifier.
Men: 1. Martin Regborn (SWE) 12-09, 2. Yannick Michiels (BEL) 12-11, 3. Daniel Hubmann (SUI) 12=19; 15=. Tim Robertson (NZL) 12-40.
Women: 1=. Helena Jansson (SWE) 13-08, 1=. Sabine Hausworth (SUI) 13-08, 1= Maja Alm (DEN) 13-08, 54. Laura Robertson (NZL) 14-41, 74. Kate Morrison (NZL) 15-22.
The final makes interesting watching on the live tracking replay. Tim’s great run put him in 8th place, his (I think) 3rd top 10 finish in a World Cup race and fully justifying his high World Ranking in sprint. However, Tim’s basic speed was little different from winner Yannick Michiels, who became Belgium’s first ever world Cup winner. The gap of 33s came largely from 2 route choices – showing how critical this aspect is in sprint orienteering. The biggest difference (nearly 20s) came on leg 16-17 (shown below) where Tim doubled back out of 16 and took a slightly more tortuous route compared to Michiels who seemed to have fast, straight running all the way. Tim was anyway only 14s away from the bronze medal and it is arguable that this would have made the difference.
Men: 1. Yannick Michiels (BEL) 12-28, 2. Matthias Kyburz (SUI) 12-30, 3. Emil Svensk (SWE) 12-49, 8. Tim Robertson (NZL) 13-03.
Women: 1. Maja Alm (DEN) 12-18, 2. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 12-28, 3. Lina Strand (SWE) 12-43.
After a rest day festivities resumed with the middle distance. This was not a good day for the 3 Kiwis with none of them figuring highly in the results. Nevertheless it should be remembered that the top nations here had up to 8 runners whereas at WOC they are restricted to a maximum of 3 (plus any reigning World Champions). When this is taken into account Laura’s 76th place actually looks more like 44th in a WOC strength field, although the 12 minute plus margin is perhaps of concern.
Men: 1. Martin Regborn (SWE) 29-45, 2. Olav Lundanes (NOR) 30-14, 3. William Lind (SWE) 30-32, 84. Tim Robertson (NZL) 38-02.
Women: 1. Helena Jansson (SWE) 29-45, 2. Natalia Gemperle (RUS) 30-35, 3. Lina Strand (SWE) 30-56, 76. Laura Robertson (NZL) 41-15, 91. Kate Morrison (NZL) 44-38.
One of the features of the Middle distance which provided comfort to us mere mortals was to see reigning world champion Tove Alexandersson get thoroughly disoriented among the rocks on a steep slope and drop significant time that saw her finish in 14th place, outside the top 10, let alone the top 6, for the first time in a long while.
The long distance on the final day had a chasing start based on the results of the sprint qualification and the middle distance with the added complication of bonus seconds thrown in for those who figured at the top of the sprint final. This made it somewhat difficult to keep track of who was running the fastest times although there was ultimately, as a result of the format, a lot of pack running. As might have been expected Tove showed that lightening does not strike twice and made up for her problems in the middle by storming through the field to take a relatively comfortable victory. Laura was not running but it was again a long, tough day for Tim and Kate with Tim suffering another disqualification and Kate being out for a touch over 2 hours.
Men: 1. Magne Daehli (NOR) 1-30-03, 2. William Lind (SWE) 1-30-05, 3. Emil Svensk (SWE) 1-30-08, Tim Robertson (NZL) DSQ
Women: 1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 1-17-27, 2. Helena Jansson (SWE) 1-17-54, 3. Maja Alm (DEN) 1-17-54, 69. Kate Morrison (NZL) 2-09-20.
The second round of the 2017 World Cup is WOC itself with the 3rd round scheduled for Latvia (venue for WOC2018) in August, and culminates in Switzerland at the end of September.
WOC Training Camp
The final official training camp for WOC2017 was held in mid-May and Lizzie Ingham attended with club mates from Halden SK, running in the 3 test races which acted as trials for many of the nations. The large number of competitors meant that the middle and long distance races were both split into two versions with all competitors from any 1 nation getting the same version. Lizzie has provided the NZL WOC team with her thoughts on this week in Estonia and these are reproduced in slightly abbreviated form below.
- Middle is kind of like sand dunes. Some vague areas, some very detailed areas. Variation of vegetation, not many marshes.
- Long is tough going and is about staying positive and fighting. On some legs it may be worth looking out to the side for tracks etc. Direction work will be important as the slopes can be vague.
- The vegetation last week was the best it could be thanks to a late spring. So I can’t really comment on what visibility etc. will be like in a month’s time. There were all these little 5-10cm shoots all over the ground, which come WOC will be much, much, taller. We will find out in the training week I guess!
- All of the three test races had steep climbs at the end of them. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence…but I suspect not! The last control seemed to be a steep climb so that they could have a nice downhill finish!
Just by looking at maps, it’s clear that the topography has similarities to our sand dunes. The mappers have focused on negative features, like at home, and there are areas with a lot of fine contour detail. Once in the forest, it feels similar too. The map that I raced the selection races on last week was a bit different from the WOC terrain, in that it was less technical (fewer small contour features), so was more about physical strength and route choice than actually finding the controls at the end of the leg. That said it still felt a bit like home. I think we all have a natural ability to pick the good lines for running through topography like this. The middle/relay areas shouldn’t be as tough as the long. There will still be crap on the ground, and green areas, but not to the same extent. The green areas and marshes aren’t that bad, and in general are not worth avoiding (unless there’s a longer patch to go through and a close by route choice alternative).
Before heading over to Estonia for training, I heard a lot about how tough the terrain is; a combination of green, marshes, and ground that is littered with broken trees and branches. All of this is true, perhaps more so for the long than for the middle. But like with France in 2011, I think people have talked up how hard it is. So long as you’re prepared for the terrain to be tough, then when you hit the forest you’ll be pleasantly (?) surprised to find it’s not quite as bad as people have built up.
The most important points are:
- Be mentally and physically prepared.
- Stay positive throughout the course, and keep pushing. We are all used to physical terrain and some crap bush in NZ. There will be (probably longer) legs where you feel you have taken a bad route because you’re stuck in green/fallen trees. At these points the thing to remember is THERE IS NO BETTER ROUTE. No matter what route choice you choose, there will be times where you are slowed down, or have to climb through, crap. Stay positive and keep pushing.
- Technical wise, it is important to be confident with your direction. There are some very vague areas, and if you watch GPS tracking from previous events, a lot of good orienteers have made what look like simple direction mistakes. It is good to have a grip on your distance estimation too, as in the vague areas, or running along tracks, there are very few features to let you know when to leave the track etc.
- Marshes: Will need a bit of testing in the week before hand. In general they actually aren’t that bad – if they are white. If they are green, then no, don’t go through extended bits of it. Last week, most were ankle or less deep. But every now and then you would get surprised and end up knee deep or more… The first leg of the long distance last week gave no choice but to cross a large marsh, and it was fine. The last legs of the long had route choices along marshes, and along the side or just inside the marsh was the fastest route. It is worth noting that there are often animal tracks along the sides of the larger marshes.”
The two maps above, the women’s middle test race and the men’s long distance test race, are probably pretty typical of the terrain that can be expected, although as Lizzie points out the middle/relay area for WOC is likely to have a lot more small features as, for example, does the map section below from one of the training maps.
So what are New Zealand’s prospects for WOC2017? Without making any predictions here are some points to consider.
Sprint: Qualification Friday 30 June, Final Saturday 1 July
Given his performances in recent World Cup races Tim (Robertson) certainly has the potential to make the podium (top 6). But this is WOC and everyone is trying to peak, even a top 10 finish would be the best ever by a NZ man. However, after a few lean years Ross Morrison has shown impressive form since returning to Hawkes Bay and looks to be close to back to his best. Tommy Hayes can also hopefully use his first WOC appearance as a springboard to success at JWOC the following week.
Laura Robertson and Imogene Scott have both made the sprint final for the last two years but, in truth, probably not done themselves justice. Both will be looking to rectify that in 2017 for which the sprint races are advertising much more climb than is the norm, something that will hopefully suit team NZL. Lizzie Ingham, having passed on the sprint last year, will be looking to re-establish herself towards the front end of the field.
Sprint Relay: Sunday 2 July
As was seen in the recent World Cup round, the sprint relay is a really tough race to do well in and the competition is hot. NZL performed well in Scotland in 2015, but had a disastrous race last year. A top 10 place would be brilliant but will require all 4 team members to have bear perfect runs.
Long: Tuesday 4 July
As Lizzie comments above, the long is the really tough one and it’s a long time since a New Zealand man went close to 2 hours. Gene Beveridge’s win at Oceania gives us 3 men, and with his experience of the long in 2016, he knows what to expect and will be seeking a higher place than last year. Exactly the same applies for Imogene Scott who has been extremely impressive through the New Zealand autumn. Tim’s approach to the long will, undoubtedly be affected to some extent by how the sprints go over the weekend, while Lizzie will be hoping to recapture the run that saw her finish 13th in France in 2011. The unknown quantity will be Nick Hann, probably our most consistent male forest orienteer over the last few years, but appearing at WOC for the first time. A relatively late arrival in Estonia due to exam commitments, quick acclimatisation will be crucial to performance.
Middle: Thursday 6 July
Here is where the NZL sand dune experience may be most beneficial. After last year missing out on the top 20 for the first time in 6 WOC’s this is likely to be Lizzie’s main focus, while Laura will be keen to improve on her 2015 result from Scotland. Ross last ran the WOC middle in Italy in 2014 and has good form on sand dunes from earlier in the year. For Nick and Gene, as well as Lizzie, how well they can recover from the long will be an important factor.
Relays: Friday 7 July
With no disrespect to previous years, the men’s relay team of Tim, Gene and Nick looks to be our strongest for some time. What has been very apparent over the last few years however is how crucial the first leg is. Drop off the pace and early and it is very difficult to get back. In this regard the choice of running order, for the women as well as the men, is going to be very important and will, of necessity, depend not only on form but on recovery from the earlier races. Especially true for those who have run the long and the middle over the previous few days.
NZL men and women, of course, currently sit in Group 2, entitling us to 2 entrants in middle and long (+ the extras of Oceania Champions). Short of major disasters there is no reason why this should not be maintained. However, there is only one further year after this until WOC splits into forest and sprint versions and the system will once again be all change.
Advance Notice – 2017 Development Camp
As for the last 2 years, in the week before the ONZ Junior Camp there will be a Development camp aimed at the National Under 23 Squad and those older juniors just below the squad level. The camp this year will be held fromSunday 10 December – Friday 15 December in the Manawatu/Horowhenua. Accommodation is likely to be in Palmerston North.
Further information will be forthcoming in due course, but if this interests you keep the dates free.
Waitangi Sprints 2018
Again in the pipeline. In association with Orienteering Bay of Plenty the National Squads are investigating putting on “Sprint the Bay of Plenty” from Saturday 3rd to Tuesday 6th February. The initial concept is for 8 races, 2 per day, with the best 5 to count. This will allow those who wish to/have to work on Monday 5th February the opportunity to do so and still compete overall. Watch for flyers.