Flemish Night Relay Champs
Yesterday evening, one of the most important night-O events of Belgium took place in Lommel, close to the Dutch border. Teams for the relay consist of 3 runners, but with age limits on the second leg and at most one M21 runner. The competitions were of a really high level, with lots of surprises.
Most teams had their fastest runner in the mass start. Top runners like Bart Delobel, Joost Talloen (Omega) and the van der Kleij brothers (hamok) were joined by lesser known, but also very talented runners like Tomas Henriksson, Frans Laenen (Trol) and Bart Mellebeek (hamok). Delobel immediately took the lead, made some mistakes early on, but managed to finish with a 2,5 minute gap to the next team, Omega 4 with Joost Talloen. The next runners to arrive were Frans Laenen and Bart Mellebeek, followed by Tomas Henriksson and Dries van der Kleij. Mellebeek was really satisfied with his race: "My best night race ever", he said.
After the first leg, most top teams were still in the running for the win, with one notable exception: Hamok 3, with Thomas van der Kleij, slightly injured, lost a considerable amount of time at the 4th control (see below for a map). It would be tough for his teammates to help Thomas to win again after his two consecutive victories the last years.
The second leg was shorter, with only 4 km of race. This proved to be the decisive moment of the event. Jeremy Genar, local Catching Features hero, started in third position, after Miek Fabré and Bart van de Moortel. He ran a great race and passed Miek in the open area. There were no real surprises, except that Greet Oeyen brought one of the hamok teams back in sight of the top three.
The third leg would bring some excitement to the waiting crowd. Wim Vervoort, one of the elite runners of the '90's, started first, with a 2 minute gap to Dennis Ducro. Dennis started off fast and had Vervoort in his sights at control 4. There were 3 controls in that area, Vervoort picked the right one, Ducro followed him to the control, but then realized he needed one of the others. Later on he made another mistake at control 8, thereby losing his chances for the first place. This meant that the winner of this Night Relay was Trol 1 (Henriksson, Genar, Vervoort), in front of Omega 3 (Delobel, Fabré, Ducro). The third team to arrive was Borasca 1, but their last leg runner, Sam Deferm did not know that his teammate Noël Nijsten already mispunched a control during the first leg. The spectators had to wait quite a few minutes for the next runners to arrive. The third place was finally taken by Stefan Thiels, the Flemish junior coach for Omega 4 in a tight battle with Martin Beckers for hamok 1. Martin, however, mispunched a control, so his efforts during his leg were of no avail.
The next two teams were both hamok teams at places 4 and 5. No hamok teams made the top three this year, this comes as a surprise, and we've heard of plans to not let that happen again. Perhaps this was a side effect of organizing the event, with excellent course setting work by Wim Hoekx.