Belgian 5 days - full report
Day 1: Gruitroderbos
The first day was run in a nice open forest, with relatively large dunes in the eastern side of the map (below), while the western side of the map has less distinct contours. This map was not used for competitions since the Belgian long distance championship in 2002 and lived up to its fame.
The men elite category was easily won by Pieter Hendrickx (KOL), 2 minutes in front of Thomas van der Kleij (hamok) and with a 3 minutes gap to Desmond Franssen (trol) in third position. In the DE category, there was an outstanding Monica Depta (POL,Flota Gdynia), almost 7 minutes faster than numbers 2 and 3, Aline Hermans (CO Liège) and Greet Oeyen (hamok).
Day 2: De Zandhoek
The second competition was a middle distance race on the eastern part of yesterday's map. This map was used for the Flemish middle distance championships last year, but the organizers did not have permission to enter the zone with sand dunes back then, resulting in a stupid race. Some Belgians did not enter for this second stage because of that, but they were so wrong: the races were actually more fun than those of the first day as almost the whole race took place in the sand dunes.
The winners in the elite categories were once again Pieter Hendrickx and Monica Depta. In HE, places 2 and 3, Geert Simkens (KOL) and Jan Oeyen (Borasca) were almost 5 minutes behind, while in DE, Greet Oeyen was only 2 minutes slower, yet still 5 minutes faster than Aline Hermans. Hendrickx, not selected for WOC despite his achievement last year, is certainly showing his good shape in this difficult terrain and will be ready for the championships in September.
Day 3: IJzeren Paal
The third stage was another middle distance race, this time in Lommel, near the event center. Both middle distance races were run in the evening, thus giving the participants a chance to discover the area. Almost no contours on the map today, only fast open forest, although the unused western part of the map is still faster.
Winners were once again Pieter Hendrickx and Monica Depta. Hendrickx beat 2nd place Thomas van der Kleij with about 1:20 and was 2,5 mins faster than his brother Tomas, in spot 3.
Places 2 and 3 in DE, 6 minutes slower than the first place, were Kim Geypen (Omega) and Saartje Sallaerts (KOL).
The overall ranking after 3 days saw Hendrickx and Depta with the maximum score of 3000 points. Their win in the final standings was almost certain, with only 4 out of 5 days counting towards the total.
Day 4: Pijnven-Vlasmeer
De Laatste Post already wrote an article about this fourth day. No win for Pieter Hendrickx today, but almost-locals Jeroen Hoekx and Jeroen van der Kleij (both hamok) were only a few seconds apart, with Tomas Hendrickx 3 minutes behind. Monica Depta was once again 5 minutes faster than the others, Veerle Tulleneers (Omega) and Greet Oeyen.
Day 5: Pijnven
This third day in Lommel proved to be the physically most challenging day, with high grass making the running difficult and after the four previous days, most legs weren't that fresh anymore. This race was still important though, because although the winners in HE and DE were already known, the other spots on the podia would be decided today.
Geert Simkens (KOL) had the strongest legs and managed to win in a great time, 3 minutes faster than Jeroen van der Kleij and 5 minutes faster than Pieter Hendrickx. This meant that Simkens took the second place, while Jeroen Hoekx was third overall.
Monica Depta impressed once again. She was 8 minutes faster than Greet Oeyen, number two overall. The third place was taken by Severine Vandermeulen of CO Liège.