Surprises in the Sahara
The fourth Belgian national event took place under a totally blue sky on the fine map of the Sahara in Lommel. The terrain consists of sand dunes, very good runnable forest and a dense network of paths. It was expected that the winning times would be around or even under 5mins/km. Not so this time. Even though the terrain was just as fast as the race there at roughly the same time last year, hardly anyone could pull off a clean race, and certainly not in the elite categories. KOL course setters Stefan Vreys and Paul Goossens did their job well and people enjoyed their time in the forest (no map yet, sorry).
To be able to read the contours and the paths, the map scale was 1/7500, even though the event was a regular long distance race. This was actually not that bad and made it fun to orienteer through the dunes.
Because of the WC final, some good runners were absent, but it was still expected that both Pieter Hendrickx and Jan Gilot (KOL) would show the others what orienteering in Flanders was. Afterwards, Hendrickx said he was not motivated for the race and he would only try to load up for the sprint championships coming weekend. Gilot did run better (13 seconds behind on the second place), but he had a though preparation last week, both physically and mentally.
The winner, however, was Nicolas Sillien (CO Pégase), perhaps best known for his running speed (some say even faster than Fabien Pasquasy), but also for his ability to make huge mistakes. He managed to make only 3 minutes of mistakes and the fast running speed was enough to claim the victory. Third place Bart Delobel (Omega), said he was still recovering from a military half marathon and preparing for the Belgian mountain running champs this week, so he did not run fast. The splits suggest otherwise. Just a few controls before the finish, both Gilot and Delobel were more than a minute in front of Sillien, but they lost a lot of time in the difficult zone near the finish.
Juniors Jeremy Genar and Wouter Leeuws also participated in the HE category, as a final test for JEC. They finished 7th and 8th, some 4 minutes behind on the winner, quite good though, because they thought the distance would be too far for them.
In the women's class, Veerle Tulleneers won by a small margin of only 9 seconds to her clubmate of Omega, Kim Geypen. Geypen, however, again met H40 runner Bart Mellebeek in the forest, but managed to finish in front of him. It suffices to take a look at the splits. We won't quote Mellebeek's comment from the Relay championships.
In third spot, there was junior Elien Melis (hamok), back in good shape, right on time for JEC. She was satisfied with her result and will be ready for the junior's departure on thursday.