Well now that the 15th European Canicross Federation Championships is all over – was it worth it?! Hell yes!
The atmosphere at the weekend was amazing, with teams from all across Europe competing against each other in the biggest canicross event the UK has ever seen. We arrived early Thursday to set up the K9 Trail Time stand ready for any competitors or visitors to the CanineMax Dog Olympics 2012 who might want to purchase some new kit. The rest of Thursday was spent sussing out the course and realising to my horror that my v-brake bike was not going to cut it in the very muddy conditions, due to the build up of vegetation preventing my wheels from moving.
After about an hour of panicking, some very good friends who had just arrived from Scotland made an offer of a bike for me to borrow before they had even set up in the camping field. To them I owe the success of my 11th place European ranking, as without their bike I wouldn’t have made it round.
Friday was the opening ceremony which saw the Championship opened with a representative from every country yielding a flag and entertainment provided in the form of a Welsh choir, Irish dancers, a Scottish bagpiper and an English Sea Shanty group.
Saturday kicked off the racing with the mens individual starts for the bikejor class from 8am and we set off just after 9am for our attempt at glory. The course had dried out a bit from the day before but was still very slippery in places and we managed to get round the 5.6km in a respectable time, mainly due to the fantastic pulling power of Donnie the Sprollie who finished with bags of energy to spare and a big smile on his face – unlike me!
Our second class of the day, the female canicross, started in the afternoon, just after midday and again saw individual starts for the competitors so we could be timed and then allocated a ‘wave’ for the following day. The course was run over a shorter distance than the bikejor, of approx 3.5 km. Judo did his best to pull his lump of a human around after him but the effects of my illness and the earlier bikejor class had taken their toll on me and we finished 29th in the field.
On Saturday night we were provided more entertainment in the form of a banquet for competitors and a chance to catch up on how everyone was doing at the halfway stage of the competition. It was lovely to see so many people there sharing their experiences of the course and to find everyone so friendly, no matter what country they were representing.
Sunday was individual starts again for all the bikejorers but this time in ranked order, so we were about mid way through the females in our age group, setting off just after 9 again. The course was in much better shape by Sunday morning and so we managed to knock a minute and a half off our Saturday time but still maintained 11th for a final placing and 4th out of the UK competitors.
The mass starts for the canicross are always exciting and although we were lined up in the last ‘wave’, we got a good start ‘off the blocks’ and managed the 5.6km in a reasonable time, again holding on to our 29th place but I finished the last 200 metres with a sprint, spurred on by the cheering spectators.
The prize giving ceremony, held in the evening, was the climax of the 2 days racing and the UK team did fantastically well taking home 4 gold medals, 6 silver and 8 bronze.
Team Thomas were extremely proud to have been part of such a big and multi-national event and although our own personal results didn’t bring us medals, we still felt a massive sense of achievement just to be able to compete alongside some of the best in Europe. Next years ECF Championships are to be held in Switzerland and we’re already planning how to get there as this really was an event not to be missed!