Firstly I want to leave a tribute to all the contestants on their endurance through the very harsh weather we had at the event. It is amazing to watch them put their hearts out there even in those conditions. Being in it they cannot see it themselves, so it is my job to tell them that they looked amazing, real athletes. Despite all this, the mood among participants was excellent. And a special thanks to the Slovak U19 team for the transport from Vienna, Stefano for the invaluable umbrella and jacket and Camping Wildalpen as the second office.
Due to the large number of teams the competition began on Friday with the night Sprint. Very heavy rain accompanied this race. The contestants were real gentlemen, so the women went first. The first surprise of the competition was the team “Rafting Denmark Ladies 1” who won 1st place. All their efforts paid off, and I hope this will be a great motivation leading up to the competition in Bosnia. In second place was the team “Italy 4 Senior” and the third “Italy 3 Senior”. In the men’s division “GIMPEX 2” of Slovenia took first place, “Italy 2 Senior” second, and the third was “GIMPEX 1”.
The second day of the competition started with the H2H, women once again starting. Despitet the terribly cold “Italy 4 Senior” team persisted through to first place, second place went again to the Italians, “Italy 3 Senior”, and third place went to the great team of “RT Denmark Ladies 1”. The Italians demonstrated excellent physical fitness and stamina.
Believe it or not, we had half an hour of sunshine between the two races and just when we were enjoying it, it started to rain and snow! So the men had the worst conditions for the competition. First was “GIMPEX 2”, second the German team “RTA Schaben 1”, and the third place team “Kanyon Raft Team” from Hungary, who are already known for their excellent performances in the H2H competitions.
After a short break came Slalom with the first run late afternoon and the second under the lights. The Slalom was excellent on the fast and high water levels of the river due to all the rain and snow. Yes it was raining again … but the audience was amazing, especially the children. Many had no umbrellas while following the whole race and behaved as if there was no rain or cold. They were amazing.
Getting familiar with the course is always necessary so that, as usual, we saw a great improvement and more aggressive driving in the second run. The first race saw competitors struggle on the upstream gates of 6 and 7. If teams did not get this right they lost their rhythm for the next gates. Various solutions were tried, especially in the second run, one even resulting in a flip. It was a matter of seconds that separated the first and second place in the men and there were excellent performance by many of the teams, but “Gimpex2” was the fastest with the Germans “RTA Shwaben 2” close in their footsteps, and third “RTA Shwaben 1”. An outstanding performance from the German teams.
In the women “Italy 4 Senior” was very skilful. An excellent second place for the Dutch team “Unlimited” and Slovakia schools slalom again came to the fore through third place for “Vopicky U23” team.
When we’d forgotten that the sun existed and we thought it was a new ice age on the horizon, we could not believe it when the sun came out for the last race of the women’s Downriver bringing out his smile and drawing ours out too. The men were motivated by this sun but it all disappeared and the ice competition came back.
The course was longer than last year, about 12 km in total. The Salza River is beautiful and since I, myself, had a chance to paddle it I can say that the river fully meets the requirements of the competition. It is technically challenging but not too difficult, the nature is amazing, a turquoise river at the end glistened in the sun.
It started with a group of competitors on the shore. It was quite a struggle at the start and for overtaking during the race, which, on the whole, gives a better overall impression. Personally I like the group starts. As it has a large number of points for this tough discipline it usually decides the winner. So the order in the women’s Downriver was the same as the overall: 1st “Italy 4 Senior”, 2nd “Rafting Denmark Ladies 1”, 3rd “Italy 3 Senior”. Excellent performances by all three teams. That just says that the Euro Champs contest in Bosnia will be great.
For the men things were more complicated, except for “Gimpex2” who, by winning the Downriver showed their dominance in the competition, 1000 points for these guys. Second place in the Downriver for “Kenyon Raft Team” gave them second overall. While third in the Downriver went to “Senior Italy 1”, which climbed them into 4th place overall. And 6th place in the Downriver, “RTA Shwaben 1” won third overall.
What a competition! Everything was somehow positively crazy. Thank you to the organizers of the competition, once again a fantastic competition and socializing. Thanks to the sponsors who stand behind all of this. Congratulations to the winners, participants, judges, volunteers and the wonderful audience. We saw old friends, made new, we were freezing and the sun escorted us, the beautiful river Salza, friendly inhabitants of Wildalpen, lots of new surprises during the competition … Wildalpen!
Ahead of us is still EC in Augsburg and Nišava, warm-ups before the European Championship in Bosnia. See you there!