Monday, August 1, 2016

Christian Ciech is our new European Champion

The final day of the Euros was comparable to the 2 days before. A high risk of overdevelopment and thunderstorms in the mountains surrounding the valley. The task committee was again forced to keep us away from the mountains and to make the task short enough, so we'd land before things would go berserk everywhere. A 100 km task with 3 turnpoints and basically a 50 km final leg into goal was set.

Keen as I was to keep up the positive trend in my flying, I started hard from the start. Too hard though, because I soon found myself low. Did I ever do this before? I don't seem to learn... Well, the chase started from there. I only took the best parts of the thermals and didn't worry about not getting to cloudbase and soon was catching up. On the way to the second turnpoint, a thunderstorm was developing in the West. It's anvil was casting a large shadow which quickly started to cover the entire valley. The lead gaggle went straight through the middle of the valley, 10 minutes ahead, but for Suan, Zippy and me, this didn't seem to be an option anymore. We diverted to the East of the valley, trying to outrun the shadow. It worked quite well and we arrived in goal 10 minutes after the leaders. I was happy not to lose more time after the start, where I found myself low with Laurent and Petr Benes.

The leaders, Alex and Christian had a tight battle and Christian edged out Antoine & Alex on the final glide, ensuring his first European title, already being the reigning World Champion. Congratulations Christian! You're winning it while using the most daring tactics, such as choosing locations far away from the gaggle to take the start from a better position. Complimenti!

Picture by Tom Weissenberger

Complimenti also to the entire Italian team. They dominate hang gliding like Ferrari dominated F1 in the Schumacher era. It's obvious when you fly along with them that their radio communication is very efficient. If someone finds a better core, the Italian team is there in no time. The tactics are also impressive and resemble those used in cycling: splitting the team up to have front runners and other members dedicated to covering the opposition. As the sole Belgian, I can only dream of flying in such a team...

My compliments also to the Hungarian and Czech teams for their 2nd and 3rd place, beating the traditional countries. Not an easy feat and very well done!

My ambition for the Euros was a top 15 finish. Based on the second half of the comp, that should have been possible. I ended 22nd, mainly due to missing goal on the second task and a bombout which cost me a lot of time. But I'm happy about the progress and just have to eliminate the biggest mistakes for the next comp. CU later!

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