Viva La France!
Besides being good at football, our Gallic neighbours can also put on a mean O festival. Just a fortnight ahead of the Lakes 5 Days, Andy Rimes and Rosie Wych enjoyed O France 2018 in Moselle and threw in some cycling and climbing for good measure.
Andy Rimes writes...
O-France is five-day multi-event held annually in different areas of France. It attracts between 1500 and 2000 entrants from all over Europe and beyond. Rosie and I have been taking part for the last few years, combining the event with our love of cycling, climbing and delicious French patisserie into an annual mini-holiday.
This year’s event is taking part in the Vosges Mosselanes region of Eastern France near the German and Luxembourg borders. This is a huge naturally forested area of rolling hills and small mountains where the local language is a barely discernible mixture of French and German dialects. All events are in different areas of forest hosted by one of the many little villages in the area around Abreshviller. The first event is a prologue urban sprint, followed by the main 5 days consisting two medium and three long events. All used areas had been extensively re-surveyed and re-mapped for the event and were of excellent quality and clarity.
Our journey down to our hired gite was uneventful following a Friday evening tunnel crossing and overnight stay in a hotel outside Calais. Journey time from Calais was about five hours on blissfully quiet and efficient French tolled motorways. For reasons I now forget we had decided not to bother with the urban sprint (I recall M55 course was only about 1.5km long so hardly worth the bother anyway) We went cycling in the sunshine up some local summits!
The only ‘Brits’ known to us also taking part were the Reynolds from SBOC and the Vinces of Kerno (although they missed the first two days due to mechanical problems with their van on the way over requiring garaging and the need to sort parts and hire car.
Day 1: Long event- Lettenbach
My course was 6km and seemed mostly of climb! Long uphill walks to the starts are the order of the day. The terrain is superb for orienteering and in particular favours the competitor well versed with the Quantock hills- steep (very) sided hills of fabulous forest with virtually no undergrowth, some brashings in places but very runnable with reasonable track networks- there the good bits end- it is also very technical, due to the local geography, the land providing a wealth of exposed knoll, rock and cliff features, different vegetation features and such-like making the orienteering aspect suitably challenging.
Like how the best bits of the Forest of Dean used to be
The whole area is like an exaggerated version of how the best bits of the Forest of Dean used to be … before someone decided it would be a good idea to re-introduce wild-boar to trash it. Fortunately, the blazing sun was tempered slightly by the forest cover making the climbs bearable. After an over-cautious start trying to match the mapped features with the lie of the land and subsequent time loss, I got right into the course with no further mistakes in a reasonable time. Rosie had taken a cautious approach due to still recuperating from a calf injury but surprised herself with no problems during her course and a reasonably high overall result in her class
- Result: Andy 19/63, Rosie 12/42
Day 2: Medium event -Walscheid
A lovely event centre in this village adjoining the central lake for post-run swimming if desired. As this was a medium distance event we were warned (all commentary is multi-language English and French) to check control numbers accurately so knew to expect lots of them in bunched groups- and were not disappointed.
A long run run around most of the lake in full view of the crowd...knees, legs and lungs protesting all the way
Today a 2km uphill walk to the start- the terrain as expected even more detailed than day 1 with lots of short technical legs, direction changes and different features used. My M55 course, along with many others visited lines of complex cliffs, caves and boulders where much time could be lost if one lost of contact with the map. Fortunately, apart from one 3-minute error where I over-ran a control, I was error free throughout. The worst part of the course was the manically steep descent back to the arena down a rocky and root filled single-track at breakneck speed hoping to hope not to trip or fall, followed by a long (oh so long!) run around most of the lake in full view of the crowd to the finish line- knees, legs and lungs protesting all the way……
- Result: Andy 15/55, Rosie 7/39(!)
Cycling again! (rest day?)- 80km circuit of the Col Du Donon (biggest summit hereabouts) followed by the England game in the evening!
Day 3: long event- Hartzviller- ‘the bad day’
Today a complete contrast- relatively flat mixed woodlands split centrally vertically by a main road. The terrain was extremely complex with a myriad of knolls, rides, planting lines and indistinct vegetation changes. Most adult courses used both sides with a compulsory manned road crossing. This event was to prove my downfall due to a stupid, yet major error I have never made in 20 years of orienteering. The course started relatively well- using the more distinct tracks for navigation whenever possible rather than direct lines across hostile and complicated ground seemed a better approach. Although a few small errors were incurred I reached the half-way road crossing relatively unscathed, across it and so through a couple close controls on the other side.
I felt like how most of the English team felt in Russia the night before
The next leg was a long one with route options. I decided on a direct southerly approach to pick up a major track, then along this to a suitable attack point- my map was folded and I eventually came to my marked control, through it and on through the remainder of the course, pleased to make up some of the time lost on the first half of the course. Having recovered my breathing, to discover on download that I had mis punched was not too pleasing – I had missed three controls! These were on the reverse of the folded side of my map and I had run to a control further into the course. This was stupid, clumsy and effectively put me out of the general classification as the overall position is the accumulated time of the five days (the prologue is not part of the main competition). I felt like how most of the English team felt in Russia the night before! It was a night for beer and quiet reflection.
- Andy: mp/dsq Rosie: 13/39
Day 4: medium event: St Quirin (Part1): ‘normal service has been resumed’
Back to the ‘real’ forest for some more steep climbs to rock and cliff features. This one went well with no significant errors and a reasonable time but middling position (obviously lots of my peers also had a good run). I consoled myself with a ‘saucisse’ sandwich from the buvette (café) post-race. A very hot day and the chance of a dip in the lake at the event centre was taken up by many.
- Andy: 21/54 Rosie: 7/38
Day 5: Long event: St Quirin (part2):
‘Le Grand Finale’ - Rosie’s bad day
The same event centre as day 4 but into a different part of the forest and further obviously. Ironically, given Day 3 disqualification, a good time and position due to a virtually clean run throughout. This part of the forest produced the toughest vegetation of the week with some significant ‘green’ areas and dense neck high bracken in the ‘open’
This day was to prove Rosie’s undoing with a poor route decision to the second control in a semi-open area through significant fight losing much time over her rivals. This regrettably lost her much time and affected her position for this event and in the overall standing (but hey- at least she wasn’t disqualified!)
Experts were on hand to remove all ticks...preserve and bag them
Interestingly, ticks are a major problem in France, and this area especially. The event was being used as part of a national study to research tick distribution and density whereby a team of experts were on hand to remove all ticks picked up by everyone, then preserve and bag them. You were then requested to fill in a form declaring where, how many, clothing etc for their research project. The queues at this stand were as long as the toilet queues each day!
- Andy: 16/53 Rosie: 19/36
This was our third O-France event and won’t be the last. It’s a great chance to compete on the international circuit and experience how things are run there. We certainly would encourage others to visit this lovely country and take part- the event is well supported, brilliantly organised and is cheap compared to comparable UK events (O-France- 9 euros per day, JK £24!) Some form of memento is included for all competitors within the entry fee- an event O-top last year, a snood this year. English is the official event language (along with French obviously)- and don’t forget the lure of all that lovely patisserie!
- Andy Rimes