WOC 2023 – Sebastian Inderst’s report

1 Aug 2023 - Elite Team

The 2023 World Championship in Switzerland had been in my sights for a long time. Knowing that the terrain suited me particularly well, I had decided to go all in for it and see how far I could go. These are some of the changes I put in place:

  • By reducing the work to 50% I was able to improve recovery between training sessions, and had enough time to prepare and later analyse the workouts
  • Working with a sports psychologist was definitely another big breakthrough! I learnt how to better manage my emotions (both on and off the field) to be able to make the most of my potential
  • I got used to taking energy before and during races, testing a myriad of carbogels and choosing the ones that best suited my needs. By doing this I was finally able to break the trend of the past few years where I often had intestinal problems on the longest races, and I now cross the finish line with a still decent pace

After three weeks of altitude training at my grandmother’s place in Engadin, it was time to move to Flims for the clou event I had been waiting for for years! This time the organisation was really great, and I think all the athletes will be left with very positive memories. I particularly liked the offer to all the teams to stay in the same place, thus creating a sort of athletes’ village, a bit like at an Olympics (although obviously on a much smaller scale). With the Italian team, there were 10 of us (7 athletes, 2 coaches and 1 masseur), divided between 2 very spacious flats, with a kitchen where we could prepare our own meals.

The race programme included the middle qualification on Wednesday, the long on Thursday, the middle final on Saturday and the relay on Sunday. In the first days of the week, therefore, everyone had a somewhat customised programme to finalise their form. Personally I ran the long and the relay, so on Monday I did the model event of the long (how steep!), plus a couple of short but sustained runs, and some uphill strides. That way my legs are rested, but at the same time still used to running fast and ready to give it my all.

Finally the day has come, today we run the long! The day begins with a nice breakfast, and shortly afterwards I set off to take the cable car that takes us to Crap Sogn Gion, at 2200mslm, where there is the quarantine, which closes as early as 9.00 a.m. as then the first competitors start. In the quarantine there is a bit of everything, some are sleeping, some chatting, some playing, some listening to music, some reading, some doing exercises, some crocheting, and so on and so forth… after 3h I start warming up as I am used to, going to have a look at the few interesting areas in our warm-up map. I feel the tension, but I know it’s normal. I have my plan, and I know what I have to do. It’s up to me. Just stick to the plan, and everything will be fine, I tell myself. I get the GPS, control description, clear and check, and there I am in front of my map, ready to go!

FLIMS-LAAX/SWITZERLAND, 13.07.2023 – Sebastian Inderst, ITA, captured during the Long Distance Final at the World Orienteering Championship 2023 in Flims Laax / Switzerland. copyright by steineggerpix.com + woc 2023 / photo Remy Steinegger

I start off immediately offensively, with a high reading pace, I see that the first control is already delicate, a clear plan is needed, and I even slow down a couple of times to clarify my ideas. But it is time well invested, and the pace set is high anyway. Arriving perfectly at the first control builds confidence, and I continue. I see that the course is very similar to what we had assumed. On the first long choice I begin to feel fatigue. It’s normal, I tell myself, and I like fatigue! Slowly I begin to catch up with some athletes who had started ahead of me, and this gives me further confidence. One control after another, and I keep managing to stick to my plan and run clean. A few indecisions here and there, but nothing major. Towards the end of the course on the first map (we had a map change) there is a butterfly, and here I make the first real mistake. A parallel mistake, and the little rock with the control is not where I expect. I descend a little bit further to try to relocate myself, and there it is, the control. 1’30” lost. It doesn’t matter now, now I concentrate on the rest of the race, I’ll think about that later. I quickly managed to regain my flow and restarted well. As I approached the map change, I checked my watch: 80′ into the race, either I’m doing a great race, or the course setter has got the times wrong, as after the change I was expecting just 3 more transfer controls back to the arena. But this is where I was wrong! As I got the new map I realised there is still quite a big part of the race left, phew! But com’on, hang in there! Immediately there is a choice, and I opt to go straight. This turns out to be a bad choice, as the climb in front of me is really steep. Here I lose 1’30” again, and above all some precious energy. But it isn’t much longer now. Another big stretch back, which I do straight again (but this time it’s the right choice), and then here I am on the finishing couloir. It feels so long, I am very tired, but thanks to the fantastic cheering I hold on to the end! As I arrived, I hear the speaker announce that I am the new leader, several minutes ahead of the second, excellent! I therefore have the honour of sitting in the leader’s chair, another life goal achieved!!! Not much later, however, another competitor arrives and beats me, and I have to leave the seat. No harm done, at least I can do a bit of cool down, change calmly, and start trying to replenish lost energy. I feel that I am tired, but not extremly destroyed as I have been on other occasions. I have a big group of young fans from Lombardy and Piedmont waiting for me and I am very happy to see so much support, thank you very much!

Athlete after athlete, my final result becomes more and more outlined, and to top it off is a 24th place, wow! Ambitious goal of top25 achieved!!!

Over the next few days I just did some light jogging to try to recover well, and on the day of the relay I actually physically felt rested and ready to compete again!

I have the delicate task of launching, but I am very motivated to give my best! A very physical race awaits us once again, as well as very technical parts, where it is important to stay cool and go safe. This time I have to stay in quarantine very little, and in no time at all I am already on the start line. It’s very hot, but it’s the same for everyone, and I’ve also hydrated well and cooled down to the last, so it’s certainly not a disadvantage compared to the other competitors. Off we go! Initially I am perhaps a little too respectful, and I don’t have a very good position when we reach the narrow channel that leads to the starting point. So I’ve already lost touch with the leaders a little. The first few controls are all uphill, I suffer a lot, but I try to hang on! On the descent I take the lead in the second group. But then at the long leg I unfortunately make a sub-optimal choice and lose precious time, and instead of getting closer to the tail of the first group, I find myself at the tail of the second group. Again I work hard and with solid technique I find myself at the head of this group at the arena passage. Here I made another small mistake, and once again hit the gas to regain the positions I had lost, until I changed over to Ilian! All in all a stable performance on my part, but certainly with some room for improvement. Certainly an important experience for future relays! Both Ilian and Mattia put in a stable performance, which led us to a 12th place finish, the best Italian result in the past 10 years. And this without our top rider Riccardo, who was unfortunately forced to throw in the towel after his injury during the middle final… The atmosphere in the arena was truly spectacular, with lots of fans rushing to spur us on, magical, and thank you all!

As always the week of the World Championships ends with a party for all the athletes, where each team dresses up in a theme. But what happens at the WOC party stays at the WOC party, so I’ll say goodbye here, and see you next time!