This was the first time Ireland has sent a team to the race so it was exciting to be selected for such a big race.
The Trofeo Vanoni international mountain relays are billed as the biggest mountain relays in Europe. Over 150 teams made up of national and provincial/local Italian teams make up the main senior mens relays whilst the Junior and Women’s races are ran as individuals.
The course for the relays was 4 miles in length with 500m of very steep climbing through the narrow streets of Morbegno and descending back down into the town via some mad drop offs and slippy cobble streets, a proper European circuit which was great fun to race on, albeit a bit painful.
After arriving at our accommodation and getting a recce of the course in on the Saturday before race, myself, Ian Conroy and Brian Furey where confident of a descent result as the course suited all of our abilities.
Come race day and the rain was falling lightly, and this has an effect on the course with it being slippier than it was on the recce.
The pre-race build up in the town was immense with all of Morbegno lined along the circuit, and with the 150 first leg runners lining up it was going to be a mad scramble going into the first climb after 800m.
Luckily I was at the very front and dictated the pace with the front runners all the way to the top of the course, cresting the course peak in 5th place going into the descent. Extra caution was needed as the rain had affected the grip on the cobbles, and I came through the changeover area inside the top 10 in 9th place, leaving Brian and Ian to bring Ireland home in hope of a good result.
As a team in the relays Ireland finished a commendable 11th from 148 teams, with France winning for the third year in a row. Wales where just ahead of us in tenth, with the Snowdon race team 4th.
Highlight of the weekend for me had to be finishing 4th in the Under 23 category, earning me my first international placing and being rewarded with wine and a few quid to add to the proceedings.
A brilliant weekend all in all, Italy really is the home of mountain running and the Italians didn’t disappoint with brilliant food, coffee, support and Nutella making it one for the scrapbook. We’ll definitely be back next year!