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In excess of 200, 203 to be precise, starters had entered the European Dryland Championships. Months of planning by the FSSC in cooperation with the VDSV and the WSA had gone into it. All parties involved later agreed that this very intense preparation paid off.

Of course the tension was huge especially with Michael Matthes – will the teams turn up, will the weather play ball, did we think of everything... When we arrived at the stake-out on Thursday morning the first competitors had arrived and the team of the FSSC was already hard at work.

Only the weather didn’t play ball, at least initially - rain on Thursday and Friday, but on both days the weather improved somewhat around noon. Saturday saw some snow showers, but they too stopped eventually and on Sunday we were greeted by a crisp and sunny morning.

From Thursday onwards the competitors arrived and the stake-out started filling up. At the same time, the trail was marked, the time keeping of the RSSC set up and the start and finish area equipped with tents and all necessary material. A special mention deserves Alexander Drobek, equipment officer of the FSSC, the man who in his camouflage suit seemed to be everywhere at once. Someone who is in the know said in the direction of Alex - "A club needs such a man!". We couldn’t agree more. So, thank you Alex for your tireless work and always with a smile!

Friday saw the first team leader meeting, the issuing of de start numbers and the atmospheric opening ceremony in front of the sports center of the local football club FSV. Illuminated by countless torches, FSSC President Michael Matthes welcomed all the participating nations individually. On a wall a huge logo of the European Championships had been projected alongside the WSA logos of all the nations. Arno Steichler, Chairman of the WSA, thanked the organizers for all their hard work and welcomed the participants. Thanks to Irene Valenkamp from Team GB, for the translation.

Arno’s speech was followed by the address of the third mayor of Lauf, Thomas Lang, who really got the audience going. The continued applause spoke for itself. Thomas Lang’s enthusiasm for the event was evident. Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise to see him on the following days among the spectators at the races. Thank you Thomas Lang, we all loved your speech! With that the WSA’s first European Dryland Championships were officially opened.

On Saturday – the first race day - not only the competitors but the entire organizing team eagerly awaited the first start. Was everything going to be perfect? The answer is yes, everything worked like clockwork, but nobody knew this at the time. The weather gods were sending the first signs of winter, however just in time for the first start the weather started to improve. Then the first start - the only ones still biting their nails were the timekeepers – would the technology work? Until the very last minute, the team of RSSC Austria was struggling with a port error but thanks to their experience from countless races they managed to fix that too. No wonder that the "bleep" that sounded as the first competitor crossed the finish line put a smile on previously tense faces.

Running times of around 11 minutes indicated that it was going to be a very fast race. Once again, the organizers were in demand. Results had to be published as quickly as possible as the rules allow the competitors an hour to log a complaint and this wasn’t to be shortened. Here too everything was perfectly organized - the lists went on display at the sports centre in record time.

The area after the finish should be named after Arnold Petutschnig. As Race Marshall he did an outstanding job there. By being in control at all times, he ensured that even big teams were checked and let go quickly.

There was a lot going on behind the finish line - microchips had to be checked and dogs were to be marked. There were countless helpers - Dagmar Kriegler was responsible for the veterinary support, FSSC helpers and mushers read the microchips, and Justyna Janecka marked all the dogs. Justyna has been a WSA race judge since

Scharnitz and is a great addition to the team. She has great awareness of everything that’s going on around her and comes up with good ideas. In addition, we have to thank her for looking after the wellbeing of the team at the finish providing them daily with hot coffee and tea as well as cakes. Thanks Justyna ...

The race itself ran like clockwork. There was some collateral damage, but no injured dogs and only very few mushers ended up with scrapes and bruises.

Once the first day was out of the way, people started to relax and even the odd smile was to be detected on the faces of the members of the organizing team. The musher dinner in the large marquee was a great success. Michael Matthes had had the ingenious idea to hire a huge roasting cart capable of roasting 450 chickens and pork knuckles at once. Judging by the fact that the food stations were completely empty by the end of the evening, people liked it.

The other highlight of the night was Arnold Petutschnig’s birthday on Sunday. The party started promptly at midnight and went on well into the early hours. Once again "Happy Birthday Arnold", not everyone is prepared to work on his birthday!

And then it was already almost over again - the final day of races had arrived. For the first time the sun was shining when at 9.30 am the first competitor flew from the start line. With temperatures well below freezing overnight, the trail had been checked beforehand and deemed ok. Once again, Alex – in full camouflage gear – went out on his quad bike to make the trail grippy.

Again, the day saw fast runs without significant problems and at 4pm everyone gathered in the marquee to celebrate the winners. For a final time, FSSC had pulled out all the stops: Prices sponsored by Happy Dog for all the principal winners, beautiful medals and certificates – not just for the winners but for all competitors who finished the race.

At the end of it one final question remained: Who had won the Nations Cup? France, la Grande Nation received a standing ovation for coming out on top thanks to four European champions, two second and two third place finishes, closely followed by Russia and Sweden.

And with that the first WSA European Dryland Championships were history. We’re looking back on a perfectly organized Championship, which was put on with great attention to detail thanks to FSSC’s outstanding team. A heartfelt “Dankeschön!” goes to Michael Matthes, Ingo Held, Monika Zehnder, Siegfried Hartung, Julia Hartung, Sabine Schoierer, Gisela König and Alexander Drobek. You have been a great team!

Last but not least, we want to extend our thanks to the team of the sports centre, which supported us wherever possible. They provided us with an office to work from and a great bar and kitchen. Thank you!

To all mushers - that was it - our first European Dryland Championshps. Thank you for supporting us and the FSSC in this discipline as well.

See you in Inzell at the European On-Snow Championships 2017…