After the extraordinary international campaign of February in our country, Foot Orienteering at the highest level returns by the hands of Clube Português de Orientação e Corrida. It will be the Iberic Championships' first leg, travelling to Gouveia to its XXI edition. A little over a month to the big event, we checked with Luis Santos, Event Director in partnership with João Dias, the preparing work and the higher expectations.
For the third year, Gouveia receives an event organized by CPOC. What particular emotion do you feel with this return to Serra da Estrela?
Luís Santos (L. S.) - The strongest emotion is precisely that one. Making one of the most known places of our country in a place that orienteers can recognize as a top spot for orienteering. I love 350kms away, but it always confused me how was it possible the absence of a single orienteering map in Serra da Estrela. A few days ago I red again the ending paragraph of my interview after directing Portugal'O'Meeting 2009 were I said that the Iberic Championship in Serra da Estrela would be the next step after Mora's POM. But a bit afterwards, I abandoned the leadership of CPOC, and other choices were made afterwards. Although I had already done the prospection of all Serra da Estrela it was another club to bet in Manteigas (GD4C) with 2 new maps. We are now back to Serra da Estrela supported in a protocol with Gouveia municipality that took more than a year to build but finally with the capacity to make this project come true to what we believe may put Gouveia among the best portuguese municipalities to do orienteering.
How do you classify the terrains?
L. S. - The municipality has terrains good enough to make Gouveia one of the best municipalities to do orienteering in Portugal. However, we have to understand that in Gouveia we have winter maps and summer maps. This difference is not important in the rest of the country but it is important in Gouveia. We have done 2011 Meeting in lower lands (Folgosinho was a bit high but we had plan B if the weather wouldn't let us use it), the Iberic Championships in mid April will be in higher ground and in Portugal'O'Meeting next March 2014, all stages will be again on lower grounds. That is, we'll have an excellent map in Vale do Rossim, but at 1500m it is unthinkable to use such an high quality map in early March. So, Portugal'O'Meeting will be totally out of Serra da Estrela. But those who already know Arcozelo lands from 2011 Meeting certainly know that no one will be disappointed with the terrains that we are going to use in 2014, all with the quality work of Tiago Aires and Raquel Costa.
What are the benefits for the Iberic Championships of the offered conditions?
L. S. - Iberic Championships will help to know exactly what Gouveia has to offer. And if orienteers are thinking that we are going to spare the best maps for Portugal O' Meeting, you have to think again. We will have trail-O first edition on Iberic Championships and we will have sprint stage of the Iberic Championships counting for the first time for the Portuguese Cup, so these two stages will be more important than the extra events in POM. Long distance and middle distance will be in terrains that we won't be able to offer in Portugal'O'Meeting but I know runners will like them. So, the technical quality of the Iberic Championships will be at a very high level. Out of curiosity we made a change on the program using Vale do Rossim also for trail-O so now, only the sprint stage won't be there. I don't want to talk much about this place, but on the internet you can almost reach its beauty, so the best is to experience for yourself when you get there.
At a time when the entries reach more than a hundred participants, what do you expect?
L. S. - The economical context will not allow us to beat records of participants. We have our goals, but the main goal is to prepare an event where all can have a very good experience and an enjoyable weekend in Serra da Estrela. The proximity to Spain and the work of communication that we are doing in Spain would make us very pleased if we could have a high number of spanish runners, but as important as that is to break the tendencies of decline of recent numbers of portuguese participants. Si, I'll wait that the distance that separates Gouveia from all that are reading these lines, won't make them decide not to do Orienteering in Serra da Estrela.
Gouveia is not only the excellence of their terrains. Despite an intense program, for those who want to discover a little more of the region, what shouldn't miss at all?
L. S. - Gouveia is a part of the Natural Park of Serra da Estrela, that is one of the most beautiful parks of Portugal. As I think that every orienteer loves Nature surroundings, the fact of having the most part of the event on a protected area (with due permissions), it will be, by itself, a good reason to participate. Visits to the springs of Mondego and Zêzere are recomended, visits to the south and southeast part of Vale do Rossim, in Penhas Douradas, with its unusual rocky formations in a treeless but amazing location are very interesting. On the low lands of Gouveia I recomend the Ecological Park of Gouveia, the museums closeby to the City Hall buiding, the Park of Senhora dos Verdes (we'll get to that story on Portugal'O'Meeting...), the city maze of Folgosinho with a map on your hands, among others. Also recomended is the gastronomy namely with the well known Albertino Restaurant in Folgosinho and Restaurant Ponte dos Cavaleiros, where you can eat very well and cheap, and where orienteers are surprised by an Arcozelo orienteering map on the balcony for all who would like to see it.
You've made several references to the most important regular event of Portuguese Orienteering, the Portugal O' Meeting, which will be held next year in Gouveia. How do you link the both events?
L. S. - I have been making several references to both events on the previous questions, but both make part of a larger project that will naturally have its highest point with Portugal'O'Meeting but that may still have an international event in 2015. The project "Orienteering in Gouveia" has a goal to transform Gouveia on a training camps location with high references at several major points: high quality orienteering terrains, mountain maps, long distance suited maps, middle distance suited maps, high quality sprint maps, good logistic conditions in Parque da Senhora dos Verdes or Ecoresort in Vale do Rossim), and including one of the most experient portuguese players on the subject - Fernando Costa and Orievents.
Do you want to leave a message, an invitation to the XXI Iberic Championships?
L. S. - Serra da Estrela is a reference among all portuguese, but it may become a special place for each of you that will get to know better those terrains. Maybe you shouldn't loose yourself there for 3 or 4 hours on the map, but certainly we will do all that we can so you can have a very nice weekend in Serra da Estrela in this edition of the Iberic Championships.
All information at http://www.cpoc.pt/eventos.php?ev=Gouveia03.
[Photo: Miguel Barradas]