What a difference

What a difference the rain makes!
by Dave Johnson

After a hair-raising touchdown we eventually picked up our hire car from the airport and myself and two surrogate reporters made our way towards our overnight stay hotel, just 2km away, or so we thought. Taking the proverbial wrong turning, we headed north, away from the hotel until we realised quickly where we were heading. A swift turnoff the motorway saw us heading back in a southern direction, where we stopped and sort assistance from a local bus driver and what looked to be one of Bratislava's police officers. With the aid of a map and a 'pointy-finger' we were able to get a general idea of our hotels general location.

Arriving there shortly, without any further problems, we checked into our three-bed-room and then dropped down to the downstairs bar for our first taste of the superb Czech/Slovak beer, and very welcoming it was. We hit 'the sack' around 1am but found the sultry conditions to oppressive and opened the windows. Big mistake, as later on it brought out the best in night-time revellers, both inside and outside the hotel, so from 3.30am onwards very little sleep was secured!

The breakfast was excellent from what I could see of it from my half opened eyes and it wasn't long before we packed the car and headed north up the D2 motorway toward Küty and the turn off onto the Holic road. Following the map, as best as possible, we headed in the general direction of our ultimate destination, Uherske Hradiste, blissfully unaware of a major problem near Straznice. Having apparently closed the main road for a number of weeks, the authorities had deemed it unnecessary to inform drivers until you actually reached the 'Road Blocked' sign. You then had to circumvent the area, some 25km and an hours extra hassle, as the diversion route also placed us behind numerous juggernauts on roads unsuitable for overtaking. Never mind, we were only missing part of the last days practice session, which started at 10.30am... about now!

We eventually hit the venue around 11.45am and quickly got our bearings. The river looked fantastic, unlike anything I'd seen in England, deep and powerful. Perhaps the nearest comparison would possibly be some parts of the River Severn. It was after all an offshoot of the mighty Danube, which we'd travelled over as we left Bratislava. Locating the English contingent ,we checked out how things had all been getting on and found all the guys in the middle of their final day's practice session on A section.

Darren Cox was in the process of landing yet another of the rivers big skimmers, something he been doing all week I was told. We spoke to Manager Mark Downes and found that the thunderstorms we'd experienced on our arrival, had been more widespread than first thought. Extra water had flowed down into the river from the mountains 80km away making conditions different those experienced earlier in the week. Although the pace didn't seem that bad to me, I was assured that it had been almost static most days!

It didn't seem to bother the guys too much, but it did knock back the weights when the Friday session ultimately finished at 1.30pm. The best of the day had been Darren's 6.5kg. Some of the guys told us about the first week they were here, before the official practice sessions, when they went off-length (the match length is officially closed leading up to champs') and hammered some of the massive shoals of bream present in the area. Alan apparently had a quick 90 minute stint on his birthday and bagged 80lb!

One slight downside was the fact that every section had large gaps between them, anything up to 300 metres. I was under the impression that the rules on venue selection required that all section ran consequetively were possible. I was later informed by our Czech hosts, that these were due in part to heavy cabling across the river and a major tram/railway bridge. Sections A, B and C were downstream of this bridge, some 2km from were sections D and E were placed upstream.

We found our way to the hotel, situated in a small village called Velehrad just outside  Uherske Hradiste. It looked really nice and we found that as well as the English team, there was also the Hungarian contingent lead by their 2x World Champion Tamas Walter. After a good shower and rest we visited the restaurant and was pleased by the quality of food on offer, as trips like this can be full of culinary pitfalls! The one downside was the appearance of what must have been the most obnoxious and surly waiter in the whole of the Czech Republic... and it wasn't just us that had noticed. I must stress that he WAS NOT Czech, and to avoid any international incident, I'll keep his origins best covered up!

England had already selected their team, but as usual it was kept under wraps until the right moment. As it happens the short straw had fallen to Stu Conroy, but that didn't seemed to worry him, as he said, if it's good enough for a World Champion then it's good enough for me. He was of course making reference to Alan drawing the same straw last year in Italy.

We retired relatively early, because when your in a 'teams' hotel, whether it be England's or Hungary, you wake when they wake, which is generally too early for me!

Our next report will be on Saturday's upsets.