So this journey starts in Estonia. The World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships had just finished with the Long Distance the previous day to our departure. This meant there was a heavy night of drinking and partying and celebrating with the winners. It was great fun and I had heaps of fun with all the competitors.
The next morning was a little rough and Karl and I were heading to Helsinki by Ferry. So we all jump in the van to head to Tallinn. Boarding the ferry should have of been as easy as walking on board with out bikes that were packed up in their boxes, but no. Instead I went into the ferry terminal area to ask the lady at the ticket booth where Karl and I should board since we have our bicycles with us. She told me to go back out side and go through a side gate where we will head past the booths that allow cars into the area to line up to board the ferry that way.
So we did just that. We walked around and down to the booth where the girl that I was trying to talk to sounded really really confused, asking why we were down here. I explained what the previous girl said in the ferry terminal had told me to do. So she printed out some boarding tickets for us and told us to walk in.
Walking in meant, walking into a huge open ship yard where you had cars lining up in multiple lanes forming a huge sea of cars and then there were cars driving off the ferry. There were many shipping crates everywhere in this huge shipping yard. Karl I were standing out in the open with no one to ask what to do and with the sea of cars to our side just staring at us.
After about 15minutes of standing around looking stupid we noticed some of the cars started to move and driving into the ferry. We spied the guy directing the cars in. We decided we needed to talk to this guy. So we hauled our bike boxes and baggage in front of the sea of stationary cars that were getting ready to drive on. Came up to this guy and explained everything that we had been told to do. He inspected out tickets and asked where our bikes where. We pointed to our bike boxes and he just laughed and talked on the radio for a couple of minutes and told us to walk up the huge car ramp and walk into the hull of the ferry.
In the hull we were directed into some stairwell with an elevator and told to go to the seating area and just stay there. So it turns out we could of walked out bikes straight in the normal way and avoided this whole situation!
And that’s how the awkward journey to Helsinki started.
So I haven’t been updating my blog for quite awhile now, and there is are reasons for that. But I can’t list them all at once so I will say that I think I need to do a quite a large cover of where I have been since WOC. This will be a quick post about places I have been to.
After the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships I traveled to Helsinki by ferry with a friend of mine, Karl. Helsinki was certainly a life experience all on its own for many reasons. After that I flew to Berlin in Germany and my mate Karl flew back to Australia.
In Berlin I went on a few guided tour walks around Berlin. Berlin has very interesting history and fantastic vibe to it’s always buzzing city. I did a secret diet in Berlin too! After Berlin I took a short seven hour train trip to Arhus in Denmark. There I stayed with one of my good Mountain Bike Orienteering friends Camilla. I had probably some of the best days on this trip in Denmark.
With a short flight to the UK to stay with some relatives. It was nice to have a bit of down time, which I could of used to write this blog, but I was enjoying not having to move my stuff every second day and not having to be and adult. After my nice break in UK I hopped onto a plane and was flown to Czech where I stayed with another good Mountain Bike Orienteering friend of mine, Vojtěch. I had an unbelievable time in Czech. Definitely a place I would come back to and stay for awhile, there is fantastic riding there in Czech.
Then I spent almost a month in Vienna in Austria trying to learn German. This was a mixed experience and another life experience of sorts. Finally I am now in Nice and hanging out with my parents. My project from now will be writing about each places I have visited and what has been good and bad. Knowing what to avoid and what to do better.
Berlin bicycle love.
Another race done and dusted. Sad to report that I didn’t have a great day out there though. I was fairly smooth through all the controls up until checkpoint 13 when I started to run out of puff and my navigation took a steep downward drop.
I had a small error coming into checkpoint 8 and I had to run through the bush from the track adjacent to the one I needed to be on. The course got incredibly physical and technical once we crossed the road for the second time. The tracks were very good ride ability for most of the race and the courses were set excellently.
I had trouble breathing while riding up the hills and my navigation dropped off steeply after checkpoint 11. I had to stop because I forgot what track I was taking and I did a few too many wrong turns. Sure I was annoyed at my current performances but it gives me something to work on for the future. I ended up somewhere in the bottom half of the results. Disappointed and a little down yes but I enjoyed the course and its great talking to the other riders after and seeing what they did.
I will not be racing the long distance on Saturday. I haven’t performed like my usual self and I agree with their decision. The relay team will be Alex, Callum and my self. I will be shooting off first because I am a good starter.
We have a rest day tomorrow then the relays on Friday.
Mountain Bike Orienteering is a very European sport and races are more readably accessible with more dense and competitive competition. In Brisbane, Australia, where I live. We are lucky to have such a great community and drive for MTBO. We can race MTBO once a month if we are blessed with good conditions and proactive organisers. Most of our maps are in low lying areas that have a decent track network, but the tracks can get water logged and it isn’t that nice to race on at times. A lot of the Australian team has probably done two MTBO races in the last two months into lead up to worlds. Almost everyone on the team is split up over Australia and getting to some races can be difficult.
This training camp really gives us a reality check to what we should be expecting at the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships. We have probably done more MTBO than we have done this year in this short week. The maps are more complex and foreign to us so we have had to improve a lot in such a short time. I know we have riders that have the potential to get into the top ten, but it comes down to; can they consistently race as hard and clean as they can under the WOC pressure?
Friday after the sprint training map in the morning. The selectors pulled Alex, Callum, Ricky and myself to one side and explained that this years WOC won’t be having a long distance qualification race but instead reducing the slots down to two riders to race the Long distance race. Since all four of us live far apart and racing together is rare to give them an idea of where we are in fitness and skill level, it makes it difficult for them to choose. The last time we raced was when the selection trials were on and I had only just recovered from my collar bone injury and there has been some time since then, where we have all done a lot of training.
So they said they would like us to race the afternoon training map to give help them some race information to help them decide who they will choose to race the Long distance. We had a decent four minute time difference for a staggered start. Alex was first, Ricky second, myself third and Callum leaving last. Everyone had some difficulties at some point on the course. Alex said he started off badly, not doing so well through the first few check points and said he just stopped racing because he didn’t feel like racing. Ricky raced well, fairly fluid with a minor error. Callum had some oxygen educed errors but held it together. He was only a couple of minutes behind Ricky. I had a fairly good race except for a couple of questionable route choices and doing a small 180 early on out of a checkpoint.
This doesn’t help the selectors at all since Alex has raced dominantly in the past and I raced well, and since my last efforts, it was a huge improvement. Ricky and Callum being close together also doesn’t make it easy. There are still some more training sessions and the Sprint and Middle to help them choose but for now it’s up in the air.
For more images and an active site for information on WOC and the Australian MTBO Team you should go look at the Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team Facebook page.
So far the training has been pretty good. Some ‘easy’ group rides have turned into TTT single track smash outs. We have been exploring single track through the close by Estonian forests like Nomme. It is littered full of single track and small little trails with heaps of roots and is fantastic to explore.
There was a club race the other day where I totally stuffed up the first check point, then the second check point I hadn’t noticed a fence blocking a route choice of mine so I had to back track and make a B route to the check point. Only to find there were massive pools of water and I wasn’t prepared to get my shoes and bike soaked with sandy marshy water for two controls that were 50m apart. The course was dreadfully sandy and my sport ID splits didn’t make sense to my team mate Tom. We raced each other to some controls with me beating him by some seconds and he still had faster splits than me.
We have moved from our accommodation in Tallinn and how moved out to some training accommodation in Ganita. They organisers of the events have some maps for us to train on which will be great. Wednesday is our rest day which we are all using to unwind from some intense map training on Sunday and Tuesday. The team tays in Ganita until the 25th and then head to booked hotel for the world championships.
Todays race was very technical. One of the most technical maps I have ever seen or ridden on. There was a 10km course on this map called Pirita. It was mapped at 1:5000 so everything was coming up quick. There was almost a track every 5 metres and the new thing to the Australian team was that we were allowed to ride anywhere we wanted.
I started out the course a little confused. The first route choice to one I did it fine but the first road you came across wasn’t actually really mapped correctly and almost everyone ended up coming into control number one the way you wanted to exit it. I faffed through the rest of the control up to number six where I rode straight passed it because it was tucked behind a tree as I came across it. The next few controls I lost a little time not being completely used to the maps and terrain.
I did a silly error to 14 and cut across the oval then had to head take the track leading out of check point 14. Turning over the map was interesting. Already thinking the first side was tricky then finding out the other side just made the previous area look like child’s play. I lost map contact on the way to check point 18 and was completely and utterly lost for five or more minutes until I found control number 31. I found it tricky to tell what was a main track and what was a small track. After that I didn’t have many problems navigating besides riding past a couple of controls that were either on the ground and hidden or just hidden behind trees.
The rest of the Team seemed to have similar problems and we all battled through the maze of tracks. The locals mentioned that this was one of the hardest maps they had and that the World Champs won’t be as close. I think most of us were around the 50-55min mark. The winner did 37. We didn’t know how. We know we made errors and felt there was around 10minutes of mistakes but to shave off almost 15minutes of our best time was astounding.
Free day tomorrow. So I think we will go for a gentle ride with a map and practice some techy navigation.
So today we arrived into Tallinn airport at midnight and finding out that our bikes did not end up in the same place as us. Then finally getting to our hotel that was close by to get some sleep. It was good in a way that our bikes didn’t arrive. It meant they had to send the bikes to the place where ever we were staying and we didn’t have to organise a maxi taxi for bikes and pay extra.
Alex and I got up around a relaxed nice o’clock in the morning to stumble down to a hot breakfast which had unlimited plunged coffee! Back, eggs, boiled eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruit, salad, sausages and everything else that I forgot to mention. Then we had got to have a nice shower to clean up in.
Twelve euro later and we were at our next accommodation at an Academic Youth Hostel. Tallinn is fairly nice, perfect cycling temperature. We met up with Karl, Callum and Ricky at the hostel. Karl is on the Junior Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team, Callum and Ricky are on the Senior Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team. The same as Alex and myself. Tom Goddard arrived with his family, he is also on the Junior Australian Team, with Angus coming in with Carolyn. Carolyn is this years token female racing in the Womens Open. (Womens and Mens open just means you’re over 21)
Alex and I were told that our bikes would be at the Hostel in a couple of hours which was great news. First Alex’s bike arrived and then mine 10 minutes later. They came through safely and Alex had some clean clothes to dress into. It was good having all built up and seeing the rest of the team, since most of us are scattered through out the Australian States. Pretty even distribution. The Ian and Ricky are from Perth. Tom and Callum are from Tasmania although Tom is studying in South Australia. Carolyn, Angus and Alex are from Victoria. Karl and myself are in Queensland.
We were just waiting for Ian Dalton who is our Manager/Coach for the Australian team who was arriving in at 5:30pm and we can pick up the hire cars. While the people who were lined up to sign on for the cars headed to the airport, the rest of the boys went out for a ride through the beautiful Estonian forest that sat right outside our accommodation. Unlike Australia there was dozens upon dozens of small trails going through this forest, but you struggled to find a hill taller then a few metres high. Riding around here actually gave me a good understanding what some of the Estonian terrain will be like. Which means courses will be vague and tough.
Tomorrow we have a race in the afternoon at 3pm near us. So it will be nice to turn the map brain on properly and try and sweep out the cob webs. We don’t have many races in Australia for MTBO and there is only so much you can do between races. I don’t think I personally have done MTBO in a few months besides study maps. I have been focusing on regaining my fitness and confidence after breaking my collar bone. So lets see how this race goes.