new zealand

Ice Like Mud

World MTB Orienteering Championships, Poland 2014

The Australian and New Zealand team hits Poland! The town of Supraśl will be the home of all MTBO teams for the WOC week. There are training maps surrounding the town which was perfect for our team to get a taste for the Polish mapping and terrain.

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We jumped into training with a map starting on our back doorstep which was handy. Although the maps were quite out of date and a lot of the grading wasn’t accurate some tracks were ‘sometimes’ there. This didn’t make anyone feel too confident about their navigation ability. Especially when you were more or less running through the bush where the track should have been to get the control.

Each day the maps got better but still had inconsistencies, but they were building up our confidence. Well it was building mine up slowly. Almost everyone had slight mechanicals throughout the training week. No one had anything major or terribly expensive mechanicals. Best to get them done before the actual races and have your machine race ready.

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Approaching the official start of WOC we had ‘unofficial’ two man mixed teams relay where we could only create one official team in the masters for the ‘unofficial’ mixed relay. So Alex and Carolyn went out to smash the opposition. Which they did by taking out the gold. This was a perfect pre-race for the sprint on the following day. After the ‘official’ ‘unoffical’ mixed teams relay race. Everyone paired up with another team mate for the unofficial race of the ‘unofficial’ mixed relay.

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I had a good first leg and came in just behind Jorgen from Norway who would be in the top ten in the world for MTBO. The racing was fast and still chaotic with all the other teams zig zagging everywhere over the map. Tim (Timmy) Jackson had some solid rides but there were a couple questionable tracks which caused a little confusion but nothing major.

 

Unfortunately this was the day where the weather started to deteriorate and continued to get worse for the opening ceremony and on the day of the Sprint it got worse. Cold, wet weather created muddy conditions ou ton course. Luckily we could warm up inside a gym with out-of-use ice skating rink which doubled up as a warm shelter for the teams.

 

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I strategically used my long hair to keep my neck warm and since it was muddy it was going to increase my bike handling skills through the mud and the forest. The hair did it’s job, but I made a couple of errors during my race and a couple of not-so-optimal route choices. I can nitpick my course apart, but when it comes to it I just missed a few tracks and totally buggered a checkpoint losing maybe two minutes.

 

While racing, we had to deal with ice like mud and forest where you could cut through easily, but the forest would surprise you with slippery hidden logs. Cutting was essential and was worth it. If you could see the control in the distance, BUSH-BASH! Also knowing roughly in what direction the control was you barely had to navigate the tracks if the leg wasn’t too long.

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The maps were great, accurate and provided a great area for a sprint. This seemed to suit Angus who smashed out his course racing into third but slowly got pushed back down to tenth. Tim and Karl also had solid rides but just wasn’t quite on pace as the rest of the field. Alex didn’t have the best ride and was a little spun around by the new tracks created by the cutting through the forest and had a tiny brain fart on one leg where he did a 180. Not a day for him, but the middle and the long should suit his form and style of riding.

Our honorary Australian, Tim Robertson from New Zealand smashed the european dominated field to take out second place in his first JWOC appearance. He has talent and experience on his side. Before this major event he took out the Sprint Foot JWOC earlier this year and raced at WOC. Being the only New Zealand rider here we gave him our full support as he got up onto the podium. You legend Tim!

The middle will be next up then followed by a rest day. Let’s hope the weather clears up and we can get some of that sweet european summer sunshine.

New Zealand Trip Recap

Well New Zealand was amazing as it is always. I only wish I had performed as well as I would had of liked to, but the riding was awesome and the competition was fierce.

This is the link for  the information on the event, click here. At the top of the page you will find the results tab for each day. If you want to find a detailed report of the week click here for another wordpress blog from NZ, just click this link.

I haven’t done any Mountain Bike Orienteering events or practiced my Nav training since World Champs, and at the moment I am a bike down and my road bike has been cracked

(oh yeah, I didn’t end up writing about how my rear derailleur on my road bike popped off into my spokes as I was cruising up hill and got spun around and cracked the top stay. Plus the hanger is built into the frame so I have to get the top and bottom rear stay carbon fixed with the hanger build into it.) 

so I am using my fathers mountain bike and the single speed we own. I think I did ok, but nothing special. The second day that I won, I had a fairly smooth ride. I was hoping to repeat that effort but I never did.

Some of the problems through out the carnival I struggled with, especially in the sprint was the huge light changes coming out of a dark forest into blistering bright sunlight which would reflect off my map board cover and blind me, then you would head back into the dark forest. I rode past a few controls in the sprint because of this. Also I was looking for controls on stands like I have been all competition until now, where they were strapped to the trees.

I looked at the split times for the sprint and I was in the lead until I rode past the control that was only a few meters from me.

In the bulletins for the Australian versus New Zealand they had mentioned that there would be green dotted tracks that were able to be ridden, also white on the map which is generally forest and you’re not allowed to ride through it was the reverse in New Zealand, which is cool. Also since one of the days was on Rotorua they marked directional arrows on the map so we didn’t ride down tracks the wrong way, since most of the tracks are one way only.

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Most of these rules were fine, but I didn’t like the fact that they were only used in some parts of the map to open up route choice. I missed a crucial route choice in the middle because there some specks of white to allow people to cross onto a track and there was a huge part that didn’t register in my eyes for me and I lost a heap of time, but I can’t complain since I seemed to be the only person to be tricked up by this.

There was a big  down side to this competition which was the long distance. The organisers were very unlucky, it was on and off rain and sunshine. Usually this isn’t so bad, Only that the ground soil was clay base. Meaning that getting to the start up the hill was extremely hard for 80%+ of the competitors. Not only was the track up to the start almost impossible to ride, the whole course was practically impossible to ride. The first track you road along was bogged down and would seize up your wheel. Turning someones 10kg light weight bike into a 20kg+ bike.

Again, you can’t criticize the coniditions since everyone else had to ride in them. So I tried to be fairly persistent. Until I chose one route choice which was bad considering the conditions. After banging out my wheel 4 times and clearing the mudd off my bike I had enough, so I decided this wasn’t a race, this was a course to survive not show who was fastest.

When I got back I realised that I would have been disqualified anyways, since right at the start there were two tracks paralleling each other. One being a smooth, wide fire road. An off road high way almost, and running beside it was a shitty undulating fire road that was bogged so badly that when I was riding past I saw dozens of people walking their bikes.

On the map there was small tiny arrows showing you could only go up the shitty fire road and back along the high way like fire road, and I had gone up the wrong way. Also there was no other route choice unless you wanted to add another 3-4km of shitty clay track riding. Competitors found out later that the course setter had only done this for a dog leg for lower courses, and didn’t want them riding on the high way fire road.(!?) I think many were a bit bitter about this course setting.

The best and worst thing was decided on that day. The Long Distance wouldn’t count in the Aus/NZ challenge and instead they would use the last race, which was on Rotorua, as the long distance event. “Great!”, everyone thought, but the poor choice to follow, I think was allowing people to be given awards for winning their course when a lot had taken the illegal route choice.

Also I had forgotten to mention that NONE of the bitumen roads were marked as no ride/out of bounds on the map, yet they had put tiny text around the out side of the map saying it was out of bounds (because in MTBO everyone stops to read the super tiny text during a high intense race…). Many people took bitumen roads, I don’t blame them and I don’t think anyone should get disqualified but I don’t think you could call any of the race fair or legitimate, especially with no marshals watching the key areas where people could get disqualified. Oh, and yes, they did have a sign at the start of the race saying that roads were out of bounds, although I think everyone was too stuffed and concerned about the sticky clay like mud building up on the soles of their feet and bikes.

In the end, I think the long distance could of been avoided by seeking a map that had far better tracks that would provide more route choice and avoid using arbitrary direction arrows just so people don’t ride on the same track in different directions.

Besides buggering up a route choice heavily on the Rotorua race there wasn’t much else to comment on.

All of the days, besides the long distance, had superb courses, lovely tracks and maps as well as fantastic competition. The event areas were well set up for the numbers that showed up. The people were amazing and the vibe of the whole carnival was excellent. I think the New Zealand folk did a top job and I can’t wait to get back and ride some more trails.

I know there was a lot of talk about the bad things, but it is what stuck and to me at least, was interesting to think over and see what could be avoided next time or how to minimize damage to the competitive side of the carnival.