orienteering

Selection Trails and Update


I am not sure if I want to write a lot to explain what has been happening in my life during these unscheduled and spars blog updates. Or if I should shoot out the recent update and news in my cycling career. I think I will stick with a recent update since it’s easier to write. So heres a wordy text post update.

 

The Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team selection trials were being held down in Newcastle on the 21st and 22nd of March. I had to attend these trials if I were to be considered for the Australian team. I hadn’t really planned to attend to race any MTBO events this year. My sights had been set on XCO. Since December 2014 I have hit a slump with training, relative to the amount I have been doing the past 3 years. So I popped the selection trails back onto my race calendar.

Long story short, packed up the bikes into the car, drove 9hrs to Newcastle with Mum and dad and competed. Unfortunately the first day I performed poorly, I guess I was still rusty from not having seen or raced an MTBO map since last world champs – thats the last time I can remember racing MTBO. Fortunately, I found my brain and won the Sprint and Middle the following day, which was enough to secure my spot with my mate from last yeah, Angus.

There was a lot that went wrong with my bike in the poor conditions, wet, muddy sandy crap. My poor bike had some TLC once I got back to Brisbane.

 

Kay, the high performance coach for the MTBO team briefly explained the high performance funding changes to me in Newcastle. It turns out this may be the last year Orienteering Australia (OA) sends a team that will be funded, since Australia is cutting funding from high performance programs and moving the funding and focus in to getting people to participate in sports. So we will have to seek funding from other means like sponsors or fundraiser to support our high performance teams in the future.

So Angus and I will be flying over in August to race in Czech and represent Australia in MTBO. This has been a big change for my race calendar and a hard choice to make to head overseas for multiple reasons which I will try and sum up.

Firstly, I had focused on mainly racing and training for ‘pure’ cross country racing (XCO). So my race season had been focused on just that, but since around December I have hit a training slump (it’s a bit more than that but I won’t go into it now). I am still training more than most people, but compared to the past 3 years it’s roughly halved. It’s enough training to keep me fit and racing in the state XC races, but not quite to keep me in the pointy end of the races. More on that in a little later post.

Flights are not cheap and I explained earlier this year to the selectors that I may not be able to go afford flights for this years trip. With funding being cut and having such a small team there will be no excess to travel with the team, so it will only be flights I will have to pay for which makes this trip more manageable on my bank account. There is also another issue of being focused and driven for these races which didn’t make the choice clear. Do I travel over and risk not being motivated and in poor form and spend all the money or do I stay home train and race and save my pennies.

In the end I decided it was worth one last trip to compete overseas. Through these weeks of racing and decision making weren’t made easy and was helped by my coach Ashley Druve who has been more than a coach, a mentor and a friend. I don’t think I would have competed at this level ever or gotten to these points without his help.

2014 World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships Poland Wrap-up

So this years WOC MTBO champs has wrapped up and fairly uneventful trip for me this year unfortunately. Wasn’t navigating fast enough and my long distance fitness/fire road riding wasn’t near what the other competitors were at. XCO fitness yes! But not this fire road belt power grinding.

The middle distance event was interesting, I had a mostly clean race after my fourth checkpoint which I managed to bugger up the simple controls by over analysing them. On my way to the fourth checkpoint I had a brief scare that I hadn’t punched at my second checkpoint so rode the next few controls with a sinking feeling. Fortunately I had punched!

10504980_10204530918662594_323281742305032544_oI rode the technical part of the middle quite well I felt, even with a Lithuanian yelling “GO! GO! GO! GO!” as I was riding down a single track with branches at my handle bar height and higher. Love riding trails like that… not really. He was an ok guy, but it wasn’t nice to be told to go faster when it would risk damaging my eyes or stacking it. I watched him flip over his bars as he passed me though. Then he would tear off on the fire-road and belt out the watts and then I would be behind him cruising. So I don’t know what was happening.

I made a slight mistake with a bush cut towards the end of my race which was annoying because I accidentally nailed the intersection I needed to go down but thought I had cut too high and I finished about 7min off the pace, which was apparently enough to get me into the A long final. Yay!?

Not much to say about the long final. I got tired, I wasn’t fast on the fire roads. Crappy tired making route choic10575445_10204545544028219_3513783738299518286_oes, second guessing my routes and I was super tired about half way through. I was 22min down when I came in. Wasn’t really surpassed I had a poor ride on all levels. I was glad to cruise back home and lay down for a few hours.

This was just a quick wrap up because I am traveling at the moment around the south of Poland in Krakow and Zakopane which has been good and a little stressful with traveling.

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.

Australian Champs, Middle Distance

So this years Australian Championships were held in Alice Springs. I wouldn’t say I performed well, at all. I would say I was the fittest one who rode hard enough to reduce the huge errors and bad route choices I chose.

Alice Springs at this time of year is sunny, cold and windy. When there is no wind the temperature is perfect, you can feel warmth of the sun on your back and you can wear shorts and t-shirts, but once the wind picks up you need to be covered with layers of clothing, although this is coming from a Queenslander where in a 15 degree day I will struggle to leave the bed because it is too cold. (Like I might put on arm warmers for 5 rides of the year in Queensland)

The middle distance race was the first race on the Australian Championships calendar. This one was probably my worst ride of the year, although it’s not hard to beat that since I have probably done less than six MTBO races this year and some of the other Australian Team members have maybe done two. Especially if you’re from Tasmania where there is no MTBO races all year round.

So I will dive into what tricked me up about the middle distance. The middle distance map was a double sided A3 page. This is usually fine with my map board which is a Autopilot which fits larger maps fine. It was way they decided to show the course on both sides of the map was a little annoying and pointless. On one side of the map they fell short of fitting the course and the map on one side to take the mens elite up north where they needed an extra 4-5cm of map. So they chose to make it double sided.

It felt like the mapper/course setter could have moved the map around to only show the necessary check points so it would fit on an A4 sized page and then fit the rest of the map on one side. So you wouldn’t have to refold. What they chose to do is to print the course on both sides, so at the start you were shown a 98% complete course and tried to fold the map to fit everything in. In hindsight I see that I could of just folded the map in half to start off with but it wasn’t so clear in the rush of the 1 minute pre start seeing the whole of your course bar one check point. Reflecting on it now I am not sure if I should have been smarter to realised this or if it was over looked when course setting or controlling.

So these next two pictures are my scanned copy of the Elite Mens Middle (Mens 21) Distance course to show you what I mean by having a double sided for just one control.

Middlea

Middle Distance Side A

 

Middleb

Middle Distance Side B

 

So I have drawn my course on in red. On the map PTO is there to tell the racer to flip your map over to the other side. I have stopped at that control and started to draw where to go on the next side.

Middleadrawn

Middle Distance Side A – Route Drawn

Middlebdrawn

Middle Distance Side B – Route Drawn

For the next set I have circled parts of the course with a green pen to show where I made the errors and where I use the green pen to show where I thought the optimal route was.

Obviously you can find the huge error on the way to the start, I was still folding the map and I felt un-organised and just rode past the turn off. The tracks were very difficult to pick up even though you had great visibility over the landscape.

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The biggest error is missing the 4th control after having troubles finding a track entrance to checkpoint 3 which more or less didn’t exist, there were a few scratches in the ground which lead you into the control. The same with the 5th checkpoint I picked up a track that lead me to the checkpoint but it wasn’t as shown on the map.

After those early errors I got into an ok rhythm but went to take the right hand track on the way to 10 and it was a gap jump and it wasn’t possible to ride up it. (I know what you’re thinking, “What Chris can’t do a gap jump up hill?!”) I only lost a few seconds. Heading to 13 out of 12 I didn’t look close enough and flip my bike around and road out the way I came in more or less and it was 10-20 seconds slow which is hurt knowing I could of just continued forwards out of the check point.

MiddlebdrawnerrorsYou can see around control 14 I nearly rode off the map, I think I actually did. I was feeling fairly puffed after the climb. I knew I had to turn left just after the top of the hill and it was on the turn. When you got there, there was no track off to the left. Nothing. After riding past, then returning to where the track should start, I rode across the ‘unrideable’ yellow. After 20-40m of riding through the open a track appeared and lead you to the check point. A few other people had this problem as well. In the end it didn’t matter since I completely missed check point 4 earlier in the race.

Here at the WinSplits for the middle distance:
Middle Distance Class Splits

Middle Distance M21/Elite Splits

 

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.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic. I don’t know where to start. I am fortunate to know some of the best, most talented and driven cyclist from Czech. The cyclists in Czech, to me, are the most pure and show that rare love for cycling. Having spent almost a week in Czech I don’t think I could ever forget the good time I had there.

I think this week was the stand out week out of all the time I spent in Europe. My friend Vojtěch went above and beyond as a friend. Not only did he come out late at night to collect me from the airport (after some confusion of what day I was arriving), he also let me stay at his place in Prague that he only just moved into.

He also showed me around his home town and organise for me to race in a local race. Vojtěch really made me feel at home, he also organised a bike for me to ride through another one of our friends, Kryštof who is the best Mountain Biker Orienteer-er in the world and is climbing up the ladder on the World XCO (Coming 3rd in the WMTOC Sprint and 1st in the Long and recently racing in the Noway World Cup round for XCO getting 12th and racing the XCE) . I got to ride his winter bike for my time in Czech. This kid, lives and breaths bicycles and mountain bike. It’s refreshing just to be riding with a guy with so much passion and talent.

Czech’s know how to ride. The first ride I did in Czech was just a 100km ride with Kryštof, riding back to Prague from collecting his bike from his place. I faded pretty fast in the last 20km. I hadn’t touched a bike since my ride in Helsinki and I was suffering. Luckily the last 20km we were zig-zaging our way in to Prague.

One of the funniest things I remember from my ride with Kryštof to Prague is when we briefly stopped half way through our ride because, Kryštof didn’t know where we were. Couldn’t help chuckle and smile hearing that come from the best Mountain Bike Orienteer-er in the world. Although to be fair, I was completely lost and we didn’t have to wait more than a minute or so to work out where we had to go.

Not only did I get to ride with some great friends, I got to race and attend a cool uni-party/concert sort of part in Prague and roam the street with Kryštof. Again, this was so amazing and was a real high light of my trip. Thank you Vojtěch and Kryštof, I will definitely come back next year and ride some more with you guys.

Life Experienes

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.

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