Preview – Warncliffe MTBO, Sheffield

The UK MTBO calendar returns to Warncliffe Woods this weekend for the first time in several years following permissions issues.

Better known for its extreme downhill routes, Britain’s best mountain bike orienteers with their race spec XC hardtails will raise a few eyebrows from the local armour-clad downhillers as they navigate the same trails.

Info and online entry here

More info about riding in Warncliffe Woods here

Fantastic Photos

BMBO Chair John Houlihan has sent me one of the photos he took in Sweden, thanks John 

British MTBO Long Champs 2011 – Longleat

This years British MTBO long distance champs was held at Longleat. The last time I orienteered at Longleat was 1989 ! It was my 17th birthday and I drove home afterwards, probably scaring my Dad half to death !

I seem also to remember writing ‘CHEESE’ in huge letters with electrical tape on my tent when we camped that weekend at the Shepton Mallet showground, no idea why…… happy days.….

With the Center Parcs right in the middle of the map now, planning was always going to be challenging. Unfortunately some confusion over the marking of out of bounds roads overshadowed what was a fantastic area with some challenging route choices and some vicious hills.

I had a reasonable ride, a little unsettled when I realised I had been OOBs but felt happy with my split times generally. A great ride by Andy Simpson, an old MTBO stalwart returning to the sport after a break of a few years, gave him the win. Em Benham took the women’s race.

Swedish Headcam Footage

Sorry, its taken a while and sorry its nearly 10 mins long but there were too many good bits !

Staffs Summer Series 1 – Hoar Cross

A very tired Stodge rocked up at the first Staffordshire Summer Bike O series after a little commute from Sweden to Manchester on Tuesday morning.

Planner Neil had deliberately planned a course that could not be cleared in the time available making me think hard before blasting off into the lanes North of Hoar Cross.

The area is deceptively hilly and it seemed to take a while to cover the ground.

The two controls 43 and 36 made me laugh. Coming out of 43 across a field and through a ‘horse’ gated garden in a building site, I came to a lane, turned right and took the next bridleway sign back into the same field about 40 metres from where I had just been. All nice and legal though!

After that it was out onto the escarpment and a series of controls with a fairly obvious route. It was here that I made a huge mistake, probably my worst in all forms of orienteering for years and years, Ill put it down to tiredness.

Coming out of 31 going to 47 I did a classic parallel error but very magnified, descending a road to early and only when I got to what I thought should be the control site did I realize I was nearly 2km away from the actual site. Id thought a few times on the way in that things didn’t feel quite right – doh!

This then meant that the only sensible route to the real control site was a cross field trudge which cost me even more time. I think all in all it cost me about 10-12 mins.

After that I just got stuck in and did as much of my original plan as possible but had to miss out number 44 as there wasn’t time.

Time for a rest ready for the British Championships on Sunday I think. It was a great first event, a little low on numbers but a beautiful area and one I’m sure we will come back to.

Medals and Photoshoots !

The World 2011 Masters Championships was held together with the MTBO world Cup races in Sweden. A large strong team of British riders travelled out hoping to build on the success’s of 2010.

There were lots of good top 10 results but in the end in was Killian Lomas in Mens 40 and Charlotte Somers Cocks in Womens 50 who excelled, Killian with a Bronze and Charlie with two Golds and a Silver.

Following the last prize giving Charlie, Killian and a few others charged back out into the sublime single tracks that surrounded the finish arena with BMBO Chairman and professional photographer John Houllihan to get some publicity pictures in the dappled damp sunshine.

Other than getting well and truly bitten by the mossies, we had a great time stomping down the trails chucking the bikes this way and that for the camera.

John got some stunning photos which we hope will really help sell the sport going forward and nobody fell off !

MTBO World Cup Sweden – Relay

The assembly area for the final event, a mixed relay, at the Swedish 2011 World Cup MTBO round was the same as the long race the previous day, centred on a X Country Ski arena providing great views for spectators.

As many teams had a long way to travel home and World Masters courses had to take place after the relay, the mass start was at a very unfriendly 9am.

Since the first mixed (at least one woman in each team) relay a year ago, countries are now sometimes putting their women off first, not just on the middle leg as they did in 2010. So approximately 1/3 of the athletes lining up, bikes and maps to their fronts for the Le Mans style start, were women. This, as I was soon to find out, put the cat amongst the pigeons.

On the gun, I jogged as usual sorting my maps out and folding so that on the second loop I would simply have to tear off the top one. I also got a good idea of the route to the first control by the time I got to the bike and so, although being one of the last to get away, stormed through the pack and into about 4th position. The appearance of the first climb though soon had riders (including a couple of women ) storm past me. I got in ‘the zone’ very quickly, was naving really well, and had the confidence to break from the pack on a better route choice towards number one. I rejoined the pack just before the descent even though they were riding faster than me.

I nearly had a massive accident coming down the steep in and out climb from number one, catching my bar end on a Finnish girls arm on the narrow single track descent, luckily she was not hurt and I held it together in the scenery and got back on the track without further incident.

On the way to number 3 we had a route choice via a Scout camp. Although the organisers had told the scouts not to place tents in a certain area, they did, and I have some great head cam footage weaving in and out of the tents, kids to one side cheering us on, scout leaders waving their arms in annoyance.

At the top of the next climb I joined a stream of women riders coming in from a slightly shorter gaffle. I ducked and dived to get past them, only to skid past a junction and let them all past again. Luckily I got them all before the next piece of single track out of number 4 and was able to really let rip along a sublime six inch wide strip of sandy, pine needled heaven that snaked its way through the beautiful forest back towards the more complex path network.

I then caught World Champion lady, Michi Gigon and although I tried a couple times could not get past her as we raced down into the gorge. I eventually dived past when she missed a tiny path. I then was caught on the next climb by Finnish female superstar Marika Hara. I got back in front on the single tracks as we blasted through towards the spectator control but she got me again just before it.

I did a perfect standing punch at the top of the bridge ramp and gunned it down only to have to hang on the brakes for the spectator control itself skidding a little past it. My map change went well and it was onto the rooty tracks alongside the river, Swede Linus Mood right on my tail.

Together we then caught the Czech girl, Martina, with a sly cut through but Linus’s legs were stronger than mine and he pulled ahead. Just then Michi reappeared and it turned into a all out sprint for the changeover. She got me on the climb out of the penultimate, but those high cadence turbo sessions came into there own as I spun it out under the bridge to the last control.

In the end Marika came in 7th, Linus 8th, me 9th and Michi 10th and Martina Tichovska 11th, all in about 25 seconds. Really exhilarating racing with the two female World Championship medal winners.

I handed over to Emily and Alan who both had solid rides but team GB just don’t have the legs against the big guns from some of the other European countries who have such strength in depth, particularly as I was racing against some of the female riders hence the 9th place, but 21st place in the relay is a good performance for us.

I was really pleased to see I was only 5 minutes down on the leaders, especially as I had the longer first gaffle with an extra control. Mass start races with technical navigation seem to really suit me and I always enjoy them. I wore a headcam for the race so now have 50 minutes of film to edit down, but a quick flick through shows some great footage of those gorgeous single tracks at speed.

World Cup MTBO Sweden – Long Race

The Swedish organisers tried a new format for their World Cup Long Race, a mass start race with butterfly routes rather than gaffelling. The start was chaos, riders blitzing off from the gun going every which way but the right way. I couldn’t even find the first control on the dense 1:20,000 map, let alone navigate to it.

As everyone was on the same course, I just got into the pack and followed, desperately trying to get into the map. Eventually from the compass I realised the pack was going in the wrong direction. I stopped on a bank and promptly fell over backwards, the bike on top of me down a bank. Picking myself up I relocated and gunned it down a swoopy decent then back up to the control just as the pack was streaming out. On the way to number two I got dropped, I just couldn’t stay with the pace in what essentially for the first 6 controls was an XC race. I missed a junction on the way to 3 and then had a clean ride from then on, though mainly on my own.

There were some huge route choice legs, but the riding to the north was fairly boring. On the first butterfly loop we encountered the first of two massive staircases, some 130 steps climbing a steep hill. Bikes on shoulders they were punishing, with screaming quads at the top. I made a stupid routechoice error on number 13 which was in a quarry. I took a short cut through the forest from the road and was faced with a 25 m very steep quarry side to negotiate. I slipped, slithered and skidded my way down the bonkers slope, boulders and stones flying everywhere. To cap it the floor of the quarry was sandy and slow. My little adventure lost me 30 secs to just cruising round on the road 🙁

As we turned for home the riding and navigation got more interesting, though at 1:20 thou the map was sometimes unreadable.

I took a lucky route choice under some pylons which was faster than I thought it would be and then crossed a fantastic little suspension bridge. It was just three 6 inch wide planks wide but with lovely tyre swallowing sized gabs between them.

A family had stopped on the other side to let me cross, buoying me on with shouts of up,up,up,up. I had to try and ride it so kept my eyes firmly on the other side and zoomed across. Only then did I notice the flight of steps at the other end. I clattered down them to a round of applause, but turning the corner I was faced with the other thigh burning stair climb up to the plateau some 40 metres above.

I held it together through the last butterfly and on to the finish but my legs were very tired at the end and I was well down in 53rd. I think the format did not go down particularly well with the riders and I doubt it will appear again, the normal lapped forking method being some much better.