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.

MTBO World Cup 2001 -Sweden Photos

Web gallery here, which will be updated every day.

Ooops, starts delayed

With 60 men riding in circles, nicely warmed-up with 5 mins to go until the start, it was suddenly announced that the start was delayed. We carried on riding around the arena, messing about up and down the banks until eventually we were told the start was put back an hour, due to a problem with the maps being trimmed a little too much.
To cut a long story short, eventually the Men’s Elite starts have been put back to 3pm, after the World Masters, when new maps will be ready. So time to chill, catch up on some Facebook and go and support the Masters….

World Cup Sweden – Middle Race

The World Cup Middle race event centre was an Orienteering Club, Club House. Just amazing falicities, it even had a sauna.

As I warmed up and chilled at the start, the skies opened. It really chucking it down.

We knew the maps were not waterproof so in my pre-start minute I did not do any planning ahead, I just concentrated on folding my maps so they would stay in one piece. I ended up woith a rolling start through the startline just as the last beep went, sweet !

I rode really well to number one but made the mistake of cutting through on number two losing a little time.

A cut through again at number 6 after a small mistake missing a track junction cost me precious time, but I got the right route choice to 7, using the road and then started to nav a little better.

The course looped around, the tracks becoming more waterlogged and muddy as the rain poured down. I was riding really well, both technically and strongly in the middle part of the course. After the spectator control and map change we went back across the road before a long leg back to the X Country Ski arena again. I picked a ‘straight is great’ route choice which involved a cut through again. Unfortunately I ended up sliding down a bank in to a knee deep stream and had to throw my bike up the other side before hauling myself through some brashings. It was still a reasonable leg time but I think another route choice would have been quicker.

Crossing the finish line I felt id had a reasonable ride and managed to stay in front of Lasse which had been my goal, but only by 2 seconds. Although I was 48th I was just 4-6 mins down on a much better placing, so I go into tomorrows mass start long fairly confident on a reasonable result.

Anybody got any wet lube ?

MTBO World Cup, Dalarna, Sweden

Midges, Dirty and Wet, but great riding……..

Building bikes in the morning, we got midged. Little ones, but with a proper bite that soon had everyone scratching and running for more clothes. Those of us with insect repellent were suddenly rather popular !

The event centre is Rattvik, in Dalarna, Sweden, a pretty little town on the shores of a large lake with forested rolling hills rising all around. All morning the skies threatened and towards the end of our ride on the model map just before lunch the drizzle started and has not really stopped.

We sat outside a little woodland cafe, sipping coffee until the rain broke through the sun umbrellas before eventually heading back to our youth hostel.

My bike developed a scary rattle during my model event ride which got louder and louder, so I spent most the the time trying to diagnose it rather than navigating, but once sorted (a loose frame insert) I was soon blatting down rooty, rocky singletracks with a smile on my face.

After a couple more cafe stops in the afternoon it was time for the opening ceremony, always amusing affairs. After some cute violin-playing children we were ‘entertained’ by a troop of local dancers. We all enjoyed there fairly uncoordinated dancing, particularity their last number which had us in stiches.

We also had a smile at some of the interviews live on Swedish radio where one Austrian team member when, asked what he thought of Sweden, pronounced it ‘Wet and Dirty’

After some dinner and a uneventful team leaders meeting a few team members went off to a ‘Monster Truck’ event, in town for the evening, while the rest of us chilled out readying for the first races tomorrow, the World Cup and World Masters Middle Distance events, about 20km away.

Lots of photos at https://picasaweb.google.com/mark.stodgell/SwedenWorldCupMTBO2011?feat=directlink

Airport, Lost in Translation.

Coming out of Manchester airport security on the way out to the World Cup in Sweden, Alan and I were accosted by a hysterical, middle aged Chinese lady. She thrust a bit of paper in front of our noses and started frantic jabbering and arm waving.

The bit of paper said, ‘What number is the departure gate for Frankfurt?’

To be fair, you do come straight out of security into what looks like a crash between Debenhams, Toys R Us and a high class off license, with no signage, but she was going bonkers, looking like she was about to burst into tears.

We tried to calm her down but I suspect the problem was she could not recognise any Roman characters and was like a rabbit in the headlights and scared.

Eventually we got her through to the information point (closed) and could at least point to a screen to show her gate was not yet being called (in fact not for another 40 minutes). Then she produced a mobile and asked Alan to speak to her daughter, who eventually calmed her down.

She shuffled off towards the gates (still no number had been called) a little happier, and we felt very good at having been good Samaritans, but a little relieved to have got rid of her.

Over the next hour we kept seeing her at the head of an ever-growing gaggle of Chinese travellers, still seemingly totally confused as to where she was meant to be and when wandering between the various gates. She kept us amused, though!

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