Finally the MTBO competition rules have been updated and published for 2014.
Most of the changes are just clarifications or slight alterations to the 2013 rules, but there are several changes I really welcome.
The first is the inclusion of an orange start group. Similar to the red group which consists of the top 10 athletes in the World Ranking List (who start in random order at the end of the start order), the orange group will consist of athletes ranked 11-20, and will start prior to the red group. The traditional early, middle and late start groups remain the same. I feel this is an important addition to the rules, because four of nine womens individual medals at WOC this year went to non-red-groupies, those ranked 11-20. If the red group was set up to ensure medal potential athletes have similar start conditions, then with high quality and hard training athletes now ranked between 1 and 20, an orange group will be a good thing. Starting near the end of the start field has advantages, and I think the orange group will be significant mentally for those who just drop out of the red group, those upcoming athletes who have something realistic to aim for in their first years in the elite classes.
There is no mention of ‘day before’ red and orange groups. The current system has the red group announced a week before for the duration of the competition. So an athlete who is in the top ten, but who has worse performances than usual will still be able to start in the red group at the end of the competition. A ‘day before’ system will rely on immediate WR updates, but will see borderline athletes fluctuating between orange group and late starts, and red group orange group on a daily basis depending on their WR score. Perhaps this is the next step, or maybe it’s better to stick with the current system.
Another addition is the allowance of certain types of GPS watches to be carried during competition. Those with a map screen are still forbidden, but those without can be carried. I welcome this rule, as it’s always good to look at HR data after a race to compare to other races. I continue to doubts over this rule too regarding the technological side, but providing start and finish quarantine zones are set up correctly, a 10-20m exclusion zone between them, and coaches not permitted to re-enter start quarantine after they leave, I hope my concerns will not come to anything.
Finally, women now have the same winning times as men, across all classes from junior to masters. I’ve always wondered why in MTBO, Ski-O and foot-O the winning times are 5-10mins (even 20 mins in the long) shorter. Are women less capable for riding for 5 extra minutes in a middle distance? Will those extra 2km hurt us too much? In terms of training, having the same winning time will barely impact upon the yearly training of athletes, perhaps an extra interval rep, or set, or just one more maximal interval added onto the end of each max interval session. The change will affect those athletes who do the sport for pleasure most, but in reality, 5 minutes per competition extra is reasonable and won’t make much difference. In a long distance, perhaps the winning times will become a little more spread out, but then it just comes down to training to close those gaps.
I look forward to seeing how the long final selection will turn out. We trialled a system this year, but there are other alternatives. The biggest issue in my mind is ensuring those athletes who train hard all year are in the final. I don’t believe an automatic place per nation is necessary – want to get in the final? Train harder. At WOC this year in the men there was a vast difference between those athletes who were selected by their nations based on results last year, and those who got in due to their automatic place. The results at the top won’t change because of a new selection method, but perhaps the longest times will shorter.
I also look forward to the development of the MTBO Sprint symbol set. Currently we use a mix of MTBO and foot-O sprint which means we often get different symbols and uses across a year. The issue is most noticeable in urban MTBO. I hope a new symbol set can improve the clarity and legibility at high speed for many of our maps, as well as providing a consistent standard.