The MTBO World Cup kicked off with the first round in Helsingør, Denmark, over the weekend. We were greeted with clear skies and mild weather for the two individual races; my first target races of the year.
It’s been almost a perfect winter of training; minimal illness or injury and a consistent high volume of training. I was well prepared for the races, and for the week prior to the event had been very excited and nervous, but above all, #readytorace.
We arrived at the event early. Having a housecar allows us to do this, as we could choose our parking spot, set up our tent, get the bikes racked and the rollers out. Warm up space was limited, and with so many athletes starting in a close time period, the rollers were useful and provided us with a better warm up.
Shortcutting was allowed in the sprint, a rare event in Denmark that is always strict to forbid shortcutting of any kind. It made the area more fun, with more pressure mentally to get the best route, which wasn’t always following the roads and tracks on the map.
I started the sprint a little to ‘hot-in-my-head’, as I missed a path in the terrain and lost 15 secs to the first control, as I took a slightly longer route. That can, to some extent, be forgiven, but what cannot is what happened next. I punched quickly, and despite the unit beeping, I doubted if it registered. By which time I had rolled past the unit and had to turn awkwardly to re-punch. In turning I was facing the wrong direction and missed seeing the shortcut to the second control. Not wanting to waste more time turning again (just incase there wasn’t a shortcut) I rode around the tracks and lost 20 seconds.
As I was leaving the third, I saw Olga Vinogradova come flying around the corner. ‘Sh*t, she’s already nearly caught me, better get a shift on’. I put the hammer down, got my head into gear and had a mostly flawless race. I was lucky the time difference between us was about 30 seconds. Any closer, and she would have seen all my decisions and I would have been regularly in her line of sight. As it was, I was always just around the corner.
I took a few routes where a few seconds were lost, but other than that, my route choices were spot on. My bike speed was good and I felt controlled in my head. I had eyed up the key legs early on, so knew there were a couple of clever traps: small indoor walkways between buildings that were hard to spot unless the whole leg was thought through.
For the final 6 controls I could see Cissi Thomasson ahead, and was slowly gaining. She was just far enough away that I could only see her on long straights, but I almost had her by the finish.
As is always the case: you can’t win the race at the first control, but you can lose it. So, I lost a World Cup win in the opening 2 minutes of the race, but I am pleased I re-gained control and managed to take the fastest time from control 2 to the finish by 30+ seconds.
I took second place, just 5 seconds behind a fast starting Marika Hara. Third place, Eeva Liisa Hakala, was 21 seconds back from me. I know I have the speed, and the mental control (mostly), it’s just to fine tune it and bring my orienteering back inline with my speed. In some respects, I am quite happy to take a podium position, but in others, I am disappointed in myself that I made mistakes and didn’t take gold. It seems my expectations of myself have been raised over the winter …