The first Swedish Cup round for MTBO was in Alfta and Soderhamn, just north of Stockholm/Gavle. The weather forecast was mixed; rain on Friday and sun on Saturday. But with 4 of the top 6 women (ranked 2, 3, 5, and 6) in the world at the event, it was worth the long drive.
We left early on Friday morning to make the long 7 hour drive, with just a couple of loo stops! We had starts just after 1600, so there was no major rush to get there, other than to stretch our legs before racing.
We arrived at the event to find the MTBO was linked to the foot-o race weekend, hence our late start times. A great opportunity to promote MTBO to the wider orienteering community and for them to see it in action, even if it was just the finish straight. The wonderful Per Forsberg even commentated for us as well which was great! The finish times coincided with dinner time, so everyone was cheered on the final sprint, which added to the atmosphere.
The course was planned by JWOC 08 MTBO middle champion, Hana Hancikova, so I knew there would be some good route choices in there. The terrain itself was fairly limited, with many indistinct paths included on the map to give us a better network. The allowance of shortcutting made some interesting route choices and actually became crucial for the win.
The course started simply with many 50/50 routes, and as is typical for Swedish MTBO, the need to turn in the control was actually fastest. It’s taken me two years to understand this about MTBO in Sweden, and finally I got a decent time and position. Olga, however, tried to MTBO ‘normally’ and was caught out by routes that took longer than they should, based on looking at the map.
On the first key long leg, I went way out east, and lost a minute to the shortest route that involved a good deal of shortcutting. After that I had the best routes, but not the best times. I maintained a strong consistent pace throughout the race, but not with the hunger I had in Denmark. So, my result was a second place, 2 minutes behind Ingrid. Cissi was actually much faster in the early stages, but made some mistakes on the long legs and ended 3rd.
Hans Jørgen was beaten by two fast Swedes, for the first time ever when there was no mechanical problem. The drive and other stresses (to be announced on Wednesday) had mentally taken their toll, so he felt unable to sustain race pace. This terrain suits neither of us well, long legs with little to do. We both prefer technical orienteering, as we proved the following day!
Saturday dawned a little rainy, and my bed proved more comfortable that what was outside. However, by 0930, the sky was clear and blue, and the temperature warm. The sprint was on the O-Ringen 2011 terrain so many athletes had been there before. I had not, but we found some old maps the night before on the internet. The south side looked very interesting and technical, while the north appeared to have more 50/50 route choices and simpler navigation. We wanted to race the south side, but understood the north was the event centre and thus likely to be where we were racing. As a result, I knew the orienteering would be ‘easy’ but allowing for maximum speed. This maximum speed allowance was what made the course challenging, as full focus was needed not to miss a junction or route choice, and to always be one step ahead as the junctions and controls came up quickly.
I had a late start, so took my time warming up on the rollers. When space is tight, I have found the rollers are better than my standard warm up. With many athletes in a confined area trying to sprint or spin up, it’s better for me to find a shady corner to warm up in peace, without the need to look out for everyone else. I was also trying out a new piece of kit, that I now want to use in every session!
I started hard and fast and kept pedalling like I stole the bike until the finish line. Straight into first place by 1 min 10 to Ingrid and 2 mins 10 to Cissi. Job done. As far as sprint races go, this was a very good one for me. I had full control and full speed the whole time, and the decisions on route choice were made logically rather than under pressure. Each split was some seconds faster than the others, apart from two legs where I was a total of 3 seconds back. So, I was just 3 seconds from ‘Superman’ on WinSplits. Now I just have to race like this at WOC …
Hans Jørgen took revenge on the Swedes for the day before and took the win by 1 min 30. The early part of our course, from the start until the 12th control was the same, and I only dropped a minute on HJ to the 12th overall, so I should have been in the running to take 3rd place in the men’s class too.
We then drove to Mora to do some evening training, and invited Erik Frost and Kajsa Engstrom to join us. HJ planned a great course that required so many changes in technique that it was really good training despite the easy pace.
After the training we started the drive back to Norway, but with a stop at Elverum to test out the new map. Five mental intervals, saw us both make about 20% mistakes, and that’s being optimistic! Riding fast was impossible as the junctions were invisible until the last moment, and with so many junctions (and controls) it was hard to get the direction right all the time.
That concludes our mini training camp. It’s now just under 6 weeks until World Cup round 2, immediately before O-Ringen in Kristianstad. Time is ticking …
Note: our DOMA maps with GPS routes will be uploaded and published later.