So much, and so many people have been involved in the MTBO development camp in Norway over the last week, this blog needed to be split into two parts. The first few days were spent building a solid foundation of basic MTBO skills; attack points, planning ahead, control flow, and demonstrating/testing several physical training sessions to improve strength, power and VO2 max. You can read about the first few days here.
Monday’s training was spent putting all those basic skills together, in Norway’s most technically demanding terrain, and in a high pressure, high stress situation. Long story short, if you can succeed in Elverum in the training session we had, you are going to be heading for WOC medals in the future. My first training in Elverum was a crazy and unique experience. I’ve only been there 4 or 5 times since, but with such a high density of paths and junctions, I barely remember any. Each time, it’s just HJ and I and maybe one or two select athletes. Never before have we had 10 athlete’s. Naturally, HJ, our course planner extraordinaire, put together a brilliant day of training that had something to challenge everyone.
The morning was designed to be a tough one. Starting with a prologue, a mass start forked course of two loops, a mass start butterfly, a chasing start biker’s choice, and finally an epilogue. Courses varied in time between 10 and 15 mins, with recovery between. For some of our camp athlete’s, each course was just about doing it, getting the controls, and finishing. This in itself, for riders unused to this type of terrain, is a challenging task, only adding to stress were many other athlete’s riding around at breakneck speeds, usually in the wrong direction!
For other rider’s it was about building confidence and trying to increase the orienteering and map reading speed.
Then there was the Eduards, Vaclav, Emily and BJ group who found ourselves at similar riding speeds, which resulted in some really fast riding, and some really funny errors! For those more experienced, this training is all about overspeed. How controlled can one be under this much pressure, and with an onslaught of junctions appearing every few seconds.
The maps below are the second interval. This was a mass start, putting into the practise the mass start skills we tested and honed the evening before. The courses were forked, so everyone had a different forking and could never be trusted. They were well gaffled, so even after the first loop, it wasn’t possible to know where the following gaffles went. With high speeds and fast orienteering, there is no time to watch others in the forest.
After a brief pause, we had another mass start, this time a forked butterfly. This was really intense and I led a small group for the last wing. A small junction miss at the end, and the two guys nipped ahead by a few seconds!
By this point most athlete’s were feeling fatigued both mentally and physically. We mixed things up with a reverse chasing start, made more interesting by the inclusion of a biker’s choice. On each course there are three decision controls, and the athlete must choose one of three controls to go to, before heading to the common control. The aim is to choose the fastest control/route choice. This means, one must look for route choice possibilities for 3×2 legs, before deciding which one will be the fastest. Instead of looking for one control at a time, there are 3×2 possibilities, so that means more map reading, and more decisions to make.
I caught up both Eduards and Vaclav by the third decision point and was just some metres behind. They went left to the northern final control. I had decided to go right to the southern one. I won, but only by a few seconds!
Finally we had an Epilogue. By this point most of us had ridden our legs off, so most decided to take things a bit easier on the final rep as a cool down. HJ and I raced instead. Only, I was also not in the shape to ride fast for long, so started 30 seconds behind, and raced the shorter version as hard as I could manage.
Tuesday was something of a recovery day, with no planned training. Instead the riders went out to the forest to practise their technical riding. For most, they succeeded on descents and climbs they had lacked confidence for a days earlier. They even learnt new skills such as wheelies and stair riding.
Wednesday was the final session; a test race. Designed to encourage athlete’s to use the skills learnt during the week, it was also planned to find some new weaknesses, strengths and show that racing is always a different kettle of fish to training.
As expected, new skills were tested, new areas of weakness were found, and new found strengths were realised. Everyone has learnt so much this week, in combination with big daily training hours of 4-5 hours per day. Time for a well earned rest!