BURKE, VA – This year marks the 3rd anniversary of MTBO America and we can honestly say we have seen some great progress in the growth of mountain bike orienteering across the country! Since our founding as the first (and only) MTBO advocacy organization in the United States in 2009, we have been holding true to our call-to-action that declared our intention to “[create] a sustainable and competitive amateur Mountain Bike Orienteering market to the United States of America” (MTBO America, 2009). In just three short years, we helped put MTBO on the map, started the ball rolling by getting orienteering clubs involved in racing, and even found ourselves working with Orienteering USA to begin building the foundation needed to sustain national-level MTBO events. But we are not finished – not be a long shot!
Evaluation of MTBO America’s Mission
The primary mission of MTBO America is to bring Mountain Bike Orienteering to the forefront of American orienteering competitions and we feel that mission is alive and well! Since our founding in 2009, the American orienteering community has responded to our mission with a 400-percent increase in MTBO and MTBO-related events. Over the past three years, we have seen numerous MTBO races being offered by orienteering clubs in Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, California, Ohio, Missouri, Washington, Wisconsin, New York, Alaska, Oregon, Georgia, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, and Kentucky. And as special bonus, last year marked the first MTBO demonstration event to feature at a national orienteering convention hosted by Orienteering USA in Rochester, New York.
Evaluation of MTBO America’s 1-Year and 5-Year Plans
Our 1-Year Plan started off as a goal to sponsor 3 to 5 competitive events in 2010 by standing up a competitive MTBO series at various local, state, national parks in the Mid-Atlantic region. To achieve this goal, we partnered with the Quantico Orienteering Club (QOC) to promote and direct the Tomahawk Tumble MTBO Race at Lake Accotink Park, Springfield, Virginia, in 2010. While only getting one race off the ground in 2010, the single event did break even, proved the concept of MTBO could work, and began to generate the buzz we were hoping for when considering the launch of more events in 2011. So, 2010 went very well!
Unfortunately, 2011 taught us five valuable (and painful) lessons: (1) MTBO is really a mountain bike race that uses a map, and not an foot orienteering race that uses a mountain bike, (2) some foot orienteers are not receptive to sharing their club – or club resources – with mountain bike orienteers and see MTBO as a threat, (3) MTBO events have to be self-sufficient when it comes to map creation and e-Punching so not to bump heads with existing foot orienteering meet resources, (4) there is nothing wrong with MTBO culture having more in common with MTB and Adventure Racing culture, then it does with foot orienteering culture, and (5) MTBO has to be promoted, directed, and managed like a serious mountain bike race for it to be competitive. This is why we call 2011 our ‘learning year’ since it taught us how some orienteering clubs are very set in their ways and need to be handled carefully. Since MTBO is so different from foot orienteering, MTBO was often seen as disruptive to what they considered to be a more ‘pure’ form of orienteering. Meanwhile, others where very concerned that MTBO events would directly compete with their already limited resources (i.e. e-Punch systems) or presenting a possibility of overtaxing their volunteers with too many events.
While these lessons were cause for some alarm, they also showed us that there was a bright side to all the drama of 2011 – and that was when we discovered numerous other clubs across the country getting involved and starting their own MTBO events despite the objections of many foot orienteers!
Where do we go from here?
It has always been our objective to produce a national MTBO championship, and we still are making plans to get the first US National MTBO Championships off the ground in Fall 2012. With a new alliance with Orienteering USA in the works, and some of our leadership already a part of the Orienteering USA MTBO Competition Committee, we expect great things to happen this year on the national governance level. Additionally, we hope to create the framework for Orienteering USA that can be used to form the first US National MTBO Racing Team. We’ve already been working on the guidelines that could possibly send a US MTBO team to the 2012 World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in Veszprem, Hungary on August 20-25, 2012 (and if not this, certainly for next year!). However, our main goal is still to get a Nationally Ranked US MTBO team built from the foundation of an established MTBO racing circuit, complete with an annual national championship, in time for the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in 2015.
Our Grand 10-Year Strategy Still Stands
The good news is that MTBO America’s Grand 10-year Strategy – focused on creating a highly successful, competitive MTBO environment within the United States of America along side the creation of an internationally attractive MTBO circuit by 2020 – is still is in motion! We expected to hit some bumps along this road, and we believe our mission is stronger for it. The lessons we’ve learned since 2009 will ultimately provide our organization with the experience and credentials required to bring the World MTBO Championships to the United States in 2020. Bringing the WMOC to America in 2020 would not only be a fantastic accomplishment to all those who have already helped push our vision forward, but also serve as a milestone is making MTBO a sustainable sporting community for many years to come!
Thank you for helping us make it to the three year mark, and we hope to continue to have you as our allies as we move into year four and beyond! Now go ride!