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BURKE, VA — Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) can consist of several styles of race formats that include three distinct categories: Competitive, Alternative, and Experimental. In this weeks MTBO America article, we’ll cover the finer points of Competitive race formats.

Competitive Race Formats
Competitive race formats (or sometimes referred to as Competitive Distances) are the standard for most mountain bike orienteering (MTBO) races. Divided into short, medium, and long distances, these formats serve as the baseline for the majority of organized MTBO events held throughout Europe and Australia. Additionally, these race formats are the standard offerings presented at all national and international championship MTBO races. Competitive Distance races are traditionally designed as “specific order” orienteering events in which competitors must visit every control in a sequential order (e.g. 1, 2, 3). Missing a control or visiting a control out of order usually results in a time or ranking penalty. The following is a brief description for each of the standard types of Competitive Distance race formats:

Short Distance
The Short Distance is a MTBO competitive distance race format that describes a course approximately 2 mi – 5 mi (3 km – 8 km) long that includes between 8 – 14 controls (average 3 controls per mile). Sometimes referred to as a “Sprint” or “Trial” distance race, the Short Distance race format take competitors between 20 – 40 minutes to complete (competitive international times range from 20 – 30 minutes for men, 20 – 30 minutes for women).

Short Distance race organizers frequently divide their races into five distinct courses to represent various competition levels. The shortest distances (1.5 mi – 3 mi / 3 km – 5 km; 8 – 10 controls) is often reserved for the youngest and oldest race classes (M/W14, M/W50, M/W60, M/W60+, M/W70+), the middle distances (3 mi – 4 mi / 5 km – 6 km; 10 – 12 controls) normally cater to middle-of-the-pack and up-and-coming race classes (M/W Open, M/W17-20, M/W21, M/W30, M/W40), while the longest distance in the Short Distance format (4 mi – 5 mi / 6 km – 8 km; 12 – 14 Controls) is geared towards the experienced amateur and elite level race classes (M/W21, M/W17-20E, M/W21E). Racers in each class can be started either in intervals (as they arrive to the competition, not unlike Foot Orienteering), or by a mass start, where each class begins the race simultaneously at a given time.

In the past, National and IOF World MTBO championship competitions have been designed with multiple interlocking Short Distance course formats that all have the same approximate distance. This type of race design is specifically intended for individual competitions where competitors have an interval start. By setting up several identical distance courses, course designers can maximize the venue while providing a new course each time a racer competes. This is particularly effective with championship events that may require multiple heats before a winner can be determined.

Middle Distance
The Middle Distance is a MTBO competitive distance race format that describes a course approximately 5mi – 12 mi (8 km – 18 km) long that includes between 10 – 20 controls (average 2 controls per mile), and takes competitors between 45 minutes – 90 minutes to complete (competitive international times range from 50 – 60 minutes for men, 40 – 50 minutes for women).

Middle Distance race organizers frequently divide their races into five distinct courses to represent various competition levels. The shortest distances (5mi – 6mi / 8km – 10km; 10 – 12 controls) is often reserved for the youngest and oldest race classes (M/W14, M/W50, M/W60, M/W60+, M/W70+), the middle distances (6mi – 9mi / 10km – 14km; 12 – 16 controls) normally cater to middle-of-the-pack and up-and-coming race classes (M/W Open, M/W17-20, M/W21, M/W30, M/W40), while the longest distance in the Middle Distance format (9mi – 12mi / 14km – 18km; 16 – 19 Controls) is geared towards the experienced amateur and elite level race classes (M/W21, M/W17-20E, M/W21E). Racers in each class can be started similar to Short Distance races by either intervals or mass start.

Long Distance
The Long Distance is a MTBO competitive distance race format that describes a course approximately 9mi – 23 mi (14 km – 37 km) long that includes between 11 – 17 controls (average 1 controls per mile), and takes competitors between 60 minutes – 150 minutes to complete (competitive international times range from 90 – 110 minutes for men, 70 – 90 minutes for women).

Long Distance race organizers frequently divide their races into five distinct courses to represent various competition levels. The shortest distances (9mi – 12mi / 14km – 19km; 10 – 12 controls) is often reserved for the youngest and oldest race classes (M/W14, M/W50, M/W60, M/W60+, M/W70+), the middle distances (12mi – 17mi / 19km – 28km; 10 – 14 controls) normally cater to middle-of-the-pack and up-and-coming race classes (M/W Open, M/W17-20, M/W21, M/W30, M/W40), while the longest distance in the Long Distance format (17mi – 23mi / 28km – 37km; 14 – 20 Controls) is geared towards the experienced amateur and elite level race classes (M/W21, M/W17-20E, M/W21E). Racers in each class can be started similar to Short and Middle Distance races by either intervals or mass start.