This month’s Orienteering USA (OUSA) newsletter highlighted the annual MTBO training camp being held in Viborg, Denmark, in April 2019.
The best part about this training camp is that it is being held near the same venues that will host the 2019 World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships from July 26 – August 04, 2019.
If you are an Elite MTBO athlete, this camp is an excellent opportunity to experience the forests of Denmark, understand the terrain, and possibly gain an advantage over other counties.
Which is GREAT for Europeans who can take the train to Viborg.
But if you’re an American, well you’re going to need a big bag of cash if you want to get any MTBO training.
Why a big bag of cash?
Think about what you will need to go to Viborg, Denmark:
Do I need a US Passport?
If you don’t have one, you’re going to need one to leave and re-enter the country.
New passports cost $145 ($110 for the application processing and $35 for providing you with an actual passport) and take about 2-3 weeks to process.
Unless you are denied a passport which in that case you will receive a letter around the same time explaining why.
Because of the number of passport applications that are processed each day in the United States, 2-3 weeks is a very optimistic turn around time.
Best to get your passport sooner rather than later.
Do I need a Visa to visit Denmark?
American Citizens do not need a visa when they travel to Denmark for business or for personal travel so long as their visit does not exceed 90 days in a 6 month period.
In other words, you don’t need any special permission — beyond your passport — to enter and stay in Denmark.
However, if you thought about sticking around in Denmark until the WMTBOC so that you don’t have to make two trips to Europe, think again.
At some point, you’re going to have to go home for a minute before you can come back (so long as you don’t exceed 90 days in 6 months).
If you do want to stay the duration, then it’s special or residence permit visa time!
That takes time and money.
Somewhere between $160 – $500 depending on your needs.
Plus the only General Consulate is in New York.
Plus, if your visa is refused you have to leave Denmark IMMEDIATELY!
Could you imagine going through all that trouble only to be kicked out of the country days before the competition?
Don’t think it happens?
Ask the Elite Athletes of USAC, USAT, and USATF.
This is a favorite tactic of several shady countries whose officials know they can knock competitive athletes out of the running with a simple visa complication.
How are you going to Denmark from the United States – twice?
So chances are you’re going to have to visit Denmark twice in one year if you plan on going to the World MTBO Championships too.
Once for the MTBO Camp, and again for the WMTBOC in roughly the same location.
Well, you’re not taking a boat either time which means two round-trip tickets per rider.
Round-trip airline tickets from the United States to Denmark is between $500 – $700 each.
Double that and now you’re spending over $1,000 for two round-trip tickets.
Make sure you get signed up for a frequent flyer miles program if you do that.
How about shipping a mountain bike on the airline?
You could ship it, but as friends of mine can attest to shipping their bikes to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for the BC Bike Race bikes get stuck at customs all the time.
Do you want to train for MTBO on a rented bike?
On Lufthansa that extra baggage fee is $100 since it is most likely your third piece of baggage.
United Airlines will hit you with oversized and overweight fees of between $150 – $200.
Let’s not forget that if your bike and case weights have to weight less than 70-lbs to get that rate or get on the plane at all.
So it’s going to have to fly with you.
That’s going to cost extra and require you to buy a bike travel case (if you don’t have one already).
How do I get to Denmark?
Now, you can’t fly directly to Viborg, Denmark because that would be too easy.
You’re going to need a rental car, train, or bus to travel the 50-miles from Billund Airport (BLL) to Viborg.
But with a bike in tow, a rental car is going to be your best option.
Not one of those little European pop-cans, but a car that can actually carry you AND a bike AND your luggage.
Most rental car companies that operate out of Billund Airport have SUVs to rent for around $21/day.
The MTBO Camp offers a special rate with Intopit which could be useful.
Only it turns out that Intopit only rent vans, but they do so from $38 – $100 a day.
If you’re bringing more than just yourself, that could be a good option for hauling bikes all around.
Add in insurance and the cost of gasoline (petrol) at approximately $5.93/gallon, and you need roughly $200 to spend on fuel expenses.
However, you need to consider the possibility that you may not ever get another chance to visit Denmark again.
I always look for the tourist angle on any trip.
For this trip, visiting Copenhagen would have to be the destination.
This means you could either fly into Copenhagen at the beginning of your trip or take a few days to visit Copenhagen at the end of your trip.
You could fly into Copenhagen both ways, but it means driving 200-miles to Viborg and back.
That’s an option too.
Save on airfare by flying into a bigger airport, so that you can spend it seeing the countryside of Denmark?
That could be a good trade.
Where will you sleep?
The camp offers half board accommodations with either private rooms for $56/day, a classroom floor without a mattress for $40/day, or a camper (van) for $30/day.
For a five day event that works out to be around $180 – $280 depending on what you want to put up with.
If staying at the venue is not suitable for you, you could try the Best Western in Viborg.
That 4-star rated hotel will cost you $145 – $175 a night IF they have a reservation; turns out Viborg is a popular place in April.
Of course, you have to eat too!
What does the average MTBO athlete need to eat over a week’s worth of race training?
The US Government helps us with this guess by using the DoD Per Diem Rates that gives an average “Meals and Incidentals Rate” of $125/day.
That’s enough for three square meals a day plus toothpaste, shampoo, and that “Hard Rock Copenhagen” t-shirt you will need to get.
Add to that the tool you need to fix your chain that you forget back home, the 8mm hex wrench that TSA took from you at Dulles because “it could be used as a weapon”, and a new tire to replace the one that somehow had a sidewall blowout.
Will you spend less?
You might be more frugal than some but by having a rate like this to work with you make sure you have more than enough to make it in a foreign country.
Not to mention having to exchange all those US Dollars between Danish Krones and Euros.
The cost of incidentals adds up quick when you are far from home.
Better safe than sorry.
Do the math, Solve for X
So what will it cost for one person to take one, 10-day trip to Denmark, to attend the MTBO Camp 2019?
Here’s a likely scenario:
1. The Plan
The MTBO Camp is going to be held from April 17th thru April 21st.
To help us adjust to the time change, environment, and jetlag, we are going to travel to Denmark for 10 days — from April 15th to April 25th.
This gives us plenty of time to adapt, travel, train, and visit historical locations.
It also gives us time to get a mountain bike travel case that is worthy of an MTBO athlete going overseas.
Thule makes a case called the RoundTrip Transition Bike Case that fireproof, airline proof, thief proof, and sometimes even rider proof.
It’s not cheap, but neither is your mountain bike.
You don’t want to put a $5,000 carbon-fiber mountain bike into a case that cost you less than $100.
Nothing sucks worse than arriving at your race with a broken bike.
2. Travel Status
We’ve never been outside the United States, so we’re going to need a passport:
Passport: $145/one-time fee
We also don’t plan on living in Denmark between the MTBO Camp and the World MTBO Championships.
That makes this a single 10-day trip to Denmark:
Travel Visa to Denmark: $0
3. Air Travel
We’re not taking a boat to Denmark.
That means we’re taking an International red-eye flight from Dulles, Virginia (IAD) to Billund, Denmark (BLL) on United/Lufthansa:
United/Lufthansa Round Trip Ticket: $558
That is a great deal for a round trip ticket with a single stop in France and gets us into Billund, Denmark around 11:00 AM on Tuesday, April 16th.
It also allows us to leave Denmark from Copenhagen so that we don’t have to come back to Billund.
Unfortunately, we do have to travel with our mountain bikes with us, so we need to make sure it gets on the plane:
We have to pay both ways so the cost is added at the airport before we can board the plane.
Better bring cash.
4. Rental Car
Taking the train or bus doesn’t sound fun.
Especially if the venue is nowhere near the train or bus station.
Walking our luggage and bike case for miles does not sound fun.
Time to rent a vehicle from a rental car company.
We need something that will fit a mountain bike and our luggage.
We also need to be able to drop the car off in Copenhagen.
Visiting Budget Rental Car we can get our hands on a Nissan X-Trail SUV for $1,235 ($154/day) for 8-days
That seems high.
They also have a Nissan Qashqai SUV for $785 ($98/day)
You can put a mountain bike into the North American version (Nissan Rogue), however, it is very low inside.
This means you will have to take the front wheel and maybe the seat-post/saddle off to get it in without the bike case.
For $500 less, this seems like a minor inconvenience.
5. The Drive
Denmark is not a huge country but still has a ton of winding roads and challenges.
On Tuesday morning of our arrival on April 16th, we have to get from Billund Airport to the venue in Viborg.
The drive from Billund to Viborg is approximately 50-miles.
Then, we’ll probably putt around in Viborg, getting food and going to and from the venue to train.
This will put another 100-miles on the car.
Then, after the camp is over, we’re going to take our big tour of Denmark as we make our way towards Copenhagen, 200-miles away.
We’ll probably stop along the way, and maybe even find other places to ride.
This should add yet another 50 extra miles to that trip before reaching Copenhagen.
Then once in Copenhagen, we’re going to drive around, see some sites, and ultimately turn the car into the rental car company at the airport.
That’s averages out to be about 400-miles of driving.
This does not include traffic jams (sheep crossing the road), getting lost, and additional side trips.
But it should give us an idea of what the fuel will cost.
Right now in Denmark, the average gas price is $5.93/gallon.
If we had to rent a van for several riders, our fuel costs would be high.
However, we’re only looking at the Nissan Qashqai as our steed.
It turns out this particular vehicle is impressively cheap to run when compared to conventional SUVs with the diesel version getting a fuel economy of 75.3 mpg (miles per gallon).
That means a 400-mile trip will only require about 6-gallons of gas for this car.
That sounds awesome!
Let’s plan for 10-gallons just in case: 10 x $5.93/gallon = $59.30.
6. Arrival Accomodations
We’re going to arrive a day before the camp will have accommodations for us.
That means we have to stay the night at the local hotel in Viborg on April 16th.
One night to get our bearings, recover from the trip, and have a hot shower doesn’t sound so bad.
The Viborg Best Western is between $145 – $175 a night.
We don’t need anything fancy, so we can get by with something at $145 for one night.
7. Camp Entry Fees
Can’t go to an MTBO training camp if you don’t pay your entry fee.
Plus there are extras and hidden fees to consider like special events, late fees, and rentals.
The earlier you register the better.
Early bird registration is $113 for the M/W 21 category, with a $23 special event fee, a $45 late fee, and an unknown SI Card rental fee.
So plan on it being more than you expected.
8. Camp Accomodations
On day two of our trip, we’re going to need a cheaper place to sleep.
If you read MTBO Camp Bulletin #1, there are some options to stay at the host venue itself.
The private rooms sound acceptable.
Sleeping on the floor of a classroom with a bunch of other people does not.
Especially if I need to bring my own mattress.
So we can do a private room or stay out in town at one of the hotels.
Looking at how the “4-star” Best Western is in Viborg is between $145 – $175 a night, that does not sound like a good deal.
This leaves us with the private room which turns out to not be all that private.
You have to share it with someone else with the bathroom shared by another room of two people.
That sounds like a college dorm room.
It is a minor inconvenience for $56/night and is much cheaper than staying out in town.
Besides, we might make a new friend!
However, be warned that blankets and pillows are not included (see incidentals).
Additionally, it’s only good for 5-days but does include breakfast and dinner for 1-person beginning with dinner on April 17th, and ending with breakfast on April 22nd.
This is a good deal so long as you can put up with sleeping next to strangers.
9. Meals and Incindentals
Planning for meals is tough in another country.
You might not like their food, or even worse, their food might not like you.
Either way, you have to eat.
The camp is going to feed you for 5 of your 10 days.
You’re traveling on 2 of your 10 days.
So you need to feed yourself for 3 full days and all the times in-between.
Plus there are all those others things like snacks, souvenirs, and hidden costs.
The rule of thumb is to plan for $125/day.
10. Final Tourist Accomdations
We have a few choices now.
The MTBO Camp technically ends on Sunday, April 21st after the Banquet.
We could leave that night and go someplace else, maybe even back to Billund or beyond.
This is the time you stop being an MTBO athlete and start being a tourist.
An American tourist, in Denmark, with a mountain bike!
Let’s say we decide to stay in Viborg until the morning of Monday, April 22nd.
We’ll leave Viborg after breakfast and start our tour towards Copenhagen.
Since we don’t need to be in Copenhagen until Thursday morning, that gives us 3-nights to plan for.
Where to stay, where to stay?
Using websites like Singletracks.com, we can look throughout the Danish countryside to find all sorts of places to stay and ride.
There is a number of top mountain courses between 1-2 hours North of Viborg.
Going North will add some miles to the rental car and probably cost us more in gas, but are options you could take.
Especially if you use Aalborg as your base station for 1-2 days where the hotel costs average $90/night.
Or you go the opposite direction and drive out to Kronborg castle North of Copenhagen.
This would allow you to take a ferry across the North Sea and spend your 3-days in and around Copenhagen.
There are also numerous mountain biking trails in and around Copenhagen that are worth the trip.
Just remember not to go anywhere that could be considered an MTBO embargo area for World MTBO competition.
What will it cost us to go to the MTBO Camp in Denmark?
If you add this all up, your total is $4,803.
What do you get for your money?
You get a US Passport that you can reuse.
You get a mountain bike travel case you can reuse.
You get an amazing experience in a beautiful country that you will not soon forget.
You get to participate in some of the best Mountain Bike Orienteering training that Europe has.
And, if you are going to compete in the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships at the end of July 2019, you get a chance to experience Denmark terrain in advance.
I would round this trip up to an even $5,000.
It’s an easy number to understand and allows for all sorts of things to go wrong in your estimates.
You could end up eating nothing but stroopwafels and sleeping in your rental car to save money.
Or, you could stay only in the finest hotels and eating at the best restaurants.
The choice is yours but so is the financial burden for what you want to do.
If it was me?
I would have to say that having only 10-days in Denmark is not enough time.
I want a combo of rustic and fine dining experiences mixed with two-full-weeks of MTBO and classic mountain biking across the entire country.
I would check off at least the top 10 trails in Denmark while washing it all down with a blend of medieval kingdoms and Viking tours with little-known World War I and II history.
And it would be followed up by a gaunt into Germany and possibly a road trip all the way to London via Paris.
But that’s just me.
Now… We Use The Wrench
Now that we’ve had some fun trying to get ourselves to the MTBO Camp in Denmark, it’s time to ask a real question:
Should we really be sending anyone there in the first place?
That’s a very easy question to answer if sending athletes to a foreign training camp is in the best interest of the national organization.
Here is Orienteering USA’s mission statement:
- Increase participation in the sport.
- Teach map reading and navigation skills.
- Promote enjoyment of, and respect for, the environment.
- Establish world-class competitive excellence within our national team programs.
So I ask the question again:
Should we be sending MTBO athletes to an MTBO Camp in Denmark?
If you read the OUSA mission statement at face value, it does say that a mission goal is:
Establish world-class competitive excellence within our national team programs.
That leads me to think that the answer is, Yes.
But wait a minute!
Where is the national team program for mountain bike orienteering?
A real MTBO program would include a planned and progressive sequencing of MTBO activities where the number, frequency, duration, and content of MTBO activities are adapted to an athletes’ age and competitive experience where the goal is to foster athletic development and form over time.
Does that exist at OUSA?
No, it does not.
If OUSA was to allow their mission statement to be true for MTBO, then they would have to develop an MTBO program FIRST.
So, let’s help OUSA build one!
What would it take to hold an MTBO Camp in the United States?
Having OUSA host an MTBO Camp in the United States would really go a long way to fostering the kind of athletic development that becomes an MTBO program.
But how we they do that?
One way is to take the same logic we used to calculate the cost of attending the MTBO Camp in Denmark and apply it domestically.
A flight from Dulles to Colorado Springs is about $300.
A flight from Seattle to Colorado Springs is even less at about $200.
Why Colorado Springs?
Plus they just built a really nice Olympic Training Center there.
That would make an excellent venue to base everything out of, wouldn’t it?
Hotels in Colorado Springs are between $80 – $110/night and within blocks of everything.
Meals are about $15/per person averaging $45/day.
Rental cars are about $23/day if you even needed one.
What about mountain biking and possible MTBO course?
Colorado Springs has some of the best mountain bike trails in the United States (which between that and the Olympic Training Center explains why USA Cycling put their headquarters there).
There are all sorts of potential course locations from the Buckhorn Loop, Barr Trail, and Pikes Peak, to Red Rock Canyon, Hogback Ridge, and the Rampart Reservoir.
These possible MTBO training course candidate trails are all just minutes away from the Olympic Training Center too.
What will it cost us to go to the MTBO Camp in Colorado Springs?
When you compare the cost of a domestic MTBO camp to going to Denmark to learn MTBO from Europeans, the domestic alternative starts to look far more cost-effective.
Consider this for a hypothetical 5-day MTBO camp in Colorado Springs:
- Entry Fee: $100
- Airfare: $300 + Bike
- Accomodations: $500
- Rental Car: $100 + Gas
- Meals: $500
If you add this all up, your total is $1,500.
There is plenty of Elite MTBO athletes in and around OUSA to design, host, and coach an MTBO Camp making the $100 entry fee a small way to divert costs.
It also allows anyone in the United States the opportunity to show up, learn how to race MTBO, and be evaluated for a possible invitation to the US MTBO Team.
I compute it as if the athlete has to fund themselves, which is what they would have to do if they were to elect to go to Denmark to train.
What if OUSA picked up the bill for the MTBO Camp costs?
That’s not likely, but OUSA could make deals, have promo codes, provide transportation, and greatly reduce the cost for every athlete.
Just like what the Danes have planned for those that show up to the MTBO Camp in Denmark.
The overall cost of a domestic MTBO camp means you could send three (3) American MTBO athletes to an American MTBO Camp in the United States for the price of sending one (1) American MTBO athlete to Denmark.
With a ratio of 3:1 you could also expand the American MTBO athlete pool to include those mountain bikers and orienteers that had never considered MTBO as a sport.
It could also allow Orienteering USA a real opportunity to gauge American MTBO talent, something they have never had a chance to do.
Not to mention the savings that could be had by having to send a full US MTBO Team to Denmark only once.
There is still no sense in sending MTBO Tourists to spend limited OUSA funds on another failed effort when that money could be better spent on domestic MTBO program development in the United States.
One day sending a team to Europe to train will be a worthwhile strategy, but not until a real domestic MTBO program is producing quality MTBO athletes.
Location, Location, Location
Does it have to be Colorado Springs?
And that’s the point.
It could be anywhere in America and still give OUSA a 3:1 cost advantage.
So long as it is in America!
And it would be an American MTBO program that they could quality control.
This is the fundamental problem with MTBO in America.
The problem is not the opportunity to train with MTBO athletes overseas.
The problem is the lack of OUSA perspective to want to provide an American alternative.
So, do as the Danes do!
Produce an MTBO camp and start cultivating an American MTBO athletic tradition.
Don’t let another year slip by.
Don’t keep doing the same thing you did last year but keep expecting different results.
Unless spending three times the funding to train MTBO athletes is achieving some other OUSA mission goal.
In that case, I hope they enjoy Denmark.
I hear Viborg is nice in April.