Orienteering: Mountain Bikers Need Not Apply

I could have predicted the USA results in this year’s World MTBO Championship in Denmark.

Is it because I’m psychic?


Is it because I’ve been around mountain biking for over 20 years, been a USAC cycling coach and taught collegiate champions how to win?


Is it because I have been looking at World Mountain Bike Orienteering for over a decade and understand what it takes to win?

Nope. Not that either.

Do you know how I can predict this year’s US MTBO Team results without even looking at them?

It’s because I know how sports work and I know that a self-selection based system does not work.

This year’s US MTBO Team is no different.

But for the sake of argument, why DO self-selection based systems fail to produce quality athletes?

It’s due to a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to WIN a World MTBO Championship.

The current Orienteering USA strategy is trying to compare Apples to Oranges.

However, Apples are what skills and experiences are required to WIN a World-Ranked MTBO event, while Oranges are what Orienteering USA THINKS are the skills and experiences required.

When racers send in their resume of accomplishments, Orienteering USA thinks anything orienteering and/or mountain bike-related is comparable.

They see experience in racing in a 12-hour adventure race, a local mountain bike race, or even a foot-orienteering race as enough.

However, they mistake experience for skill.

Taking 1st place in a local race with 20 local racers in is not an achievement.

It is an Orange.

Taking 1st place in the USAC Mountain Bike National Championships against 120 of the best mountain bikers IS an achievement.

That’s why it’s an Apple.

You cannot build a team based on self-nominated racers who live in the Orange-Races-are-Equivalent-to-Apples world and hope to win.

If you want the United States of America to WIN a World MTBO Championship race then you need to establish a merit-based MTBO system based on Apple-Skill-Level-Races.

Merit events based on Apples will ALWAYS create better MTBO riders.

Meanwhile, there is no mystery why the US MTBO Team – even with a few new riders — has not shown much improvement over the past eight years.

Everything they have done up to this point has been an Orange.

Orange’s get crushed at World-Ranked events.

Here is the orange juice that was made on Sunday: SPRINT Distance MTBO Results.

The US MTBO Team was CRUSHED in this first event — and not by a little bit: BY A LOT!

It wasn’t even close.

Let’s not get into the Missed Punch either.

That was an unforgivable orienteering mistake that athletes at this level should NEVER make.

Fortunately — or unfortunately depending on your take — the most interesting thing about this year’s poor performance is that nobody noticed!

Not one mention on the Orienteering USA Facebook page.

Silence on Attack Point.

The only place that has any activity is the US MTBO Team Facebook page.

However, on that page all you see is smiles, fun, and happy photos connected to a few thumbs-up, a few hearts, and a couple of shares.

Not one mention of how they PERFORMED!

Not one comment, not even from the who’s-who at Orienteering USA.

Nothing… again.

I could almost repost all my articles and comments from 2018 and YOU WOULD NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE! 

Yogi Berra said it best: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

They’re just an American sports team having a great time hanging out in Denmark.

Sure, they’re doing some riding, seeing some sights, and enjoy each others company.

You know, just like tourists.

Meanwhile, the entire team came in last place in the one race that should have demonstrate EXACTLY how much training they’ve been doing if they had been doing Apple-Level training.

Instead of arriving in Denmark to give the World MTBO scene a Apple-Level throat-punch, the Team turned in a soft Orange-Level performance.


If you didn’t have a chance to watch the LIVE Sprint Distance MTBO event results, the outcome was… well… soggy.

Another year, another wasted opportunity for American MTBO, and another data point that proves the rule: a self-selection based system doesn’t work!

Now, after this eighth year of sending another Bag of Oranges overseas, will Orienteering USA finally take a moment and reconsider what they are doing?

Has the time finally come to stop sending out-classed and ill-prepared teams to the World MTBO Champs only to keep coming in last?

Or is Orienteering USA only interested in Apple-level orienteering so long as it does not include Apple-level mountain bikers?

Sadly, we will find after the US MTBO Team gets beat to a pulp for its eighth consective year in a row.

I guess there is always next year.