Still Caring About American MTBO

Watching this year’s World MTBO Championships has made me very frustrated.

I see all the signs of a train going off the rails and I say, “This will not work again!”

Then when the train actually goes off the rails I say, “Well! I told you it would not work!”

In the first fews years of this, I stayed quiet and hopefully.

Then another year went by.

Then another.

And no matter what I said Orienteering USA did nothing to improve American MTBO.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

So I’m going to try something different today.

I’m going to provide some constructive criticism to both Orienteering USA and US MTBO Team.

They won’t take it, but maybe someone on the team, or Board of Directors, or Club Leadership can be inspired to start thinking different.

Here’s what I think the US MTBO Team does well:

First, they understand how World MTBO competition works.

Many of them have been there enough times to have looked behind the curtain and seen the strings.

It doesn’t scare them anymore and they may even know all the shortcuts and politics they have to pay attention to.

This would be ideal in a US MTBO Team Manager.

Next, they have met and raced against some of the best MTBO riders in World competition.

Please tell me at least ONE OF THEM asked the racers on the podium, “How did you get so fast at MTBO?”

What a perfect opportunity to understand how a Champion MTBO Athlete is created.

Training regime, competition schedule, workout plan, and even nutrition all matter in World Competition.

If anyone on the US MTBO Team has been paying attention, they already have a bucket load of information that could be used to build the American version.

At least a prototype program that could be implemented by Orienteering USA between now and 2020.

This would be ideal knowledge for any US MTBO Team Coach to have in their playbook.

Finally, they know what MTBO athletes need to win.

They know that mountain bike speed is not the only thing you need.

In fact, by now they know the key to MTBO is decision speed.

Speed and orientation are very important, but once you can move your mountain bike at the same pace as the other athletes, route choice becomes the MOST important factor.

The capability to make the next three route choice decisions in a split second is how you win an MTBO race.

The US MTBO Team knows this better than anyone.

They also know that this skill is not something you can learn on your feet.

You have to RIDE a mountain bike AND make route choices WHILE moving fast.

The only way to get better at this is through competition.

Lots of competition.

Tons of competition.

MTBO Competition at every O-Meet always and forever!

After all that competition, then it needs to be amped up to a National level so that riders can race against other MTBO athletes.

I never understood why Orienteering USA never pushed to get MTBO into the clubs, but I do know that each US MTBO Team member could do this in their own clubs.

Only a few past members tried this in their own clubs.

It’s time to try this again, only this time as ambassadors of World MTBO knowledge and experience backed by Orienteering USA support.

Each ambassador could create an MTBO event AT EVERY MEET!

Scratch that — each ambassador has a responsibly to create an MTBO event at every orienteering meet.

They then could go to EVERY MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE and start recruiting.

They have all the skills, experience, and knowledge to make MTBO work in the United States.

Now all they need is the incentive and drive to do it.

This would be the perfect formula for any US MTBO Team Leader to teach MTBO to the Orienteering USA clubs.

All the pieces are there.

The ingredients for a Team Manager, Team Coach, and Team Leadership are all present.

None of these observations are new.

I’ve written about this, talked to Orienteering USA members, and even a few US MTBO Team members about these points.

They all agree it could work.

They also think that the orienteering culture in the United States is not willing to share orienteering with mountain bikes.

Today, MTBO is tolerated by orienteers — the foot kind.

But when push comes to shove, they do not want MTBO in their clubs.

US MTBO Team ambassadors can change this.

Not by going to the next World MTBO Championships in the Czech Republic in August 2020, but by finding, inspiring, and developing a new team of MTBO athletes.

Only the current US MTBO Team can do this.

This is what they are good at.

The only thing missing is desire.