Let’s get real about American MTBO.
No candy coating.
Here it comes.
The painful part.
Why does it matter?
In the real world, you’re rewarded for achievement, not effort.
Showing up and participating is important.
Doing your best is important.
But neither deserves a trophy.
What is the Orienteering USA version of an American MTBO trophy?
Allowing anybody to go to the World MTBO Championships without earning it through a competitive process.
And then pretending the effort counts, while ignoring the results.
That has to end.
Unfortunately, ending the current process leaves us with a dilemma: deciding what to put in its place.
I see this as an opportunity.
We would not have had the clarity needed to fix it without exposing the broken parts of the current process.
Now we know, and the fix is really simple.
In fact, it’s always been simple.
All those riders that came before — and those that want to go again — need to put their experience and past opportunities on the line.
They need to create a system that will allow MTBO athletes to competitively earn the right to represent the United States of American in elite World-ranked MTBO competition.
How do they do this?
They need to leverage their own elite MTBO athlete status by committing to building an American MTBO competitive environment.
The concept is simple.
However, simple doesn’t mean easy, especially when the execution has failed before.
But here is how I see the recent events as an opportunity — an opportunity with very short lifespan:
#1 – Time to Lead
I don’t care if you have to beg, borrow, or steal, you find a way to produce at least three (3) MTBO event WEEKENDS with your local club.
That’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where you facilitate the creation and direction of a Short, Middle, and Long Distance event over a 3-day period.
Think of it in the same framework as the actual World MTBO Championships themselves with model events and/or big events each day.
But it should also include teaching, strategizing, and reflection.
Your job should be trying to create the next rider to follow your lead.
So lead them!
#2 – Time to Work
You need to start this work by recruiting other American MTBO athletes, particularly those that have been to the WMTBOC.
There are now a dozen or so Americans that have been to the WMTBOC.
Time to call them up.
With their support, start coordinating between at least two (2) other Orienteering Clubs that have sent members to the World MTBO Championships.
The plan is to stitch together a grassroots series calendar so that THEY can attend your weekends too.
Your coordination should allow you enough time to go to their events, while also given them time to come to yours.
Call it an MTBO course exchange program.
So long as it has enough racing to test yourselves, test each other, and keep everyone racing.
Elite athletes should be taking a leadership role in their clubs.
Use that influence within your clubs to help make these event happen.
#3 – Time to Start
Once you have events and schedules built, it time to invite EVERYONE!
Mountain bikers, cyclocross riders, triathletes, adventure racers, orienteers — even Spartan, Muddy Buddy, and Ragnarok obstacle course racers.
The Orienteering USA Mountain Bike Orienteering section of their website should be buzzing!
As should MTBR, Pinkbike, Dirt Mountain Bike, Dirt Rag, Vital MTB, Mountain Bike Rider, Singletracks, Bikereg, Reddit-MTB — anywhere they talk, write, or think about mountain biking.
The orienteering part matters, but its the mountain bike side that needs to be invited to think about cross-discipline participation.
This includes finding a way to get onto every mountain bike and endurance sports podcast out there.
Full court media blitz!
Call in all your favors, get your club spun up, and get the word out!
#4 – Time to Accept
When the dust clears from all these races, it will be time to accept the results.
This is where the true test of an elite athlete comes in.
If YOU do not win, and you are not selected, then you need to either put more work into becoming better for next year or be grateful that you had the chance to blaze the trail for future MTBO riders.
It should be met with no hard feelings and no regrets.
True competition will bring out better riders by design.
It’s kind of the point.
Unfortunately, that group of better riders might not include you.
You have to make your peace with that possibility when that time comes.
It’s not personal, it’s just racing.
#5 – Time to Teach
If you do find yourself not part of the 2019 US MTBO Team, that does not mean your time is done.
You still have a ton to offer any team because of your past experience.
It’s time to lead one more time, only this time in the field of MTBO Coach and/or Orienteering USA MTBO official.
BOTH are needed when the next team goes to the World MTBO Championships, why shouldn’t you fill one of those rolls?
This is how true teams are built.
All the planning, logistics, paperwork, orchestration — elite athletes shouldn’t be doing that.
Because you already know what to expect — for the most part — then why can’t you be that person that sets the tone, shepherds the team, and keeps them racing?
You can and you should.
Leadership comes in many forms, but when it comes to an elite team, they will need a clear thinking veteran in their corner to keep them focused and in the fight.
Be that veteran!
NOW it is Time to Race
Everything else is in the details.
If you want to go to the World MTBO Championships, then you should have raced and placed in the TOP 5 in at least five other weekend events.
And those events should have included lots of other riders.
In lieu of an MTBO racing weekend, USAC has plenty of local and regional mountain bike races to compete in.
If you want to be and stay elite, then you should be racing ALL THE TIME!
This is the price of being elite.
It is the constant riding, training, and racing that decides the difference between 1st and last place.
If you want this — truly want the elite status — it’s going to take more; more of everything!
THAT’S how you earn the competitive right — and the athletic respect — to go and compete in the next World MTBO Championships.
Hopefully, if this plan every sees the light of day, the team that goes to Denmark in 2019 will have done the work to deserve to be there.
Now, who will lead this challenge?