We’re Going Hungary

BURKE,VA– This year will mark the 10th World Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) Championships (WMOC) in which World Ranked MTBO athletes complete for gold, silver, and bronze medals during a 2-week-long event in Veszprem, Hungary from August 18-26, 2012. It will also mark another year without a serious United States MTBO Team presence. Some would sight the lack of a competitive MTBO is the result of limited club and promoter support. Others may link the rise of Adventure Racing alongside the strength of Mountain Bike Racing as the goliath that still overshadow this relatively new American sport. Whatever the reason, we think it is time the United States – the country that INVENTED mountain bike racing – ceased being absent from the World MTBO Championships and finally sent a competitive MTBO team to chew some dirt, kick some hardtail, and put USA on the MTBO map!

While the good news is that there are efforts in the works by Orienteering USA to develop a competition-level program for MTBO, the bad news is that we still do not have a sustainable MTBO race circuit, National MTBO Championship, National MTBO Rankings, US Mountain Bike Orienteering Team selection process, or any MTBO-centric infrastructure set up to help mediate all the administriva surrounding teams participating in international MTBO events. So what is an aspiring MTBO athlete to do if they think they have the chops to race the WMOC in Hungary? Well, it wouldn’t be MTBO America if we didn’t sit around and come up with a crazy plan that could actually to get a competitive MTBO team qualified for the WMOC in 2012!! However, we have to warn you in advance, that this plan is a messy one that includes a ton of moving parts to work. But to quote the great American General Patton: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

How to Race Hungary
The MTBO America plan for getting a team to the 2012 WMOC is a 10-step process that includes:

Albert Einstein once said, “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” The same is true for International MTBO. Before you can be successful at this sport, you need to first know what you can and cannot do within the confines of World MTBO Championship competition rules. The following is a list of rules and regulations from the IOF that you and your team should be familiar with before beginning this journey:

The first difficult hurdle is finding athletes who can meet the minimum requirements for participation. Some of these standards may be a bit difficult the first time a US Team tries to make it out of the gate. First, there is no sustainable MTBO race circuit across the United States nor an Orienteering USA sanctioned National MTBO Championship. This means that it would be unreasonable to require those selected to try out for the US MTBO Team to be ranked in the top 25 of National Ranked US MTBO riders without any national races or a ranking system in place. Fortunately, the IOF MTB Orienteering Competition rules cover just such an issue:

  • Participation (5.4, 6.1, 6.2, 6.4, and 9.5): Competitors who are representing the United States of America as a member of the 2012 US MTBO Team must meet all of the following:
    • Must be full passport-holding citizens of the United States of America.
    • Must be only competing for the United States Orienteering Federation (Orienteering USA) during the 2012 calendar year.
    • Must have either personal injury insurance provided by Orienteering USA, or proof of a private personal injury policy that capable of covering injuries in Hungary.
  • US Team Requirements: Competitors also need to meet all of the following:
    • Be at least 21-years-old.
    • Pass a National criminal background investigation.
    • Must own a 26-inch or 29-inch Front or Full Suspension Mountain Bike.
    • Must own an ANSI Certified Cycling Helmet.

This is where Step #1 – Reading the Rules – comes in very handy! As far as the IOF is concerned, as long as you have (1) a valid US passport, (2) recognition from Orienteering USA, (3) never competed in MTBO for another other county’s Federation during 2012, and (4) have personal liability insurance. Now, the US passport can take up to 6-8 weeks to process and cost upwards from $165 to $225, if you’ve never had one before. But this can be obtained long before the competition date in August. Additionally, ever since Hungary joined the EU in 2004, US Citizens are not required to have an entry visa into Hungary for stays of up to 90 days. Furthermore, if you become a member of Orienteering USA, you qualify for the personal injury insurance all Orienteering USA members get when racing. If you rule out the chances of a potential athlete having raced for a country’s Federation as well, you’ve now meet the minimum requirements for participation in the WMOC.

President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparation is the key to any successful team. However, to build a team, you first need to make sure any potential candidate can meet the minimum requirements (See Step #2) and know what race or races they will participate in before even being considered for selection. The World MTBO Championships have only two (2) classes: Men’s Elite (ME) and Women’s Elite (WE) divided into the following race categories:

  • Sprint – ME-7km/WE-5km – (ME-12.5-mi/WE-8.7- mi)
  • Middle – ME-14km/WE-11km – (ME-8.7- mi/WE-6.9- mi)
  • Relay – ME-15km/WE-12km – (ME-9.4- mi/WE-7.5- mi)
  • Long – ME-30km/WE-22km – (ME-18.7- mi/WE-13.7- mi)

Team officials should conduct tryouts and invite potential athletes to the event. Just like with any team, your selection processes should attempt to run each athlete through a simulated MTBO course (possibility via a MTBO camp event if there is time) to see which athletes preform the best on the course. Having athletes in close proximity to each other while training, racing, or even socializing, is a great way to determine good (and bad) teammates. Although raw physical talent is an excellent quality in any athlete, finding the right mix of riders is essential to building a winning team. Ultimately, at the end of Step #3, you will come to realize that you have several qualified athletes who are now potential candidates for the team.

William Shakespeare said, “Presume not that I am the thing I was.” Finding qualified folks to race is one thing, getting them to join and work as a team AND be willing to travel Europe to prove it, is another matter altogether. Once you have a cadre of qualified individuals that are not only willing to be a part of this process, but have been vetted enough to be (a) capable of competing in the event and (b) have all of their qualification requirements met, the Step #4 is to build a team within the confines of the IOF rules.

Each team is allowed to have a maximum of 16 riders (8 Men/8 Women) compete in these four (4) events elite races. Only 12 riders (6 Men/6 Women) are allowed to enter each race, while the Relay event can field a maximum of 2 Men’s and 2 Women’s teams (with Relay teams comprised of only 3 riders each). Additionally, each MTBO team is allowed to have up to 6 Team Officials responsible for team preparation, coaching, and management. Team Officials do not have to be athletes but should know the rules and processes very well.

  • US MTBO Team Composition (Ref (a) 6.3, 6.5, and WOC 2012 Bulletin #2):The US MTBO Team can enter a maximum of 22 total representatives that comprise of the following maximums:
    • 8 Men-Class competitors
    • 8 Women-Class competitors
    • 6 Team Officials
  • US MTBO Team Event Participation (Ref (a) 6.6, 6.7, and WOC 2012 Bulletin #2):The US MTBO Team events will consist of the following participation:
    • The team is required to have at least 1 team manager.
    • The team is limited to racing only 6 men and 6 women per distance event.
    • The team will have up to 2 men and 2 women as alternates per distance event when there are already 6 men and/or 6 women entered in each distance.
    • The team is limited to racing only 2 men’s relay teams (consisting of 3 team members each).
    • The team is limited to racing only 2 women’s relay teams (consisting of 3 team members each).
    • Any team member can race in any of the distance events up to the total of 6 men and/or 6 women team members entered per event.

Orienteering USA selected Team leaders and officials now need to make the difficult choice of deciding who gets to be on the US MTBO Team. Once a team of 16 athletes and 6 team officials has been selected (if possible), the team will be officially sponsored by Orienteering USA. 

Excellent work! You should now have a qualified roster of willing and able MTBO athletes that meet all the requirements for competition. Now it’s time to get your team’s preliminary roster to the IOF event organizers so that they know your team is coming. This does not necessarily lock everyone in at this early in the process, but it gives the IOF a good idea that (a) theUnited States of America, represented by Orienteering USA, is indeed serious about sending a team to the event, and (b) how many athletes they should be expecting to show up.

  • 9.1/9.2 Entries: Entries shall be submitted for each competitor: last name, first name, gender, DOB, and Federation. The names of the team officials shall be supplied. Late entries can be refused.
  • 9.6 Preliminary Team Roster: Entries giving the number of competitors of each gender, the number of relay teams, the number of team officials and the team manager’s name, address, e-mail address and phone/fax numbers shall reach the organizer no later than 3 months before the event.

Late entries are a show stopper, so it is essential that Preliminary Registration is completed before the deadline: April 30th, 2012.