Putting my mountain biking coaching hat on, I turned on the following:
1st Place — Haga (FIN)
13th Place — Dallimore (UK)
28th Place — Furman (USA)
29th Place — McNair (USA)
31st Place — Grandjean (USA)
33rd Place — Ginsbach (USA)
This is what I observed about the mountain bike, navigation, and endurance skills demonstrated from the tracks seen in this event:
#1 – Route Choice is Essential
Watching Haga’s and Dallimore’s route choices compared to the USA riders showed that hesitation and second-guessing are time killers.
There are times when you can see Haga and Dallimore slow down on Minor Roads and then speed up again.
The assumption is that they use this time to plan their next 3 moves.
Meanwhile, there are several times where you can see the USA riders come to a complete stop, double back, or move slowly past intersections that Haga and Dallimore flew by.
You need to plan at least 3-moves/turns ahead and stop double-checking the map so much.
Additionally, you have to get good at navigating on-the-move instead of stopping to find your bearings.
#2 – Using High-Speed Avenues of Approach is FAST!
Each time there was a choice for Haga or Dallimore to pick between Minor roads versus a Trail, they ALWAYS picked the Minor Road.
This strategy translated into increased speed and faster times — to the point that the USA Team were all around Control #11 by the same time Haga and Dallimore where at Control #16.
That one strategy equaled a 5-control difference!
When in doubt, always take the Minor Road — ALWAYS!
They are always faster than you think they are and gives your mind a chance to rest.
#3 – Endurance Matters
The speed at which Haga and Dallimore completed the course had a very important impact on the overall duration of their ride.
You could sum it up as “pay now or pay later”, but the science is clear: faster speed means less time on the course.
The longer the USA team was on the course, the slower they appeared to get between controls towards the end.
A physical endurance base is a requirement.
But after you have a base, you have to work on speed, speed, and more speed!
Adventure Racers CAN go forever, but this race was over in less than 2-hours, not 12-hours.
Mountain bike (not road bike) speed work is a must and should include speed drills on dirt hills, fire roads, and technical single-track.
It is a mountain bike race first, second, and third!
#4 – You Need to Trust Your Instincts
Haga seemed to have incredible precision in trusting her navigation skills, knowing her on-ground distances, and where she was on the map.
The evidence is how direct she moved between controls.
Her route choices were exact and include few hesitations.
Conversely, there were several times that I observed the USA team on the fast track to a control only to suddenly turn onto the wrong track and take the long way around.
I assume this is due to either not trusting what they see compared to the map, or not computing mountain bike speed to where they actually are (a common mistake made by Foot Orienteers when on a mountain bike).
Foot orienteering is excellent for learning how the map matches the terrain, how to approach controls, and making route choices.
However, once those skills are engrained, everything AFTER that has to be on the mountain bike.
Knowing what a trailhead looks like from the saddle, knowing how far you really have gone, and knowing what a turn on a 1:15K map “feels like” on an MTB is critical to shutting down the “second-guessing” machine.
Increased high-speed MTBO competition is a perfect way to hone these skills.