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BIALYSTOK, POLAND — The US MTBO Team just completed its third excursion to the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships (WMTBOC), and their first attempt at the World Masters MTBO Championship (WMMTBOC) in Bialystok, Poland, from August 24th to August 30th, 2014. The team had a wet start to begin the weeks worth of MTBO racing throughout the soggy forest trails of Bialystok, Poland, but managed to find their pedals and make some headway towards the end. Here are the highlights and results:

Mixed Relay
The WMTBOC and WMMTBOC started on Monday, August 25th, with the new Mixed Sprint Relay event featuring teams of two (one male, one female) on a short course with controls very close to each other. The event was designed as a way to kick off the championships without any one team worrying about points or places, and provide an opportunity for spectators to see the World MTBO athletes up close and personal. Since this was the 2014 US MTBO Team’s first chance to show off their skills, the US fielded four teams of two (with Joe Brautigam sitting out). However, the team got off to a rough start as controls in close proximity to each other proved to be much harder to target under race conditions. All four teams in the mixed relay went unranked after each team suffered a series of mispunches.

Mixed Relay MTBO Event Results:

* Unranked 39th Place
Abra Mcnair 82 15:40
Thomas Puzak 78 19:27
Abra Mcnair 82 15:09
Thomas Puzak 78 MP

* Unranked 40th Place
Sue Grandjean 73 12:31
Dave Swanson 71 21:01
Sue Grandjean 73 16:49
Dave Swanson 71 MP

* Unranked 44th Place
Sarah Ginsbach 84 MP
Nathan Winkelmann 82 18:05
Sarah Ginsbach 84 MP
Nathan Winkelmann 82 MP

* Unranked 48th Place
Liz Notter 66 MP
Peter Jolles 75 20:57
Liz Notter 66 18:23
Peter Jolles 75 23:25

Sprint Distance MTBO Event Highlights
The second day of WMTBOC and WMMTBOC event on Tuesday, August 26th, was all about the Sprint Distance MTBO event. In the WMTBOC M21 category, US riders Thomas Puzak, Nathan Winkelmann, Dave Swanson, and Peter Jolles helped erase last year’s standings where Dave Ashley mispunched and Fletcher Hamel was disqualified after going out-of-bounds. With a course that was slightly shorter (but include 9 additional controls) to the course Puzak raced in Estonia last year (22 Controls @ 6.1 km in 2013; 31 Controls @ 5.7 km in 2014), Puzak managed to cut almost two-minutes off his 2013 WMTBOC time (+31:21) regardless of finishing towards the back of the pack.

In the W21 category, US riders Sue Grandjean and Abra McNair had improved showings from their 2013 WMTBOC results as well. Where McNair beat Grandjean by over 4-minutes in 2013, Grandjean (who started 6-minutes before McNair) became the one to cross the finish the fastest. With a course that was shorter than the 2013 Sprint event by over 1 km (21 Controls @ 5.8 km in 2013; 29 Controls @ 4.9 km in 2014), but included 8 more controls, both Grandjean and McNair took significant time off their 2013 results.

Veteran MTBO racer Joe Brautigam also had a good day as the first American male MTBO athlete to race in the World Masters MTBO Championships. His 9th place finish made his Sprint MTBO race effort historic as the first US MTBO athlete to break the top ten in a MTBO World Ranked Event (even though he placed 2nd in the M50 Open Sprint Distance event and 1st in the M50 Open Long Distance event in 2013, the Open Competition was not a World Ranked Event), the highest ranked American to place in the World Masters MTBO Championship, and the highest ranked American man to place in the WMMTBOC Sprint Distance M50 category. Although she suffered a mispunch in her first WMMTBOC event, Liz Notter also made history as the first American woman MTBO athlete to race in the World Masters MTBO Championships.

Sprint Distance MTBO Event Results:

M21
75/89 Puzak Thomas USA 29:32 +7:46
81/89 Winkelmann Nathan USA 30:51 +9:05
82/89 Swanson Dave USA 32:06 +10:20
88/89 Jolles Peter USA 39:06 +17:20

W21
45/52 Grandjean Sue 73 USA 29:17 +8:33
46/52 Mcnair Abra 82 USA 29:21 +8:37
52/52 Ginsbach Sarah 84 USA 43:49 +23:05

O-M50
9/46 Joe Brautigam USA 25.09 + 4.21

O-W40
MP Liz Notter USA MP

Middle Distance MTBO Event Highlights
The third day of racing on Wednesday, August 27th, was marked by three significant events: the historic Middle Distance ride of Thomas Puzak, the triumphant arrival of Liz Notter onto the world MTBO stage, and the unfortunate broken derailer of Joe Brautigam! Thomas Puzak made American history when he became the first US MTBO athlete to break the top 40 during a World MTBO Championships with his 40th place finish. His ride secured him the only American male slot in the Long Distance MTBO event (to take place later in the week) and made him the highest ranked American to place in the WMTBOC Middle Distance category. Puzak’s ride would also make him the overall highest ranked American MTBO athlete to race a World MTBO Championships.

Liz Notter also set a new bar for World Master’s MTBO women with her 6th place finish in the Masters Middle Distance MTBO event. She became the highest ranked American woman to place in the World Masters MTBO Championship, and the highest ranked American woman to place in the WMMTBOC Middle Distance W40 category.

The remainder of the team was able to complete the Middle Distance course, but their times showed how the change from Sprint to Middle distance directly impacted their overall speed. Winkelmann, Swanson, and Jolles finished the M21 course with over 30-minutes between their finish and the leader. Grandjean and McNair in the W21 category also seemed to have difficultly with the longer distances with finish times well behind 40th place (+20:16). This performance was eerily similar to their 2013 Middle distance results that had a shorter course and fewer controls (18 Controls @ 8.7 km in 2013; 20 Controls @ 10.4 km in 2014) then the 2014 course. Joe Brautigam and Sarah Ginsbach had the toughest day of all. Brautigam damaging his derailer in the middle of the competition and had to run his bike to the finish, while Ginsbach received yet another disappointing mispunch, knocking her out of the Middle Distance rankings. It was unclear if the younger competitors, cooler temperatures, increased distances, or number of controls contributed to the team’s poor results.

Middle Distance MTBO Event Results:

M21
40/89 Puzak Thomas USA 1:06:08 +10:48
83/89 Winkelmann Nathan USA 1:28:32 +33:12
84/89 Swanson Dave USA USA 1:28:52 +33:32
86/89 Jolles Peter USA 1:30:39 +35:19

W21
48/50 Grandjean Sue USA 1:26:21 +36:40
49/50 Mcnair Abra USA 1:36:20 +46:39
MP Ginsbach Sarah USA

M50
51/55 Joe Brautigam USA 83.31 + 33.08

W40
6/12 Liz Notter USA 58.36 + 13.05

Long Distance MTBO Event Highlights
The fifth day of racing was heralded by the Long Distance MTBO event on on Friday, August 29th. The Long Distance MTBO event historically proves itself to be the hardest course of the week, and traditionally makes or breaks teams struggling with endurance over distance. Since the US Team only qualified for three W21 slots and one M21 slot, the remaining WMTBOC team members where given an alternate course to race. But by the end of the day, only the team veterans Thomas Puzak, Joe Brautigam, and Sue Grandjean, had significant performances.

Thomas Puzak finished with another American first by breaking the top 50. The M21 course was shorter by 2 km over last year’s Long in Estonia (32 Controls @ 34.9 km in 2013; 37 Controls @ 32.9 km) but include 5 additional controls. When compared to the 1st place finisher Anton Foliforov (RUS), who finished the course 9-minutes faster (+1:50.18) over his 2013 3rd place finish (+1:59.20), Puzak’s 43rd finish was over 14-minutes faster (+2:13:03) then his 2013 56th place finish (+2:27.32), and shows just how much he has improved in just over a year.

Sue Grandjean also showed significant improvement over her 2013 World MTBO Championship performance. The W21 course was only slightly shorter (by 500 meters) compared to last years Long in Estonia (27 Controls @ 26.1 km in 2013; 30 Controls @ 25.6 km in 2014) but include 3 additional controls. Grandjean’s 39th place finish (+2:24:47) was almost 10-minutes faster then her 2013 54th place finish (+2:35.34). When compared to the 1st place finishers from both years, the course was completed on average 6-minutes slower from 2013 to 2014. However, Grandjean’s completed the 2014 course 17-minutes faster then in 2013; a significant 11-minute improvement over her 2013 performance!

Meanwhile, Joe Brautigam could not repeat his first place finish from the WMTBOC Open Competition last year, but did manage to place in the middle of the pack. However, both Brautigam and Notter continued to create the times for future US MTBO Masters team’s to beat by being the first American man and woman to race in the Master’s Long Distance MTBO event; the final event of the 2014 World Masters MTBO Championship. Brautigam’s 22nd place finish was good enough to make him the highest ranked American in the WMMTBOC M50 category, while Notter’s 7th place finish made her the highest ranked American in the WMMTBOC W40 category.

Long Distance MTBO Event Results:

M21
43/58 Puzak Thomas USA 133:03 +22:45

W21
39/48 Grandjean Sue USA 144:47 +35:50
45/48 Mcnair Abra USA 171:47 +62:50
47/48 Ginsbach Sarah USA 196:00 +87:03

M-M50
22/50 Joe Brautigam USA A 128.10 +20.24

M-W40
7/9 Liz Notter USA B 127.58 +29.12

M21 final B Long
12/16 Nathan Winkelmann USA A 138.06 +26.44
14/16 Dave Swanson USA A 147.40 +36.18
16/16 Peter Jolles USA A 155.19 +43.57

Relay MTBO Event Highlights
The final World MTBO Championship event was ushered in by the Relay MTBO race on Saturday, August 30th. The Relay is often the great equalizer in World MTBO competition by revealing which teams are still competing, and which teams are already thinking about going home. With the conclusion of World Masters competition the day before, only the M21 and W21 categories were left to fight for the final World Ranking points.

The men’s US MTBO Relay team of Winkelman, Puzak, and Swanson, raced against some of the fastest MTBO Sprint riders in Europe. With many of the top teams finishing their legs under 50-minutes, the US team’s only rider to come close was Puzak with a leg time of +55:27. The US men’s team performance was good enough to put them over Denmark and Japan. Granted that 17th out of 19th place is not stellar, it is important to note that the US men’s team was spot on with their map reading and control accuracy. If the seven other teams that where disqualified by mispunch (and five other teams who where disqualified and not ranked for an unknown reason) had been ranked, the US team would have placed 17th out of 31st; a nice mid-pack finish and the highest place any US MTBO men’s relay team as accomplished yet.

The US MTBO women’s team, comprised of Grandjean, McNair, and Ginsbach, also took out the Japanese team for a 12th place finish (with the second Russian team suffering a mispunch). This time Abra McNair had the good leg time of +58:00, a significant improvement over her relay time in Estonia in 2013. McNair raced a shorter leg (but with 10 more controls) in 2013 with a time of +1:04.25 (31 Controls @ 9 km in 2013; 21 Controls @ 10.6 km in 2014). In her 2014 match-up, McNair, riding an additional 1.5-kilometers (but 10 less controls) to the 2013 course, had a chance to stretch her legs out and improve her leg time by 6-minutes. It was not enough to overcome the first leg lead of the other teams, but it was a notable victory. Additionally, all three women were spot on with their map reading and control accuracy, beating a very fast Russian team that suffered a last leg mispunch; proving that it doesn’t matter how fast you are if you punch the wrong control!

Relay MTBO Event Results:

M21
Men’s Team Total (+2:20:04)
17/19 USA 3:05:28
Nathan Winkelmann 1:00:48
Thomas Puzak 55:27
Dave Swanson 1:09:13

W21
Women’s Team Total (+2:15:09)
12/13 USA 3:03:54
Sue Grandjean 1:00:16
Abra Mcnair 58:00
Sarah Ginsbach 1:05:38

Photo Credit
Photo of Thomas Puzak (USA) competing in the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in Bialystok, Poland by Piotr Siliniewicz. See more of Piotr’s photos from the event at Silne-Studio.

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