# MTBO European style

MTBO European style

Marquita Gelderman

Rob and I were lucky enough to enjoy a rather nice 7 weeks away in Europe, taking in several MTBO events along the way. We started the trip in the Czech Republic, at the Plzen 5-Days – the “O-Ringen” of the MTBO world. Plzen is a city about 1.5 hours west of Prague, renowned for its beer. The event was based about 30km away at a scout-camp type place with hall/dining area, cabins and semi-permanent tents for accommodation and plenty of room for campervans, caravans and tents. About half the 700 competitors stayed on site, which made for long shower queues (and cold showers but it was pretty hot so that didn’t matter) but also added to a very social atmosphere. The Czechs sure know how to party and every night there was some sort of après-O entertainment with an awful lot of beer drinking going on. The party on the last night went until 4am with first start for the final race at 9am – fortunately jet-lag meant we were pretty tired and managed to sleep through the racket. Four of the 5 races were adjacent to the camp with the finish line in the camp grounds so it was all very compact and easy to get around. The races themselves were a mix of sprint, middle, long, relay and a free-order event. This is a bit like a rogaine but you have to get all the controls, and to make it even more tricky there are some compulsory legs thrown in. Each class had a different number of controls to get, and different combinations of compulsory vs free controls, and just to really turn the screws, it was a chasing start and no planning time! I stood still for a full 5 mins at the triangle trying to work out the best route and still didn’t get it right. Rob got his route right but got a bit over excited towards the end and completely missed two controls, which was a shame because he would have won the M60 class if he hadn’t done that! I was riding W21E so I was nowhere near winning, but I was nowhere near last either so I was happy enough.

The following weekend we were in Austria for the Austrian Champs, held in a spa town called Bad Voslau about 1.5hrs south of Vienna. Again, there was on-site camping so we managed to squeeze the campervan in amongst the trees and the other campervans without denting it. There were about 250 people at this event with plenty of the worlds best as it was a world ranking event. The sprint event was held in an old military area scattered with a whole lot of old munitions storage bunkers – these were donut-like earth walls about 8-10m high with bendy tunnels through into the middle where they used to store the munitions. The idea was that if one lot blew up it wouldn’t ignite the rest. Fast forward 70 years and they made very tricky control sites! This was the only race of the whole trip where it rained which was a shame as the map was very detailed and functioning glasses would have been useful. The middle and long were on the same area – a steep slope rising up to a plateau of sorts, riddled with tracks and paths as it was a communal area belonging to the people of Bad Voslau who walked extensively through it. The courses were probably the hardest MTBO course I have done with so many route choices to consider. On the long distance I was rather disconcerted to have a leg which was so long it didn’t fit on my mapboard! One of the most impressive things was the main organiser of the entire weekend, including map making and course setting, was a 17 year-old!!

After two weeks of riding and some hiking in the Dolomites (a whole other story), we headed to Orleans in France for the World Masters MTBO Champs. This was run, to its detriment, in conjunction with the European Youth, Junior and Senior MTBO Champs so there were about 700 riders in total, although only about 250 in the Masters. If NZ showed the world how to run a World Masters competition, France showed them how not to!! The organisation was so bad it was hilarious – you could only relax and laugh about it. Even the French were complaining. Saying that, the maps and courses were very good so I guess that was the main thing and as the week went on, things did improve. It was a very successful week for Rob and I – I finished with 3 gold medals in the W50 class while Rob got a gold and a bronze in the M65 class. The terrain was very flat (in the long distance race I rode 30km with only 80m climb) which made it a bit two-dimensional, but provided its own challenges in a way as it was easy to lose focus on the longer legs and forget where you were up to.

All in all, a very enjoyable trip with some really good quality races. Rob is already planning the next one!

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