Replying to the challenge by Portuguese Orienteering Blog, we continue to receive feedback about the European MTB orienteering Championships 2013. It is with great emotion that we share today the words of Michaela Gigon, Maja Rothweiler, Anke Danowski, Juuso Jutila, Laura Scaravonati and Davide Machado.
Michaela Gigon (Austria): Actually, I did not expect too much from the European Champs because I am working as a teacher now and in the EOC week we had the last exams and I thought I would not be able to go there at all. In the middle of May I got permission to go there. I am quite happy with my 5th place in the Middle Distance race, which I did after 13 hours of driving and 3 hours sleep. Even a medal was close: I was 3rd at the 2nd last control and messed it up to the last. In the beginning I was very confused by the many tracks in the forest and could not find out at all which were on the map and which not. Long Distance was too fast for me, but I have never been a Long Distance specialist anyway. It was a pity that I could not race the Sprint, which is one of my favourite disciplines. But the jury decided that only those could race in the second Sprint who had been on the start list for the original one on Monday. If I had known that it would be annulled I would have signed up... The idea of Mixed Relay was fun, but the forks had too much difference in time: one minute time difference for the last control before the finish simply is too much. Generally it was too much riding and not enough orienteering involved. Even I, who did not do the two Sprints in the same terrain before, did not have to look too much at the map at the 2nd loop anymore. The organisation was generally really poor. Jan definitely had too few people to help him. I would not even try to organize the Austrian Championships with such a small Staff. The question is if it is better to have such low quality races or no races at all. Both is bad for our sport. So I hope that we can find organizers for the next years who can do better.
Maja Rothweiler (Switzerland): I found the terrain for the races very suitable and challenging. Also the courses were interesting in general. But I didn’t like the first controls of the second sprint so much, because there were some important details missing on the map (e.g. depressions) and the fastest route was at least at the beginning off the tracks. I’m satisfied with the results of my races and I’m really happy that I managed it to get my first individual medal. In every race I did mistakes at the beginning. I would like to improve this until the World Championships in Estonia. As already mentioned, I didn’t found the quality of the maps very good, but I think it’s difficult to do good maps if there is so much woodworks. Furthermore I would prefer more details like depressions off the tracks if it’s allowed to ride there. The athmosphere under the participants was good, what I liked.
Anke Danowski (Germany): My overall impression of this Championships is good to ok, looking at my personal performance and the organisers performance. The standards of this Championships were far below a standard that I expect for events of this class. But so to say not everything was bad. I had fun during the races and that is an important aspect, speaking for the courses and the terrain. The map quality was low and the sprint map from Zamosc where it was originally planned to have the sprint race looked horrible. I'm wondering why the organisers speak with the police only two days before the race to restrict the area to the car traffic, which is a crucial point to organise an urban sprint at all. But the reaction and the new organisation of the sprint in the new terrain was good. The courses have been good and due to bad luck a gate was closed. Still the re-race was organised well as well. And it was most probably much better than to race at the bad map of Zamosc. It feels like organiser“s“ have good skills in organising events, but are disorganised and did not prepare the race week well, which is a pity and this should be avoided for future races. The maps looked like drawn in a hurry. And the few people of the very small organising team worked hard during the week, improving their skills as well. I hope there will be major changes in the organising team for next years MTBWOC in Poland.
For me personally I had fun during the races and I had partly better results than expected. In my training during the first half of the year I focussed on my riding skills. Technical riding and speed for a stage race with 3-4 hour stages, since my priority race for this year starts next week with the BC Bike Race in Canada. As expected, I made a few larger mistakes and did not do so well in route choices, however the direct orienteering in the forest went much better than expected with only a few moments where I lost concentration. Else concentration during the races was good. After the Middle race I knew that I could ride at a high level. And I could come home with a Top10 result in Sprint. For the Long Distance race I was not so well prepared in my head and made a few mistakes to much, mainly due to route choices. At the end I almost got a flat tire but came through the mass start race. However, so to say, the mass start did change the character of the Long Distance to more short routes and quick navigation, which is more typical for Middle Distance races. I prefer the classical Long Distance race with long/real route choices, although Mass Start races are pretty cool.
Juuso Jutila (Finland): Sprint and Long Distance were good races for me so I'm satisfied to my races. Specially the Sprint was an unbelievable race, I got my first medal at EOC/WOC at an almost perfect race so I'm more than happy. Now I have almost two months to practise to the World Championships which are my main goal during this season. I wait very much for the WOC races on august! And then something about the EOC organization. The staff was too short, I guess. It makes much difficult to do all things between races and other arrangements. Few maps had small problems with descriptions of the paths so that is a suggestion for improvement in future, I guess. The organizers did their best and the atmosphere was good at all events so I had a nice week in Poland.
Laura Scaravonatti (Italy): If I have to use one slogan to sum up my twelve days at the European MTBO Championships I would use this: Less Poland for everybody! My goal was to place in the top 10 in Middle and Long Distance, the first step to achieving my ultimate goal of a good finish at the World Championships. As far as the Sprint Distance, it is not my favourite type of racing, thus I just needed to push hard and finish the best I could. With a 6th place in the Middle Distance and some struggles in the Sprint and Long Distance, my finishes throughout the week were not what I was expecting for. I have to work harder to improve my speed on the flat and to get bigger legs. Unfortunately, the results were only a small part of the "Poland Problemi!".
I am more picky and choosy than a very choosy and picky person and I know it's not easy to find organizers for international events. With that being said let me further explain the "Poland Problemi." We arrived at the official Training Camp on Wednesday and it commenced through Saturday. On paper it looked to be a great program: many courses, sport-ident but, it turned out that there would only be one map for three days and the map would be a size A, poor quality, and in three different scales. The accommodations were also less than poor. Our "hotel" was a school with dirty bedrooms, super dirty beds, terrifying bathrooms, mosquitoes nests, and food... I don't even know which bad adjective to use to explain what was supposed to be food. We arrived at the "hotel" and were welcomed by thousands of mosquitos and an amazing Polish wedding party with the fattest groom I have ever seen! The wedding started on Saturday at 2 p.m. and did not end until Sunday at 10 p.m. (I guess that the groom was kind of Berlusconi of Poland). I think the music used the same sound system that U2 used during their World Tour: audible till Warsaw! While listening to these loud obnoxious sounds, dinner was served. Terrible is an understatement to describe the meal. Only bread, low cost ham, low cost cheese and fu**ing cucumbers. This meal, as well as all the others, were always cold and the quantity of food was not enough for us athletes. I didn't eat anything. I couldn't. However, the wedding music was much louder than my stomach rumblings so I could listen live Polish songs all night long, while I was laying in my bed. I'm still not sure if that helped my feeling to starvation or made it worse! Sunday was my fifth day in Poland and I was ready to back home. After a night without sleeping, I spent all Sunday trying to focus on the Sprint while avoiding drunk people and still hearing music that made my ears cringe all day long. Same dinner, same bread, same low cost ham and same cucumbers. Despite the big sign written on the table, IN TWO LANGUAGES, that I cannot eat onions or garlic, every meal that was brought to me contained onions and garlic, and every meal I had to ask for a new plate without these things. Lunch with two dry potatoes saved from three meals ago, something that was fried in old oil, and an onion salad was my last Polish meal before deciding it would be better for me to live off my protein and soy milk powder.
On Monday we started with the Sprint race and at the finish I was quite happy for my 13th place, given my standards for that race being it was totally flat and extremely fast. But during cool down I found out that some girls found a locked high gate not marked on the map so the race, in the afternoon, was cancelled. Cool, so one Sprint is already too much for me and now I had to re-race it on the rest day. At this point I was definitely ready to fly home. The day after we had to race the Middle Distance. The forest this time was held in hell and by the end of the race it was game over for me. I decided not to race the last leg of men relay on Wednesday to save some mental energy and to avoid saying another thousand bad words in the forest because of their poor map quality, poorly written tracks and the mass amounts of organizational mistakes. Well, 24 hours of "rest" on Wednesday was definitely not enough to recharge my batteries. Counting the hours until I could say farewell to Poland, I re-raced the Sprint and had "to abandon" at the second control. My teammate Luca, and I, had all the problems that an unlucky MTBO biker can have in one full year (flat tire, lost rear wheel, broken frame, inversion of the control points...), all in only 50 minutes of racing. Thank God I am back home in Italy, safe and sound, with a quiet bedroom, and GOOD food! Ciao Poland!
Davide Machado (Portugal): The expectations for the European MTB orienteering Championships were high. Physically I felt fine and the good result with Top-7 on Middle Distance left me confident for the Long Distance (queen race and my favourite). Unfortunately, it wasn't my turn and, after a good start, but at the same time very hard, I started to feel a strong stomach ache and I had to stop. After “throw away”, I decided to go and see what I could do, I managed to recover much of the lost time and consequently many positions, reaching the final in 27th position. Given the situation, this place has always been better than giving up, but at the same time left me disappointed because I expected something better.
Given the great experience that Poland has at the organizational level, theoretically we expected a good competition and without mishap, although some previous negative opinions for this organization. As for myself, I expected something better. It was my third time competing in Poland, however not everything went well. Logistically we noted a lack of support (material and human), but the biggest failures fell on the technical part, with major flaws in the maps, poor quality of the Middle Distance's map, and others. It somehow clashed a bit the quality of the event, particularly the cancellation of the women's sprint that was scheduled for the same day as the originally planned rest day. But there's more, the course changes in Relay's maps, changes they made “by the pen” over the maps previously printed and left some parts confused, and whose most notable case was the map of Denmark in the Relay race. Generally the courses were good (both physically and technically, as it should be), but the maps have not been mapped nor utilized as they should. The accommodation' standards, and talking about our case,was anything but perfect, the house where we stayed in wasn't even clean and we had to clean it up after travelling a full day. At least the organization did its best in the banquet, provided us a good time for socializing. However, we were there mainly for the competition.
Now is time to continue to work. These Championships are history and even with the disappointments, the Top-7 on Middle Distance left me confident for the World Championship, competition in which I will focus now.