Saturday, February 04, 2017

2016 MTBO season: The Foliforov Year

Anton Foliforov won all three individual gold medals at the World MTB Orienteering Championships. This was the stand-out highlight of the 2016 MTBO season. And Foliforov also won the MTBO World Cup for the fourth year in a row.

Any assessment of the 2016 international MTB Orienteering season ends up with the Russian Anton Foliforov as an inescapable key figure. He made his debut in the most important event of the international calendar in 2005, and just five years later he won his first individual gold medal in the Long distance race at the World MTB Orienteering Championships in Portugal. Now he has nine individual titles and two with the Russian team, and Foliforov is being spoken of as the best MTBO athlete of all time by everyone involved in this exciting discipline, with the 2016 season being the highlight of his career.

But the season has also thrown other big names on the MTB orienteering scene into the limelight, in particular Emily Benham from Great Britain, the world champion in the Long Distance and Sprint, winner of the World Cup and leader in the IOF World Rankings along with Foliforov. In the final round of the World Cup held in Lithuania, attention was focussed on the Estonian Lauri Malsroos, thanks to two victories and a second place in the three stages. Six other athletes achieved wins in the MTB Orienteering World Cup season, namely the Swiss Simon Braendli, the French Gaëlle Barlet, the Russian Olga Shipilova Vinogradova, the Finn Marika Hara and the Czechs Krystof Bogar and Martina Tichovska.

Kick-off in France

With winter giving way to a changeable spring, the first races of the season in early March were held in Portugal and Turkey. Races in Denmark were another important attraction in April but it was in May at Guebwiller in France that a hundred or so athletes began to pedal really seriously, in the first round of the 2016 World Cup. Simon Braendli and Emily Benham achieved “the muddiest wins” of their careers in the Long distance stage that opened the round.

Second-placed on this first stage, Anton Foliforov managed to win the Middle distance race on the second day, while Benham was again the strongest in the women’s class although sharing the highest place on the podium with Gaëlle Barlet, both recording the same time. After an exciting duel with the Russian team, France achieved a tasty home victory in the Mixed Relay that ended the round.

Twenty-two nations at World Championships in Portugal

The most important event of the season, the World MTB Orienteering Championships, took place in central Portugal at the beginning of July, bringing together 78 male and 53 female athletes representing 22 countries. Still tasting the triumphs of the previous round, Anton Foliforov and Emily Benham were the fastest in the Sprint that opened the Championships, and repeated this result in the epic Long distance in temperatures near to 40 degrees Celsius.

Olga Shipilova Vinogradova’s victory in the Middle distance, another win for the ‘flying’ Foliforov and also the silver medal for the young Czech Vojtech Ludvik were the most significant moments of a third exciting day. The Czech Team ended its time in Portugal in the best possible way by winning the men’s relay, and they took top place on the podium along with Finland, winners of the women’s relay for the 8th time in 14 editions of the World MTB Orienteering Championships.

The battle in Lithuania

At the end of September, the forests of Lithuania with their impressive autumnal colours hosted the final round of the World Cup. The men’s title was already won by Foliforov, but the women’s was still open: would Emily Benham manage to hold her advantage over her most direct opponent, the French Gaëlle Barlet? The British rider settled that question on the first stage, winning the Long distance and putting Barlet out of reach. The Estonian Lauri Malsroos was the winner of the men’s race and repeated the feat in the next stage, a quite technical Middle distance. Here, the winner in the women’s class was the Finn Marika Hara. The last stage, a challenging Sprint held in the suburbs of the city of Kaunas, brought a double Czech victory with Krystof Bogar and Martina Tichovska being the fastest.

No change in World Cup

The 2016 World Cup ended up having the same winners as in 2015, with Anton Foliforov taking the title after four wins and a second place in the two opening rounds and Emily Benham securing her triumph in the first stage of the final round. Gaëlle Barlet never backed down and the good results achieved in Lithuania allowed her to keep second position, while Martina Tichovska’s victory in the last stage was decisive for achieving third place. Also decisive were the two victories and a second place achieved by Lauri Malsroos in the final round, which gave him second place in the final World Cup standings, and he was followed by Krystof Bogar, who in the best possible way finished a season that marked his return to top competition after a three-year break.

Text and photo: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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