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MTBO riders race it all

Whilst FootO has experienced an increase in specialisation, most MTBO riders race all distances at the World MTBO Championships. However, there are signs which indicate an early development towards more specialisation.

At the World MTBO Championships (WMTBOC) in 2016, British Emily Benham became World Champion in both Sprint and Long. Of course, it is different racing 7.2km compared to 20.2km, but the difference is not so big that you can’t be well prepared for both:

– All the distances in MTBO require a similar skill set. Most sprint races are forest or park based and the skills are transferable to the longer distances, so prepare for one distance and the preparation for the others will be fairly similar, Emily Benham says.

French rider Cédric Beill agrees that it possible to do all WMTBOC races and still have a possibility to do well. Cédric Beill has been riding the senior class for a couple of years, with bronze medals at Sprint and Relay at WMTBOC 2016 as best results. He thinks good all-round training gives the possibility to win a medal at every distance:

– Each race is a podium chance. I have no favourite distance and I try to improve in all distances. For WMTBOC 2017 I will start in all races. It will make it a busy week, but I will be prepared for that, Cédric Beill says.

Cédric Beill. Photo: Joaquim Margarido

Five races in six days are no problem

At the WMTBOC in 2016, Anton Foliforov was victorious in all three individual distances and placed second in the Relay. Emily Benham also raced all events with medals in all except the Relay. Glancing towards FootO, Simone Niggli-Luder is the latest athlete to win medals at all events throughout the WOC week. Since the addition of Sprint Relay in 2014, no one has been a medallist in all events at a single championship. It gets rarer that foot orienteers run all distances and typically focus on two to four distances.

From 2017, MTBO has got a fifth distance at the WMTBOC programme as Mass Start has been added. Emily Benham will still race all events as she has done previously, but depending on the programme of the week, she might focus more on fewer ones:

– At the moment, I focus on all races – although with a greater emphasis towards to the longer races. To some degree, it depends on the order of races. For 2017, I can focus on my priority races, Long and Mass Start, but still race all the distances and those with a lower priority fall later within each ‘competition block’.  It may change in the future depending on the structure of the week and my goals for the year, she says.

The races themselves are not the toughest. In Emily Benham’s case, it is all the things in between that requires extra energy:

– Five races in six days is easy – if there is no travel to events, anti-doping tests, prize giving, interviews, Team Leaders meeting, start group allocations or bike cleaning to do… The toughest thing about racing is not the competition itself, but rather everything that goes with it, Emily Benham says.

Emily Benham. Photo: Donatas Lazauskas

Cédric Beill does not fear a fifth distance at WMTBOC. He has previously raced all distances and the addition of Mass Start will not change that – just give an extra challenge:

– I think it is good to get a new distance, because it forces the athletes to be even more complete. I have already had good results in Sprint and Middle but I hope they will come in Long and Mass Start as well. The Mass Start will be a big challenge for me, and I have to prepare for that in my training.

If the Mass Start or other issues will lead to more specialised MTBO riders is hard to predict. For now, most continue with a wide scope, but once the development towards specialisation starts, it is hard to go back. When some first start to focus on one or two distances, they get an advantage compared to other athletes. Then others would have to do the same to reach an equal level and then the snowball would begin to roll.


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