Recently, Skedaddle’s very own sponsored rider Steph Fountain took part in the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. What follows is her blog on the event, enjoy!
MTBO World Championships, Hungary, August 2012 By Steph Fountain
My goal for the world championships was to not embarrass myself and to beat a few people in each race. We travelled to Budapest four days early to get used to the maps and for me to get my eye in because I always make mistakes in the first race or two!
There were controls off tracks in the races and there was a lot of open ground to cut across. It was like foot-o on a bike rather than MTBO! Normally all controls are on tracks and the skill is to pick the optimum route and do it quickly and accurately. This was proper navigation using contours and other features. Not ideal for me as the navigation isn’t my strong point, it was the first time I’ve ever done a race like this.
The first race was the long qualifier, in this race the top 60 athletes go through to the A final and the rest do the B final. I’ve never been so nervous before a race before! I’d done a world cup earlier in the year but this seemed like a whole new level of stress. It was the thought of the tricky navigation as well as the formality of the occasion. I was second starter, which was good because it minimised the waiting and I didn’t have quarantine, but bad because there were no tracks on the ground so small turnings were less obvious. Also the fast people weren’t around to drag me along and show me the way!
I felt much better once I got started and had a good race. I played it safe to number 1, as I find that’s the easiest to make mistakes on. I found it OK but messed up one of the off track controls as I got distracted by the man at the drinks station. I declined a drink and looked up to see a control, it wasn’t mine, I saw a second control, it wasn’t mine, I stopped and read the map and found mine was a good 100 metres away, oops! The rest was fine, just terribly hot. It was over 30 degrees and the open ground was like being in a fan oven. I did a big sprint to the line, along with 4 or 5 blokes, I passed some of them in the sprint and was very pleased I did that because there were seconds in it for the A final.
I was completely gob smacked to find that I’d made the A final, which meant I’d beaten loads of people! And I was even more surprised to find that I was the fastest girl in the world for the sprint from the last control to the line (the green jersey sprint)!!!
The description for this race was ‘an open area with a dense network of paths’. I felt physically sick that morning because I wasn’t actually sure if I’d be able to find all the controls. I was OK in the start box, but scared to find number 1 was off the tracks. I didn’t look at any other legs in my minute, just planned out number 1 carefully. And it worked! I went straight to it. Very happy.
It went a bit downhill from there though. I found that the tracks were of no use whatsoever, I navigated by hills and shrubbery. Not my strong point! There were a few controls where I was all over the place. I stopped a lot and stayed calm and gradually got better as the race went on and I got used to it. I never planned ahead, full focus on the current leg each time. That was all I could do. It was so hot, like riding in a desert. There was no shelter from the sun and it was over 35 degrees. I really struggled to think, it made things very difficult indeed.
It took me over double the time of the winner but I found them all and I came 65th, beat 9 people, which for this race was pretty good. Also it turned out that I got joint fastest time to the finish with 3 other girls so I got the green jersey again! Emily Benham came 2nd in this race! Our best result ever, she is very good at navigation.
I was confident at the start of this race because all the controls were on paths, it was like a normal race. I got a decent start too, up until control number 8 I was going well. I was cycling along a track with two other girls, they turned left, I got very confused and all of a sudden didn’t know where I was and I ended up mis-punching.
I am not sure what happened because it was a relatively easy course and I should have been fine! I couldn’t think at all, probably due to too much sun, not enough food, and brain ache from all the training and other races! I was very glad that the following day was a rest day, a chance to relax and recompose ready for the relay. Didn’t even compete for the green jersey run in today. It was all a bit much to be honest.
The relay was another open area race, which meant it was basically cycling in a desert. It was ultra hot and there was a lot of waiting around too as I was the third leg. I like watching the start of the relay because it is a mass start. On the whistle the first rider picks up their map and runs to their bike, there is no minute at the start to plan a route.
Emily was our first rider and she came in 15th, she tagged Pippa and that meant I only had another 45 mins or so to wait. There were two spectator controls, one about half way round and the other just near the end. When I saw Pippa at the second spectator control I poured a bottle of water over myself and waited for her to get in. She’d done really well and we were 12th I think when she got back.
I had to sprint up a hill and around the corner to get the map. No time to study it, it was grab it and go. Most controls were off paths and I was really not in my comfort zone at all. The heat was horrendous and my route resembled a spiders web! I was looking around all over the place for just about every one. I just wanted it to be over. The last part after the spectator control was great though. If only the rest had been that way. We ended up 17th. I put this one down as character building.
I poured 2.5 litres water over myself at the start, that seemed to keep me cool enough as it was windy today, and only 32 degrees! I fought my way through some undergrowth to get to a railway tunnel, a branch ripped my shorts and cut my leg. We had a butterfly loop, where we visited the same control three times. I met Sue, an American at this point and we did the remainder of the race together, going different ways but ending up together each time. It was great! We had a map exchange and then just near the end Sue got a puncture! I gave her my gas as she only had a pump and she was only 2 mins behind at the finish.
Today was forest, then open ground, then urban. The open was some sort of military place and it was fine, unlike like the races we’ve had so far! It was a big road climb to the last control, my lungs were screaming. I rounded the corner and sprinted for all I was worth to the finish. And it worked, today I was the fastest girl in the world again for the final sprint! I got beaten by just 4 boys too!! I did 16 secs, the world champion bloke did 14 and three other blokes did 15. I came 53rd in the race, 53 / 74 at world championships level, for me, isn’t bad. But I am most proud of my sprinting, I cannot believe that I can sprint to the line faster than any other girl in the world!!
It was also the masters and juniors world championships. We did really well in both. Andy Conn got bronze in the long in M40, Killian got gold in the Sprint in M40, Charlie got two golds and a silver in W50!
On behalf of everyone here at Skedaddle, it’s a big well done to Steph!