Tuesday's sprint race was rather a debacle for most of the American team as we let the pressure of the "sprint" lure us into rushing through the tricky navigation rather than taking the time for accuracy. At least for my part, this cost me more time in backtracking and relocating myself on the map than it would have taken to study the map more carefully in the first place.
Abra had the best performance of the day, finishing in 45th place out of 61 starts, cutting her sprint time in half from last year. Joe and Tom represented for the men, placing 57 and 58 out of 93 starts. The rest of us had a rough go of it and either punched controls out of sequence (easy to do since there were four different courses set up and a given flag may or may not be on the course you are riding) or navigated out of bounds and were disqualified (this happened to one fourth of the competitors).
The map was challenging to read and at one point had racers weaving through a spiderweb of mowed trails through a meadow of tall grass, searching for the correct control out of many. Tom summed it up hilariously in the van on the 25-minute drive back to the hotel: "There's a control---GEET IIIT!!! No, that's not the right one! Wait, there's another one--GEEET IIIT!"
During and after the ride home we poured over the maps and splits, reliving the chaos that it's MTBO sprint racing, comparing routes and sharing stories of our first race of the competition. We went to bed confident we would perform better in the middle distance event next day.
I woke up feeling energetic and excited about the race. The first day was anxiety ridden since most of us did not really know what to expect. Being in quarantine for hours before hour race start, the pressure of the start chute, and launching from the platform after a "beep" countdown rattled our nerves. This time we knew the drill and I resolved not to be distracted from reading the map and riding my own course.
Although we still rounded out the bottom of the field, all the US riders punched clean and finished with respectable times. Tom had the best race in 76th place out of 93, beating at least 10 Euros, and Sue led the USA women 56th out of 61. Today there were only three mis-punches (mp) on the men's side and none on the women's.
I made a few navigation errors, but overall, given my experience level in the sport, I was happy with my performance. I navigated quite well through the first four controls, then missed a turn onto a trail leading to a road crossing and had to backtrack a couple hundred yards. I found #5 easily, then turned onto a different track than I planned to #6 as I came to it from the opposite direction. I had to study the map a bit for #7, a flag buried in a network of hilly, bermy ATV trails. I punched at the same time as Carolyn of Australia and resisted the temptation to follow her, losing precious seconds to confirm my turns on the map. I took a gamble to #14 via a singletrack, but flubbed it up and ended up taking the long way around after all; #15 required careful attention. I navigated the remainder of the course fairly quickly to the point where I was in a bit of disbelief that I only had one control left and spent a moment reviewing the map to make sure I had really punched all the controls. I sprinted hard to the finish, fairly confident that I had done well, only to discover that I had the slowest time of the day so far.
Alas, some disappointments, but we're learning a lot and getting to ride top quality MTBO courses. Although the Karaoke we were looking forward to did not happen, we had a great time socializing with members of the Austrian team, who are really fun, nice, and encouraging.