Our team was bigger.
The courses were harder.
The weather was more extreme. The terrain was uncompromising on both equipment and our legs.
The media attention was brighter.
And the closing banquet was epic!
Watching all of the TV coverage and GPS tracks this year taught showed that the best riders are not always pedaling hard. Especially in the sprint we all noticed how slowly the top riders were riding in and out of CP's. Route choice is so more important, and more so when the terrain is so steep and challenging. In Estonia and Poland fitness was king. If you could ride fast, your route was not highly predictive of success if you could execute it.
This year we had a lot of fast riders, more than half of the team can race a bike near the top of the sport at home. Yet that ability was not of much help in the Czech terrain. The ability to navigate was exalted above all else here.
Reviewing the routes that the impressive Anton Foliforov rode during training, we noticed that he was seeing route choices that we did not take. Not only did we not take them, they never even occurred to us. When there are hills, it is not enough to see the trails, but also the contour lines. Not just the contour lines, but the terrain between trails where it may be faster to run your bike instead of ride around.
The challenge was overwhelming, especially for those of us who arrived for the first time with expectations of success. Success for a team like ours looks different than what it does for a different team. It also looks different than what success looks like for ourselves at home. We are used to being good bike racers, adventure racers and navigators at home. Although MTBO blends these skills, it is a unique skill of its own that must be practiced to find success. Especially at this level!
With that said, there were a lot of successes out there amongst our difficulty this year. Lots of learning, and even a lot of good splits too.
We are lucky to be racing amongst a community that does not judge us for what might appear to be a lack of success. The world's best MTBO athletes welcome us. They understand that we don't have the opportunity to practice as much as they do. It's a great community of which I really enjoy being a small part of.
Thank you to Orienteering USA for the opportunity to compete on the world stage, and thanks to all of my teammates for another great experience. It was a pleasure working with you out there.
Until next year!