I was invited onto the NZ Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) committee over a year ago now. It really was a surprise since I manage to consistently hover on the lower edge of the results table, but I am what you call a keen enthusiast. This year at the MTBO Champs there was a really good spread of participants. A few navigators who love to ride brought their families along to join the fun for the NZ MTBO champs. Having the events in the school holidays with fine Otago Autumn weather and stunning scenery really ticked all the boxes for many.
The first day was the long event in Naseby which provided some really cool tracks, with route choices. We have seen Steve Gurney over the last few years for this event as he likes to test himself out amongst the multi-sport tough riders. This year, there were a few that had recovered from Godzone including Chris Forne, Nathan Fa’avae, Martin Peat and Sara Prince, so competition was fierce.
The second day was the technical middle event on rocky terrain. There were plenty of rocky outcrops , so you need to guess what was mapped. The compass was your friend as the grass was high and there were many sheep tracks that were not marked on the map. We are very fortunate to have access to this amazing landscape that was like a technical foot course but much more fun on bikes. There were the usual mishaps, and I’m glad to see those at the top make just as many errors as me, but they have learnt to recover much faster. For example, Andrew Skelton missed a control and realised four controls later, but whipped back to find the missing control and do the four all over again – probably in the time I just got to the first control (which was a long time). I love riding, so I rode too fast, and past everything, so I could get a good look at the control from all angles before I zoned in.
The last MTBO day event was the Sprint in open forest with thyme undergrowth which when crushed underfoot, filled the air with heady herby mediterranean scents. The start triangle headed you into dense forest littered with complex rutted four wheel drive tracks area on a map rich in detail. Deep concentration and frequent referral with the map was required whilst riding on an uneven surfaces at maximum speed. In the pines you could shortcut between tracks but it did slow you down a little with the undergrowth. Andrew Skelton was spotted drawing and planning with a highlighter on his map whilst he was in the last minute before his start. Every leg in this event could be tackled a bit differently, so there were some good after race sharing of stories.
Since I joined the MTBO committee I have heard from women adventure riders how important it is to encourage each other to get out and test the map reading skills. Obviously this is not just for women, but the Spring Challenge and similar events has encouraged more females to get involved. All of a sudden, they find that navigation is pretty important in these types of adventure sports. Mountain bike orienteering will help build skills whilst moving at a faster pace and takes you to some inspiring places to ride. I find every orienteering event is a totally new challenge, and navigation on a mountain bike adds that extra fun element.
So I hope to see you out there with a map and your bike. Do ask your local orienteering club where to find an event, or if they could set up some simple navigation training for you.
NZ MTBO committee member & PAPO member
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