Just got back from the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships in Hungary, racing for the GB Masters Team. This is all still a bit of a new game to me, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect – other than quite a bit of high intensity riding…
Preparation had been a bit of a mixed bag, with just a couple of races out in Europe on a heavy, uncompetitive bike (Swiss and French national championships – 3rd + 5th) whilst I waited for the wheels to finish building my new race bike – a carbon hartail 29er weighing in at 8.9kg, so no more excuses on that front! Riding wise, I’d done a lot of big climbs and technical downhill trickery in the Alps – something the new bike also proved good at thankfully – so pretty fit all round but I’d done no flat fast riding at all, which was a bit daunting as Hungary doesn’t have many hills..
Team GB started off well with Emily Bentham winning a silver in the Womens Elite sprint race, then first up for us Masters came the middle distance event. This was quite hilly but navigationally easy, so a bit of a VO2 max test and I finished up 5th, just 9 seconds behind Killian Lomas who came 4th for our best M40 result. Charlotte Somers Cocks had the best result of the day though, with a silver in W50.
Then it was our turn for the sprint, on a part urban course with much more down than up. Small errors here count for a lot, so a fast smooth ride is what counts. I made one small error and dropped a chain but otherwise clean, so good enough for 5th again (one place ahead of Ifor my brother in 6th!) – but Killian had a flyer and brilliantly won gold – so a great result with 3 Brits in M40 on stage for the national anthem at the prizegizing. Charlie won gold too in W50, with Angela Brand Parker coming 3rd for the Bronze – so an excellent set of results.
Next day was relay day, where we reckoned we had the strongest chance of beating the Czechs who were favourites for M40. The first leg went well with Andy Conn coming in 2nd, just 10 seconds down. So now it was my turn – picking up the map things looked promising, with lots of tricky off road riding and difficult nav. By number 1 I’d pulled in the Czech rider, then took a more direct line to 2 and got ahead of him. He followed to me 3 then I got away heading to 4, only to lose the lead again with a mechanical. This proved no bad thing, as I’d realised he couldn’t navigate as fast as he was riding, so he soon made a big error allowing me to pull out a 5 minute lead. At this stage it looked like we couldn’t lose – but relays are funny things: on the last leg we promptly make a mistake and lost the lead, then missed a control and bombed out entirely – heros to zeros – we’ve all been there, oops!
Last up came the long race, which turned out to be all a bit flat and fast for me – but Charlie got another gold in W50, Andy Conn lead our M40 charge with a bronze and Killian, me and Ifor packed in with 6th, 7th and 8th respecitvely – so another solid team performance. Sadly I missed the closing banquet/celebrations/manic piss up as I had a 700 mile drive to Chamonix instead!