Hi. I’m Emily. I grew up in Salisbury, but now live (sort of) in Norway, when I’m not travelling to competitions around Europe. When I’m back in England, the Stonehenge Cycles is almost my second home … which isn’t good for my bank balance!
I compete in Mountain Bike Orienteering, or MTBO. Some of you may have heard of MBO Score, Trailtrax, Trailbreak, Trailquest, etc etc. This isn’t what I do. MTBO uses 1:5000 – 1:15000 scale maps, with a very detailed track network. In MBO Score events, decisions have to be made every few kilometers, and the competition time is more like a full day’s adventure. MTBO requires an intense decision making process, taking junctions every few hundred meters, riding at the speed of an international XCO athlete while maintaining enough oxygen flow to the brain to make good decisions and not have a ‘headless chicken’ experience. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell …
I joined Sarum Velo because I wanted a UK club to represent at my races. I have started to race XCO events; Gorrick, Southern XC, Brass Monkeys and OffCamber. I’m new to cross-country racing, but I’m having some moderate success in the elite class; a 2nd and 3rd and two of the Southern XC rounds this spring. I’m still learning the ropes but with each race I improve and learn something new. All my races have been at the end of hard training blocks so the fatigue levels have been high before the races started! One day I will do a race with fresh and on-form legs …
In the future I will write a blog about me and more about MTBO. But for now, I will try to keep this shorter than the essay’s I write on my website; benhamkvale.com. You can find the pictures and maps from the weekend on there.
The weekend just gone saw me travel to Denmark for the World Cup opening. I had high hopes for the races in terms of my performance. I am a full-time athlete, training 1000 hours a year physically, and a lot of mental map preparation. (I’m a map geek FYI). With only occasional part time work as a bike mechanic in Norway and occasional cartographer, it’s hard to makes ends meet, but I’m lucky to have picked up some great sponsors this year. As a result, I felt a bit of pressure before the races to perform. Especially since I built my own racing 29’er this year that weighs in at 7.96kg. It’s all very well to talk about having a fast bike, but I needed to have fast legs and a faster brain to get results and prove my bike building skills!
The sprint race was a mental 20 min ‘sprint’ around a university campus, with 26 controls in 5.6km. Thats about a control every 200m, so when riding at full speed around a place that is entirely unfamiliar, it’s difficult to get it right all the time. I lost a few seconds early on as I was too ‘hot in my head’ and excited to be let loose. But I managed a 2nd place just 5 secs behind the winner from Finland. My first World Cup podium (that wasn’t a European Champs or World Champs).
The event I was most excited for was the long distance mass start. My cross country racing has helped to prepare me for this, and from the gun I was legging it for my bike (le mans style start), leaping on it and pedalling like mad. The pedalling like mad continued for 90 minutes. MTBO is less relenting that XC racing, there isn’t the same ‘downtime’ on the descents or fireroad sections. At least in my experience, I have found XC racing has large fluctuations in power output and cadence. MTBO tends to require a more constant power and almost always pedalling. So after a 90 minute sprint always with 4 other women playing cat-and-mouse, I was in a position to contest the sprint finish. Until luck reared it’s head. A branch from a tree decided to rest in my spokes while I punched the final control. As I pedalled off, it jammed the back wheel. As a result, the other two women got some metres lead while I tore it out. I took 3rd place, just 8 seconds behind. A pity considering we all punched the final control at the same time. The wheel and spokes are intact however. A real shame, because I’ve been eyeing up a carbon fibre wheelset. At 1250g the £ to g ratio is all that matters. £150 per gram, of weight saved compared to my Stans Gold wheelset. Bargin! Without a broken wheel, how can I justify the purchase to my boyfriend? Advice needed 😉
As it is, I am currently 2nd in the World Cup standings. I hope to improve this by taking some top positions at round 2 in Sweden in two months time. Despite a hard weekend, training doesn’t stop, and it’s back into the swing of 21 hr weeks, excessive map geeking and bike porn … I’ll keep you updated!