Having suffered from frequent injuries in FootO, our Athlete of May, Tobias Breitschädel (AUT), shifted his focus to mountain bike orienteering. Now he is one of the best in the world heading for more medals individually and with the Austrian team.
Before his mountain bike (MTB) orienteering career the Austrian had competed in foot orienteering for nearly 15 years, but he had started to get serious problems with both of his knees already in junior age.
“From 1998 I had an operation almost every 3rd year. After I had finally qualified for and participated in the World Orienteering Championships in Japan in 2005 I had another very bad knee injury which kicked me out for about a year. Although my doctor told me not to risk my health and therefore to stop orienteering I couldn’t live without it. As mountain biking at that time already was a big part of my training schedule, I took part in my first MTB orienteering event in 2006”, Tobias says.
Already two years after that he became gold winner on the sprint at the European Championship in Lithuania. In 2009 he got silver on the middle distance at the European Championship in Denmark and last year he took bronze on the middle distance at the World Championships in Portugal.
Mission Heavy Metal
Tobias’ recent years’ results development has surprised even the athlete himself, but it has given him motivation to aim even higher: “I want to be on the world champs podium again. And, of course, my big goal with the team is a medal in the relay. Within the Austrian team we call this “Mission Heavy Metal” which gives us lots of motivation to train hard.”
“Mission Heavy Metal” for us – mainly the Austrian Men’s Team – just expresses the goal every rider has: to win a medal. The slogan is catchy and easy to understand, but as every athlete knows it is by far not easy to train hard every day to be fit and ready when it counts. So the slogan accompanies us throughout the year to remind us why we do it, why we spend maybe more time outside in wind, rain and snow than other people in front of the tv – ‘cause we love to do it and enjoy it. And it should be there in the head when you suffer during a race. Cause to have Heavy Metal on your chest is just cool”, Tobias explains.
Short way to forest
Tobias grew up in Salzburg. When he finished his studies in 2002 he moved to Vienna where there are great training possibilities. “The Wienerwald is huge and it’s just a ten minutes ride from my flat. It’s an eldorado for bikers. The state-owned forest is open for everybody so there are no limitations like e.g. in Salzburg where mostly private owners forbid riding in their forests”, Tobias says.
He mostly trains alone so he can be flexible, but a few trainings are done with riders of his MTB club. The MTB orienteering community is rather small and common trainings are rare, but this year Michaela Gigon has started to organise an open training camp which also convinced some runners to join MTB orienteering.
The 33-year-old grew up in family where orienteering is very central. The Breitschädel’s are taking part and organising events throughout the year. In 2007 Austria hosted Junior World Ski Orienteering Championships, and the Breitschädel family played a big role in the organisation. That year there was very little snow in Austria, and all the races had to be moved up to the mountains – a two hours’ transport with bus every direction every day. Up in the mountains the work with a new map started just a couple of weeks before the championships. During the week the weather was terrible, but the organisers just smiled and did a wonderful job – working day and night.
“All my family is still involved in orienteering, but not on the same high level as earlier. My parents as well as other club members try to organise one nice international competition every year. At the moment it is the Chicken Challenge.
Tobias Breitschädel (left) and brother Felix Breitschädel did great work with organising JWSOC in 2007. Eva Svensson from Sweden was the queen of the week with three gold and one bronze medal. Photo: Erik Borg
After every season, Tobias takes several weeks’ break in tough training. “Normally I get sick during this resting time of the year which in fact is a part of the plan. It sounds funny, but for me it is important not to get sick during training season. This year my preparations have after that break gone very well with increasing training hours per week, but it took some time until my body could handle long rides in the cold. I didn’t risk too much and gave my body enough time to adjust. At the moment I feel quite good. I’m optimistic that I still can improve before the season highlights.”
Tobias has big hopes for this season: “I might do better this year due to almost no sickness or injuries during training season. Everything went smooth. That gave me the opportunity to do a bit more training than in the last years. In addition, I concentrated on high quality trainings and being more efficient.”
Foot orienteering for better results in MTBO
Before the World Championships, Tobias analyses and studies previous races that have taken place in a similar terrain. He likes the terrain in the upcoming World MTB Orienteering Championships in Hungary: “I like the structure of the forests there and that you can ride wherever you want except forbidden areas. So my real secret is doing some foot orienteering training to constantly improve my navigation skills! Because in Hungary MTB orienteering is more like foot orienteering, but just with the bike. Directions, distance, check points – you need a close-to-foot-o-technique.”
Combining work and sports – “horrible”
Tobias works for a German Facility Management Consulting company in Vienna managing buildings and the operational processes to run a building. His boss supports him by providing flexible work hours. “During the training season I normally work 100–80 percent. When the competition period starts I reduce to 60 percent to have enough recreation time.”
How is it to combine work and sports?
“To tell the truth, it is horrible. As I am a bit chaotic I don’t like to plan and coordinate every day in minutes, what to do and when to have the right condition for the specific training. I more like to have some buffer time in between. Sometimes customers demand unforeseen results so you always have to have a back-up plan with training. I would love to be a professional sportsman, but as I cannot afford it I need to work. But fortunately I like the work I do. That makes it a bit easier.”
Tobias Breitschädel is heading for medals both individually and with the national team. Photo: Private
What are your plans for the future?
“I look from year to year but with a glimpse to do it as long as possible. Or better, as long as I am still competitive. At the moment I still have the feeling that I am able to improve my orienteering as well as my physical skills. So my goal is a gold medal at the World Championships. And of course a “Heavy Metal” for our relay team”, Tobias says.
The athletes’ questions
Ionut Zinca from Romania was the previous IOF Athlete of the Month. He had a couple of questions to Tobias:
How many hours do you train and what distances do you cover in a week?
“In average I train only about 17–18 hours a week due to work. As I neither use a Speedometer / Tachometer nor GPS I don’t know my weekly distance. In my opinion it is not as important as the time spent on the track.”
What is your opinion about the future of orienteering and what would you change for the future in the competitions?
“I can only speak about MTBO now. In general it’s good to see that the MTBO competition is already on a very high level and riders show good results even outside orienteering races like Transalp, Cape Epic, 24h-races, etc., but we can never get enough good and strong riders. For footo runners biking might be an additional thrill to expand ones horizon. A thing which would have a big impact on especially MTBO is the touchfree punching system, which would minimise standing time and maximise a smooth race flow since stopping and accelerating needs a lot of energy. The rider now has to choose the direction how to attack and leave the control site. Tests show that the new controls allow a much higher average speed around control sites which makes it more difficult to read the map and do the route choice. In my opinion for ski orienteering and MTBO this has a higher effect than on foot orienteering. And finally, I personally would like to have European Champs every year.”
Athlete of June will be Ivo Tisljar from Croatia. The trail orienteer has got two bronze medals from the World Trail Orienteering Championships – latest in 2011. Here are Tobias’ questions to him:
As I already tried out a TrailO at an o-clinic I know how tricky it can be, so which map scale is used/best for TrailO? What is the maximum distance between the person and the controls? What is the difference between Paralympic and Open class?
Ivo Tisljar will answer these questions and more when the Athlete of June is published.
Text: Erik Borg
Previous Athletes’ of the Month
February 2011 Olga Novikova (KAZ)
March 2011 Olli-Markus Taivainen (FIN)
April 2011 Emily Benham (GBR)
May 2011 Søren Saxtorph (DEN)
June 2011 Tove Alexandersson (SWE)
July 2011 Olav Lundanes (NOR)
August 2011 Thierry Gueorgiou (FRA)
September 2011 Erik Skovgaard Knudsen (DEN)
October 2011 Lauri Kontkanen (FIN)
November 2011 Annika Billstam (SWE)
December 2011 Anna Füzy (HUN)
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