World MTB Orienteering Championships 2016: Portugal welcomes the best in the world

Posted on | July 20, 2016 | Category: News

The 2016 World MTB Orienteering Championships (WMTBOC) is about to start. From 23rd to 31st July the Portuguese municipalities of Mealhada, Cantanhede and Águeda will host an event in which over 400 athletes from 21 different countries are expected to compete.

For the second time in the last seven years, Portugal is the host for the world’s biggest MTB Orienteering event. Well-known for its beautiful vineyard scenery and exquisite gastronomy, the Bairrada region in the centre of the country is the venue for an exciting and intense week of competition. Over 400 athletes will fight for the world titles in the Elite and Junior categories, the European titles in Youth categories, and for the best results over the two stages of the World Masters Championships in the Veterans categories.

Responding to the trust placed upon them by the IOF, the Portuguese organisation decided on the municipalities of Águeda, Cantanhede and Mealhada as the event venue. This is a region with much natural beauty, and terrain with a high potential for quality MTB Orienteering. The technically difficult terrain will most certainly provide great challenges for the competitors.

For the local authorities the event is very important for the promotion of MTBO, but also for promoting the region as a whole. “This is a good example of partnership in promoting a territory, with all the right conditions for putting the Bairrada region on the map”, said João Moura, Mayor of Cantanhede, during the Event Presentation Press Conference. Also Edson Santos, Councillor for Águeda, highlighted the implications “at the level of local economic development,” while Rui Marqueiro, Mayor of Mealhada, considered it as “an opportunity to show the best we have to a few hundred people of different nationalities.”

The competition programme for the 14th Orienteering World Championships in mountain biking starts on Monday July 25th in Cantanhede with the Sprint race. Agueda hosts the Middle Distance and Long Distance races on July 27th and 29th respectively, saving the Relay races for Saturday July 30th with Start and Finish located in the centre of Mealhada, where the Championships will end in a great party atmosphere.

Map samples
Map samples 

One of the best start fields ever

78 male and 53 female athletes will compete in Portugal in pursuit of the Elite world titles, and it is fair to say that the Portuguese event will bring together one of the best start fields ever. The top 25 in the IOF World Rankings will all be present apart from the Finn Susanna Laurila, no. 7 in the women’s list.

The Italian Luca Dallavalle, who heads the the men’s Rankings, defends in Portugal the gold medal won in the Sprint race in 2015 in Liberec, Czech Republic. Portugal is a kind of talisman for Dallavalle, and in Montalegre in 2010 he won the first medal in a World Championships in the history of Italian MTB Orienteering with third place in the Middle Distance race. Anton Foliforov, Russia is another big name in this competition. Leader of the World Rankings until 13th June after 759 days at the top, and current World Champion in both Middle Distance and Long Distance, he started his gold medal harvest in Portugal when in Montalegre he won the first of six individual gold medals so far in World Championships.

As for the women, the Czech Martina Tichovska will be defending her world titles in Sprint and Long Distance while seeking also to retain her lead in the World Rankings. Her biggest challengers will be Emily Benham, Great Britain and the French rider Gaëlle Barlet, second and third respectively in the World Rankings, the latter holding the world title in Middle Distance. After a long pause from what is the most important MTB orienteering competition in the IOF calendar, Christine Schaffner, Switzerland comes back in search of the top places she occupied between the years 2006 and 2012 when she won five individual gold medals and a world title in the Relay. And the Austrian Michaela Gigon, the most ‘golden’ athlete ever in this discipline with eight individual golds plus a Relay title, will also be competing. Both were World Champions in Montalegre and both now return to Portugal six years later. Also the Czech Krystof Bogar and the Russian Olga Shipilova Vinogradova return to MTB Orienteering’s biggest wheel after long breaks.

Junior participants number 140

One last note for the younger categories, with 75 athletes entered in the 9th edition of the Junior World MTBOC and 65 in the 2nd European Youth MTBOC. The Swede Oskar Sandberg will seek to keep his Junior world titles in Middle and Long Distance and recover the Sprint title won in 2014, having lost that to the Australian Angus Robinson last year. In the Junior Women’s class, the Russians Alena Fedoseeva and Daria Mikryukova will be trying to retain their world titles at Middle Distance and Long Distance respectively, while the Czech Veronika Kubinova will try to achieve her third consecutive Sprint title.

The European Youth MTB Orienteering Championships is in Portugal again for its 2nd edition. Many of the athletes competing last year have moved into the Junior category, but two big names are present in Bairrada to defend their European titles, the Finn Eerik Nurminen (Sprint) and the Russian Kirill Lepeshenko (Middle Distance).

The event can be followed on the event website.

Text by Joaquim Margarido

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