Mass Start is new format at the World MTBO Championships from 2017

Posted on | December 20, 2016 | Category: News

Photo: Joaquim Margarido

Mass Start will be the fifth format on the programme for the World MTBO Championships from 2017. A growing appetite for more head-to-head racing for the MTBO athletes and the possibility for good media coverage are among the reasons.

Mass Start races have been a rather popular format in MTBO, and since 2010 there have been mass start events on the World Cup circuit almost every year. From 2017, it will be an official format at WMTBOC in line with sprint, middle, long and relay. The Mass Start format will be added to the programme for both Masters- and Junior World MTBO Championships as well.

In the summer 2015, the MTBO Athletes’ Commission held a poll for the elite and junior athletes, asking if they preferred a fifth format to the World Championships programme. A majority of 80 percent of the athletes were keen to have a fifth competition day. The results were equally split between a Mass Start and a Mixed Sprint Relay, with roughly 40 percent voting for each.

The Athletes’ Commission passed on the results to the MTBO Commission who recommended going with the Mass Start for different reasons:

– Mass Start is easy for spectators to understand and the shortest format considering total time from first start to declaring all podium places and hence, the most suitable individual format for media coverage. In addition, Mass Start has no practical limit on number of starters. There have been successful competitions with well over 100 starters in the same category. With proper course planning, one can safely stretch the field to a comfortable density. And compared to the Mixed Sprint Relay more organisers can find high quality terrains for Mass Start competitions, says chairman for the MTBO Commission, Sandor Talas.


Head-to-head racing

As the results from the poll showed, most athletes supported a fifth format. Coordinator in the MTBO Athletes’ Commission Emily Benham thinks a Mass Start is a natural step for MTBO:

– There is a growing appetite for more head-to-head racing in MTBO and the addition of the Mass Start is the natural next step for the sport, she says.

Emily Benham thinks a Mass Start will offer new challenges for the athletes and give good excitement for the spectators:

– In a Mass Start, the fun element of the head-to-head racing is there, along with the individual orienteering and need to ‘do your own thing’. Hopefully we will have some really exciting races. The Mass Start will definitely test the athletes’ ability to stay focussed, using the other riders but not getting distracted or following, Emily Benham says.

Mass Start’s winning time is set between 75-85 minutes for both men and women and is roughly between Middle and Long. Typically, the course will start with a long first leg of 3-5km with different route choice options to shake out the field. Forkings and loops will be essential elements of Mass Start races to separate the riders even more. Everybody rides the same course, but in slightly different order to avoid blind following.

The first World MTBO Champion in Mass Start will be decided in Lithuania when the World MTBO Championships takes place 21.-26. August 2017.

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