Athlete of the Month – September 2011


Name: Erik Skovgaard Knudsen
Country: Denmark
Discipline: MTB orienteering
Career highlights: World Orienteering Championships gold (relay 2011), silver (long distance 2011, relay 2010) and bronze (sprint 2011, long distance 2010), World Cup overall winner (2010)

Our Athlete of September, Erik Skovgaard Knudsen won gold, silver and bronze at the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in Italy in the last week of August. The Dane did an incredible last leg in the relay and brought the gold to Denmark. At the long distance he was second and third at sprint, but still he isn’t one hundred percent satisfied with the races.

“I was well prepared physically, but afterwards I understood that I could have done better preparations for the orienteering challenges”, Erik says. The warm weather was also an extra challenge since it hasn’t been that warm in Denmark this year.

Full speed all the time

Erik works full time as an architect since January 2010.  He says it is not impossible to combine work with training, even though it does require some extra planning.

“I bike to and from work every day, but during the summer also almost all evenings are spent on the bike in the forest”, he says, and continues: “When I don’t work, I train – about 20 hours per week. I guess that if I had only worked 80 percent it would have been possible to get more out of the training. Just sleeping one hour longer every night makes a difference, because it enables you to train harder sooner after the last training. I have barely time for anything else, but luckily my girlfriend Rikke is just as dedicated, so some training and almost all the travelling we can do together.”

Full support at home

For Rikke Kornvig, Erik’s girlfriend, the championships in Italy went also incredibly well. She won long distance and was third on the middle distance. So the couple got at least one medal every competition day.

“She hasn’t a background from orienteering like I have so she did better preparations for the orienteering challenges than I did”, Erik says.

Also Rikke works full time as an IT consult – besides training hard just as Erik.

The successful couple.
Photo: Mette Rieck

Focus on  MTBO

Last season Erik won the overall Mountain Bike Orienteering World Cup. Currently, before the World Cup finals in Russia, he is first in the standings.

This year he has concentrated on MTB Orienteering even more than before: “This year has been all about MTBO for me, which means that I had to skip all the mountain bike races and adventure races which I have done more of earlier. I started working together with the Danish national team MTB orienteer Torbjørn Gasbjerg on my physical training, which made it easier for me to plan my time.”

“The whole season had been planned to peak my shape for the World Championships in Italy, which means that some of my old MTB orienteering rivals have been beating me during the spring. I’m not really happy with that, but it is part of the plan to be at my absolute best at the World Championships. I have only been training MTB orienteering seriously for about three years, so one more year of experience and focused training makes a difference. Quality map training is hard to get a lot of, but by racing the Danish Friluftsland MTBO Cup and the World Cups including a couple of World Ranking Events in Switzerland and a training camp in Italy after the Hungarian World Cup, the preparations have been really good.”

Big goals

Before the World Championships in Italy Erik’s goal was to win the long distance and relay and to get a medal on both middle and sprint. He did not quite succeed in reaching his goal, but the season is not over yet: the World Cup finals will be staged in Russia in the middle of September.

“The World Cup has definitely been very important for me this year. High level competitions in various terrains are all crucial for developing my orienteering skills and sharpness along with motivation, and they are also important for the competitive and the social climate in international MTB orienteering. I hope that the newly re-established World Cup will continue to develop with new interesting terrains and races in the following years. If I am still going all in on MTB orienteering in 2012, I will definitely have the World Cup races high on my priority list.”

Thierry’s question

Thierry Gueorgiou, our Athlete of August, had a question and a message to Erik: I just would like to know how many hours per year you train? And, by the way, great webpage (!

“It will be 1100 to 1200 hours this year. It’s my most intense year ever.”

Erik explains the tremendous amount of training with that he has always been very active in sports: “I’ve been physically active for five hours a week since I was 6–8 years old and I’ve done gymnastics, soccer, swimming and jiu-jitsu beyond orienteering competitions, adventure racing and mountain biking. I’ve always had my best friends in the sport, so there has always been a social element in it for me.

I first found out in 2006–2007 that I was talented in mountain biking. I want to know how far that talent goes, and therefore I also want to make a real effort to develop it. I’ve always been best at long distances and this applies both in orienteering competitions and in mountain biking. Cycling is relatively easy on the body and therefore, there is also a strong focus on training efficiency and oxygen uptake – and it just takes many hours. I want to be the best, so I accept that. I believe that every workout makes me feel better and it is a huge motivating factor to know that I have done what I could to achieve my goals. I believe that I train optimally and it gives me great confidence in the one-on-one situations such as in MTB orienteering relays.”

Questions for the next

Our next Athlete of the Month is Lauri Kontkanen, winner of the Open class at the World Trail Orienteering Championships 2011 in France. Erik wants to know from Lauri:

What types of maps (eg. scale and contour intervals) do you use in trail orienteering? Are they different from the maps used in other orienteering disciplines e.g. in terms of precision? I understand that you are also very dedicated to map drawing. Can you describe your fascination for maps and how you interpret them – do you use different methods for different maps/terrains?

You will hear Lauri’s answers to these, and more, in the beginning of October.

Competition photo: 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)

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