Sometimes being a supporter of American mountain bike orienteering (MTBO) is tough.
If you ask Orienteering USA about their commitment to American MTBO, they don’t really have a lot to say.
The section on their website that features US MTBO Team bios hasn’t been updated since 2016.
Even the team blog hasn’t been updated since 2015.
In fact, if you were not paying attention to the Orienteering USA Facebook page, you might not even know that OUSA had an MTBO team at all this year.
However, if you dare criticize Orienteering USA for sending poorly selected riders to yet another disastrous showing at the World MTBO Championships, you WILL get a response.
Just not the one I was expecting.
What did they have to say about MTBO America’s coverage of the World MTBO Championships this year?
First, they marginalized my criticism as “fanboy” propaganda.
You see, if you’re not part of the MTBO team or part of the MTBO crowd at OUSA, then you obviously don’t have a say.
This ranks right up there with the time they asked me to take down any photos of the team that I had the nerve of sharing via Facebook.
They sighted concerns of sharing “official team photos” on the MTBO America Facebook page might get people back home confused on who is really supporting the team overseas.
News flash: from what I can tell on social media, that support is coming from roughly 5 people, and I’m one of them!
Next, they want to see your bona fides.
It appears you cannot have an opinion on an American MTBO team’s poor performance unless you’ve either been to a World MTBO Championships or raced in one.
I guess sending the same people with the same skills to get crushed the same way year after year after year makes some people more expert than others.
Finally, if that doesn’t shut me up, they just start pretending I’m not here and that nothing is wrong.
Only, there is one problem with that last response.
The problem is that the reality bomb that I set off a few weeks ago — the one where I called the teams that OUSA sends MTBO tourists — already went off.
You cannot have a team IN WORLD COMPETITION place 10th OUT OF 10 FINISHING TEAMS in the MTBO Relay and call that GOOD!!
Especially when the time difference between 9th Place and 10th Place was over 35-minutes!
There is nothing “improved” about any of the US MTBO Team results coming out of Austria this week.
They look almost identical to the results they came out of Lithuania last year.
But like I stated in my article American MTBO is dead — long live American MTBO, the fault is not on the US MTBO Team.
They followed the approved selection criteria rules.
They submitted their racing resumes as directed.
Then, after some magical selection process, an ACTUAL ORIENTEERING USA OFFICIAL said they were qualified to compete in WORLD-LEVEL MTBO COMPETITION IN ANOTHER COUNTRY WITH OTHER COUNTIES!!!
Once or twice is understandable, but seven times?
The fault can only be placed directly at the feet of Orienteering USA.
Did these so-called Orienteering USA officials look at ANY OF THE PAST SIX YEARS OF RESULTS??
Here’s a recap if you are unaware of how well the United States has done in World MTBO Ranked Events:
- 2012 – Last Place
- 2013 – Last Place
- 2014 – Last Place
- 2015 – Last Place
- 2016 – Last Place
- 2017 – Last Place
- 2018 – On Trend to be… Last Place… AGAIN!
[Note: Japan and Hong Kong have had worse rankings in past years. But You cannot hold Japan or Hong Kong accountable for their poor rankings yet, but it won’t be long before they have to “Get Real” with their MTBO program too.]
Sure, the teams going to the World MTBO Championships in 2012 and 2013 doesn’t really count.
In 2012 it was our first year ever.
While in 2013, we sent the same women from 2012 back for a second try and managed to put together the first Men’s team too.
But what about the following years?
The same core team has been going over and over again only to keep achieving the same results.
Some might call that the definition of insanity!
So what is the one go-to retort I hear from those that loath anyone trying to shine a light on Orienteering USA’s failed MTBO experiment?
They like this gem: “Well? What are YOU going to do about it??”
I guess pointing it out is a good start.
But pointing it out doesn’t solve this problem.
And from what I see (or don’t see) from the MTBO officials at Orienteering USA, they don’t seem to have any interest in fixing it either.
How do I know this?
The first time we put Americans into the World MTBO Championships was 2012.
Let that sink in for a minute.
2012 — that was over 7 years ago.
It took the United States from 1957 to 1961 to put Astronaut Alan Shepard into space.
THAT TOOK ONLY FOUR YEARS!!
Orienteering USA has spent the equivalent of double that to make ZERO improvements in American MTBO.
There is still no racing series, no points system, not even a national MTBO championship.
That is why pointing out the problem HAS TO BE THE FIRST STEP!
The next step is always, “So? What do we DO about it?”
I’ve been thinking about this for some time.
I started MTBO America to help persuade Orienteering USA to take it seriously.
I directed the first official MTBO races in the United States to set the example.
I’ve even written endlessly about strategies and solutions.
Nobody listened then.
Maybe now, on the eve of the US MTBO Team’s Seventh LAST PLACE FINISH, someone will finally listen.
A Strategy for Saving American MTBO
How to make Orienteering USA competitive in mountain bike orienteering with $30,000, 12-months, and 20 Steps:
1. OUSA commits $30K to Mountain Bike Orienteering in the United States in October 2018.
2. OUSA forms an MTBO Tiger Team dedicated to true MTBO competition along the same path as USA Cycling, USA Triathlon, and USA Track and Field.
3. OUSA uses October 2018 to dedicate $6K to develop:
A. Branding and marketing materials, find MTBO brand ambassadors, potential race directors, and formal OUSA MTBO rules.
B. Invite and meet with American MTBO Supporters, US Sports Organizations (USAC, USAT, and USATF) and international MTBO organizations (Orienteering Australia) to develop a ranking system, points structure, and World MTBO Championship selection process.
C. Create 3 MTBO-only resource websites (i.e. possible micro-sites using sub-domains of orienteeringusa.org):
- How to produce a local MTBO event (mtbo.orienteeringusa.org)
- How to produce an official MTBO event map (mtbomapping.orienteeringusa.org)
- How to become an official MTBO race in the OUSA MTBO racing series (mtboracing.orienteeringusa.org)
4. OUSA announces in November 2018 that they will give 12 Clubs a grant of $1,000 each to host their own MTBO events and allow any club (that might not have the members) to employ a contractor (e.g. racing company) to support their event and allow that club to pay the contractor up-to-the-amount of the grant.
5. OUSA also announces in November 2018 that they will give $8,000 to 1 Club that wants to host the first North American MTBO Championships or allow any club (that might not have the members) to employ a contractor (e.g. racing company) to support their event and allow that club to pay the contractor up-to-the-amount of the grant.
6. OUSA accepts and receives proposals from November thru December 2018 from any O-Club that wants to be one of the 12 clubs to host an MTBO event and from any O-Club that wants to be the host of the North American MTBO Championships.
7. OSUA announces in December 2018 the American MTBO ranking system based on a points system, and how that points system will give both men and women an opportunity to be selected to represent the United States of America at the World MTBO Championships.
8. OUSA MTBO Tiger Team carefully reviews the 13 (12 + 1) best MTBO Club proposals and works with clubs to improve potential MTBO race proposals, selects 1 x Chief Judge, 1 x Offical Timer, and 1 x Race Observer (IOF Rules Boss) that will participate in each event.
9. OUSA announces in January 2019 the racing series schedule (and plans for alternate locations if clubs fail to produce a race) and sends appropriate funding, resources, and/or ambassadors to each of the 13 (12 + 1) Clubs to support course development, race direction, officiating, and map production.
10. OUSA announces in January 2019 the location and date of the first Orienteering USA North American MTBO Championships.
11. OUSA proactively monitors from January thru March 2019 each club’s race preparations and sends officials, e-punches, mapping support, and controls to each club as needed.
12. OUSA opens registration to first Orienteering USA MTBO Racing Season using existing registration websites (e.g. bikereg.com) in March 2019.
13. OUSA begins the MTBO season-long marketing campaign in March 2019 by using $3K of the $30K to pay for photography, video, and social media support, send ambassadors to promote MTBO at other mountain bike related races, and launch the MTBO road show that places ambassadors on influencer Youtube channels and Podcasts to talk all things MTBO racing.
14. OUSA kicks off the first official Orienteering USA MTBO race in March 2019 and supervises the direction of the next 11 races over the next 3-months and uses the MTBO race ranking system to inform Orienteering USA MTBO recruiters about which MTBO athletes show promise during the season.
15. OUSA presents the North American MTBO Championships in June 2019 and awards the first 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals to American MTBO riders.
16. OUSA uses the MTBO race ranking system and recruiter reports to invite a cadre of potential MTBO athletes to a selection event.
17. OUSA develops their own week-long, invitational MTBO training camp, that includes those athletes that accept the camp invites and provides MTBO coaches to evaluate and select the final members of the next US MTBO Team.
18. OUSA announces the official US MTBO Team that will represent the United States of America in the World MTBO Championships, 1 x Orienteering USA team official, 1 x MTBO coach, and 1 x mountain bike mechanic that will accompany the team.
19. OUSA provides required protocol and behavior rules for overseas competition, approved full US MTBO Team cycling kits, approved opening ceremony attire, airfare, accommodations, food stipends, and bike shipping support.
20. OUSA focuses all its attention on the US MTBO Team while traveling and competing in the World MTBO Championships, leveraging every event as a chance to learn, critique, interview, and improve on the next season.
What to do after 2019 and Beyond
By the time you reach October 2019, you should have rebuilt the Orienteering USA effort into something resembling a real MTBO racing season.
Additionally, once there is a functioning American-made MTBO racing framework in place, THEN you have the capability to do some really cool things.
Some of these things include additional tracks in the OUSA MTBO program:
#1 — Send select riders that excel at racing in the 2019 World MTBO Championship to other World Ranking Events (e.g. World MTBO Cup).
#2 — Develop a Junior MTBO training program and a Junior US MTBO Team that can compete in the 2020 Junior World MTBO Championships.
#3 — Develop a Masters MTBO training program and a Masters US MTBO Team that can compete in the 2020 Masters World MTBO Championships.
You also have the capability to expand on the 12 + 1 MTBO racing season by sponsoring additional races, allowing other clubs to include their events in the season, or allowing independent race promoters to have their MTBO races “officially sanctioned” by Orienteering USA.
Some alterations to the plan could also change out “grants” for “loans” and require each club or promoter to have to pay back the seed funding, giving Orienteering USA the capability to re-invest those funds later in the year (for US MTBO Team expenses).
Regardless of the future, the strategy only works if Orienteering USA truly commits to making American MTBO competitive.
If OUSA is not serious about building an American MTBO that can actually stand on the World MTBO Championship podium one day, then they do have an alternative option:
They can stop supporting MTBO in the United States!
All in or All out.
It’s as simple as that.
About MTBO America
MTBO America is dedicated to creating the framework, infrastructure, and governance required to develop a sustainable Mountain Bike Orienteering culture in the United States of America. The article “A Strategy for Saving American MTBO” by Kyle Bondo, originally appeared on MTBO America (mtbo.us) on August 10, 2018.