World Champs, Hungarian Maps and Lessons

Here's the map for the Sprint Distance in the first World Championship in France, early July. The "piece de resistance" must surely be the 12-track intersection (pictured). The MTB-orienteer's goal is to mapread ahead so that you can negotiate such a junction without a pause! (Pause too long, and you could even lose track of which track you came in on...)

Click on the left-hand map to see a small section of the map including the legend (30k) or click on the right-hand map to see the whole map (150k). Greg and Trevor who were there, the remarks below are guesswork from a distance, please send us your comments so that we can pass them on to NZ.

The legend shows the 2 widths and 3 speeds that we have been using, it is pleasing to see they have adopted the shorter dashes for the slowest tracks that NZ advocated to the IOF. Of course we can't tell what the actual classification in the field was like, our mappers will have to go there or vice versa to get a handle on that. The big question is what do you do with weather-dependant tracks, such as those that become slippery in the wet, and sandy tracks that become soft in the dry.

The purple X has been used for some no-go tracks, this could be for land access, safety, or course-planning reasons. The purple bar has been used for "obstacles dangerous en route" and we gather that these could have been trees or closed gates across the track or any other reason to dismount, but too short to show with a stretch of slow track. To my way of thinking the purple bar looks a bit too prominent given that it is passable, compared to the purple cross which isn't.

The control numbering is different from what we have been used to, which is not surprising since there is no guidance in the mapping specification and we have been following what was in use in France 5 years ago! So instead of a big sequence number and small code number in brackets, they have used sequence number - code number all in the same font. A tiny detail really.

There are other purple markings on the map: vertical stripes, which we are used to for out-of-bounds, and cross-hatching, which we haven't used so far. This is a general orienteering symbol meaning "dangerous area", and we don't know whether this means you were allowed to try it or not. Perhaps the issue didn't arise.

The biggest difference is in the map colouring. While we have coloured all forest the same light green, the French maps have used both white and (a small amount of) shades of green as used in foot-orienteering. A closer look at the specification does actually show that dense and sparse forest (to the eye not the wheel) may be depicted by green and white, but we're not sure that the extra work is worthwhile. The important thing for those competing overseas however is to recognise that white is forest, not open land as this is not intuitive.

The dotted black shading may have been areas with lots of rocks. If the map originated as a foot-o map (and there are some hints on the map that this was so) the rocks would have been mapped in detail. Perhaps if cliffs etc were visible through the trees they generalised all this into the black shading.

The maps were all different versions of the same basic area. The scale for the sprint and classic (longer) distance was 1:20,000 which we have used on our larger areas such as Hanmer and Poroporo. The short you see here would have been able to be folded to fit the normal mapholder, but the classic filled the full A3 and would have required several re-foldings en route. Strangely, they used 1:15,000 for the relay and this meant the course covered the full length of the A4, calling for 2 re-foldings.

The contour interval was 5m, providing a lot of information about climbing if you were able to interpret it. The other way of looking at it, is that kiwis used to real hills would hardly have noticed it! Most of our mapping has been at a relatively enormous 20m because the contours are available free ex topo maps, with only Hanmer and Poroporo at 10m.

To my way of thinking, there wasn't much route choice in the sprint course shown here, until 9-10 and then on to the finish, when it all gets pretty tight! Maybe this was their "style"! The classic has longer legs and there are lots of good route choices there. The relay has quite short legs again and the difficulty would have been the presence of other competitors. In an orienteering relay all teams start together, but the courses are broken into sections with say three variations. Your leg 1 rider might do variation A, your second rider variation B and your third variation C, while another team might have them in a different order. That applies to the first segment of the course, if there are several segments each with 3 variations it is possible to put together lots of different sets of three courses that are the same in total, but prevent you from following other riders. Every now and then you have a common control which may let you see some of the opposition, and of course at the changeover the spectators and waiting riders can see who is in front. So you have to concentrate on your course while seeing other riders going all different directions.

We must try one here some day. If anyone feels that an area is getting too easy, we'll run a relay on it!

The other map here (click to download 150k) is from the Hungarian MTBO Champs which Michael rode in. This wasn't as flash as France, in fact rather similar to where NZ is at, with the exception that Hungary has electronic controls. You carry an electronic stick (tied to your bike) and stick it into a box at each control. The box writes its ID and the time onto your stick, at the end you download onto the organiser's computer, and the results are printed out at intervals. You even get a printout of all your intermediate times, which can solve those arguments about which route choice really was better! NZ orienteering has a small set of the gear, and is set to buy more for the foot-o champs next Easter. No doubt they used the system in France, too.

But back to Hungary, the map shows its origin as a foot-o map with lots of irrelevant detail between the tracks. The tracks were classified in the usual way, but in spite of floods elsewhere in Europe the sandy soil was dry and many of them were worse than indicated. There were about 50 riders, some with fancy mapholders and lots without, some with fancy bikes and others with "ride-to-school" mounts. Although helmets are not required on the road there, most riders wore them, but they didn't prevent a few from riding without.

The start/finish wasn't on a track, and enquiry revealed that Hungarian practice is that you can ride anywhere. (The international rule is tracks only unless otherwise specified.) But forest on sandy soil in the middle of the great plains was not going to offer much of an advantage unless the alternative was way longer. The grid pattern of the area made the route choices rather simplistic and Michael found himself re-using tracks, and doing some in-and-outs which are a bit less satisfying.

Still it's nice to find that there are other countries at about our stage of development, we can sometimes learn more from our peers than from the advanced countries.

This page was written by Michael Wood, , and was installed on 1 Sep 02.
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