First-time Gold for Pökälä and Foliforova at the WMTBOC Mass Start

With the latest international mountainbike orienteering event 2 years in the past, it was a welcome and exciting return to sport when the initial competition of the World MTB Orienteering Championships kicked off in Kuortane, Finland with the Mass Start competition. The competitions did not disappoint with exciting races and medal places being decided with sprints for the finish line.

In the mens competition it was Samuel Pökälä of the host nation Finland who best managed the course measuring slightly more than 30 km, finishing just 2 seconds ahead of the Mass Start Champion from 2019, Jiri Hradil of the Czech Republic. For Samuel Pökälä, currently ranked 14th in the world, this was the first World Champion title of his career. In the fight for the bronze, neutral athlete from Russia Anton Foliforov just nudged out Pekka Niemi of Finland in a photo finish.

The mens race saw several changes in the lead, largely due to differences in the forking between the 2 long loops. But there were also some notable mistakes which reduced the leading pack as the race concluded. Samuel Pökälä seemed to have a decisive lead approaching the final control, but made a slight error in the final road crossing. Still he was able to pull out a good final sprint to finish his race for gold.

Samuel Pökälä sprints to the finish at the WMTBOC Mass Start (Photo: Donatas Lazauskas)

This was the first individual World Champion title also for Svetlana Foliforova, competing as a neutral athlete from Russia. She was near the lead from the very beginning of the race due to shorter forkings in the beginning. A very strong physical performance with no obvious mistakes saw her pulling away for the remainder of the first loop. This was enough to compensate for the second slightly longer loop keeping her close to the leading pack, then pulling away again as the course lengths evened out. After 21 km of the 26,5 km course her lead was at nearly 1 minute  and continued to grow to a comfortable winning margin of nearly a minute and a half.

Behind Foliforova, a 3-way race for the remaining 2 medals was playing out between Mervi Pesu of Finland, her teammate Marika Hara and Martina Tichovska of the Czech Republic. All 3 riders had the same forkings at the end of the course and were close together. On the way to the 24th of the 26 controls on the course Mervi Pesu made a slightly better route choice and was able to maintain the slight advantage gained there and win the silver medal, finishing 5 seconds ahead  of Martina Tichovska and another 2 seconds ahead of Marika Hara.

Svetlana Foliforova with a dominant performace winning the Mass Start competition at WMTBOC (Photo: Donatas Lazauskas)

Results – Men


Results – Women

Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships

This was also the first day of the Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships and Gold medals were won by Morten Jørgensen of Denmark in the Junior Mens class and by Kaarina Nurminen of host nation Finland in the Junior Womens.

Morten Jørgensen was in the lead for most of the race and through a very solid performance finally ended up with a winning margin of 2 minutes. There was a close race for the other medals with some route choices and individual mistakes towards the end of the 24.8 km course being decisive. Strongest in the end and winning the silver was Albin Demaret Joly of France who decided a close battle with Yaroslav Shvedov of the Russian Federation in the final controls.

The Junior Womens race saw Kaarina Nurminen take a strong lead mid-way along the 20.6 km course. However, she made a fairly significant mistake on her way to the 11th of the 22 controls losing time to Lucie Nedomlelova of the Czech Republic, who was able to build up a lead of  40 seconds to Nurminen with about 3 km remaining. Kaarina Nurminen was able to close the gap down to about 20 seconds but it looked like that would be as close as she would get. However, as Lucie Nedomlelova approached the very final control she turned in one road too early, a road which dead-ended at a forbidden area. So the tables turned again with Nurminen crossing the finish line well ahead. The bronze went to Silja YliHietanen of Finland winning a sprint finish with Sofie Stranska of the Czech Republic.

Results – Junior Men

Results – Junior Women

Interview with Samuel Pökälä and Svetlana Foliforova:

Full results, webstreaming replay and GPS tracking of the Mass Start can be found on the IOF Live Page.