WRC2016 Form Guide

The 2016 World Rogaining Championships are almost upon us and whilst we are not expecting a massive betting plunge in the lead-up to the event it is worth having a quick look at who might be taking home some of those fabulous trophies.

This, like predictions in any sport, is of course is an inexact science. There is no consolidated data base of results we can draw on, but the results in the various WRC pre-qualification events combined with little snippets of personal knowledge can provide us with some guide.

However, this years’ WRC is very different from all other WRCs of the past decade or more. The terrain is more intricate and varied, the tracks are far fewer and the ground conditions much tougher. Thus, form over recent WRCs may not translate into performance in 2016. And then there are always those teams who are not WRC, or even Australian Rogaining Champs (ARC) or European Rogaining Champs (ERC), regulars and the ones who have just moved into a new age and/or gender category and thus may have “flown under the radar”.

So with those disclaimers that I really don’t have clue here is some guidance.

Men’s Open

In every WRC to date, the Men’s Open winners have also been the Overall winners, something that is not always the case in the ARC. This seems to be the reasonable expectation again this year.

With the withdrawal of current Australasian MO championships, Rob Preston and Damon Goerke the NZ combination of Chris Forne and Greig Hamilton would be clear favourites here. Chris has won the past two WRCs held in Australasia by comfortable margins and is a renowned navigator. Greig has a strong track record in Australian rogaines in recent years and they performed superbly as a team in the recent Heights of Winter Rogaine in Canterbury. The key risk, apart of the normal ones of injury etc is if they go out too hard and thus fail to finish strongly.

A second NZ combination of Tim Farrant and Tane Cambridge could be lying in wait if Chris and Greig falter. Tim has a chequered history of some brilliant performances and some rather more lack-lustre ones, generally through going out too hard and then falling apart. If Tane can keep him in check early on and they hold their navigation together they could be ready to pounce if the opportunity arises. And there is the local NT combination of Lachlan Hallett and Andrew Scott. They will be well on top of the navigation but 24 hours is a long time for someone who doesn’t do it that often.

As is often the case, the Men’s Veteran teams may have some strong challengers for the Open podium – see that category for more detail, however teams to watch include Rob Walter and Paul Cuthbert, Phil Wood and Rob Jarvis, Greg Barbour and Richard Mountstephens, and Oleg Kalinin and Andrey Shvedov.

South Africa’s Nicholas Mulder has the track record and the ambition to give it a crack, but a late partner change due to injury may have damaged his chances, or not? We will see.

None of the other European teams in this class have any great form in previous WRCs but they cannot be discounted if they navigate well and take heed of the course information.

Women’s Open

This class has a number of very serious contenders. Australia’s Gill Fowler and Jess Baker are one key standout. Gill is a former WRC WO winner and renowned ultra-runner and they have some great team results over recent years. But can they hold their navigation together well enough to keep out NZ’s Georgia Whitla and Lara Prince? Georgia and Lara are world class navigators and performed brilliantly in the recent Heights of Winter to be 2nd outright behind Chris and Greig.

Other contenders are Katie Bolt and Emily Forne, also from NZ, also strong navigators and Katie has some great WRC results in her resume. The Latvian pair of Aiva Jakovela and Māra Leitāne are the current European WO champions with very creditable WRC performances behind them and must be in contention. Australian teams of Susie Sprague (2nd in WO in the last two ARCs) with Selina Stoute, and former WRC WO winner, Alexa McAuley, teamed with Belinda Bright, may be a chance. Australia’s Sarah Buckerfield has some very strong ARC results from a few years ago so her combination with Claire Butler could be very competitive if she has overcome recent injury issues.

All in all, a very interesting category and one to watch.

Mixed Open

The obvious favourites here must be Rob and Kathryn Preston. Rob is current Australasian MO champion and both have very strong orienteering and adventure racing backgrounds. They should thrive in the intricate terrain! However the Estonian team of Neeme Loorits and Kaidi Keir Kukk cannot be discounted. They were 3rd in last years’ WRC and have consistently strong results at ERC and WRC levels. Estonian pair, Lauri Lahtmäe and Merill Mägi also present good credentials. Then there is the Australia/NZ combination of Kevin Humphrey and Kath Copland with very solid rogaining and adventure racing resumes. A dark horse that may come through are the team of Matt and Grace Crane, both elite orienteering national reps but with no 24 hr rogaine experience.

Based on known form it is hard to see any other teams seriously vying for the top spot on the podium here, but the Mixed often throws up surprises.

Men’s Youth

No past WRC teams here, but both Thomas Etheridge & William Tribe, and Tristan White & Mitchell Lindbeck teams contain current Australasian Youth Champions. Also the NZ team of Levi Hibbert and Tom Spencer come into the WRC very highly credentialed and are possibly the pick if they can deal with the complexity of the navigation.

Women’s Youth

The Ukraine’s Yuliya Kobets was 2nd in the WY at the 2015 WRC. She is teamed with Veronika Letychevska and it can be certain they are not travelling across the globe (just) for a holiday. The question is whether they can deal with the intricate navigation demanded by this course and so fundamentally different from classic European rogaining.

The key challengers here must be Australasian WY champions Kelsey Harvey and Alison Burrill. Alison is a strong navigator but historically they have struggled in the dark so their route planning may be key to their chances.

Mixed Youth

The 2015 WRC XY winners, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Bezditnyi, Sergey Nagorniuk and Anastasiia Basiuk are back to show they can be champions anywhere in the world so the question will be how they cope with the unique terrain of the East MacDonnell’s. It would be hard to bet against them, but the Australian teams of Ciara Smart & Nic Pittman, and Brad Vallette & Hannah Johnson with members of the 2nd and 3rd placed teams in the 2015 ARC Y categories will be ready to pounce if the northern visitors falter.

Men’s Veterans

This is a seriously interesting class and, as noted above, the rivalry in here may cause these men to impact the MO podium also.

Australia’s Rob Walter and Paul Cuthbert were a close 2nd outright in the 2015 ARC and with Rob now turned 40 to be eligible for Veterans, they must be quietly confident. Rob is a top class navigator with multiple Australian Team caps at World Orienteering Champs and Paul a world class ultra-runner who captivated Australia with his AAWT exploits earlier in the year.

NZ’s Phil Wood and Rob Jarvis won the Australasian Championships outright only two (and three) years’ ago and have continued to perform strongly. NZ’s Greg Barbour is a two times WRC MO Champion teamed with Australia’s Richard Mountstephens, a top flight orienteer with plenty of adventure racing experience. They will revel in the complex terrain and present a real threat in MV and potentially beyond.

But the strength of this category extends well beyond the antipodeans. Russia’s Oleg Kalinin and Andrey Shvedov have, between them, almost had a mortgage on a WRC podium position this decade including two XO wins. Provided they come to grips with the terrain they will seriously threaten. And then there is Czech’s Jan Tojnar and Miroslav Seidl. Miroslav was 4th in MV in the 2015 WRC with Jan, in an MO team, not far behind. They are planning two weeks in the NT ahead of the event so may arrive more familiar with the terrain than most of the Australians.

And we can’t forget to mention Australia’s Andre Morkel and Paul Williams. WRC perennials with a podium finish in 2014 but still looking for that breakthrough win. Can 2016 be their year?

I’m not tipping a winner here, but will watch it unfold with great interest!

Women’s Veterans

Russia’s Nina Mikheeva and Marina Galkina absolutely owned this category from when they first became eligible in 2010 until 2014, winning it four times in a row. However, 2015 saw a poor result by their standards, finishing just off the podium and a quick review shows that their winning margins outside Europe have always been far smaller than in their familiar terrain. So does this perhaps open the door to some of the local teams?

Thor Egerton is a very strong navigator with three WRC podium finishes behind Nina and Marina and is teamed with Linda Davies, who is so tough she once did a 48-hr adventure race with a broken wrist. Or Jenny Casanova, a former WRC WO champion and another strong navigator teamed with Zara Soden her team mate from the 2nd placed WV team in the 2015 ARC. And there’s also the Tassie perennials of Christine Brown and Karen Pedley who were WO winners at the ARC only two years ago.

Plus Australia’s Cath Chalmers is a great navigator but her limited background in 24-hour rogaines may play against her combination with Sophie Giles.

All in all another really interesting category to watch.

Mixed Veterans

This is a category where competition has been very strong in recent WRCs with the top teams often making the top 10 outright. But with Australia’s top XV team on course setting duties for the event and the strongest of the European teams choosing not to travel this field is wide open. Latvia’s Aigars Actins and Ilze Lapina are probably the pick if they can come to grips with the terrain but Australia’s Andrew and Nicole Haigh performed strongly in the 2015 ARC, also held in a technically and physically demanding area so are also a very strong chance.

Aleksander Pritsik and Heidi Sild from Estonia have been performing well in Europe in the past couple of years and Lauri and Lea Leppik, also of Estonia, are very highly experienced and likely to do well. I don’t think Alex Tyson’s WO win in the 1992 WRC can be taken as any guide to current form, but she is a strong navigator which will be critical in this area. And we also have prequalified teams from: New Zealand, USA, Japan and Ukraine so whilst they may not challenge the Open classes in the same way as in recent years the competition for the top XV spot will be fierce.

Men’s Superveterans

Australia’s Rod Gray, the only person to have competed in every WRC to date, and Geoff Lawford have a number of WRC MSV titles to their name, most recently in 2014 and you would expect the home ground advantage and their very strong navigation skills would make them favourites here. Unfortunately they had a lacklustre outing in 2015 and this year we have assembled possibly the strongest MSV field in the history of rogaining.

Course setter for the first WRC and multiple WRC MO winner, David Rowlands has teamed up with his winning MO partner from the 1996 WRC, Jim Russell, to try to take advantage of the passing years. Both are superb navigators who should handle the complexities well. They deserve to be favourites in this category. Czech’s Tomas Zdrahal and Ondrej Herdegen come well credentialed from recent WRCs and Australia’s Mike Hotchkis, a multiple ARC winner at both MO and MV, teamed with Neil Hawthorne, finished just off the podium in the 2015 WRC. Australia’s Andy Macqueen and Ian Brown showed at the 2015 ARC that they can perform well in this type of physically and technically demanding terrain and NZ’s Dave Armstrong and Alister Metherell will be strong enough but could be expected to be challenged by the navigation.

Women’s Superveterans

A disappointingly thin field in this category with every team guaranteed a podium finish if they make it through the event. Pick would be the NZ trio of Vivienne Prince, Val Rogers and Kathrin Mueller, so long as they get their planning right, ahead of Australia’s Shirley Proctor and Anne Forsyth. However, the WUV team of Robin Spriggs and Sharon Crawford may have the capacity to figure in the WSV as well. In the 2015 WRC we saw the same team win both MUV and MSV. Could the same thing happen in the WSV this year?

Mixed Superveterans

This looks likely being a pretty hot category but defending champions, Latvia’s Uldis Pekuss and Velga Busa must go in as favourites. They will need to come to grips with the complex navigation and harsh terrain, but the absence of last year’s 2nd placed team through involvement with organising this event possibly makes their job that bit easier. But it won’t come easy!

Another Latvian pair, Rolands Laveikis and Ligita Grunde have strong form from recent WRCs and ERCs plus the Australian teams of current ARC XSV champions Craig & Evelyn Colwell and Ron Simpson & Jean Douglas are likely to feel far more assured in the terrain than the visitors. Then we have the US’s Peter Graube, Jay Hann and Vicki Woolworth. Peter won MO at the US Championships only two years ago! There is also Guy and Emma de Lacey from NZ. Possibly the strongest pair in the mix but a team who have historically struggled away from home and who may be slowed somewhat by the navigational challenges.

Men’s Ultraveterans

This is an absolutely intriguing category with a number of previously strong MSV teams only recently coming into the mix. 2014 WRC MUV winners and current ARC MUV champions Tim Dent, Rob Taylor and Graham Anderson will be under a lot of pressure here! Estonia’s Johannes Tasa, Arvo Kivikas and Tõnu Nurn have, between them, a number of podium results in MSV and MUV in recent WRCs and ERCs so just need to adapt to the Australian conditions to be a real threat. Australia’s Derek Morris is current ARC MSV champion so his partnership with Ian Herbert is very much one to watch.

NZ’s Richard English was 2nd in the category in the 2014 WRC and comes in teamed with Hong Kong resident Robert Whitehead. The US’s Ken Walker was their national MSV champion in 2014 and is teamed with compatriot Glen Brake. They are something of an unknown quantity and could be a dark horse. And the long standing Australian combination of Merv Trease and Vic Sedunary are the current ARC MUV champions and won the ARC MSV only two years ago.

Impossible to pick a winner out of these, it will be a great competition!

Women’s Ultraveterans

The Australia/US combination of Robin Spriggs and Sharon Crawford only rogaine at WRCs but have been very successful in the WUV since its introduction and WSV before that. Robin says this will be her last rogaine, but I certainly wouldn’t bet on that, however there can be no doubt she will be intending to go out with a biggie! However, the two all Australian teams in the mix of Pat Miethke, Colleen Mock & Parissa Poulis and Helen Alexander & Judi Herkes both have strong recent ARC performances in their resumes so this small class is likely to be very hotly contested.

Mixed Ultraveterans

The perennial WRC winners of this category, the Kiwi Oldies, are absent this year due to one of them being on the organising team and another one injured. Latvia’s defending WRC XUV champions Volli Kukk and Ruta Kukka are back to show that they can perform outside of Europe and would be hard to bet against them. The US’s Eric and Mary Smith have XUV podium finishes at each of the last two WRCs and there are a few other teams that may threaten but if Volli and Ruta can adapt to the terrain they should get the chocolates.