Sunday, 6 August 2017

Finnmarksturen - Best result on second day of racing

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin, Thunderburt 1.58 / 1.62 bar



One Weekend - Two Races


I took a bit of a gamble this weekend by first racing in the Swedish Championships yesterday and then today I had the next race in the Swedish Marathon Cup: Finnmarksturen. I did prioritise the Swedish Champs and so the two races came in the correct order. I knew that I was not going to perform as well on the second day of racing.

Typically when racing several days in a row I notice that I'm not able to peak as high as I would when I was rested, however I am still able to produce good average power. My heart rate will not reach the same kind of peaks. In practical circumstances this will typically mean that I will not be able to sprint up a hill, or sprint for the finish line, as well as under optimal circumstances.


The Start


It had been raining for an hour or so leading up to the race but just before the start the rain had stopped. Wet roots and rocks were expected.

I started the race a bit more defensively than I normally would; I placed myself a bit further back in the grid than I normally would. When the race started I didn't attempt any micro sprints for the first flat part to get further ahead in the field.

The first climb came after just three kilometres and the field stretched out. I hung onto the back of the lead group for a while but after a while I had to let go.

At the first time check I was in 56th overall (9th place in M40 I found out later)


Slippery riding


Some ten kilometres into the race there were some downhill sections with roots and rocks which normally would not cause any problems but because it had rained they were slippery. I took it a bit easy here and had to let a few riders past. As the race progressed I did relax more and more and the downhills went quicker.


Undisciplined riding


Towards the end of the first loop there's a section of quick gravel roads, then paved bike paths, and then also some asphalt road. Typically, if you're in a good group, this is a situation where the cyclists can really help each other to maintain a high speed by changing places up in front. However, this time, somehow, the group was just not working very well. A couple of guys would take good turns pulling the group, then all of a sudden when the next cyclist went to the front he would up the pace by 5km/h very suddenly. And another time a cyclist would come up the inside and start pulling before it was his turn. This sort of unprofessional behaviour really annoys me. It makes me think that perhaps I'm way down in the field with inexperienced cyclists (this actually turned out NOT to be the case)


The second part of the race - Climbs times five

The second part of Finnmarksturen is defined by the five climbs you have to get over. The first one starts right when you go out on the second loop.


Damaged Deraileur


There's a tricky passage where you pass under an tunnel which has stairs going both up and down. The organisers put wooden boards on the stairs to make it easy for us. However, going up just one part of the wooden boards actually had any grip, the second were slippery and so we all had to get off our bikes and push them.. Something happened with my bike right about here. I'm not sure exactly what but I think someone ran into my rear deraileur when I got off my bike to push it. When I got back onto it and tried to negotiate the climb that started right after the bike was no longer shifting cleanly. I dropped from the head of the group right back to being last while I adjusted my deraileur on the fly. I almost got it working well, but not perfectly.


The Last Two Climbs

Going into the second to last climb the group was at least some 20-25 cyclist strong. The climb is on paved roads and I went to the front and pulled HARD. After cresting the hill I continued to accelerate in order to maintain any gap that I had created. Then I looked back: Only two cyclists had been able to keep up with me, one of them being my friend, Lars Hansen, who also races M40.

As we approached the last climb: Leos Backe, the group consisted of three M40 cyclists (Lars being one of them), and an Elite guy. Now I know this last climb feels like it goes on forever so I started up slowly. The Elite guy went ahead of the rest of us, then Lars, who created a gap down to me and the last M40 guy. As the climb progressed the gap to Lars started increasing and just after the crest I was able to sprint and rejoin his wheel. The other M40 guy was right behind.


The Finish - Bad Navigation

After Leos Backe there were only some 5-6km to the finish line. The first part was on singletrack and here I went to the head of our small group and just gave it all that I had left. I managed to create a small gap to Lars and the other M40 cyclist. But just before going back on the last paved road section they were back on my wheel. I eased up and slowed town to rest for the sprint. We were some 2 kilometres from the finish line.

After the paved road there was just the last short section of singletrack before you enter the finish area. Here I went to the front again and pulled as hard as I could... And then all of a sudden the track markings disappeared: Somewhere I had made a bad turn and both Lars and the other guy had followed me. We stopped and looked very confused. After just a couple of seconds we made a U-turn, but they went one way and I another in order to find my way back to the track. I got back on the track after a small group of cyclists which I recognised and knew I had left behind me long ago. In other words that small detour had cost me time. I ended up sprinting against them and went across the finish line first in that small group. Lars Hansen and the other M40 guy came in just a few seconds later.

I ended up finishing in fifth place, my best result so far in this year's Långloppscupen.


















Swedish Marthon Championships - How to start a race from dead last

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin, Thunderburt 1.63 / 1.74 bar

Result: 11th


Summary


The title says it all:  I 'punctured', on asphalt, about one kilometer into the race, before even leaving the starting area. Allthough it probably wasn't a real puncture. I inflated the tire using CO2 and then it held for the rest of the race. There was no leakage of Stans fluid and no other signs of an actual hole in the tire. I didn't lost much time but because it was so early in the race the whole field went by me and I ended up dead last. I had a great day leg wise and moved up through the field finishing in 11th place (from dead last at 160th place overall to 50th place overall).

The Race


The venue for the Swedish Marathon Championships this year was a race called 1572 MTB Challenge. Normally it's 67km long but for the XCM they had extended the course to 90km. I had never competed in this race previously but I'd heard rumours of it not being very technical and pretty much a gravel road race. Expectations were not high in other words...

The Start


I got away really well and up a short grassy hill at the start I was in the top 10. I moved further up while we passed over some bike paths in the first kilometer and then onto a paved road. I noticed that Björn Österberg was next to me. Inpsite of the high pace I didn't feel I was exherting myself: It felt like it was going to be a good day.

The 'Puncture'

Just a kilometer or so into the race, before we had even left the starting area (on paved roads) I noticed that my front tire was deflating. I got off the bike and quickly inflated the tire with CO2, then on the bike again. This didn't take many seconds but as it was so early in the race the whole field passed me and I was dead last.


Moving Up


I started advancing through the field and on the roads it was easy to get around people but on some of the singletrack I could do nothing but wait for space to open up where I could overtake. I was going hard at this point, deep into the red. I kept this up until I caught up with a group that had Martin Wenhov in it. I saw a bigger bunch of riders not too far ahead when there was a longer climb, but they were out of reach.

As the race is 90km long I realized that if I spent much more time at this intensity I would not be able to finish the race. I decided to stay with this group and to see what developed.


Finishing The Race


The group that I was in ended up being a good one. We held a good pace and picked up racers that dropped back from the front groups. After about halfway through the race it started raining quite hard and for the rest of the race it continued to do so.

Everything felt amazingly good throughout the race: My legs were like diamonds; When we got to a climb with 30km to go I just calmly went up it at threshold intensity and looking behind myself at the top I noticed that I had dropped my whole group by about 30 meters. This without even trying hard. The bike worked great and felt super in the descents and trickt sections. Even when the rain started and conditions got tricky I still felt confident and went hard on the singletrack sections.

With just a few kilometers left the group consisted of four riders; One of them being another M40 rider (in my category in other words). I managed to outsprint him and finished in 11th place. Overall I had moved up some 100+ places finishing in 50 place.

The Track


I had low expectations of this track as I had heard that it was just a bunch of roads but it ended up being quite fun. There were some good flowy singletrack sections. However the last perhaps 30km were almost all roads. If the race organizers could find some more fun singletrack there the race would be perfect.


Saturday, 29 July 2017

XCup #5 - Ending my week of over training with a fun race

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron/Thunderburt 2.1 Snakeskin 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: 14th place (overall)

I'm in the middle of my preparations for the Swedish Marathon championships in exactly one week. That meant that the plan for this week was to over train and break down my body, in order to take it easy next week and get a peak in performance just when the XCM race is. That meant that I came to today's race pretty tired, but it was all part of the plan. Also an intense training session on this day was a perfect way to end this week of over training.

The terrain here in Hässleholm is always fun and for today we were promised an entirely new track. The races here are always twisty and fun and full of small technical difficulties... and A LOT of singletrack. And, during the training session, I found out that the same was true for this new track.

Typically when I am over trained I notice it in the starts: I have a hell of a time keeping up with the quick pace in a typical starting loop or hill. But then as the pace settles things get better. The same thing happened today and as we, after the start loop, went into the first singletrack section, I was perhaps in 20th place.

During the race I worked my way up and ended up in a group of five riders. We swapped places a lot, and also caught up with other riders who got tired and passed them.

When the end of the last lap approached I made sure to be in the lead of the group. The sprint towards the finish line was on bumpy double track. I sprinted all that I coould but was onfurtunately passed by two riders. I ended up in fourteenth place. However, my body felt great, the pulse data was super; 177 average 187 max. I got an excellent training session out of this race, AND I had lots of fun!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Engelbrektsturen - Improving form in the dusty gravel rally

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin, Thunderburt 1.58 / 1.62 bar

The Event

Engelbrektsturen is one of the quickest races in the Swedish Marathon Cup. It has lots of gravel road and few climbs, also not all that much singletrack. Historically I've had good results here:

2013: 8th place (my first top-10 finish ever in this cup)
2014: DNS (clashed with the Swedish XCM championsships)
2015: 6th place
2016: DNF - BIG crash

I'm not sure if I should be proud of placing well in this least technical of all races.

Last year I had a huge crash during this race (while I was in the lead) and I was a bit wary this year knowing how suddenly it had happened. I remember that in 2016 I was really worked up about performing well in this race and really went all-in. Well, until I crashed anyway.

The start of this race is in the centre of Norberg but there's just a short bit of paved road before you're out on a loooong gravel road. This means that getting a good start is absolutely vital. After about 5km there's a short climb, then some singletrack, and then another climb. Neither of these two climbs are major but they do stretch out the field and groups start to form here.

The Race

I had been battling poor form for the last few weeks. Pretty much since Beskidy Trophy I've not been able to get back on the same level as before that race. Same goes for my weight: I'm a couple of kilos heavier than I should be (not for lack of trying though).

This also meant that I was not super focused on this race. However I warmed up well and placed my bike very aggressively on the front row of starting grid. I was right next to the pros which was cool.


The Start and First Climbs

The start went well and I was among the first 30 cyclists going out on the long gravel road. Some guys took chances and overtook on the rough next to the gravel road but I stayed put safely in line. As we got to the first climb I pushed hard and things went well in spite of the extra kilos of body fat.



I checked Strava and found this for the two first climbs and also the first 20km of the race (last year I crashed at 22km so that's why I checked the first 20km):

First climb:



Second climb:


First 20km:



This tells me that I was going as quickly this year as last year (conditions were very similar).  2016, at 20km, I was in the lead (there were three of us in M40 together in fact). This year, however I was nowhere near the top-3. So tougher opposition I guess.


The Middle and Losing the Pack

Even though I had raced Engelbrektsturen three times before I was still shocked by how our group of 20 some cyclists held together over the easy terrain. Even the short sections of singletrack and climbs could do nothing to separate it. It was a lot like a road bike race.



With about 20km to go we came to a small incline and here the pace got really quick and I noticed myself drifting backwards through the field of riders. At the top there was not more than perhaps 10 meters up to the last riders of the group, but it was hard to catch up. I did get close a few times, but then we got into some singletrack and I lost them again.

The End

As I approached the last 15km of the race I was joined but two young riders who helped pull me along. I was pretty tired and just looking forward to the end of the race.

I thought we held a pretty good pace but just as we were entering Norberg and getting ready for the last sprint a group of some 7-8 riders caught up with us from behind. One of the riders win in my category and he sprinted by so quickly that I had no chance of catching him.

I finished sixth in the race, missing out of fifth place by 5 seconds. I was 2 minutes down on third place.

Good race and the form is improving.





Friday, 14 July 2017

Mörksuggejakten - One Weekend, Two Races

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: 12th place


One Weekend, Two Races 

Knowing I was not in good shape I decided to do two races this weekend. Yesterday was the shorter XCup race and today I had the marathon Mörksuggejakten. Today's race was of higher priority and normally I might hesitate to race on the day before, even though it was a short one hour race. However I knew that my form was not good and so I decided to do both races in order to get a good buildup to the Swedish Marathon Championships which are in four weeks.

The Track

Mörksuggejakten is one of the races that I do like because it has a good starting climb. However you need to cover about 1.5km through the town of Rättvik before you get to the climb and that part can be a bit hectic.

After the climb there's a long downhill section which is very good to take quickly because after that you have quite a long stretch of quick paved roads, gravel roads and double track where it's good to be in a quick group.

The last part of the race is largely on singletrack through forests, however it's very quick riding. Quite a lot of roots in places too.

The Start of the Race

On the starting line the officials kept telling us over and over that there was going to be a pace car in front all through the town of Rättvik and that there was no overtaking allowed. 

As the race started I got a good start over the first small grass hill. The white Mitsubishi pace car was at thte front of the wheel but almost as soon as we reached the paved road leading into town there was a red race official vehicle that somehow ended up to the right of the field. In order to get out of the way it stopped halfway down a ditch to the right side. It looked very strange.

Then just seconds later there was a big crash just to the left of me. Five or six cyclists became entangled and went down. I managed to avoid the incident and went around.

In spite of the instructions people were still overtaking quite crazily on sidewalks and all over the place.


The Starting Climb


I didn't come to this race in the best of shape, or the lightest of weight for that matter. I was at around 75kg before the race. So getting to this starting climb I did not have high hopes. I saw Robert Eliasson and Jakob Håkansson not far in front of me throughout the climb but I didn't manage to get any closer and I didn't see either for the rest of the race.

Looking at Strava I was actually slower up the climb than last year:

The First Half

Knowing my limitations I did try for a strategic race. This went well as we did form a good group as soon as we got out onto the roads and quick trails of the first half of the race. We were hunting down cyclists in front of us and the pace felt good.

The Second Half

Even getting into the second part of the race with more singletrack and rooty sections things still felt good. The group kept getting smaller with people dropping off the rear. There were perhaps a couple of cyclists that went off the front whom I was not able to follow.

The Finish

The last 10km I was starting to feel really tired but managed to hang onto the small group that I was now in. However with some 4-5km to go that tiredness increased a lot and I started getting left behind, also some riders caught up with me and passed me. The last few short but steep climbs were just murder on my legs. In the last few kilometers I fell out of the top 10.



Saturday, 8 July 2017

XCup #4 - A step forward

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: 13th place (overall)

After last Sundays disaster with the poor form at Ränneslättsturen I was totally focused on recovery throught this week: I just did my normal bicycle commuting at low intensity.

For this weekend I knew that I had the more important race on Sunday, but I still wanted to race at XCup today, Saturday. So I took a bit of a chance. Today's race was just 60 minutes + the lap.

The track was located outside of Hässleholm and is one of my favorite ones. The terrain is very undulating with small uphills and downhills throughout and almost 100% singletrack. This makes for fun racing.

My form still isn't good but better than last weekend. I had a good race, my heart rate being predicatably high after all the resting during the week (peak H/R at 190!). Towards the end of the race I didn't go 100% all in to still save a little for tomorrows race. This meant I lost three places during the last couple of hundreds of meters. Thirteenth place is ok. I had fun!

(Photographer: Linus Holmgren)



Sunday, 2 July 2017

Ränneslättsturen - Tired and worn out

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: Pretty bad

Preparation

I've been on vacation in Slovenia since Beskidy Trophy, doing a lot of mountain biking in the Alps. I decided to prolong my vacation as long as I could so after 16 hours of driving during Saturday I arrived home late in the evening. The next morning I got up and we drove three hours to take part in this year's Ränneslättsturen. Perhaps not the best sort of race preparation. Well, that and the fact that instead of resting after Beskidy I had been doing a bunch of mountain bike riding in mountainous terrain meant that I had perhaps not had the best of recovery....

Leak Before the Race

One hour prior to the race, as I was ready with everything, and just straddling the bike while talking to my travel companion: Jonas Nilsson, I heard a pssshhhh noise coming from my front wheel. We tracked the sound down and found that the tire was leaking between the edge of the rim and the tire. Very strange as it had started leaking while I was just standing still with it. I opened up the valve core, poured some Stans fluid in the tire (luckily I had brought some), pumped the tire back up and rode around in circled for a while. This sealed the leak and there was no more problems during the race.


The Race


Things actually worked 'okay' for the first 2/3 of the race. I was in the top-10 and on the wheel of Stefan Hellman. But with about 25km left I started to feel very tired and I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish the race well. Instead of punishing my body over the last part of the race I decided to cruise the last part.


Afterwards

The next few days after the race I felt really tired and worn out. I slept around 12 hours each day during Monday and Tuesday. Something was probably not quite right in my body.