Thursday, 26 May 2016

Beskidy Trophy - Gone in 60 seconds

The race

Beskidy Trophy is a four day stage race in the Polish Beskidy mountains.

Important stats:

  • 4 stages
  • 286.5km
  • 11550 meters altitude gain

It's a tough and technical race. The climbs are gruesome and the descents are difficult and often dangerous. If you don't go downhill quickly you lose whatever time you gained uphill.

I took part in the race last year, 2015, and placed ninth. This year I had higher hopes...

You can check out the description of each stage below (which I wrote as I completed it) or you can scroll down to the bottom and read the summary.

The setup

Bike: BMC Fourstroke FS01 XX1
Groupset: SRAM XX1, 10-42, 32T chainring AbsoluteBlack oval
Wheels: Bontrager XXX
Tires: Schwalbe RocketRon 2.1 Snakeskin (1.6 bar, front and back). Tubeless.
Other equipment: Minpump, minitool, CO2-inflator + two canisters, tire levers, spare tube

Stage 1

67km, 2604m altitude gain



It had been raining all night and morning. The temperature was around 10-12 degrees Celsius. So the trails were going to be wet and muddy and the stones slippery. This being a race with so much downhill riding means that tricky descents become even trickier.

The climbs went well. I probably pushed it a bit too much but legs and lungs felt good. The descents not quite as well: I was getting passed a lot. And by the same riders that I then overtook in the next climb.

I got braver descending as the stage progressed and still managed to finish it without incident.

It was very foggy in most places and one of the scary things was going full speed in the downhills while hikers were going uphill and suddenly appearing through the mist.  It was weird riding slalom between them and having them jump for cover.

I came in fourth place in the M40 category. One minute behind third place, two minutes behind second and about 5 minutes behind first. 27th overall. The good thing is that I move up to the first group for tomorrow's start.

I'm just a bit (quite a lot actually) worried that I went too hard today. I'll notice tomorrow.

Results are here:
http://www.pomiaryczasu.pl/data/2016_Trophy/Live/Classic_1stage_live.html

Here's a photo of Sandra and me after the stage finish. Don't be fooled by the seemingly nice weather in the photo; The sun didn't come out until after we had finished the stage.

Strava stats show a heart rate that's a bit higher than I would've wanted it to be

I couldn't find a photo of me but here's one for today's stage that gives you a feeling of how foggy it was:

More photos from today's stage here

Starting grid (shot from second group):

Stage 2

84km, 2775m altitude gain


Complete turnaround in the weather meant sunshine and 25 degrees Celsius. Today's stage is the longest and hardest of all four. As you can see by the profile below theres' a huge hill to climb in the middle of the stage

We started the stage with a transport section to the first climb. I had in advance decided that I needed to be a bit defensive and calculating during this stage. I went out HARD yesterday and didn't want to die halfway through today's stage. This meant that in the climbs I held my own pace. In practice this had the result of letting people get away from me early in the climbs and then often catching them halfway through or towards the top. I felt the strategy worked out well.

I felt that the downhills went better than yesterday. I was still losing places in the super technical ones, but in the faster and more sane ones I held my own.

The climbs went well. I remember that last year I had to get off in a few places in the super steep uphills where I was able to cycle today. The five kilo weight loss really is noticable.

Halfway through the stage I had my first crash. I was approaching a creek rather quickly, perhaps at 30km/h, and from what I could see I thought that I would be able to just splash through it. However, when I got really close I noticed that there was a wooden board going diagonally across it. Too late to brake my front wheel slipped on it and my bike went flying one way while I flew the other. Bike was ok and so was I and I was able to get on and continue.

I crossed the finish line in fourth place. So same position as yesterday. I was very pleasantly surprised as I thought I was going to have a hard day. However, in the general classification I was in 44th (compared to 27th yesterday) so things have gone a bit slower today.

The fun part is having Strava to compare this year's segments to last year's. The stage was identical this year and in total I was 18 minutes faster. The big climb went 4 minutes faster. And all downhills sections between 30s and 60s faster. This actually makes me more happy than going faster uphill :)

In the general classification I'm now in fifth place.

This is how the bike looks after a 'dry' stage:

Notice the average heart rate. Compare it to stage 1 above. This is how you pay during multi-stage races

Stage 3

69.2km, 2534m altitude gain

Fourth place in today's stage (again! three times in a row now!).

I climbed back up to fourth place in the total classification. With one stage to go I'm three minutes behind third place and five minutes down on second place. And that after a total of 13 hours of biking! Exciting!

Tomorrow is a real killer of a stage too with the most amount of climbing of any stage yet!




Stage 4 (last one)

71.3km, 2910m altitude gain
So, how did it all go? What happened during the fourth and last stage?

Well, since its Tuesday today and the race finished Sunday you probably figured out that it didn't end with me climbing the podium, right?

So the short answer is: I came in fifth in the last stage and finished in fourth place in the total standings.

The slightly longer answer is: I came in fifth in the last stage, I overtook the guy who was in second place in the total standings, but the guy behind me, in fifth place, overtook me in the totals. By how much? Exactly 60 seconds. Yeah, I missed a podium finish, a third place, by exactly 60 seconds. This is after 18 hours of total riding during four days. Pretty depressing, huh? So that's why there was no update since Sunday.

Here's a link to the final result sheet


Conclusion

  • Fourth place in the M40 category. 
    • With about 150 starters from some 17 countries it's a good result
    • BUT the fact that I was only 60 seconds away from third place really hurts 
    • 4 minutes away from second place
  • Equipment worked perfectly with zero defects
    • The BMC Fourstroke was great in the difficult terrain. 
    • The 32T chainring was sufficient to climb the steep hills.
    • The Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.1 SnakeSkin were light enough to climb quickly, roll easy and MOST IMPORTANTLY: NO PUNCTURES.
  • I need to descend quicker
    • I lost time descending. There's no denying it. It's easy to compare to the riders that were around me on each climb: I went past them while going uphill, and many of them overtook me going downhill. I can improve my descending skills. But going quicker downhill also means taking more risks.



Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Beskidy Trophy starts in two days!



The Race

The first high point of this year is approaching quickly

Beskidy Trophy is a four day mountain bike strage race in the Polish Beskidy mountains.

Each stage is between 70km and 80km  long and has between 2500m and 3000m of climbing.

First stage profile



Results

Results will be available here as each stage finishes

The Bike

I will be riding my BMC Fourstroke FS01 XX1

Why the full suspension then and not the Teamelite hard(soft)tail? I give up one kilo of weight to get the rear suspension. I think it's a good trade. I save my legs over the long stages and the absolutely insane downhill sections are a bit safer on a full suspension bike.

Gearing

SRAM XX1 as always and I will be riding a 32T fron chainring. Lots of climbing so low gears are needed. I may decide to switch to a 30T even. We'll see.

Wheels

Instead of my ususal race wheels, the NoTubes Valor, I will be riding a set of Bontrager XXX. The Bontragers are 120 grams heavier, however they are aluminium and therefore a little more compliant than the stiff carbon fiber Valors. That will help in the super fast and bumpy downhill sections. I haven't decided 100% yet though. I may end up riding the Valors after all

Tires

Schwalbe Rocket Ron Snakeskin 2.1. Tubeless. The Rocket Rons have good puncture protection in the SnakeSkin variant. They're also relatively light (the set I put on weigh 530grams and 550grams). Yes, I would run 2.25 if I thought I could spare the extra weight and rolling resistance. However, with all the uphil riding I go for the narrower 2.1 version of the tire.

Strava




Body Weight

My weight has been steadily going down since December of last year:

17th of May:

20th of May:
22nd of May:

Sunday, 22 May 2016

XCup #3 - Fun fun fun track!

Result: Nineth place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Racing Ralph 2.1 Snakeskin (front and back), 1.6 bar. Bontrager XXX wheels.

During today's race I tested the bike setup for Beskidy Trophy next week. That's why I was running the Bontrager wheels instead of my usual Valor wheels. Also the rather slim tires which were not optimal for this course.

I started strongly and was up in fifth place for a while. Got tired towards the end and dropped to ninth. Still really happy with the race as my heart rate was through the roof (as expected after a week of only low intensity training) and that makes it a perfect training session leading up to Beskidy.

Results

My helmet cam video

Outside video from close to the start. You can see me 12 seconds into it (thank you Peter Balog)




Saturday, 14 May 2016

Billingeracet: SECOND PLACE!!!

Result: 5th place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Renegade 2.0 1.7 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

Well, it was cold and miserable. One degree Celsious and raining throughout the race. But I had perhaps my best race ever finishing in second place.

I had a really good starting hill where I came up first in my category (M40). After that I didn't see any other cyclists from any of the Master categories. I just rode in groups with Elite riders (you can tell by the number series on their backs).

At one point one of the Elite riders in my group called out my name: I turned around and looked at him. He said: Alex, you must be in the lead in the M40 category. I had no idea what he was talking about, I was sure that there had to be at least some M40 rider that had gone ahead which I told him.

With about 20km left, while I was in this really quick group with 5 Elite riders, my left pedal struck a root and I went flying over the handle bars. My Garmin bike computer went one way, my glasses the other way. I picked up both in one hand and was so stressed that I didn't even try to place the bike computer back in its holder. I just got on the bike and pedaled. I saw my group of riders disappear in the distance and started realizing that there was no way I was going to catch them. Still, stressed out, I managed to clip the bike computer into the holder... the glasses I just threw away and then I went full ahead rushing down the single track at crazy speeds, but to no avail. The group was gone! After a while I noticed that my handlebars hade gone crocked in the fall. I looked behind me; There was noone coming up. So I just stopped and straightened the bars.

I started riding a little bit slower, realizing that with 20km left it would be stupid to try to go the rest of the distance alone. I decided to wait for someone to catch up from behind

After a while I noticed one biker slowly catching up. It turned out to be Stefan Hellman, an M40 rider. Shortly after this an M30 rider caught up as well. We formed a group of three riders.

The race finishes with a double hill. The first one starting at about 70km, and the last just a km before the finish. Early on in the hill the M30 rider dropped off the back. Stefan Hellman started going hard up the hill and I managed to just hold on to his wheel. However, just before reaching the top I had to slow down and he got a gap of about 20m. After this I never managed to catch him again. Up the last climb, 'Strupen', I went as hard as I could, looking behind me all the time, worrying that someone was going to catch up. Instead I almost caught up with a rider in front of me (unfortunately from a different class).

I crossed the line and quickly ran to the officials who told me I had finished second. This was the first time I realized that I had actually done a really good race. I was overjoyed and punched my fist in the air. I don't think I've ever been as happy in my life. The competition had been fierce, pretty much all the best Swedish M40 riders had raced, and I had placed second!

I missed the price ceremony because I was sitting in my car thawing. So no podium photo :(

Results Billingeracet 2016

One more result link (if the first one doesn't work)


Heart rate

Suprisingly low heart rate. Both average and max. Weird! Usually that would mean I was not rested enough but then I should've performed worse as well

Bike setup

I decided to ride my full-suspension BMC Fourstroke XX1. The reason is that I wanted to save my legs in what I knew would be a long race. This worked out perfectly. I actually ended up using the Downhill mode of the Fox 32 CTD dampers over the rooty parts to make the ride more smooth (and also of course in the downhill sections).
I used my light Stans Notubes Valor carbon wheels. These are really light and accelerate so nicely. However, I feel now afterwards that I had inflated my tires a bit too much. 1.7 bars was too much for all these roots. 1.5 would have been better.

Strava

This is the fourth year that I participate in Billingeracet. I've logged all four years on Strava. It's really fun to look at how I've gotten faster.

Starting hill


Last hill ('Strupen'):


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Hotcup #2 - Good legs!!!

Result: 5th place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Renegade 2.0 1.6 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

With the most important race of the season so far coming up this saturday I set the bike up for today's Hotcup in the same way as I will race on Saturday (Billingeracet). That means I'm racing the Fourstroke and running my Stans Notubes Valor wheels with the easy rolling Specialized Fast Trak Control at the front and Specialized Renegade Control att the back. While today's race was a bit too close to saturday's I took a chance and went all in anyway. The 'training' the rest of the week has been and will be easy commuting by bike.

Result: Hotcup #2

The race went really well and I felt strong all through it. I was part of the second group. At one point Björn Österberg and another guy went off the front and I was able to chase them down but pushing really hard on the quick sections. Now, any day that I'm able to catch up with Björn Österberg is a good day. I also managed to leave the rest of the group behind.

All the climbs felt really well and I was able to overtake riders going uphill. I attribute this to my current low weight. This bodes well for Beskidy Trophy in two weeks.

However, with a really tough starting field the my finishing position of fifth place may not seem all that impressive. Everything physically felt really good however. Best legs so far this season!

Ahead of this race I was a bit worried whether I had fully recovered from H12 last saturday which was really tough. Strangely enough my heart rate today was some 5 beats lower than normally for this type of race. This may be an indication of the fact that I was not fully recovered. And that makes my performance even more impressive.

Now lets just see if I can fully recover before Saturday's important Billingerace...






Sunday, 8 May 2016

H12 - Team racing is FUN!

I don't often do team competitions. Mostly because I don't like to rely on other people (hm, that sounds harsh...). H12 is a Danish 12-hour mountain bike race which can be competed in as a team of four riders. We decided in our team, Scuderia Bike Italy BMC, to race H12 this year. Our strong rider was going to be Warren, but just a few weeks prior to the race he injured his hand in a race. Anton replaced him. So the team was: Anton, Jonas, Phille and I.

The bikes:
Alex: BMC Fourstroke XX1 (Tires: Fast Trak / Bontrager XR2)
Jonas : BMC Fourstroke XX1
Phille: BMC Fourstroke XX1
Anton: BMC Teamelite XT

The race draws a large crowd. The men's team competition had some 250 teams registered. Many of the best riders take part in this race. So we knew that competition was going to be strong.

The race takes place on a track where one lap is 11km long and a mix of single track and gravel road. The single track parts are quite rooty and rocky and there are some seriously steep, but short, climbs. It's not a track where you get many opportunities to take it easy.

We had decided on running one lap per team rider. We calculated on it taking about 30 minutes. It's rather intense so you run the entire lap at close to maximum heart rate. It's smart to make many short stints.

I took the first lap and managed to get us into tenth place. Jonas took the next, then Anton and lastly Phille. After a few laps we were switching between seventh, eight and ninth place, depending on who was riding the team's stints, and how fast the rider for the opposing team was. We were really even within the team, never more than a minute or two from eachother's lap times.

When we got about halfway through the race our placing had more or less stabilized at seventh place. However the eighth placed team was just a minute or two down. So we felt the heat from them all the time.

As evening was getting closer we realized that we may have to max out the team. I started to take extra laps. Chance had it so that I also went out on the last lap. I wasn't sure how far behind the rider of the other team was but I went all out anyway. However, with only 2km remaining of the last lap, he caught up with me. As he went past I managed to take his wheel and a frantic chase began. For the remainder of the lap I was on his wheel but I didn't find a way around. I made a last effort on the finishing straight but it was just too narrow and I couldn't get around him.

An eight place is still a great result and the whole team was happy. I still felt like I had let them down though.


With the terrain being as rough as it was, AND with the length of the race (I did 7 stints all-in-all, so close to 80km and almost 3.5 hours in total) it was so nice to have the full-suspension BMC Fourstroke. It really saved my body and I was able to perform good lap times all through. My last lap was actually my third fastest one!

 Video from first lap
Video from the first lap (link to Youtube)
Three quarters of the team (no, the girls were not part of the team but are in Scuderia Bike Italy BMC)