Thursday, 21 December 2017

4 x 4min Progress: 373 -> 391W -> 404W -> 407W


December 21: 407W (30 Strava Suffer Score, Max H/R @ 186)

December 2: 404W (32 Strava Suffer Score, Max H/R @ 188)

Another shot at the Fours early this morning

Heart rate went through the roof and maxed out at 188. Probably due to the fact that I hadn't done any intensive training since Tuesday (wasn't feeling 100% well)


November 17: 391W (29 Strava Suffer Score, Max H/R @ 184)


October 31: 373W (33 Strava Suffer Score)



Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Nines Progress: 279W -> 291W -> 304W -> 313W -> 318W -> 322W



December 5: 322W (112 Strava Suffer Score)

Marginal gains... Up four watts from last time, at a considerably higher heart rate. That hurt!

November 28: 318W (103 Strava Suffer Score)

Just a five watt increase from last time... And I was hurting all through this session. Much higher heart rate and Strava Suffer Score compared to last time. Ouch! :(

November 15: 313W (77 Strava Suffer Score)

The thing is that I wasn't actually going for a record this morning. The plan was to do the intervals at low cadence instead of the normal 90-100rpm. So I started the intervals at about 65rpms and 290W. But then my legs just wanted more so I ended up doing the last five at 320W and about 70rpm.

Heart rate was the lowest I have ever had for the nines and also the recovery time that Garmin gave me after was at 43 hours (compared to 3.5 days the first time I did the intervals)


November 7: 304W (97 Strava Suffer Score)

November 2:  291W (114 Strava Suffer Score)

October 25:  279W (109 Strava Suffer Score)


These intervals are performed in the following way:

1. 9 minute warm-up interval (does not count towards the average wattage)
2. Eight 9 minute intervals (average wattage is over these 8)
3. One minute rest between intervals, sitting still on the bike (not moving your legs)

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Heino Fall Race - Great form!

Bike: BMC Teamelite XX1,  Rocket Ron/Racing Ralph Snakeskin 2.25 F/B 1.4 bar


How's my form after all the hard Monark cycling?


After all the hard indoor Monark work this Autumn I was very curious about how I would perform in a longer race. I adapted this weeks training slightly to perform well in the upcoming Sunday race by only doing two shorter interval sessions and my regular longer 9x9 (Wednesday). All three interval sessions I was able to perform at new record watts. I did a longer low intensity ride the day before the race (2+ hours) but from experience I know that these don't really affect my race-day form.

Heino Fall Race


The Race is a longish and quick mountain bike race with few technical difficulties and quite a lot of gravel road. The single track is quick and flowing. Two laps and 45 km in total. Few climbs but the ones that do exist are quite steep. There are no age categories in this race and as many of the best Danish riders turn up the opposition is tough. Danish pro Benjamin Justesen usually races and he was here this year too.

I've ridden this race many times over the years:

2016: 12th
2015: Aborted due to snow chaos
2014: 13th
2013: 24th

This makes the race a good benchmark


So how did the race go?


Going up the initial hill I was slow and just managed to hang on the the tail end of the lead group of some 20-30 riders. However as soon as we reached level gravel road I went into turbo mode, overtook everyone, and led the whole pack up the second hill. Three guys outsprinted me to the top and went away from the rest of us. I formed a second group with four other guys: Palle Jensen, Jacob Nielsen, Victor Philipsen, Anders Edvard Johanssen. Up ahead were were three guys, among them Benjamin Justesen (pro) leading the race.

It's been a long time since I was able to hang onto Palle in a race so I was really happy to be able to tag along. Towards the end of the first lap, in a slippery downhill, Palle got a bit of a gap and and Victor joined them. The rest of us chased after them and almost caught them a couple of times but when we lapped to go out for the second lap they were about half a minute ahead of us.

Pace was still high as the three of us (me, Jacob and Anders) went out for the second lap. Jacob and Anders pulled hard when they were out front and I had few opportunities to help. I noticed that Anders didn't have the best grip in his rear tire because it kept slipping in the muddy uphills. At one of these uphills, halfway through the second lap, Anders slipped again and had to get off his bike and as I was on his wheel I had to get off as well. Jacob took the opportunity to sprint ahead but I thought we would easily catch him.

Anders did chase hard with me on his wheel. I thought it was only fair as it was his 'fault' that Jacob had got the lap. However after a while it seemed that Anders was getting more tired so I went ahead. I noticed that we weren't going to catch Jacob so I started thinking about how I was going to get rid of Anders. On the first lap I noticed that there was a slippery muddy climb just 3 km from the finish and I planned to make my move there. As we got to this slippery part I went all-in and pushed hard. After the climb there was a slippery and bumpy downhill and I kept going hard there without looking back. When I got down to the next gravel road I looked behind but I could see no sign of Anders. I kept pushing hard the last few kilometers to the finish.

Seventh place... very nice. My best result ever at Heino.


Power data


The power data from this race was really low and I think it may be because of a calibration of the power meter that I did the day before the race. I have to re-callibrate it to make sure it's correct. Left-right power however is valid:



Sunday, 12 November 2017

Make your own energy gels in 5 minutes

The recipe is really simple, it has two ingredients, and takes 5 minutes:

  • 1 part fructose
  • 2 parts maltodextrin
  • Some water (the amount is up to you depending on how thick you want the gel)

In this example I used:

  • 200 grams fructose
  • 400 grams maltodextrin
  • 400 ml water

The process

  1. Heat the water to just below boiling
  2. Stir in all the sugar
  3. Mix
  4. Pour into bottles
  5. If you want: add flavoring
  6. Also optional: add other stuff like caffeine

While riding I carry it in the small plastic bottle that you can see in the photo



Maltodextrin and Fructose

2 parts Maltodextrin, 1 part Fructose, some water

Stir all the sugar into the warm water

Add flavoring... if you like

Store the energy gel in bottles


Pour the gel into one of these bottles for taking along a ride

Monday, 6 November 2017

Mountain Bike Racing with a Power Meter

The power figures presented here are probably exaggerated. I think I may have forgotten to calibrate the Quarq. The rest of the comparisons are still valid however


The Quarq


Recently I bought a Quarq power meter for my MTB. I've done two races now where I've used it. During the races I have glanced down at it from time to time but it's kind of hard reading the information while your bouncing around on singletrack. Sure, if there's  a longer section of gravel road or a climb then you can look down at the power data and get some useful information. However, what is interesting and entertaining (and useful?), is all the data that you have after a race.


Endurance / distributing the power


Yesterday I raced the first race in the Danish Winter cup vitnercuppen.dk. It was a 70 minutes + the lap race and I managed 4 laps in that time (and came in fourth place in the race).

I was happy with the race as I went out hard and was able to keep the power up the whole race... Or that's how it FELT during the race. But normally it would be hard to also PROVE that. Now I have the numbers. First the lap times:
  1. 00:19:26
  2. 00:19:39
  3. 00:20:20
  4. 00:20:27
Quite even, a little slower towards the end, but then the track did get gradually more and more muddy.

Let's look at heart rate and power data for the four laps (in the same order as above):


Power was remarkably even throughout the race, the variation between the slowest and fastest lap was 9W, which is 3%.

The data supports the feeling that I had: That I was able to maintain intensity throughout the race.

Left / Right


As the Quarq measures both side I get left/right power. Here's data from the two races that I've done:


I use my right leg more than my left. Which perhaps is normal?

The Stages power meters that I have on my road bike and the stationary Monark bike only measure the left side. That means that I'm actually a bit stronger than the numbers that I get from those two. So that's good...

Comparing races


I now have power data from two different races that I've done using the Quarq. The Griben race which was a race purely on gravel roads. I punctured halfway into the race so the power data is up until then. The second one is the first race of Vintercuppen.dk which I would consider a proppr MTB race. Both are very similar in length (1h14m, 1h20m):

Here are the numbers (first Griben, then Vintercuppen #1):

Average power:            300W          298W
Weighted average power:   314W          314W
Max power:                778W          925W

First half of Griben MTB/CX

Vintercuppen.dk #1




Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Training and Racing this Winter

Racing

The main thought behind racing during the winter is that it provides great training. A hard training sessions is a good training session, and I personally never go as hard as when I race.

As of writing this blog post I have in fact already done three races: A cyclocross race which I did on my mountain bike (as I don't own a cyclocross bike... yet).  Then a race in Hässleholm CK Wintercup. Also a Marathon MTB Race in Denmark, but I punctured there. However before puncturing I recorded my best FTP yet!


This of course again proves that racing is the best training as you're never as motivated to give your all as you do when you race.

How can I have FTP data from a race then? I got myself a Quarq power meter for my MTB!



Vintercuppen.dk

This Danish MTB Cup has six races of about one hour from November to March. I raced in this cup both in 2015 and 2016 and places 2nd and 3rd respectively. It's a great length of time to race because an hour gives you absolutely max intensity but also quick recovery.

Heino Fall Race

This Danish MTB marathon in the beginning of November is a lot of fun. I've raced it for many years. All the good riders always turn up and the trails are quick and flowy. The only problem was in 2015 when there was so much snow that I wasn't able to complete both laps of the race.

Hässleholm CK Vintercup

A local Swedish Cycling Club, Hässleholm CK, have their own winter MTB cup. It's only an hour's drive away and a good opportunity to get race pace training.

Training

In-door training and Motivation

When I still lived in Malmö my main winter training was doing spinning classes at the local gym. The bikes there had watt meters and so it motivated me to score as high on the watts and kcals as I possibly could. This led to good intensity workouts. However since we moved outside the big city there are no spinning classes nearby. 

Last year was the first time that I started using the stationary bike (Monark 828 Strip) at home. The Monark is an excellent training platform but it's sort of weird to set up for a training session: The bike has to be set to a certain resistance in watts at a certain RPM. After that you can't touch the resistance lever or you ruin the calibration, i.e you don't know what watts you're running at. Last spring I got a Stages watt meter for the Monark and that made all the difference: I didn't have to set a certain watt level to run the training session at because the Stages had the watt output. Also this meant that I had a log of the watts after the session. Since I got the Stages getting on the Monark has been a lot more interesting and motivating.

Looking at my training sessions from last Winter I felt that perhaps I wasn't all that motivated. My training discipline has never been my strongest side and I always need a clear goal to shoot for. So this winter my goal will be... WATTS! I've already done a few training sessions on the stationary bike where I've really felt motivated in achieving the highest possible wattage and it has worked great! The intensity (heart rate) has been super high!


Motivation is everything

I decided to try another benchmark this morning: 4 times 4 minutes (with 4 minutes rest in between)

I remember also attempting this in May when my goal had been to crack 360W but when I had failed and ended up with 350W. However looking at my heart rate from that session I wonder if I really tried. 27 in Suffer Score and 15 Points In The Red.



Today I managed a 373W average. The H/R analysis looks like this. 33 in Suffer Score and 24 Points In The Red.


I guess motivation is everything

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Nine nine minute intervals @ 279W

I tried a new type of interval session this morning: Nine times nine minute intervals. One minute rest in between and during that rest you have to stay perfectly still - no pedaling. It was probably the most painful session I've ever done indoors

The first interval was warmup @ 240W
The other eight intervals had average watts of: 280W, 285W, 282W, 280W, 279W, 272W, 272W, 279W
Average H/R for the intervals: 160, 165, 170, 173, 176, 177, 178, 183

This is pretty much the most painful thing I've ever done.

Also observe the heart rate graph: It starts up easy but then just climbs. The rest does very little to lower the H/R and within one minute into the next interval it's back up at the highest point from the previous.


Lots of points in the red:


And a looooong recovery period:



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Summary of 2017 season

With the last of the regular summer races done with it's time to summarize the 2017 season:

NOT SO GOOD

Yeah, I had higher expectations.

Things didn't start off well with the heel injury just prior to Andalucia Bike Race which meant I couldn't train properly (and also gained weight before the start of the race). Then I suffered my catastrophic mechanical failure and had to abort the race during the fifth stage. Well, at that point I didn't care that much anymore.

The next goal was the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen). I had a fourth place in the cup from 2016 to improve upon.

The cup started of with my favorite race: Billingeracet. I had trained well before the race and my weight was good. The year before I had come in second place so expectations were high for this year. I finished sixth. A bit of a disappointment but I felt that I had done a good race. Looking at some of the Strava segments during the race also told the same story: I was quicker than the year before. So I guess the opposition was tougher.

Things didn't get much better; In the next race, Lång Lugnet, I came in seventh place. In fact that was the theme for the rest of the races in the cup: Mediocre results. Well, that's when they weren't out right awful, I had a few of those as well.

I finished the Swedish Marathon Cup in sixth place overall. Two places worse than the year before. Also not a single podium finish in any of the races.



The middle season goal was the stage race Beskidy Trophy in June. In 2016 I finished in fourth place, just 60 seconds down on third. Again this year the preparations involved a big push to lose weight and I got down to close to 70 kg just before the race. Pretty much the same as last year. I ended up finishing in sixth place, mostly due to a terrible second stage with lots of punctures. If I deducted the time that I lost during that stage it looked like I might have finished in fourth again. A good result, but not what I was looking for.

There was also the Swedish Marathon Championships: I had a good training period before them, weight was not perfect, but good. But then I suffered a puncture within the first kilometer. The way I was able to catch up and finish in 10th place in spite of this tells me that I was in good shape. Especially as I the day after had my best placing in the Marathon Cup: 5th place.

So what went wrong?

I don't know. I think that I'm going to sit down and have a good think about it. One of my theories is that I don't do enough high intensity training. Someone may say that I need to be more structured in my training. And they'd be right in saying that. I have an idea for a separate blog post about this. Coming up!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Västgötaloppet - Worst race of the year

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



Last race of the Cup


The racing season has been long for me this year (my season started with the Andalucia Bike Race in February) but this was the last race. It was also the last race of the Swedish Marathon Cup. Motivation was not the best but I did manage to find the energy to swap the Thunderburt that I had in the back for a Rocket Ron. This seemed more appropriate as there had been a lot of rain and the track was going to be muddy.


Before the start: Still happy. This would change

Heavy legs that got lighter


As the race started my legs immediately felt very heavy but it all changed after just a few hundred meters. All of a sudden I was flying past a bunch of well known faces who I know are strong cyclists. I managed to hang on to the wheels of a small but strong group who went absolutely bananas during the start loop. As the start loop ended we had caught up to a larger group that had the eventual M40 winner, Robert Eliasson, in it. At this point I thought that either I'm going really quickly or Robert is having a bad day.


First half of the race


As we moved into the singletrack I lost Robert but there were still strong cyclists around me and the pace was good. The thing is that I expect the start of the race to hurt a lot and heart rate is high, but I know that it will get easier as people start to settle down. 

Today, however, it was like I didn't have any time to recover. The pace didn't slow, and I just kept getting more and more tired. The well known faces that I had left behind caught up with out group and soon I had Daniel Grass, Lars Hansen and Jerry Olsson with me.




Lights out


At about 30km, with every acceleration and climb still feeling like it took every ounce of energy from me, I started to feel that perhaps all was not well. Then, as we came around the stadium to lap at 40km all energy just left my body. I let go of the group and started thinking about aborting the race. Getting this tired just halfway through a race is not normal. I can't start doing damage control while knowing that I have 2 hours of riding left. After some thinking I decided to finish the race.

Typically when you hit this sort of a wall you notice it by your heart beat decreasing. It can clearly be seen from the graph below

Looking at the H/R curve you can see where I hit that invisible wall of tiredness


Limiting the pain


After I had decided that I was going to continue on with the race I was at first too tired to hang on to any of the riders that went by me. But after a while I took some wheels and managed to hold them at least for some kilometers. Every climb that came just killed me. Each section of singletrack was muddy and there was never an opportunity to just roll along: Everything took an immense effort.


The end


I finished the race in 14th place and that puts me in sixth overall in this year's cup. It's a disappointment as when I was planning the season I was aiming for a podium finish. Last year I came in fourth place in the overall standings for the cup


Tired and not so happy

Picked up some mud on the way


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bockstensturen - Insect bites and cracked saddles

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

Result: 10th place

Bitten by something

I went out the evening before the race just to make sure everything was working on the bike. I didn't get much further than a few meters into the forest before something bit me on the right side of my face. There was a burning sensation but it didn't swell up like a bite from a bee. I kept biking for a few more minutes and then suddenly my whole body starts itching. I turn around and head home and for the next hours I'm itching all over and my skin breaks out in small goose bumps. I take some antihistamine pills and wait for it to pass... although I can't really "wait" because then I go crazy from the itch so I try to keep myself occupied with computer games. At around 1 am I manage to fall asleep.

Reaction from being bitten by some kind of insect

I wake up the next morning feeling "okay" and decide to do the race anyway. I had a bit of a sore throat but I wasn't sure if that was part of the allergic reaction or not.


Bockstensturen


Bockstensturen is the toughest of the races in Långloppscupen: 100km and plenty of climbs. It's a bit different because you have this transport section that goes on roads out into the forest; about 17 km long. Then you have some 60 kilometers of mostly singletrack, before you leave the forest and head back towards Varberg.

Typically, as the race is late in the season, there will have been some rain and the terrain will be muddy. This was the case this year as well and I was covered in mud when I finished

Before the forest


As every year the start is just beside the beautiful castle, close to the sea, in the city of Varberg. It's the most spectacular start of any of the races in the cup.

The first 17 km of the race, on paved and gravel roads, went well. There's always a lead group of Elite riders who set a crazy pace and all I need to do is stay in the group and enjoy being pulled along. I remember that in 2016 the pace out of Varberg was absolutely crazy and I just managed to hang on. This year it was easier.

The forest and the climbs


As the track progressed into the forest there's a few climbs to be negotiated. On previous years I have at times gone a bit too hard here. This year I took it a bit easier but it seemed that the pace was good as I saw some familiar faces around me who I know are quick riders: Stefan Hellman, Daniel Grass and Lars Hansen.

Something went "CRACK!"


At about 40 km into the race there's some sort of bump which pushes the rear of the bike suddenly upwards and the saddle hits my ass rather hard. I hear a cracking noise. I feel that something must have gone wrong with the saddle. I've had a Tune Kom-Vorr before and had it crack on me, at that time I had decided to abort the race. I try to sit on the saddle and it seems possible, however I also notice that my bibs are getting stuck on something that's ripping them appart. It's also restricting my movement a lot: I'm not able to properly stand up. I notice that as long as I just sit as far forward on the saddle as possible I'm able to continue.



Hanging onto the quick boys


In spite of the cracked saddle I manage to hang onto this very nice group that has formed. I notice that I handle the somewhat slippery and technical downhill section better than I have previous years. 

At about 60km I start getting tired and realize that I will probably have to let the group go so that I can make it to the end of the race.





Surviving to the finish


After letting go of my quick group I end up riding by myself for a while. Then another group comes by but they're going really quickly so I just manage to follow for a few kilometers. Towards the end another smaller group of three riders form and I'm able to follow at that pace...

But then, with just 10km to go, my calves start cramping up. With just one cramping at a time I'm able to stretch and get rid of the cramp. But then all of a sudden both of them cramp up at the same time and all I can do is stand up to stretch both as hard as I can, but then I'm not able to pedal. So I let the two other riders go and wait for the cramps to pass while I slowly roll ahead. 

After the cramps pass I'm able to speed up and hold a good pace to the finish line.

I finish in 10th place and do my quickest time ever on Bockstensturen: 04:01:07s

Past years for reference:
2017: 04:01:07 (10th place)
2016: 04:04:06  (7th)
2015: 04:32:25  (12th)
2014: 04:02:29 (5th, 95km)
2013: 03:58:19 (28th, 95km)
2012: 04:10:24 (36th 95km)


My torn bibs from the cracked saddle

Young Jakob Håkansson, who has been my training partner

Monday, 28 August 2017

XCup #6 - Unbelievable mudfest

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

Result: Somewhere far behind

I had been sick for most of the week, and spent most of the night before the race in the bathroom. That meant very little training for almost an entire week: I needed a high intensity workout. Had I stayed at home and gone for a ride in the forest I would've just felt tired and cranky. The best solution to get the right intensity was the local XCup race. I had some extra tissue paper with me if I had an emergency...

Unfortunately the race turned out to be a real mudfest. It had rained during the night and it rained during the race. The track is built on almost 100% dirt which turned to mud. Large parts of the track were not ridable at all. Lots of riders aborted halfway through.

It turned out to be a good high intensity session anyway.


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. Although 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 Stan's fluid and no other signs of an actual hole in the tire. I didn't lose 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 in the M40 category. 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.