Thursday, 20 June 2019

Beskidy Trophy 2019 LIVE

Stage 3

Sixth place in M40. 28th place overall.

Major problems with rear brake today. Even braking for a short period of time overheated the brake. I had to descend slowly and lost time. I was rather annoyed.

Still, sixth place on the stage and if my calculations are correct I'm still in fourth place overall.

Stage 2

Sixth place in M40. 34th place overall.

Top-6 M40:
14 M4/1 JABŁOŃSKI, Marcin          3:44:55.41
20 M4/2 CIBART, Piotr BALTIC HOME                3:51:31.86
24 M4/3 ZACHARSKI, Szymon Bike Shop Radom        3:53:13.93
29 M4/4 NELSON, Calle Team Goats                 3:55:29.49
31 M4/5 JAWORSKI, Tomasz Baltic Home Świnoujście 3:56:24.50
34 M4/6 LAPAJNE, Alexander CKX                   4:00:24.56

Most of today's stage was new for me. I had not ridden it before in my previous years of racing Beskidy Trophy. This means I didn't know quite what to expect.

Things started of well: There was quite a bit of flat riding leading up to the first hill. I decided to make sure to stay with the lead group and get a good lift on the flat part. This went well and I barely needed to pedal.

All in all there were three climbs. The first one I held back a bit because I was feeling quite worn after yesterday's stage. The downhill after was a bit tricky but went mostly well.

Going up the second hill I pushed harder and was able to take quite a few places going up the hill. But then came the big surprise: A loooong downhill on trails that are part of a bikepark. There were jumps, drops and other tricky stuff. A lot of it without any warning what so ever. I became insecure and overly careful. This means I got off the bike on several occasions where I felt it was too dangerous and walked. I was passed by perhaps 10 or 15 riders and this was rather depressing.

After this downhill there was a longish flat section leading up to the last hill. Here I felt I needed to catch up for time lost on the last downhill. I gunned it and started passing riders. At the bottom of the last hill there was a feeding section which I just blew past as I knew there was another one halfway up the last climb. I passed about 10 riders filling their bottles there.

Going up the last hill started off quite well and I passed some more riders but towards the top I got really tired and my watts dipped below 200 on a couple of occasions. At the top I was physically and mentally exhausted and it's always hard to start a technical descent in this state. I managed okay but then halfway down the rain started pouring down (see photo below). Luckily I had passed the worst part of the descent at this point and was able to handle the quickly worsening conditions quite well.

Over the finish line in 6th place.

I've lost one place and am fourth overall now

1. JABŁOŃSKI, Marcin  3:35:42,47 3:44:55,41 7:20:37,88
2. CIBART, Piotr      3:38:19,29 3:51:31,86 7:29:51,15 
3. ZACHARSKI, Szymon  3:44:09,04 3:53:13,93 7:37:22,97
4. LAPAJNE, Alexander 3:38:12,76 4:00:24,56 7:38:37,32
5. KUBALA, Tomasz     3:31:44,57 4:07:59,69 7:39:44,26
6. NELSON, Calle      3:48:03,40 3:55:29,49 7:43:32,89 

After my problems with overheating rear brake during stage 1 I switched to a beefier brake disc in the rear. It helped a bit during stage 2 but it still overheated a few times. When this happens the brake lever does nothing and I have to pump it to get any braking back again.

Stage 1

Third place in my category. 20th place overall.

Top-5 M40:
11 M4/1 KUBALA, Tomasz Pressing Bike Team 3:32:04.57
15 M4/2 JABŁOŃSKI, Marcin      3:35:52.47
20 M4/3 LAPAJNE, Alexander  CKX               3:38:17.76
22 M4/4 CIBART, Piotr BALTIC HOME        3:38:19.29
27 M4/5 ZACHARSKI, Szymon   Bike Shop Radom    3:44:09.04

The weather outlook for this year's Beskidy Trophy had been depressing for the last few weeks before the race. With that in the back of our heads we were surprised when we arrived in Istebna the day before the race and it was sunny and dry everywhere. This morning the weather was still super nice and sunny... and perhaps even a bit too warm.

I was seeded in the first start group. I noticed as I entered grid I noticed that Szymon Zacharski was there and I exchanged a few words with him (Szymon has won Beskidy Trophy most of the year's that I've done the race). He said that he didn't feel his chances this year were too good because there were some very strong compeditors in the M40 category. That scared me a bit.

At 9:00 sharp we were off (see the video below) and straight into the first climb of about 400hm. I held on to the front group for a while until the pace got too quick and then picked my own rhytm up the hill. Things felt good and I noticed afterwards that I'd done the climb almost a minute quicker than any of the previous year's.

Overall the climbs went well for most of the race. The downhills on the other hand had my rear brake overheating and the brake lever went slack a few times. I had to slow down and use my front brake and lost a few placings in that way. It's quite a scary feeling to completely lose brake function in the rear when going steeply downhill. At one point the brake overheated so extremely that when I got down on the flat it wouldn't release until I pumped it hard a few times. Overall, when my brakes actually worked, I felt brave in the downhills and didn't lose any time.

Towards the end of the race I got rather tired and the last climb went 40 seconds slower than last year. I still managed to cross the line in third place in M40 and so I'm very happy with that result.

I'm running Ashima super-light brake discs and I think I will change my rear brake disc to a more massive one to hopefully avoid overheating tomorrow.

Video from start of stage 1

Video from first climb (you can see me 29 seconds into the video)

Strava link

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Beskidy Trophy 2019 Starts in 7 days

It's time again! Beskidy Trophy 2019! The race!

Why do I love this race? The climbs of course! This is where I shine! About 2500 meters altitude gain per stage.

Stage 1: 62km 2530hm
Stage 2: 70km 2476hm
Stage 3: 72km 2588hm
Stage 4: 59km 2424hm

This will be my fifth Beskidy Trophy. I've ridden the race every year since 2015.

My placings (M40 category):


How's the form? I did a set of record 9x9min intervals last Sunday @ 332W. Also the Hotcup race I did in Denmark last night felt really good: I was killing it on the climbs and the straights.

What steps have I taken to maximize my form? Last week I had a seriously tough training week with a TSS of almost 600. I did a total of 5 HIT sessions including two 9x9min. This week all I'll do is two shorter races: Hotcup yesterday (1.5 hours) and XCup on Sunday (just over an hour). This should let my body rest up and lead to a peak in form just ahead of Beskidy which starts Thursday next week. I really love the quality of these 1-1.5 hour races which give a very nice training effect while not taking too long to recover from.

Strava's idea of my current form

Weight with one week to go is at just below 71kg. Same as last two years. I've dropped about 3 kilos in the last month.

Just dropped below 71kg with one week to go

I'm racing my 'old' 2017 Trek Top Fuel 9.9. Why? We'll... I'm going to do a separate blog post about this but I don't like the Rockshox SID SE fork that came with my new 2019 Trek Top Fuel 9.9. After much fiddling around and trying to set it up correctly (again, a separate blog post coming up about this) but not being able to make it as 'soft' as I want it I decided to sell it and order a Fox 32 SC Factory. I've just not had the new Fox delivered yet and it's unsure if it will get to me before the race starts.

A change that I'm making from previous years is that I'll be running 2.25" wide tires both front AND rear. First year ever. Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25" Speed Snakeskin to be specific. The first year I ran 2.1" both front and rear, last year I had 2.25" front and 2.1" in the rear. This year I want a nice and comfortable ride downhill and so I'm going with 2.25" in the rear as well. I'm giving up a little bit of performance in weight as the rear tire is about 50 grams heavier than a 2.1" would be. But I think it'll make me quicker all around.

The weather prognosis is poor... But that's just normal for Beskidy. You may remember that last year they had to cancel the last stage due to poor weather.

Current weather prognosis for Beskidy weather
Who else is racing? What's my opposition like?
The guy who won last year in my cat, Szymon Zacharski, has signed up. So has second place Paweł Gaca. There are 258 racers (and 66 on the waiting list) all in all but I don't really recognize most of the names so I have no idea who's quick and who's not.

I'm getting 'old' for the M40 cat (or M4 as it's called at Beskidy Trophy). Next year I'll be in M50 everywhere else but surprisingly, at Beskidy Trophy, I have another year in M4.

List of nationalities:
Poland:             113 racers
Denmark:            30
Germany:            28
Czech Republic:     19
Latvia:             10
Sweden:             9

Russian Federation: 9
Lithuania:          9
Ukraine:            7
Belarus:            7
Belgium:            6
Slovakia:           3
Croatia:            3
(..and some other countries with just a couple of participants...)

Monday, 3 June 2019

Långa Lugnet - A gamble that paid off

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL (2017)  Racing Ralph 2.10 1.5 bar / Thunder Burt 2.10 1.6 bar

For this third race in the Swedish Marathon Cup ("Långloppscupen") I decided that I was going to optimize my chances and take a slight risk. This race has quite a lot of climbing and some quick sections on gravel roads and jogging paths. Well, that last part was at least how I remembered the race. With this in mind the chance that I took was to change tires to fast rolling and light ones: 2.1" both front and back with Thunder Burt at the back.

Easy rolling stuff (540 gram)

The race is 61km and has three loops. It starts off with a good and long climb.  You need to conserve your energy as the last loop has a lot of climbs. The fun thing is that each loop ends with a "built" downhill section. Weather on race day was warm and sunny but the previous day had A LOT of rain. I was hoping for a dry track (which would suit my choice in tires).

I had been dropped during the rush at the start of the last few races of the Spring so I was afraid of this happening again. The good thing is that as Beskidy Trophy is just a few weeks away and I'm dropping weight for that race so I'm down to just above 71 kg. I did two hard attempts of the start climb during my warmup session to be ready for the start.

The race started and the usual scenario did NOT play out: I was NOT dropped at the start of the race. I was hanging in there quite nicely and as the climb progressed I started moving up the field. Good!

Just after the start climb

After a few kilometers I slipped a bit in my attention and had to pay the price: The terrain got a bit flatter for a while and I slowed a little bit to catch my breath. At this point I was leading my group and first two riders slipped by, and then a third pushed his way ahead of me. The section quickly turned uphill and before I thought that the pace was rather pleasant, just before noticing that the guy in front of me was dropping behind the other two riders. I overtook him and worked on closing the gap but it was too late as we got out into a road section. I ended up riding that road section and another couple on my own while the the guys in front of me closed to gap and joined the next group ahead. Darned!

After a while I gave up on trying to close the gap to the group in front of me and let the guys behind catch up. Shortly after this I dropped my chain on a bumpy downhill while I was in top gear. Cursing I got off the bike and quickly got the chain back on. It didn't take long but I had a gap to close to the group ahead of me. I sprinted on the next road section and was able to get on the tail of the group just before going into the next climb. Entering the climb at max H/R was not pleasant. I still managed to move to the head of the group. Climbs were feeling good but I now knew that I had been going hard for a long time and it was very early in the race: It was time to slow down and get my bearings. Not more sprinting to catch new groups.

Downhill section at the end of the first loop
Downhill section at the end of the first loop

Going out into the second loop we got to the section that I had completely forgotten: Roots and deep mud. This is my nightmare scenario: A mud hole partioned off by roots, leading to a spång. There  was plenty of this. I did one over-the-bar as my front wheel got caught in a mud hole that was deeper than it looked. I only lost seconds but decided to take it easier. I got overtaken by a few riders and felt sort of discouraged.

Going out on the third loop I remembered that this was the part of the race that I had lost a lot of placing on many previous attempts. There are a lot of climbs and it wears you down after you've already been racing for two hours. Weirdly enough this time the climbs felt easier than I could remember them. With 4 km left of the race all that was left was the last downhill section and then the finish line. Here I was passed by one M40 rider who I tried my best to catch but he slipped over the finish line ahead of me.
I had no high hopes for a good placing but then found out from my friend Andreas that I had finished sixth. I was very surprised. I've raced here most years since 2013 and sixth is my best placing ever. Nice!

To be honest some of the best riders were not present so that may have helped me get a good placing in this race.



Average H/R:            167 (rather low)
Max H/R:                199 (glitch in the H/R strap again?)
Average power:          234W
Weighted average power: 268W

We have a long drive south after each year racing in Falun but after about two hours we pass this lovely place called Bergslagens Praliner. It a coffee shop with two ladies who make their own absolutely amazing pralines.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Lida Loop - Mud, rain, slippery stuff and crashes

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL (2017)  Racing Ray 2.25 1.4 bar / Racing Ralph 2.10 1.6 bar

Lida Loop has never been one of my favourite races. Why? Because of the terrain. There are slabs of rocks and lots of tall roots. We don't get that kind of terrain in the south of Sweden where I live. I have in fact not races Lida Loop that many times as it has crashed with Beskidy Trophy several times. I did the race in 2014 and came ninth. Then 2017 I aborted due to mechanical issues. Last year I came in 10th place.

Last year was a dry race. This year was not. Early on in the week all the weather prognoses foretold of rain. And the forecast came true. It was raining the day before the race, the morning of the race, during the start, and most of the race. Things got slippery. I don't like slippery.

Another thing that I don't like about Lida Loop is the extremely short and steep starting climb. Normally I love a good starting climb. But the one at Lida Loop is just too short: Under a minute long. It takes explosive muscles. I don't have explosive muscles.

Going up the first climb I was passed by pretty much everyone. The good thing is that just after the climb there are wide jogging paths where you can ride 3-4 cyclists abreast and so it's easy to overtake. Which is what I did. I realised how far back I was when it took me something like 10 kilometers to catch up with Max Ahston (no offence Max, if you're reading this).

Just after the starting climb - Still clean

Towards the end of the first loop I caught Robert Eliasson and that's when I thought that perhaps I wasn't doing all that poorly after all. I was however wrong. The thing about the first loop is that's it's easy riding with mostly wide jogging tracks and some gravel roads. Not until the end of the first loop do you reach some rocky sections.

Going out on the second loop we got to the serious rock slabs... and roots... and they were all wet and slippery. Robert Eliasson flew by me as I hesitated and tried to chose the right line over the rocks. A minute after that I crashed. It was a silly crash really: My front wheel got stuck on a root and I wasn't able to put down a foot so I fell over sideways and banged my left leg on a rock. My shinbone to be exact. It didn't hurt all that much and I was back on my bike in seconds. I continued to lose time and placing in this section though and I never saw Robert again.

Start of loop 2

Start of second loop - You can see my left shin bleading

I looked down at my left leg a few times and I could see it bleeding. But I didn't think much more of it.

As we left the rock slabs I started to pick up the pace again. The second loop had some nice climbs where I could go hard. I was leaving riders behind and that felt good.

And then I crashed again: I was lifting my front wheel over a tall root but as the wheel landed it bounced a bit to the right and my right handlebar got stuck on a tree and over I went. Again I got back on the bike in mere seconds.

The third loop is easy BUT it starts with an extremely rooty section. I wasn't quick. I got passed a lot. But then the terrain got easier with a lot of road sections. Which should have been good but at this point I was getting very tired. The last 12-13 kilometers I lost placing but with 8 kilometers to go, Tomas Berg (who ended up winning M50) came up from behind and with his help I made it across the finish line without losing further placing.

Just before the finish

Just meters from the finish line

The thing with Tomas Berg coming up from behind was actually a bit funny because next year I will be riding in the M50 category so my performance on this terrible day was still enough to win me a theoretical first place finish in M50.

I crossed the line in 11th place.

Average H/R:            168 (rather low)
Max H/R:                182 (glitch in the H/R strap again?)
Average power:          239W
Weighted average power: 262W

After the race when checking my left leg I noticed that my injury was a bit worse than I had thought. It ended with a trip to the emergency room and three stitches.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Billingeracet - Aborted after 6 kilometers due to massive nail

My favorite race in the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen), Billingeracet, became a short affair: I noticed that my rear tire was a bit wobbly some 20 minutes into the race. I stop and have a look and there's a long nail sticking straight through my tire. It's gone in at the thread and out just above the rim. About 5 centimeters is sticking out each end. I pulled it out and tried to get the tubeless fluid to plug the hole while spending to CO2 cartridges trying to inflate the tire. No go! It just leaked out. I'm trying out Muck Off's tubeless fluid this year for the first time. It's supposed to plug bigger holes than its competitors. I'm not sure if this was a fair test though as the hole was really big. See photos below.

I was pretty disappointed but after a while I did try to get a tube in the tire and inflate it using the last CO2 cartridge that I had with me. But somehow the inflator or/and tube valve failed and all the CO2 went by the side. At that point I decided to give up. I went back to the car, inflated to tire using my big pump, took the bike into central Skövde and found a chocolate shop where I could buy some fancy pralines.

I rode back to the start/finish area and enjoyed my pralines while looking at my pals riding the race. Sandra did great and finished 4th in Women Elite.

Not me in the podium but Sandra in fourth place

Top one is where the nail went in and bottom where it was sticking out

Nail went in here

Nail went out here

Monday, 6 May 2019

Göteborgsgirot MTB (aka Bra Bil XC MTB) - The race with a bi-polar disorder

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SL (2019)  Rocket Ron 2.25 1.5 bar / Racing Ralph 2.25 1.6 bar

Result: 14th place overall

Me on a spång

Göteborgsgirot MTB

I drove up to Gothenburg in the morning to try this race, sort of, for the first time. I actually did ride it the first time they ever organized the race, back in 2013. But the course had changed since then so this still felt like the first time.

Back in 2013 the terrain that they chose for the race was crazy technical and dangerous. Back then I wasn't a good mountain biker, I'll admit that. Still, when the girlfriend and I decided to try the race we knew it was open for all riders (including non-licensed) and so we thought: "How bad can it be? They won't want to kill people... right??" It turned out to be REALLY bad at that time. Sandra crashed out of the race early and had to retire. I remember getting off my bike and walking several sections because they were just too dangerous.

I wasn't expecting that kind of technical terrain this time around.

The track is 50km long. It starts of quite centrally in Gothenburg so you have a police motorbike escort the first 4km out of town, until they let the field go. The weather was dry, sunny but cold.

Getting out of Gothenburg

I lined up on the grid next to my old racing pal Robert Eliasson. I don't know how many marathons we've done together. He's a local guy and has done this race many times. He told me before the race that it usually ends in one of two ways: A puncture or failed navigation. After the race I understood exactly why.

Two good things:
1. Car parking is right next to the start of the race. Litterally meters away.
2. You can get a good position in the start grid.

The first four kilometers of the race went through Gothenburg, on (narrow) bicycle paths, with police motorcycles in front controlling the (slow) pace. There was a lot of braking, some swearing, and a lot of bunching up. Some cyclists took shortcuts. The whole situation was mildly annoying. I didn't know exactly when they were going to let the race start so I had to try to keep a good position in the field. I saw cyclists around me who were clearly not of the "quick kind" but who were very eager and so quite aggressive.

Release the riders!

We left town and got to an area with jogging paths and here the field was released. I was not in the best position (as so often) and slow to start (quite common too) but I gradually made my way to the lead group of about 15 riders. Robert Eliasson was there, and some really quick elite guys. This first part went mostly on wide jogging paths and the pace was quick. There were a lot of quick and short climbs. Actually this whole race is full of climbs and descents and has few flat areas.

The bi-polar race

After a few kilometers of this quick and non-technical riding on paths we got into the rough stuff. My immediate reaction was that I was surprised by how rough the rough stuff really was. If you made the wrong choice of path over the rocky terrain you could easily end up going over a 1 meter drop.

There were also lots of (high) roots. Lots of roots and stones! Knowing the terrain, and which route to take around the obstacles, was a BIG advantage here.

Also, "spång"/"spänger"... a LOT of them. If you're Swedish you know this word: It's a small and narrow bridge. You can see one on the photo above from the race. That particular "spång" is really really wide, most of them are just three planks wide... some are two planks.

So what happened? Well, not knowing the terrain I took it easy. I got overtaken by some 4 or 5 of guys who seemed to really know the terrain because they really flew past me.

Then on the next climb I caught the same guys and went around them... really quickly. And then repeat on the next downhill with them going past me. After I while I felt I had to apologize for my riding: "Sorry guys, this is the first time I ride in this terrain. Just go past me!"

And, yeah, that was the bi-polar nature of this race: It's either really easy terrain; asphalt or gravel road, or it's oh-no-I'm-going-to-die terrain.

Poorly marked course

There's one major point I need to bring up about this course. You may remember what I wrote at the beginning about Robert's verdict of the race (it either ends in him taking the wrong turn or in a puncture). The course is really poorly marked out. The arrows come too late, typically when you're going downhill  at 40km/h and suddenly you see an arrow pointing left exactly where you're supposed to turn. There should be some forewarning of a turn. There are also long sections with no arrows which led me to worry if I was still on the course. I didn't go wrong anywhere, but there were places where I went past the turn-off point and hade to double back.

In many intersections they had officials standing but very few of theses people actually pointed to where the course continued to. I could come to an intersection, with a guy standing there, and just look at him and ask him: Where do I go now?? And THEN he would point.

The chaotic return to Gothenburg

Approaching the last 10km of the race, as we were nearing Gothenburg again, I had caught up with most of the guys that had overtaken me in the rough terrain. The last part was quite easy and I really wanted to show the guys (the *real* mountain bikers), who had sped past me in the rough, who the road king was (me).

I had three guys on my wheel and there were some short climbs: I sprinted up them and managed to lose them one by one.

However, then we got back to town... And the roads were NOT closed off! I was weaving through traffic, overtaking cars, trying to stay clear of the riders chasing me. It was really exciting!

With the last kilometer approaching and the stadium area where the finish one just ahead of me I had a quick look back. I didn't expect to see anyone as I thought I had handled the traffic quite well. But to my surprise there were two riders approaching just 10-20 meters behind.

The last few hundred meters was a loooong straight bicycle lane that led up to the finish line. It was stressful and I crossed the finish line with the highest heart rate of the race. The guy behind me just one second after.

Stats (excluding the master start):

Avg heart rate:         170 bpm
Max heart rate:         187 bpm
Average power:          220W
Weighted average power: 250W

I'm starting to wonder if my new Stages is giving me good results as they seem rather low. However, with the terrain being what it was, it was hard to put down good power in the rough stuff. Good max H/R however!

Monday, 29 April 2019

Kolmårdsbiken - Love at first sight

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SL (2019)  Rocket Ron 2.25 1.5 bar / Racing Ralph 2.25 1.6 bar

Result: 5th place

New Race - Fun Race!

Kolmårdsbiken was a race that I hadn't tried before. The race is south-west of Stockholm in quite flat terrain. The track is 55 km.

I mainly decided to race because my girlfriend, Sandra Backman, also was going so I thought it would be fun to try a new race. Kolmårdsbiken was on Saturday and I already had a race planned for Sunday so I knew that I would not be able to perform 100% at both, but the Sunday race was a local one which I'd done many times before. So I decided I wanted to try this new one.

I noticed that there were about 25 cyclists signed up for my class; M40.

It was just two weeks since Andalucia Bike Race ended and I had a cold which kept me from training for almost a week directly after that. I was a bit unsure of both form and how well I had recovered.

Slow Start

I took a chance on the start grid and lined up at the front. I didn't know too much about my opposition so I took a bit of a chance. Next to me were two pals: Viktor Ludvigsson and Erik Mattelin who both are young guys racing in the Elite category. They're very quick!

I had checked out the track and new that about the first 10km were on first asphalt and then gravel roads. I knew I had to stay with the lead bunch here in order to get a good ride up to the point where the single track started.

The start signal sounded and we were off! I've had problems getting off to a quick start before, when I'm not fully recovered and this happened today as well. As the guys went off at full speed I found myself dropping gradually down the field. However, as many times before, after just a kilometer or two I was up to pace and moving up through the field. I sprinted from group to group until after about 5km when I reached a group that was going really quickly. I started inspecting who else was in the group and then realized that I had made it up to the lead guys! Wow! Not too shabby!

First Loop

As we entered the first single track segment (me last of all in the group) gaps started to form. I had Max Ashton in front of me and he let a small gap develop to the guy in front of him. When we got back out onto gravel road I picked up the pace and told Max to take my wheel and that I was going to catch up to the guys in front. I picked up another guy who was in front of Max, and then upped the pace on the next gravel road climb to reach another group of three riders.

We got some more singletrack done before we went back to the start/finish area and out on the second loop. I checked around and saw that there were six of us remaining in the group.

At this point I was really enjoying the terrain: Quite rocky and rooty but most of the singletrack was nice and flowy. Great fun!

Second Loop - The Group of Six Splits Up

The group stuck together through most of the second loop but towards the end there was some technical singletrack. I was at point at this time and had the other five behind. Typically I will try to keep a nice and even pace on singletrack but three of the other guys didn't want to do so, they went around me in a more technical section, and sprinted ahead. They didn't get far and I could see them in front of me. Of the two riders left with me another one passed me but he was unable to get away and I took his wheel.

As we got to the end of the loop we got some more gravel road. My first thought was: Great! Lets catch those three guys who got away. I could see them just ahead. I upped the pace and was soon getting closer to them. However, looking behind myself, I noticed that none of the other two guys were in the game and instead dropping back.

Just as we got to the start/finish area again to go out for the third and last loop I had caught up with the three guys and now we were a group of four riders.

Third Loop - Trying to Keep It Together

The third loop was the most technical one. It had quite a few rocky downhill sections and some obstacles with multiple routes around them. You really had to have your wits about you for this section, which was hard as it was towards the end of the race and everyone was tired.

Two of the guys in my group went ahead and I was unable to follow as I was too tired. The third guy also left me but I quickly caught him again because he crashed in one of the downhills. I asked him if he was okay and he replied that it was okay for me to continue. I raced on and he caught me again with about 10 km remaining and overtook me. With just a couple of kilometers left I was caught by another rider and too tired to hold his wheel I had to let him go.

I still managed to finish strong and a fifth place is not too shabby, for a first try of this race. I was 2 minutes outside of the top-3.

I really found the terrain to be excellent both with all the flowy singletrack and technical descents.

Power data seems a bit off so I'm not saying anything about that here.

Link to Strava

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Andalucia Bike Race 2019: LIVE!

Stage 6 (final) - Quick start, slow finish and confusion..

Result: 16th place in M40 (out of 200 racers)

Avg. Heart rate:     150
Avg. Speed:          18.6km/h
Avg. Power:          196W
Weighted avg. power: 240W

The last stage wasn't too rough: 57km and 1400 meters of ascent. The weather was beautiful and the sun was showing it's best side.

I started out hard today, as opposed to yesterday. Full speed through the streets of Cordoba and up the first hill. I saw the lead riders ahead of me and this felt good. 

Towards the top of the first climb Anders Laustsen caught up. He's an elite Danish rider and normally much much quicker than I. However he had a bad crash the day before ABR started while testing out the first stage course. He's been riding every stage with bruised and aching ribs. We rode together the first  half of the stage and he gave me tips and pointers on my technique. Great! Thanks Anders!

A weird thing happend already during the first climb: My left knee started aching. I've never had any aches on my knees before. This continued throughout the stage and towards the end it got really annoying and affected my motivation.

I slowed down quite a bit for the last few kilometers. It's really hard riding the tough and dangerous downhills in this race if your mind is not quite there. I passed several riders who had crashed and some of them were bloody: I especially remember this one guy with a smashed face.

After I finished it became apparent that there had been some confusion with the course markings. Some of the riders had taken a shortcut. Right now it seems that the official time for the last stage is the second checkpoint. That means I came in 16th place on this stage: My best stage in the race

Overall I finished 24th. Analysis is coming up in the next few days...

Stage 5 - Slow start, quick finish

Result: 26th place in M40 (out of 200 racers)

Avg. Heart rate:     154
Avg. Speed:          20.1km/h
Avg. Power:          207W
Weighted avg. power: 244W

This stage is the longest of the race: Almost 90km with some 1700m of ascent. The start is in central Cordoba. Weather was sunny and warm.

Things went well from the start and I was moving up through the field while we went through Cordoba. I passed Sandra withim a kilometer or so. But then I made a bad choice as we left town and got into the fields: The bunch was going on a dirt road which turned into a single lane path and we all bunched up and stood still. A smaller path was to the left of us seeming to go parrallel with where we were going but at first no one took it so I guessed it must be the wrong way. So I waited for traffic to clear up. But then people were taking the other narrow path... first just a trickle of riders but then everyone was going that way. And here I was stuck in a line standing still. It all cleared after a while but at least 100 cyclists had passed us. So when the two paths rejoined I was way down on the field. I started sprinting from group to group, again catching up and passing Sandra (who had made a smarter choice).

This all led to me spending the first half of the stage slowly moving up through the field. No one to help pull me along or to cooperate with. At about 40km I was on my own and no longer catching riders. I did the next 30km by myself. A weird feeling in such a big field of riders but somehow pleasant as I could pick my own pace.

Unfortunately that pace was too slow. When I caught up with some riders with just 15km to go I found that I had plenty of energy reservs I sprinted the last part of the stage and thought I had done well... But no: 26th on the stage.

24th overall in M40.

Tomorrow is the last stage.

Stage 4 - Knocked out by a deer

Result: 18th place in M40 (out of 200 racers)

Avg. Heart rate:     159
Avg. Speed:          21.0km/h
Avg. Power:          220W
Weighted avg. power: 254W

Sandra and I moved fron Linares to Cordoba after yesterday's stage. The start of today's stage is some 30km outside of Cordoba however in a place called Villafranca de Cordoba.

I started the day off by disabling the damper lock-out in front and put it permanently in open (soft). As I wrote yesterday the service people messed it up and I had to drive all of yesterday's stage with my fork locked. I put it in open now as I don't mind it being soft (certainly it's better than permanently locked) - I'm not the type of cyclists who stands up a lot in the uphills. As long as the lock-out is working in the rear I'm good.

I get out and go for a test ride in the morning and the bike is working perfectly.

We get our bikes in the car and drive to the location of the stage. We are ready to warm up 30 minutes before the start of the stage (start boxes open 15 minutes before the start). I get on the bike and as soon as I try to shift gears it's not working. I try to shift some more and nothing. I move the cable housing out of the way at the shifter and notice that the cable is all frazzled and perhaps half of it is still whole. Oh darned! I bike as quickly as I can to Shimano's neutral service (provided by the race organizers) and ask them if they can fix it. They get on it directly and 10 minutes before the start of the race they have a new cable in there. Why did it take 20 minutes? Well, pieces of the old cable had gotten stuck in the shifting mechanism. So 5 minutes before the race I'm in the start box with 100 meters of warmup in my legs.

Typically, as we start, this is the stage that the guys up front decide to gun it from the start. We had some asphalt first and the pace is 100% maxed out. I'm back in the string of riders holding on for dear life just trying not to get dropped by the lead bunch.

As we get to the climbs I feel good and start pushing a bit harder. I decide to put the ordeals of the last couple of days behind me and just ride normally. There's a nice stretch of twisty and turny gravel road going downhill and I start overtaking riders by pushing harder in the corners and slowly feel my confidence return. The confidence that was all gone yesterday because of the knock out and concussion on stage 2.

The gravel road follows the side of the mountain and so on our right is the uphill slope while the downhill is on our right. All of a sudden I see this big thing (som sort of animal?) moving in the corner of my right eye. Then it flies towards me and hits me in the head. My head in knocked left and I feel my neck twist painfully. I'm knocked off my bike and land on the gravel road. My glasses go flying from the crash and I feel dazed. What the heck just happened? Then I realize that the big thing was a deer and that it had jumped across the road from the uphill on the right to the downhill on the left and while doing so its left rear hoof had struck my head. While I wait for my confused mind to clear I look for my glasses, put them back on, and get on my bike and start pedalling.

I'm thinking to myself: What the heck is happening? What are the odds??

It takes a while to get back into the right frame of mind. For a while I'm actually considering just taking it easy for the rest of the stage: Waiting for Sandra and biking the rest of the way with her.

However and the kilometers pass I start to get my race mood back and as the last half of the stage approaches I feel strong and go all-in! I pass a bunch of riders the last 10-20 kilometers and end up finishing in 18th place.

I'm the overall I'm 24th with two stages remaining.

Stage 3 - Careful careful...

Result: 36th place in M40 (out of 200 racers)

Avg. Heart rate:     154
Avg. Speed:          18.7km/h
Avg. Power:          191W
Weighted avg. power: 237W

Today was all about survival. I wasn't sure whether I was going to start the stage after yesterday's concussion. I decided to first of all have a feel when I woke up. I felt okay. Then I decided to start the race to see if my body (and mostly my brain) functioned normally and to abort if anything felt out of order.

Things went okay. Power was there. I however had no confidence in the technical stuff and downhills. Somehow I didn't trust my brain to navigate around the obstacles. I went slowly and carefully.

A further nuisance was that my fork was stuck in locked mode. That didn't make the downhills any easier. I had the cable changed by the neutral service people last night after finishing the stage and they messed something up. For tomorrow's stage I'll just leave it open.

I'm happy to have finished the stage. The long climb of the stage actually went 10W and 2 minutes quicker than last year so the power is most certainly there.

Stage 2 - Crash, concussion and memory loss

Result: 30th place in M40 (out of 200 racers)

Avg. Heart rate:     160
Avg. Speed:          21.5km/h
Avg. Power:          212W
Weighted avg. power: 249W

The second stage was 75km long and had 1250 meters of altitude gain. Not too much climbing in other words.

Things started of a bit chaotic: Almost immediately we came to a gravel road section with HUGE puddles (lakes!) of water. People were braking left and right, trying to go by the side, some just crashed through the water splashing it on everyone else. I took it easy and managed to get through it without incidents.

As we got to the climbs I started to advance up the field. Things felt good...

But then: At about 20km into the race I'm in a group of about 20-30 riders and all of a sudden the lead riders stop and look confused. There are no course markings! We realize that we've made a bad turn and head back. And of course it's in a hilly section so up and down and up and down we go until we get back to the course. I notice that there was a sharp right turn after a downhill which was not marked until AFTER the turn. Very easy to miss. I talked to some other people after the race and they had missed the turn off as well. I checked Strava afterwards and the detour was 1.5km all in all. Getting back on the course we found ourselves with slower riders and had to get around them.

We get to a section that goes around a lake on some steep banking. It's off-camber and difficult to ride. There's a guy ahead and he's slowing everyone down and there's just no way to pass. I get some "rest time" waiting to go around.

At about halfway through the race we come to some climbs and then some road sections. I feel strong and pile on the watts. I start catching up with group after group and things are going well.

With the last 5 kilometers approaching I'm riding with a strong guy when... Well, I don't know what happened actually. I crash and hit my head. Or I hit my head (perhaps on a branch? and crash? I DON'T KNOW. I have no memory of this. Or of getting back on my bike. I actually have no memory until I cross the finish line and visit the medics. Total mempory loss of about 20-30 minutes of riding (and crashing). The funny thing is what I do remember from the crash is hearing a loud GONG! sound in my head. I'm guessing that's from hitting my head.

After analyzing Strava data this seems to be where I crashed

What I have is a very painful left thigh. So I guess that's where I landed. I got a left pinkie finger that's hurting badly. Also scraped knees. It's so weird not knowing where they came from. The helmet funnily enough is without damage. From what I can see the bike just has a seriously bent Garmin holder. Other than that it seems fine.

I finish in 30th place. Not good obviously. But I'm really happy to just not be seriously hurt.

I was still very confused and feeling weird during the evening. The medics asked me to write my name on a piece of paper and when I was able to do that they seemed happy. I'm going to start tomorrow and see how it goes.

Stage 1 - Time Trial

Result: 17th place in M40 (out of 200 racers)

Avg. Heart rate:     167
Avg. Speed:          22.9km/h
Avg. Power:          246W
Weighted avg. power: 275W

The first stage was a time trial stage. That means we all started at 30 second intervals. My start was at 12:20. Temperature was around 14 degrees Celsius and it rained on and off all day. I decided to ride in short sleeves. The stage was similar to last year's but about 5km longer: 38km and with 500 m elevation gain.

The first part was asphalt, turning into gravel road so I went into time trial mode and just watched the watts on my Garmin: 300+ all the way. With these kinds of TT starts you overtake people all the time and for me that's a real motivation booster. I was passing people within minutes.

The course was perhaps 70-80% singletrack. A lot of uphills and fun and tricky downhills made trickier by the wet and muddy conditions. I was enjoying myself fully riding the lovely singletrack. My Trek Top Fuel just gives me all the confidence that I need to handle the twisty singletrack and slippery downhills. This also comes from having raced the same bike for over a year now.

I remembered from last year the first stage being very rocky and full of sharp pointed stones. Same thing this year and I saw a couple of guys fixing punctures already after the first downhill. You should not ride this race on anything but a tubeless setup. I ran 1.58 bar of pressure in the rear and 1.51 up front in today's stage. The perhaps weirdest mechanical I saw towards the end of the stage with a guy standing by the side of the road trying to fasten his left pedal to the crank using a zip tie.

The last part before the finish was again a few kilometers of gravel road followed by a short section of asphalt: Back into tt mode watts climbing up to 320-330 on the flat. Things felt good.

I crossed the finish line in what was first reported 19th place but later changed to 17th. 5 minutes down on first place. I'm pleased with this result.

Sandra came in 6th place even after some failed navigation and a crash. She rode amazingly!

Stage one M40 results

Max Ashton and I. That wind jacket came on AFTER I finished the stage.

Arriving in Spain before the race

Leaving Sweden with Sandra Backman

About to assmemble the bikes at the airport hotel in Malaga

Bikes assemled at Holiday Expres in Malaga

Bikes in our rental Fiat Doblo outside of Decathlon Malaga

Nice and warm in Malaga

Registration and picking up starting pack in Linares