Saturday, 3 July 2021

Trans Alp 2021

Results of Trans Alp 2021

Here's the top-10 of my category and you can see that I finished in 7th place:

Link to results:

Video from the stage 7 downhill to lake Garda:

Live reporting below:

I wrote about each stage during the race and you can see those race reports below with the last stage first

Stage 7 - final stage

Result: 9th place

The stage had two long climbs. The second one was really long climbing all of 1000hm so I decided to go easy on the first to have energy left for the second one.

First climb started of nicely on paved roads but turned really bad for the last kilometer to the top: It was so steep that everyone got off and pushed their bikes. At the top of the mountain there were some tricky trails with lots of wet roots and stones. Also we were all bunched up so when one rider got off to walk over some tricky obstacle everyone had to get off. I realized at this point that going easy up the first climb perhaps wasn't the best of ideas as it meant I was a bit further back in the field with riders who couldn't handle this technical stuff. I managed to overtake a few bottle necks and going downhill again I had a clear run. This downhill was really nice with singletrack and lots of adrenaline inducing sheer drop offs.

This took me to the second climb which was the long one: Again it started on asphalt but after the feed station moved to gravel roads. Up this climb I was able to take advantage of the fact that I went easy up the first climb and I was able to overtake a lot of riders.

The final long downhill to lake Garda was amazing: It started of on these loose gravel roads with swithcbacks and tunnels and then, lower down the mountain, became hiking trails with lots of drops and obstacles. It was all really exciting and I was overtaking riders all the way down. I felt very confident at this point and had a good flow in my descending.

Crossing the finish line I saw that I had come in ninth place on the stage. A bit further back than I had expected but I think it was due to the congestion on top of that first mountain.

Stage 6

Result: 21st place

Let's just cut to the chase: I took a wrong turn at about 40km into today's stage and went down a looooong descent until I noticed my mistake. Had to climb back up and I met several riders going up who had made the same mistake. Also talked to my pal Andreas and he had taken the same bad turn. I ended up riding 4km extra and lost 22 minutes according to Strava.

What else is there to write? :( Well, fun stage. First stage with no starting climb so more crowded on the roads but not a major problem. The long climb at the middle of the stage was asphalt first and then gravel road. Descents were tricky because it rained a lot the previous evening and all through the night. Lots of mud and wet roots and stones.

Everything was going well until I made the wrong turn...

Stage 5

Result: Fourth place on today's stage. Seventh overall

Today was a shorter stage compared to the previous couple of stages. That actually felt good. It started in a weird way though: A 14km neutralized start on bicycle paths. It was pure chaos. Neutralized means no overtaking (which the organizers pointed out before the start) but of course many riders ignored this. There was a lot of braking, coming to a complete stand still, then full speed ahead to catch up, breaking again, and so on. I didn't see any actual crash but I wouldn't be surprised if they happened.

The neutralized part went directly into a 1000hm climb on forest roads. It's sort of weird but when I was at the starting line this morning I was not feeling motivated at all do go hard again, mostly due to my mechanical issues and having lost positions in the last couple of stages, but also because I feel quite worn out. But then, when that first hill comes, I go all-in again, and not only that, but the watts are there. First climb went well.

Then we had a fun and entertaining and LONG downhill. Some of it on narrow trails which were rather technical in nature. There had been some rain during the night and the roots were wet. In a few places I got of the bike and ran/walked a few meters past obstacles, and it felt good to see that the other riders around me did the same. I saw one crash but no one got hurt. The downhill did continue on more doubletrack as we got out of the forest and into grassland and meadows: At some point I hear a Danish guy go: "How's it going, Swede?" (in Danish) and then he comes riding past me. I hang onto his wheel only to see him totally miss the fact that there's a big muddy puddle hiding between the next turn and go down hard. Just after this we had some more technical singletrack downhill but he never came past me again.

After the big downhill there was long section of mostly flat terrain. I had the good luck to find good wheels to hang onto here and made good time. One memorable moment was when we went through a 2.1 kilometers long tunnel through the mountain made for walking. It was narrow and the path was gravel with only one light bulb every 100 meters or so. It was also slightly downhill so FAST. Before my eyes adjusted to the dark and I had the bright idea to remove my sunglasses was "interesting".

Last part with a very steep climb and short downhill went well. Already crossing the finish line I suspected that I had made a good stage and so it turned out as well when I saw the results: Fourth place and my best result so far.

Stage 4 - The King (Queen?) Stage:

Result: Eighth place on today's stage. Seventh overall

Today was the big one: The longest and toughest stage of the entire race.

First thing is first: If you've read the race report from yesterday's stage then you know the rear brake of my black BMC Fourstroke failed 100% yesterday. Luckily I had my red Fourstroke with me in the car. After stage 3 I got it ready for today's stage. Interesting thing about the brakes: The black bike has SRAM Level while the red one SRAM Level Ultimate. I moved the wheels over so same Ashima brake discs were used.

First climb went on asphalt and I was not feeling all the motivated. However I soon saw that my legs were producing okay watts (I needed to mentally adapt the power data because this bike has a Stages power meter that only measures my weaker left leg while the black bike has a Quarq and gives about 10% higher values). By this time, having raced for four days with my fellow competitors, I'm starting to recognize people. I saw that I was hanging with the quick boys up the climb so things were looking okay. At the top of the hill there's a bit of flat forest road but I ended pulling my group along so no real benefit there.

I made sure to stop at the first feeding zone at 28km because yesterday I had become dehydrated after running out of water some 15km before the finish. I filled up my bottle.

A downhill section followed on forest roads and I got to try out my new brakes at last. They worked perfectly: No overheating or brake fade! Towards then end of the downhill, as we were approaching the town of Incudine, we went on asphalt roads doing serpentine turns downhill. This is where I saw my first crash of the day where one guy, just in front of me, went into a serpentine turn a bit too quickly and lost the front tire which skid out from under him. He went down but not all that hard. He seemed okay afterwards.

The flat portion in the middle of the stage that followed was mostly paved bike paths. We got a good group of four riders going here and were pushing very nicely. Each rider took his turn at the front. Good!

Now... The long uphill as you can see in the profile map above. This is on paved roads first, then some gravel roads, but after the feed zone at 63k it's all hiking trails. Very uneven ones all done in first gear.... barely. I just went easy up this whole climb not wanting to risk killing myself early on and also feeling quite tired. I think I was still feeling the dehydration from yesterday as well as a beginning headache that never broke out. The last kilometer before the top, a pass that we crossed, was walking. Too steep to bike some people pushed their bikes while others carried the bike on their backs. One kilometer of trail that is so steep you can barely walk it takes an eternity when you have a bike to push.

One weird thing on this climb, high up on the hiking trail, was when a german shepherd came running down the trail in the opposite direction zig-zagging between cyclists. He looked like he knew exactly where he was going and nothing was going to stop him. He totally ignored everything but his mission to follow the trail.

Last downhill: Well, not really all "downhill", because if you have a careful look you notice two humps in the profile map. Those two humps are climbs that feel like they go one forever when you're already exhausted. But I'm getting ahead of myself: The downhill! This was probably the most spectacular descent of the race. We went down hiking paths, first in wide open landscape with snow around us, big stones and several creeks flowing over our cracks that had to be crossed. Then it turned into tight singletrack with biiiig steps/drops. I felt very confident and with my dropper down I felt like a downhill ace. I had to to ask a few riders if I could pass them! That happens like NEVER! Also saw my second crash here when one rider found one of these steps a bit too high to drop and went over his handlebars. He was fine though. We also managed to cross a narrow rope bridge at one point with the bike in front on its rear wheel. The bridge swinging from side to side while trying to hold onto the bike and get it across was pretty exciting.

Those last two climbs that I mentioned in the previous paragraph were not much fun... I was NOT quick. But in the downhills in between I was quick... A bit too quick: I had my first crash of the race with just one kilometer to go. I was coming down a narrow trail going down a meadow with switchbacks. At one of the straights I noticed that a bush was growing with it's branches spanning over the trail that I needed to use to pass it. There was perhaps 30-40cm of space between the bush and the steep part on the other side. I realized a bit too late that there was no way I was going to squeeze by there with the speed I was going at so I tried to slow down by applying my breaks... on grass... well, we all not how that works. I had a choice to tro to squeeze by, risking missing the trail and crashing down the mountain, or going into the bush. I went into the bush which grabbed my and let my bike pass leading to me sitting down hard on my ass. Ouch!

No harm done. Passed the finish line in 8th place. Sounds bad but not all that many minutes up to sixth place today. I think I should still be in sixth place overall but I'm unsure. They haven't updated the totals yet.

Stage 3:

Summary: Things did not go well today: My rear brake caliper almost completely seized up with 30km to go and I had to do some mechanics that cost a lot of time.

Result: Tenth place on today's stage. Sixth overall

The plan for today was: Go hard up the first climb to get with the quick boys because right at the top there was a longish flat section. I wanted good wheels to hang on to for that part. After that: Go by feeling. There was a huge descent at about halfway through and a huge climb right after that. (Check the profile map above).

The stage started and the first part of the plan worked: Went hard up the first climb which turned out to be asphalt all the way up. I've started top recognize the riders now and I could tell that the guys around me at the top were the quick boys. I was hoping to get some good cooperation going for the flat part. 

There were about 10-12 of us together in a group as we got to the flat bit. That turned out to be gravel road / double track following the side of the mountain. It twisted and turned and there were lots of pot holes. This is however where my plan failed: A german dude, Andreas, and I were the only two riders interesting in doing any turns at the front. Somehow a mixed pair got in there and the guy in the team decided to have second wheel, with his girl partner behind him. He did not want to take any turns pulling. Now I can fully understand his reasoning: He didn't want to drop her by taking hard pulls at the front. But then why did he pull her up to second wheel? Why not just hang at the tail of our group? I tried to communicate with him but got no response. In frustration, towards then end of the section, I went to the front and did a hard pull of 400+ watts and just dropped everyone. This was just before the gravel road turned into singletrack.

During the second climb I took it a bit easier as I knew this was a long stage with lots of hard stuff left. The downhill following was all gravel road with big loose stones. Bad stuff but it went reasonably well.

Third climb I went a little harder again as it was mostly on asphalt.

After this came the looooong downhill. The type of trail was really interesting: A hiking trail going steeply downhill with very tight switchbacks. I thought I was doing really well and being brave: Trying hard to let the bike just go downhill until just before the switchback where I applied full brakes and tried to, with minimal speed, force the bike around the switchback. It worked really well and I started catching other riders and overtaking them. I was very pleased with myself as me overtaking in technical downhills is not a normal occurrence. This all went really nicely until we got to the bottom where there was a asphalt road taking over the descent. At this point I noticed that my rear brake had overheated (well, I noticed it during parts of the descent as well but I pumped the brake to get some brake action going again). The overheating was so severe that the brake almost completely seized around the brake disc. I was rolling down the asphalt road while doing no braking and getting passed by other cyclists who were just rolling past me.

When I reached the valley there was a short stretch of flat asphalt road before the last part of the stage began: A huge 17km climb. I needed to make a decision: Do I continue with the brake half engaged and take the hit or should I try to do some mechanics. I rode up to the last feeding station, filled my bottle, rolled a couple of meters forward and got out my tools: I unscrewed the brake caliper and started bending the two brake pistons apart so that they were no longer engaging the brake disc. After this I loosely re-attached the brake caliper and decided to just not use the rear brake for the rest of the stage. I spun the wheel and it didn't spin completely free but better than before. Judging by Strava I spent about 10 minutes on this (that top screw that attaches the caliper to the frame is a really hard to unscrew as it sits so close to the frame).

I started going up the last climb not feeling very motivated and with dark thoughts on my mind. I had been passed by at least 30 riders while I had been messing around with the caliper. It took a long while but about halfway up the climb I started passing riders and towards the end I had passed about 20 of them. There was a short downhill that followed which was quite technical and a challenge to do just using the front brake.

Finished the stage in tenth place. Dropped to sixth overall.

Now I need to get my spare bike ready for tomorrows stage.

Update this evening: I had a look at the bike I used in today's stage just now. I removed the brake caliper and pressed on the brake lever a few times. The brake piston just popped straight out of the cylinder and hydraulic oil came out. It's not supposed to do that. That also decides it: I have no choice but to use the backup bike.

Stage 2:

Result: Sixth place on today's stage. Still in fifth overall

After yesterday's first stage, I was feeling really tired. Which might not seem too unreasonable after 90km of riding. But there was something else... After getting to my hotel I started feeling nauseous and I just slid under the covers of my bed, without even showering, and fell asleep. After waking up the nausea was gone but I was NOT feeling well. For a while I thought that starting the second stage might be in danger.

Waking up this morning I was still not feeling well. I decided to try to start the stage, do the first climb, and see how it felt.

The weather had really changed since yesterday, or rather, the temperatur had. It was seven degrees C in the morning. As I was not feeling all that great I decided to go with a long-sleeved base layer under my jersey. It got a lot warmer during the day but I think it was still the right decision.

One good thing was that today's stage was much easier than yesterday's: Just 60km and 2000m of climbing. As soon as the race started and we left Livigno we went into a longish climb. Going uphill I wasn't feeling well at all and all I wanted to do was go back to bed and feel sorry for myself. However the numbers spoke a different language: I was easily doing 300W+ up over the whole first climb and the heart rate data was reasonable too.

At the top of this climb we crossed over what must've been a glacier as the path went over a patch of perhaps 20 meters of deep snow. It looked crossable but as soon as my wheels were on the snow they just slid out from below me and I ended up lying in the snow. This made me laugh out loud.

Photo from today's stage (not me in the picture)

Next followed a descent that started in a bike park and proceeded to move down gravel roads. It was the same kinds of roads as on stage one; loose gravel and lots of turns making things exciting. I saw a really bad crash just a few meters ahead of me; I was passed my two riders, the first one just narrowly managed to make the turn after passing me but the other one crashed into a bicycle with a baby carriage that was parked on the outside of the next turn. He flew several meters one way and I could see his bicycle making summersaults through the air. He must've been going 40km/h when it happened. It looked really bad. His friend stopped and turned back. I didn't see the two again.

The next climb started easy but the second part of it was super steep. I was climbing at the absolut maximum that I could with my 34/50 gearing for a LONG time, perhaps 20-30 minutes. I managed to whole climb without getting of the bike but many around me had to walk.

At some point during this second climb another memorable thing happened: We were going uphill on a narrow path when a man came leading a herd of cows downhill on the same narrow path. It seems the cows totally ignored us and just kept going downhill while we squeezed by them and just managed to keep going uphill. When I was next to one of the cows I tried reaching out to pet the cow but that made it jump and almost go off the cliff. Ooops.

The next downhill was one a bike park with built berms, bridges and bumps. Really fun and I was proud of my descending skills. Just at the start I let one guy by me because I heard him breathing down my neck. But after that I held onto his wheel (almost) and didn't lose many meters. Another guy who was further back totally disappeared.

Next thing I remember was when we got to the long flat section at kilometer 42. I knew this was a long section and it was on bike paths and gravel roads. Lots of time to make up. There were first two of us but we caught up with another couple of riders so we formed a group of four. I tried to get some cooperation going but the only ones interesting in pulling was me and one other guy. It felt pretty good anyway and I managed about 300W on the flat.

Last downhill was uneventful and I crossed the finish line in sixth place. Fifth and fourth were just half a minute and a minute ahead of me though so didn't lose much. I'm still in fifth place overall.

I felt better and better throughout the stage and in the last part of the stage I couldn't feel any of the illness that I had felt yesterday and this morning. Hopefully that's over now.

Oh, and also, no leaky tire today. I guess it was the valve core that I changed yesterday.

Stage 1:


Result: Fifth place... I'm really happy about that placing. This is a tough race with tough competitors.
31st place out of 316 solo riders all categories.

Why spectacular? The views are amazing. The trails are terrifying and extreme. There's snow on the peaks around you... close by. The singletrack has a rock face on one side and a steep drop on the other side. Go off the trail in the wrong place and you.. well... die. This race is not for people who don't like heights or are squeamish about riding close to precipices


First climb: I don't understand why so many cyclists start a race at full speed only to tire after 5-10 minutes. When we left Nauders we started a long climb immediately that went on for 10km (1h10m for me). I had a bunch of riders disappear into the distance going full speed while I looked at my power data and decide on a reasonable power level that I could climb at for one hour. Turns out today this was just under 300W for the first climb. Within 10-15 minutes I was passing riders who had stormed off at the start and I could hear by their breathing that they were close to max heart rate... and this after a few kilometers of the first 90km stage of a 7 day stage race. Why?? I think that by the end of the climb I had passed at least 50 riders.

After that climb followed a short ride in a bike park. Then a gravel road descent. I always need a stage to get used to descending on lose gravel at 50+ km/h. It's terrifying. I got passed by some 7-8 riders, one of them going down at an amazing speed. I was just thinking how impressed I was by that guy's speed when he missed a turn just in front of me and went off the road and down a steep decline. He was lucky that's where he went off because there were a lot of places that going off the road ment going down a ravine. He was up on his bike again without any injuries and passed me again a few minutes later.

This descent ended 20km into the race and after this followed a paved but quite narrow bike path. I had the incredible luck that two BIG and STRONG tjeck guys caught up with me just at the bottom of the descent and I saw them speed up as soon as we got on the bike path. I maxed myself out to get on their wheel and then it was 20km of pure bliss on this bike path. I held on to their wheels for dear life and we caught group after group. As I mentioned the bike path was quite narrow but also it wasn't closed off so other 'normal' cyclists were there as well. We were doing 50+ km/h in places as it was going downhill mostly so there were some scary and exciting moments where we came around bends to find other people occupying the path.

After this a 20km climb... this took a LONG time. It went okay but I wasn't doing 300W anymore. Got tired towards the end but things felt in control

It's after this climb and into the finish that things got spectacular. We were high up in the mountains and there was singletrack. Often one side of the track was a precipice and the consequences of f*cking up were serious. Notable moments were when we were riding through a field full of horses and a young one came galloping towards me just to turn off at the last moment. At another time we were riding though a field of cows who totally did not care that we were there. I had to zigzag among them. Funny stuff.

Last climb was short but extremely steep. Not fun. Had to get off the bike a few times to walk because it was just too steep. Or I was too weak. You decide!

A singletrack downhill followed into the finish area again with a BIG drop on one side. I noticed that my rear tire was bottoming out over a few stones and stopped to check it. Yeah, it had deflated but not radically and as I was just a couple of kilometers from the finish I decided to ride on.

When crossing the finish line I borrowed a pump and inflated it but could see no leaks. However the valve wasn't letting any air out. I decided to change the valve core. Hopefully this will fix the problem. I just can't stop thinking how long I rode with low pressure in that rear wheel and how much that cost me.

Before the race

I arrived in Nauders, Austria, today (Saturday 3rd of July). I drove straight here from Croatia and Krk where I've been vacationing and biking for the past two weeks. Trans Alp, a 7 stage mountain bike race, starts tomorrow.

This is my first time participating in the race. It's quite a hard one as you can see by the stages below. First stage is tomorrow Sunday, and then the seventh and last one finishes on Saturday next week.

As you can see below the race moves from Austria and into Italy, and then through Italy each new stage ending in Riva Del Garda. This obviously makes logistics a bit complicated as each stage starts and ends in a new place. New hotel each night.

The routine is:

06:00 Breakfast
06:30 to 07:30 Blue bag handed over to the organizer (see below)
07:00 to 08:30 Pick your bike up at the bike park
08:15 Lineup at the start
08:45 Stage Briefing
09:00 Stage starts

The race organizers give you this blue bag where you have to be able to put everything that you want them to move from stage to stage. They pick it up at the hotel each morning and deliver it to your new hotel after each stage. It's big but I could definitely find even more things to fit if it was a bit bigger.

I've persuaded one of the staff to ride my car around during the stages so it will be available to me directly after the race. This is extremely kind of them as I otherwise would've had to spend another night in Italy and then the next day get the transfer back to my start (where my car would've been). So big KUDOS to Bike Trans Alp for this!

There are 60 starters in my category, Grand Masters. That's a lot. Beskidy Trophy a few weeks back had much fewer. I don't really know where to set my expectations as far as results go. We'll see after the first stage.

The weather for tomorrow looks really bad. It was warm and sunny when I arrived here in Nauders around midday but now, in the evening, there are big clouds everywhere and rain is scheduled for all night and also tomorrow. Picking the right clothes is going to be a problem. Also, weird coming from Croatia with 30+ degrees C to what will probably be well below 10 degrees on the mountain tops tomorrow.

Nauders has some nice views:

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Croatian XC race: XC REŽANCI. First place!

Video from the race:

I had time for one last mountain bike race in Croatia before leaving for Trans Alp next weekend, This race I found after another tip from my pal Marko. The race was on the Istria region of Croatia (an 1.5 hour drive away) called XC REŽANCI. All I knew really was that it was an XC race with 7 laps around a course (1hour + the last lap).

The race started at 6 o'clock in the evening which I found sort of weird. I understand that they want to have the race out of the mid day heat, but the usual way of doing it is to have it in the morning. I decided that it would be a good idea to test ride the course as it may be technical so I got there two hours before the start. Did three laps and it turned out to be a really good idea. It's a very twisty-turny lap with lots of short downhills and uphills. Very intense! A couple of drops as well.

I decided to use the Race Kings for the race but as I saw the track I realized it had some sections with lose gravel so I was afraid that perhaps I had chosen the wrong tire. Also, with the track being as tight as it was I was worried about it not playing on my strengths.

As the race started I took it sort of easy during the start loop (with a asphalt climb). On the first real lap I started advancing up the field, This turned out to be very satisfying as I was able to pass rider after rider. I think I must have passed about 20 or 30 during the race. I was only myself passed by a single rider on the last lap when I got in trouble trying to lap a back marker and had a small crash.

I crossed the finish line winning my category. Checking the other categories I would've won M40 as well and placed third in M30. In total I would've been in the top-10 which I think is really good. There were some 100 participants all in all.

Another really nice thing is that I got to meet this friendly Slovene family who were there supporting their son, Rok Jamšek. I also got to know Rok after the race. He did great in his category coming in third.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Croatian Hillclimb race: Uspon na Zavižan

After Beskidy Trophy I travelled south and arrives in Slovenia a few hours later. I biked around on my favorite trails in the Idrija area for the next five days. Then further south into Croatia where my good pal Marko Glusac had told me of a race happening on Saturday.

It was an unusual type of race, a hill-climb on mountain bike. It starts in the town Senj, right next to the harbour, at sea-level. And then we go uphill and climb the mountain called Zavizan which is 1594 meters tall. The finish is at a lodge at the top of the mountain. Strava said that I had climbed a total of 1712 meters during the race. The length of the track is 38 kilometers.

The race has two categories: Under 45 years old and 45 and older and there were 100+ starters.

It was a really really hot day. My garmin data gives an average temperature of 29 degrees C however at the start it was 39 degrees C. Going uphill means very little draft from the speed. There were three water posts and at each I just poured a bottle of water over my head. I actually didn't need to fill my 900ml bottle at any point.

When I first got the race information I was thinking about a finish time of about 1.5 hours, which of course is silly. I took just two gels in case, I didn't think I'd need them for such a short race. I met up with Marko before the race and he said that the quickest time ever recorded was just under 2 hours. I was glad I brought the gels!

My other Croatian friend, Danijel Turcic, was also there. He's a hill climb specialist so I was very curious about how I was going to perform compared to him. We were not racing in the same category however so there was no pressure. Marko said he was unsure of his recovery as he had raced the Croatian national time trial just the day before.

The race started and the pace was quite high to begin with. In races like these, with long climbs, I always race my power meter, not the other competitors. Drafting is pretty pointless as the climb is so long and there are so few flat spots. Going too hard at the start of a 2 hour climb will kill you. After just a few kilometers  I noticed 5 riders speeding away. Looking down at my power meter I saw that I was doing about 380W and so I decided to let them go. Danijel also came around shortly after and I let him go as well. He was a bit behind the leading group of riders and going solo. I was solo as well I noticed after looking behind.

After about 10k I came to a fork in the road with a water posting on the right, just at the fork. I was a bit confused because the water post was on the gravel road forking away and the main paved road continued ahead and so I stuck to it as I couldn't see any markings. The people at the water post just looked at me and so I asked them: "Am I going the right way?". The answer was: "Well, you can go that way also, it'll just be a bit longer. Both roads will get you to the finish". I realized they were joking and that I was on the wrong path. I made a u-turn and got on the gravel road instead. I found the behaviour of the officials very strange. Had I not asked they may never have had told me I was going the wrong way. At about this point I also noticed that there were not the usual kind of markins with signs or banners but just orange arrows painted on the road where one was supposed to turn. I didn't see anything about that in the race info.

Making the u-turn a group behind me had almost caught up and I had a brief thought about if I was going to let them join to get some drafting help. I decided against it and went ahead at full speed. At this point my average power was at about 320W.

A lot of solo riding continued with the track going mostly uphill on gravel roads but there were also shorter flat sections and even some downhill. At times I could glimpse Danijel far ahead of me. The group that I had seen behind where I made the bad turn I never saw again. I had a bit of a dip at this point and after 20k my average power had dropped to 290W. The heat was terrible but as we got higher up on the mountain there were more trees at the side of the road at least providing some shade. The temperature also gradually dropped just because of the altitude.

Then at 30k I took my second gel, got a big power surge from the energy, and also started to see more of Danijels back. I got the feeling that I was slowly catching him. This gave me another burst of positive energy and I felt really strong all of a sudden. I upped my power to 340-360W and it took just about a kilometer to catch Danijel.

I continued past him but Danijel upped his pace and took my wheel. This continued to about 1km before the finish when he finally let go and I was able to cross the finish line solo after the last part which was really really steep.

I was the sixth rider across the line and third in my category.

Average power at the end turned out to be 289W.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Beskidy Trophy 2021

Final results of Beskidy Trophy 2021

Live reporting below:

I wrote about each stage during the race and you can see those race reports below with the last stage first

Stage 4 (final stage):

The situation in the general standings before today's stage was that I was in third place in my category, some 25 minutes behind the second place guy, and the guy in fourth was about the same distance behind me. Now, baring disasters there was no way anything was going to change. This means I could take it sort of easy and not feel stressed during the last stage.

The weather had changed MASSIVELY. Instead of sunshine and 20+ degrees C it had rained all night and the temperature had dropped 15 degrees. We were told that it was 4 degrees C at the top of the  mountain. I dressed accordingly with long sleeves and a wind jacket.

Funny thing about brakes in Beskidy is that they wear out really quickly. At home I can ride on a set of brake pads for most of the year. At Beskidy I had put on new pads before leaving Sweden and the morning before today's stage I noticed that the rear pads were worn out. I had to change them.

The stage started with a really long climb of 15km. I put the power meter square at 280W and held it all the way up. It felt good and this feeling stayed during most of the stage's climbs. I never had to really push it even though I did all four climbs between 260 and 280 average watts.

I was a bit worried about the downhills due to all the rain that had fallen during the night. And it was quite muddy in places but after four days of riding this technical terrain I felt confident and relaxed and descending was easy. I got off the bike in one single place where part of the downhill went through what can only be described as a rockfall. As far as I can tell no one rode that.

It's a good thing that the bad weather and poor conditions occurred at the last stage when I had become used to the extreme terrain.

During the second to last descent I actually caught up and overtook about 5-6 riders from the Classic distance and that felt really good.

The last descent just before the finish line was the same one as we had done in the prologue. The one that I was so nervous about after testing it before the race (scroll down to the bottom of this page to read about it). This time it was also slightly muddy. But it went great! I caught up with a guy at the bottom and he seemed a bit stressed by the fact that I was behind and ended up crashing (very mildly, he was okay). I ended up doing this particular section one minute quicker that in the prologue when conditions were dry!

The final downhill. Entries are from last stage, prologue and test ride

I crossed the finish line for another third place.

This also means that I came third in M50 in the end results of the race. The nice thing is that I get a free start in the next edition of Beskidy!

Stage 3:

Four hills to climb -> four uphills and four downhills.

First hill: I went relatively hard uphill and had my eye on Calle and Per all the way up. They disappeared during the downhill. The downhill was fairly steep and continuous so I managed to overheat the rear brake again (had no problem with overheating at all yesterday). I ended up using only the front brake towards the end of the downhill and so therefor I had to go a bit slower. Got passed by a couple of cyclists.

Second hill: Felt the weakest during this uphill. Don't know why. The downhill however was in a bike park with built track and obstacles and jumps. The first part was okay. But then it got crazy steep and I ended up getting off the bike and walking some of the dangerous stuff. I really hate it when I have to get off the bike because once I've crossed that threshold it's easier for me to chicken out the next time and do it again. By comparison on yesterday's stage I didn't have to get off the bike even once.

Third and fourth (last) hill: Uphills went much better than the second hill and I managed to average about 260W. Downhills went well too and had no problems with the brakes.

Result: Third place in M50

Stage 2

Stage 2 was the first real stage of the race with 56 km of riding and 2400 m of climbing.

Even before the stage even started there was drama. One hour before I needed to be in my box I started riding towards the starting area and I noticed that my gears were not working. I turned back to the hotel, dismantled the shifter and was met with this:

The shift cable had (almost) snapped in the shifter and was all frayed up. I pulled it out (wasn't easy) and replaced it with a new one. My good friend Calle Nelson assisted me and without him I think it would have been really close if I had made the start. Now I was in the starting area with about 15 minutes to spare.

My good pal Per Henriksson leads my class and as the race started I had an eye on him and also on Calle who was in fifth place in M40. Up the first climb Calle and I slowly approached Per and then passed him. I set my eye on the power readout and tried to stay around 300W with a H/R of about 165-170bpm.

As the first downhill started Calle passed me on the right and went downhill like his hair was on fire. That guy can move downhill! I had a minor crash as the trail turned onto a road in a tight left turn; My front tire lost grip in the lose gravel and I bit the dust. Got up, re-aligned the handlebars and I was off again. Per caught up a little later but I was able to get on his wheel and follow him downhill.

Up the second climb I rode together with Per but just before the end of the climb there was a severely steep section where I made the decision to get off and walk while Per continued on the bike. He got a bit of a gap and I was never able to close it again.

Had a second crash at the top of the mountain where my left pedal stuck on something in the grass and I went flying over the handlebars. No damage done and I was back on the bike in a few seconds.

Downhill went well. I felt brave today and did the downhills quickly so I'm pleased with that. Not once did I get off the bike to walk. I really love the control that the dropper post gives me. I use it A LOT here.

Last climb was soooo slow. I was looking down at my power numbers and they barely went over 200W. The only thing that lifted my spirits somewhat was that everyone around me seemed just as tired.

Last downhill went quickly but I got into another minor crash in a really steep section. No biggie though. Crossed the finish line and saw Calle and Per waiting for me. Had some cake!

Result: Third place in M50

Stage 1: Prologue

Result: Third place in M50

I did the long climb fairly easy. It took 41 minutes all in all at 298W and 169bpm H/R.

What I am however the most proud of is the fact that I did the whole difficult downhill section without getting off the bike!!

Before the race

That's right! It's really happening! Beskidy Trophy is on for 2021. And it starts... TOMORROW!

I packed the Type-R with my two BMC Fourstrokes (and also my Bianchi Oltre road bike)

BMC Fourstroke One 01

Two mountainbikes and a road bike packed inside a Honda Civic!

My kind neighbour, Jörgen, helped me get the car started (out of battery power)

There was a bit of last-minute drama as you can see in the photo; The battery of the Honda had fully discharged and it wouldn't start (I almost never drive anywhere anymore so the car sits for weeks). My neighbor, Jörgen, helped me out however and we got the car started.

The bikes: BMC Fourstroke One 01
I'm going to race on the black one (which has mechanical gears, the red one has electronic)
The tires: Maxxis Aspen 2.2" (weight: 640 gram) 

I'm going to write a complete piece on the bikes... soon...

The nice thing with the BMC Fourstroke is that it has a built-in dropper post from the factory. Only a 70mm drop but it's enough. I think it's going to be very useful in the terrain here.

I arrived in Poland yesterday (Tuesday). With the pandemic going about I had to do a Covid test, of the Antigen kind, in Sweden so that I had a certificate to show at the Polish border. I did the test, got the certificate showing a negative results, and then NO ONE CHECKED IT AT THE BORDER!?

After arriving on location I managed to get my bike ready and then met up with my two friends Calle and Per (who are also racing) for a short test ride.

This year the venue changes racing village from Istebna, which they've used all the previous years (is it 5 now?) that I've participated in the race to a nearby village called Szczyrk. Go ahead and try to pronounce that! The change is good as this village is bigger and more touristy. It has more small shops, restaurant and the hotel that we're staying at is much bigger (nicer buffé).

I'm writing this Wednesday and the race starts tomorrow. The first stage is a shorter prologue stage of 16km with 700 meters of climbing. One big climb and one big downhill. Everyone starts in a single start time trial fashion. Actually three riders start at a time with a pause between groups. There's no seeding and we're just starting ordered by last name. So that will be interesting...

I test rode the stage this morning. The climb is pretty much what I expected: First a short stretch of asphalt, then gravel road, then forest road. However the descent is a bit more extreme than I had expected. There's a section that is extremely steep, has these big stones that move around and the trail is really narrow. I used the dropper on the descent to get nice a low but managed to overheat the rear brake. It's going to be interesting to see if some riders jump of their bikes to walk that section and what kind of congestion that could lead to.