Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sudety Chalenge, 6 day stage race, starting SOON

  • 6 stages
  • 320 km
  • 11 345 m total ascent

The race starts this Sunday, 22nd of July!


First Time Ever

I've raced a few different stage races over the years but this will be the first time I compete in Sudety Challenge. Sudety is sort of a sister race to Beskidy Trophy, which I've raced many times. They both take place in the same area of Poland (though they don't share any actual locations). I'm expecting the same kind of fun and challenging terrain as in Beskidy meaning: Few gravel roads and mostly singletrack. Each stage has around 500 fewer meters of total ascent compared to Beskidy, while length-wise they are similar.

There is one big difference between Sudety and Beskidy and that is that you change start/finish location for the different stages, meaning you need to switch hotels. The good thing is that there are not six separate locations, only three. It makes sense however as finding six unique sections of trails for all the stages that all start and end at the same place would be impossible.


The Stages

These are the six stages:








Equipment

I'll be riding my Trek Superfly 9.9 SL RSL. I haven't used it that much since Beskidy Trophy so what I did was replace the rear tire, put in new brake pads both front and rear, and top of the Stan's fluid in the tires. Front tire was still fine.

The tire setup will be:
Front: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin
Rear: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin

I'll probbaly run around 1.6 bars of air pressure.

Expectations and Form

Form has been going up lately. I did a 9x9 minute session on my stationary bike last week were I managed an average of 326 watts. That's a new personal best. Weight is just around 71 kg right now. That's acceptable.

It's hard to say something about what kind of expectations that I have on the race. I checked the list of starters and what surprised me is that perhaps 80% of them are from outside of Poland. My weight and power figures are about where they were before Beskidy Trophy and I finished that race in third place so perhaps something similar...?


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Hotcup #4 - All of a sudden: Good legs!

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL, Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin 1.40 / Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 1.40 bar

Result: Fourth in M40, eigth overall


Quick summary

  • Great form!!!

The Aftermath of Ränneslätt!?


Today's race was only four days after my disastrous Ränneslättsturen. Considering that I had pretty much hit a wall at 20km before the finish of that race and I know how much that costs in terms of recovery... I had no high hopes for Hotcup #4 today.

Things went great!

But what do you know? Things went great!

The course today was quick and flowy; my favorite kind. I started slowly but gained positions throughout the race. I could see the front group for the first half of the race but they were just out of reach. 

I finished in 4th place in M40, 8th overall


Post Race Data is Super!

So everything that went wrong at Ränneslätt went right today. Obviously two very different races. Today's Hotcup was 1.5 hours, Ränneslätt was 3 hours.

Watt data was very nice: 263 W average (weighted average was 278W)'

Heart rate was very nice too: 175 average, 186 max.

So body was responding well.

The four lap data looks as follows:



Monday, 2 July 2018

Ränneslättsturen - Dropped bottle, leaky rear tire and not making the right decisions

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 1.50 bar / Thunderburt 1.50 bar

Result: Really bad


Quick summary

  • Dropped bottle after 5km
  • Leaky rear tire
    • Noticed rear tire was not behaving properly
    • Kept going on anyway as I was with good group
    • Went too hard to stay with group
    • After stopping and inflating was too tried to finish well
  • Last 20 km I was dead

Good start

The start of the race was better than the past few ones. I was able to go really hard and advance up the field. VO2max feels good in other words

The warm temperatures and sun had made the sandy roads at the start really dusty. As we turned into a gravel road at 3km the dust was so thick that people started breaking in front as no one could see where they were going.

Dropped bottle

Already after 5km I notice that my bottle has gone missing. This is my first dropped bottle this year. I was using my large 1.1 liter bottle for the first time this year and I'm guessing that the bottle holder is a bit worn out and flexed too much. My pal Bo-Rickard Jepson saved my life and gave me a new bottle at 21km. And then tried to give me another one at 42km but I dropped it after trying to stove it into my rear pocket. Thanks Bo-Rickard! I ended up just drinking 0.6 liters for the three hours which wasn't enough on this warm and dusty day.

Rear tire deflating

At around 20km I noitced that my rear wheel wasn't behaving properly. It was washing out wide in grippy turns and also the tire was bottoming out over some stones. I suspected that it had become deflated but I wasn't sure. I was in a really good group and I didn't want to let go of it. So I decided to ignore the fact that I should probably stop and do a quick refill with the CO2. After riding harder and harder to keep up with the group because the bike was more and more difficult to control I finally stopped at 50km to refill the tire with some air. I quickly checked the tire before inflating it and there was perhaps half the correct air pressure. The refill fixed it right up though and it didn't continue to deflate. My guess is that there had been a hole which had allowed the air to leak out but the Stan's fluid had fixed it.

Obviously I should have stopped earlier...

Dead legs for the last 20km

I had gone way too hard to keep up with my group and the last bit of the race I was just exhausted. People passed me left and right and I just suffered all the way to the finish line. The heart rate graph says everything:



Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Lida Loop - Racing with a worn-out body

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 1.50 bar / Thunderburt 1.50 bar

Result: 10th place



Quick summary

  • Not recovered since Beskidy Trophy
    • Lacking peak power 
    • Low H/R. 
    • Threshold power still fine
  • Had to chase and ride solo after slow start
  • Last 7 km I was dead

First post-Beskidy race

I knew in advance that racing just one week after Beskidy was going to be tough. I took some precautions by trying to take it very easy in the Slovenian Alps. I did one hard interval session last Thursday, and that felt surprisingly good.

But then I did have to spend 16 hours last Friday driving back from my vacation in Slovenia back to Sweden. And then 6 more hours the next day driving north to Stockholm where Lida Loop was to take place. That kind of sitting down is never good for the legs.

I did the normal pre-race routine the day before Lida Loop and that felt okay. However, on the morning of the race, during the warm-up, all power in the legs was just gone. I just managed to get over the starting climb when I tried it out.


The Starting Climb - Dead Last?

Lida Loop has a short but extremely steep hill at the start of the race. This kind of quick and intense climb requires what my legs currently don't have (because of over-training): High peak power. As the race started and I started going over the hill pretty much everyone overtook me.


First Loop - Moving Up

Lida Loop consists of three loops. The first one has quite a lot of gravel roads at the beginning. After losing all that ground over the starting climb I started making up during the first loop. I think I must've passed about 50 or 60 cyclists during that first loop. It was actually quite fun, but I knew it was taking a toll on my body. I don't think I've ever overtaken this many cyclists during a race before, if it wasn't because of a puncture.

Second Loop - Finding My Place

The second loop is a lot more technical than the first. Here you get all the roots and rocks. There are a lot of places where you can chose different paths over the terrain. About halfway through this loop I caught up with Mattias Israelssons group. They kept good pace and I realised that we were not halfway through the race: If I was going to survive the whole thing I could not keep advancing on my own. I needed wheels to follow.


Third Loop - Paying For My Hard Riding

The group stayed more or less intact until there were about 10 km left of the race. At this point Mattias upped the pace and I was just not able to follow. During the following kilometers the rest of the group left me as well and I was getting closer and closer to total exhaustion. Some riders came up from behind and I was able to follow for a while but had to let them go. Two M40 riders passed me during the last few kilometers to the finish.

I still managed a 10th place and I really think that's the best I could do with today's form, condition and level of recovery.










Thursday, 7 June 2018

Biking in Slovenia

After Beskidy Trophy I headed south to Slovenia.

4 days of biking in the Idrija area. 








Thursday, 31 May 2018

Beskidy Trophy 2018 - Live Updates!

Stage 4:


Rain has been pouring down since 05:00 this morning and thunder is cracking.

(The organizers have decided to push the start to 12:00 at the earliest and the stage will be shortened)

New information from the organizers just now:

The last stage of Beskidy Trophy 2018 is cancelled due to extreme weather conditions


Third place in Beskidy Trophy 2018. This is good!

Final podium for the Beskidy Trophy 2018, M4


Stage 3:


Third place in M40 (21st overall )



No rain today! Great!

Started out a bit quicker today than yesterday. Legs felt good, and the rest as well. Personal bests on pretty much all the climbs.

Also I grew some balls during the night and went harder on the downhills as well. That was nice.

The real fun thing that happened during today's stage was actually that I made a new friend: Martin Fus from the Czech Republic. He was on my wheel from the first climb and then we kept company throughout the stage, even waiting for one another during feed station stops.





The bad thing today was a new section they had added to the stage: It sucked! The track was covered by fallen trees which were chest high. One had to first lift the bike over them and then crawl over oneself. It was tedious and boring and not what I consider mountain biking. The new trails were also ruined by the rain and had turned into knee-deep mud in places. And as this was all towards the end of the longest stage it was rather tedious.



I felt strong towards the end of the stage and got a really nice climb up the last hill averaging 270 watts.

Finished in third place.

The situation before the last stage is: I've dropped to third place overall and I'm 2 minutes behind the second placed guy. I am however 13 minutes ahead of the guy in fourth place.



Before stage 3:


Some servicing between stage 2 and 3:
  • The bike was making some awful creaking noises towards the end of stage 2 that only got worse. The fix was to remove the cassette and put it back on. Noise gone!
  • Checking the brake pads and re-aligning the calipers
  • Refill of Stan's fluid
  • Checking all bolts and nuts and tightening where needed
  • And of course all the regular washing and oiling in of all parts

Oh, and this is the kit that I carry:


Stage 2


Fourth place in M40 (25th overall )

Results are here



Rain was forecast for today but the stage started in beautiful sunshine and 28 degree heat again. I had a good margin on my competitors with the third placed guy being 11 minutes behind me. So I decided to play it safe today. I started out slowly going up the first few climbs saving my strength for the long climb halfway through the stage

My main man Jakob before the start of the stage

Chilling before the start of the stage


Once we got to the long climb I stepped it up a gear and it felt like I was going quite quickly. The climb takes 1.5 hours from bottom to top. But checking my Strava stats afterwards I actually went a minute slower than last year. Also on the early climbs of the stage I was a bit slower compared to last year.
First climb

Then, at 12 o'clock, just as I was going steeply downhill from the big hill everything got dark. So dark that I had to take off my sunglasses because I couldn't see the trails. Then thunder started to roll and I could hear lightning strikes close by. And then... it started POURING. Temperatures dropped from 28 to 8 degrees Celsius. I started shivering as I was drenched by the rain. Instead of going down trails I was going through streams of gushing water... And then uphill the same way. Conditions got very treacherous and I decided to slow down in order no to crash. Other cyclists went by me at breakneck speeds.

Once we got back to the valley the sun came out again and conditions were dry. I went all-in for the last 20 km of the stage. All Strava section from halfway through the stage I did personal bests.

Through the finish line in fourth place. A long way down on first place. I also lost 8 minutes to the third placed guy but I'm still in second place three minutes ahead of him.

Recovery food


Stage 1


Second place in M40 (16th overall )

Results are here



Seriously hot day here in Poland today. Temperatures of 28 degrees C. Lovely dry conditions.

The stage started into a shorter climb... When I saw shorter I mean for Beskidy conditions. It took 15 minutes to get over. About halfway through the climb, when I see my heart rate go over 180, I let go of the leading group of about 20 (mostly young) riders. I still catch about five of them before the end of the climb. Things feel good. Averaged 321W over that first climb.

The next descent is tricky and I play it safe and all goes well. Next up is the second 'short' climb... Taking it easy because there's a huge climb about halfway through the stage... Better save energy for that.

There's quite a long asphalt road section leading up to the big climb and I am incredibly lucky to come into this section with a group of four riders. We each take turns team-time-trial-style and keep really good speed.

As the long climb starts I take the lead of our group of five riders. I like it up at the front of a group because I get to keep my own good and steady speed. That is my strength: I can keep the exact same speed going over a long climb. Towards the end of this climb one tiny little guy of our group sprints ahead of me but I see him just some 30 meters ahead of me all the way up. The other three guys lose touch with me and drop off the back.

I'm riding with one single 900ml bottle and I don't need a refill until the second food station (there are three all in all). I stop briefly and they refill it for me. Shortly after this I have one of two crashes on the stage. I have no idea what it was but my front wheel gets caught on something and I fly over the handlebars. No damage done to me or the bike however and I'm back on the bike again. I crash again on a steep descent a bit later when the small strip of dirt that I ride on (with a ditch on either side) gets so narrow that I have to bail. Nothing more serious than that I lie down on my side. Otherwise the descents go really well.

I cross the finish line and get the information that I've placed 16th overall. I realize this is a good result as I've on previous years placed at best 28th overall. I have to wait several hours however before they update the results that show I'm come in second place in M40.

First placed dude is 3 minutes ahead of me, the guy in third place is 10 minutes behind me.


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Beskidy Trophy starts in two days




Beskidy Trophy, the four day stage race in the Polish Beskidy mountains starts on Thursday. This is my main goal for the season and what I've been training all winter for.




This will be my fourth time that I take part. 2015 I placed ninth, 2016 fourth and last year I came in sixth place.

It's a tough race: You're either going steeply uphill och hurling downhill at breakneck speeds. There are almost no flat sections in the race.


Equipment choice


I will be using my Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL with SRAM Eagle. 34T chain ring in front (10-50 cassette). My nice new super light Duke wheels. Tires will be Rocket Ron 2.25" Snakeskin up front and Rocket Ron 2.1" Snakeskin at the back. This means I will go up one size in width up front compared to previous years. I rode the same setup (except for the wheels) at Andalucia Bike race this year and it worked really well. The added front-end grip is very useful in the technical downhills.

I have both my Cube full-susp bike and the Trek Top Fuel to chose from for the race. I like both bikes but as a downhiller the Trek is so smooth and confidence inspiring. That's the reason I chose it over the Cube.

You may remember that I had problems with my brake pads wearing out and losing my rear brake last year during this race. This year I changed to new metallic compound pads yesterday. Hopefully they'll survive all four stages. Although obviously I will bring spare ones



Form and Weight


As I'm deep into racing season my sessions on the Monark exercise bike have gotten fewer. This makes it harder to judge form. Ahead of Andalucia Bike Race I had a better check on my Watts but that was because it was i February and I was hitting that Monark every week. Now with races every weekend and even some in the middle of the week it's hard to combine with hard interval indoor sessions. Also the lovely weather that we've been having lately have made it more attractive to bike outdoors than indoors. In the few indoor interval sessions that I've done have produced decent Watts.

As for race results early this Spring they have not been great... Okay but not great. Billingeracet a couple of weeks back was going to be the big test but due to mechanical issues that race did not go too well.



Weight has been a struggle again. I got down to 70 kg ahead of Andalucia Bike Race in February. Then, after the race I peaked at 76 kg just a few weeks later. And now I've been moving gradually down again. 70.8 kg this morning, just 2 days ahead of the start of Beskidy. I really must find a better process for this... like NOT gaining all that weight between important races. I have another chance at this because I'm doing another mountainous stage race in July: Sudety Challenge.



Weather in Poland



The current weather predictions for the race look terrible. Rain rain rain... and some thunder too. I really hope they change before the race starts. However all the rain the area seems to have had lately will probably make the terrain wet and muddy. I'm glad that I have the wider front tire.




Expectations



It would be great to finish in the top-3 this time....