Sunday, 31 May 2015

Långa Lugnet - Poor form

Result: 13th place

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak Control/Rengade Control 2.0 - 1.7bar

This is was the second race of the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen). At the first race I had suffered a tear in the side of the front tyre, so for this race I had the slightly thicker Control version of Rengeade and Fast Trak as opposed to S-works. The Specialized web site says "Casing: 60 TPI for 15% improved cut resistance over S-Works model". 15% is not much but it's something. The weight is still low, they came to about 550g on my scales. As usual I run a tubeless setup and I had "stansed" the tires 4 days before the race so that I would have time to make them bed properly and have them completely air tight. However, this did not turn out 100% perfect and on race day the rear tire was still l leaking ever so slightly. I decided to run it anyway (the alternative would have been to throw in a tube). I did however over-inflate the tires somewhat to compensate for any leaking of air that might occur.
My form in the week leading up to the race had been rather poor. I had a training session with some of the quick guys on the Wednesday before the race and it went poorly. I had however hoped that perhaps two days of (almost) rest would do some good.
The race consists of three loops: The first one being mostly easy riding gravel roads, however this year they had changed the first loop to also include some single track. The second loop is the technical one and has a lot of single track over rooty and rocky sections. Here you want to ride low tire pressure and full suspension. The last loop goes up and down some of the ski slopes in the area and is really hard on the legs.

Results: Långa Lugnet

Race story:
The race starts with a fairly long paved uphill. Starting from the second row I started to slowly make my way up through the field. However, after just a couple of hundred meters a very strange thing happened: I got extremely dizzy and had trouble focusing my eyes on the road. This went on for just a few seconds (long enough for me to think about if I should get off the road before I lost my balance). It did however scare me and I took it a bit easier for the rest of the climb. At the top of the climb I could see a large leading group just some 30m ahead. I tried desperately to catch them but couldn't get close enough.
I ended up in a group with Robert Elisasson and and Mathias Israelsson along with 5-6 other guys. The first loop went ok and I did catch up with guys that went off the front group. In the climbs I felt week and struggling but still managed to out distance most of the other riders that were around me. But, the feeling in my body, my legs, was just not one of power, it just felt like a struggle all the way.
The second loop started ok but I did feel the high pressure that I had in the tires. I was bouncing around quite a lot on the roots in spite of the full susp. It had also started raining and that made the roots and the rocks slippery. Still, feeling like a struggle I was not loosing any places and I was still catching up with guys dropping off the front group.
Towards the ends of the second loop and at the beginning of the last I did notice that my body was probably not going to last all the way to the end. At the first few climbs of the last loop, going up the ski slopes, I had to start letting people pass me. I also started to notice that my rear tire now probably had deflated some. I prepared my CO2 while still riding and got off really quickly and gave my rear tire a boost of air. I'm starting to get good at this, however it's scary that it has happened so often this season. NOT GOOD. I did only loose seconds, all though it's hard to judge how much time it costs to ride on that slightly deflated tire before I noticed it. Anyway, getting more and more tired I had to let a few more riders pass me. Then we got to the downhill sections with banked turns and berms. I tried to take them as quickly as I could but it was getting very slippery by then as the rain had increased even more. I finished the race ok. 13th place is not good, but I made the best that I could from the poor form that I'm currently in. I wonder how my form will be at the stage race, Beskidy Trophy, that I start on Thursday next week.

Conclusion: I need to learn how to maximize my form before important races

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

DustCup Race #3 - Puncture

Result: Aborted

Bike: Trek Superfly 9.9 SL, RocketRon/RacingRalph LiteSkin 2.25 - 1.4bar

So... Dustcup #3... Fun and quick track. A tad mit muddy in places. Outcome not so satisfactory however.

DustCup #3

Race story:
I got off to a bad start as, after just a few meters, a guy in front of me had mechanical issues and I had to brake to get around him. Lost contact with the front group and started chasing. I had just chased a few riders down and was starting to gain ground when, towards the end of the first lap, I heard a sound like "psssshhhhh" from my rear tire. After a very short time it became completely deflated. I inflated it with some CO2 but it only took a few seconds to empty again. I completed the lap and then had a look at the tire: A BIG hole in the center of the track which the Stans fluid had no chance of sealing.
I had been running the tire for about four months so It was time to replace it. Still, the track looked good and not too worn.

New tires... SnakeSkin...

Sunday, 17 May 2015

XCup Race #3 - Third race in five days

Result: 9th (overall)

Bike: Trek Superfly 9.9 SL, RocketRon/RacingRalph LiteSkin 2.25 - 1.3bar

This race was run on a fast and technical race course really close to where I live which I had not raced on before. The first time I even rode it was a week before the race when we tested it. It's a rather rooty course with a few exciting steep sections. When we tested it the course was fairly dry... On race day we had rain and hail just before the start...
Also, third race in five days... I did not have high hopes...

XCup #3

Race story:
There was a start loop which consisted of a long paved road climb. Being the optimist that I always am I took the lead up this climb and pushed as hard as I could... but of course, being over-trained the way I was, that didn't mean I was very quick. The guys let me have the lead until just before the end of the climb when 4-5 of them rushed past as if I was standing still. I managed to hang on the the tail of their group however.
After a few minutes we came into the muddy forest singletrack and, well, I just didn't have the confidence that I should in the grip or my tyres for that matter. I was going slow and got passed by a few riders in the first two laps.
However after two laps I started getting used to the conditions, I was chosing my lines a bit more carefully, and, well, also the sun came out and it began to dry up a bit. So I managed to hand on to ninth place.

Muddy conditions are hard

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Huskvarna Mountain XCO - Spontaneous race!

Result: 10th place

Bike: Trek Superfly 9.9 SL, RocketRon/RacingRalph LiteSkin 2.25 - 1.3bar

I do very few pure XCO races... like I've done ONE: Last year's Swedish champtionships. And for multiple reasons: One being that there are few close by. The other being that I suck at really technical tracks. However, today there was one not too far away (ok, a three hour drive) and I had been told it was on an ok technical level (I turned out to be extremely technical). So, this morning, when I woke up, I decided to drive up to Huskvarna on my own and participate in Huskvarna Mountain.

Results: Huskvarna Mountain

Race story:
I got up to the race location just in time to do one practice lap. The track turned out to contain quite a few sections of a and b-lines (and one c-line even!). Two of the a-lines were doable, the rest (2 or 3) where really dangerous (to me at least). Had I had time to do more practicing I may have found the courage to do more of the a-lines. I have to get back to that course and try it again.
So the race started (I started from the last row) and I pretty much started overtaking people from the first few meters. Everything went fine but, of course, every time I took a b-line I lost a few places. There were how ever plenty of uphills so I managed to take back some places there.
In the last a-line of the lap I sort of chickened out halfway through and laid down on my side (dangerous!). This was really really embarrassing and I had to pick up my bike and run the rest of the section (with people being upset behind me). The rest of the laps I took the b-line here.
Anyway, after 50 minutes of racing I finished in 10th place... which is something I was quite pleased with. Now I just need to learn some tech skills so I can go down the a-lines in the future.

Conclusion: XCO is really scary (on difficult tracks like this one) but also an inspiring challenge

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Hotcup Race #2 - Crash + puncture

Result: 15th place

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak S-works/Rengade S-works 2.0 - 1.7bar

The second race in the Hotcup series offered a wonderful technical and quick track. It had rained during the day but the track was completely dry and grippy. I went with the full-susp, the same setup as I had used during Billingeracet last weekend. I had sort of quickly patched up the front tyre after that race... it turned out the patch wasn't that good. I had run the bike a couple of times before the Hotcup race to make sure that the tyre held air and it was ok... at least then.

Results: Hotcup #2

Race story:
I'm not going to make this a long one because I'm still upset by how the whole thing went. Let's just quickly cover the fact that I perhaps had the best legs/lungs of this year during the race. I led the race (overall!) for much of the second and third laps and had actually on a few occasions opened up a gap. Halfway through the third lap, while in the lead, I do a really bad ODB (over-the-bar) crash when the right side of my handlebars inexplicably get caught on a wooden post. I pick up the bike and keep going but quickly notice that my front tyre is becoming deflated. This was probably also the reason for the crash. I keep going, put in some CO2, get going again but air leaks out almost immediately. So halfway through the fourth lap I quit. I'm really upset about having to abort a race when it was going so well.

Conclusion: Take better care of your tyres

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Billingeracet - Good legs but bad tyre, and more CO2

Result: Tenth place

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak S-works/Rengade S-works 2.0 - 1.7bar

Billingeracet is the first race in the Swedish Marathon Cup (Svenska Långloppscupen). It's also one of the toughest races in the cup. It's 80km long, contains a bunch of climbing and a high percentage of single track. Being early in the season it's also not unusual that the race is quite muddy. The finish is up the infamous "Strupen" hill climb. I've done this race twice previously and failed both times in a miserable way.
As the race, for me at least, tends to take around 3.5 hours a full suspension bike is the right tool to keep the legs fresh towards the end of this race. So my bike of choice for the day was the Superfly FS, together with the light and easy rolling S-works tires (which turned out to be a mistake)

Results: Billingeracet

Race story:
The race starts with a really long climb (about 7 minutes) which for the first half is on paved road but then transitions into single track. It's important to go hard during this climb in order to get a good position into the single track and also so that, after the climb, you get a good group to ride with. On previous years I have gone "all in" on this climb and have come over it completely exhausted. This year I took it a bit easier. Strava still says that it went 7 seconds quick than 2014.
After the climb I managed to find a good group to ride with, among other riders, my team mate Jerry Olsson. I knew that my other teammate, Martin Wenhov, was not too far behind as he had followed my up a large portion of the starting hill. Our group varied around 4 - 8 cyclist for the first half of the race. The last major hill, before the finishing one, is done just before the 30km mark of the race. On this particular hill, when comparing numbers with 2014, I went almost half a minute quicker. This shows that I was much more successful in planning my riding and choosing good groups to ride with.
Halfway through the race you pass the stadium where the race finishes and here I had placed a bottle which I was able to pick up. This was the first time that I had a home-built bottle holder so that I could take the bottle at more-or-less full speed. This went well. We went out into the second and last loop with Jerry some 20-30 meters ahead of me. I caught up with him and we were a group of about 4-5 riders again.
As the race approached the last 20km my legs where feeling good and things were going well. The group was down to 4 riders now, with Jerry still there. But then my front wheel stopped wanting to turn in properly. I realized that the front tyre is almost flat. My first thought was that it was another burp (of which I had had a few with these tyres). So I got off the bike and used one of my two CO2 canisters to inflate the tyre. It seemed to hold air. I got on the bike and continued, but, of course, my group had gone away from me. While filling up the tyre with air I also noticed Martin Wenhov passing by (as usual he's never far behind when a race draws closer to its ending).
I try to keep up the pace and motivation even though I'm rather upset with the situation. I was having a great race and everything is going fine up till this point. I managed to ride a few more kilometers and then notice that my front tyre is going flat again. Now I realize that I have to start planning: I have one more CO2 canister left and about 15km to go until the finish. I do have a normal mini pump but using that to fill up the tyre would cost me a lot of time. I try to hang on as long as I can with a really badly behaving bike due to the small amount of air in my front tyre. I make it to about 10km left and then use my last C02.
As I mentionen before the race ends in the long climb - 'Strupen'. I go up this climb with barely any air left in my front tyre. The climb is normally really tough and under these circumstances double so. I do however manage to get up it and am surprised to discover that I mamanged to finish in 10th place. Without the mechanical issues I would probably have finished in fifth place

I'm changing to tyres with thicker side walls for the marathon races

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Dustcup Race #2 - MUD and Burp

Result: Eigth place
Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, RocketRon/RacingRalph LiteSkin 2.25 - 1.4/1.5bar

The second race in the Danish Dustcup was a bit difficult to analyze. A lot of rain had fallen during the night, however the sun was out during the day leading up to the race. I took the full suspension bike with wide grippy RocketRon/RacingRalphs. Race length was 65 minutes + the lap and the course was labelled as technical.

DustCup #2

Race story:
We turned up a bit late for the race due to first driving to the wrong race location. It didn't take much more than 20 more minutes to get to the right place though. Note to self: Double check where Google Maps 'thinks' a road is located. I managed to test ride about half of the course. It was MUDDY. And the muddy parts were very hard to judge: There were big puddles, with varying depth, and there were long continuous sections of them. So a section of puddles could be a few shallow ones followed by some DEEP ones. The kind that would cause you to do an over-the-bar. I saw a couple of guys walking around with wrecked and bent front wheels after the race.
The start went a bit worse than usual. But after a few kilometres I had caught up with what I judged had to be the lead in M40: Henrik Söeberg was theere, so was Pelle Jansen, as well has Henrik Ahlbäck (now in M50 but still quick!). Towards the end of the lap I took the lead in this group... and then we hit the BIG MUDDY SECTION. I got uncertain and careful, braked too much, got stuck, and all the other guys went by me. Once I got going again they were some 50 meters ahead of me.
I started chasing after them and things seem to be going better again. I caught up with Henrik Ahlbäck but the rest of them were a bit further ahead. Right around here the back end of the bike started to feel sluggish, like it didn't quite want to turn. Also I felt that even though I really gave it my all I wasn't really going all that fast in the quick gravel sections. Something was definitely wrong with the back end. My speculation was that either my rear damper had lost a lot of air or my rear tire was going flat.
At this point I started to lose motivation and my mood went bad. I decided to keep pedaling unless things got a lot worse. People however kept catching up with me and passing me, especially in the muddy sections of the course.
At the end, with the race finished, it turned out that I had come in eighth place.
I checked the air pressure of my rear tyre after the race: 0.81 bars. So, yeah, nothing wrong with the bike but the rear tyre. At some point I had gotten a 'burp'

What's up with all the burps I'm getting lately??

Sunday, 3 May 2015

XCup Race #2

Result: 12th (overall)

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, RocketRon/RacingRalph LiteSkin 2.25 - 1.3bar

Well, let me just start of by writing that, as far as placing in this race, I had no high hopes. The race I did the previous day, Lidingöloppet MTB, left me completely exhausted.
However, I love racing and I love XCup so obviously I had to take part in the second race in the Cup. This particular venue was on a very flat track, close to the sea. No climbs to speak of but some parts that had rather tight, tricky and slow singletrack going around trees, roots and other natural obstacles. Not my favourite kind of course but that makes it so much more of a challenge. And I love a good challenge.

XCup #2

Race story:
The start loop was on quick gravel loop. I was in the front starting group and the quick boys gave it all from the get go. I was really surprised that I could hang in there with them and even advance during the start loop. When the track turned to singletrack I was somewhere around 8-9th place which was really good.
For the first 30 minutes of the race I had a good fight with a group of riders who were just behind the leading group. My body was working well, pulse was high, all good signs. However, almost magically, after 30 minutes almost all energy left my body. I let the group go and slowed down to allow myself to breathe again. From being able to pulse around 180rpm I went down to just above 160. Even on the long gravel straights I couldn't get my heartbeat up no matter how hard I tried pushing my legs. So this was the legacy that I had from yesterdays Lidingöloppet.
With two laps left of the race two riders caught up with me from behind. I was sure that they would just race by me and that I'd have no chance of taking their backs. This didn't happen however. I was lucky as they caught up just before a gravel section and I didn't have too much trouble keeping with them.
The last lap started with a tricky and slow section which I knew was not good for me. So I did the smart thing and took the lead in our small three-man group just ahead of it. The group rode together for the first half of the last lap. Then, on a long gravel section I allowed one of the guys to pull me along, then, just before turning into some really quick singletrack I went ahead of him, took the turn really quickly, and then gave it all for about 500 meters. I then looked behind me and saw that I had lost both riders.
I kept going quickly and managed to finish the race in 12th place. Very happy under the circumstances.

My body behaves strangely when racing on consecutive days.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Lidingöloppet MTB

Result: 31st place (overall)

Bike: Trek Superfly 9.9 SL, Fast Trak S-works/Rengade S-works 2.0 - 1.7bar

Lidingöloppet MTB is one of the most popular mountain bike races in Sweden. Most of the Swedish Elite riders take part. This year was exceptional with some really big hitters having signed up for the race. The course is a very hilly one with lots of climbing. The tracks are mostly jogging trails with tricky turns on loose gravel. Very little singletrack but also few gravel roads.
I took part in the race last year and perhaps did one of the best results of the year, placing 11th.

Lidingöloppet MTB

Race story:
The trails in this race are mostly quite even with few bumps, this in combination with a lot of climbing made me decide to take the hardtail together with the quick rolling S-works tires. As I had problems with burps in the last race I made sure to add a bit more air to the tires than I usually run.
The start went well and I was quite well placed after the first few kilometers. There was some chaos and confusion going into the first steep hill. I passed people and I got passed. But after a while things settled down.
I tried to find a good group to ride with but ended up doing the first bit on my own. After a while a group of some 3-4 riders formed. However it ended up being very uncooperative. People would race up hills, gaps would develop, and then no one wanted to pull in the quick flat sections. I ended up doing a lot of work myself, by pulling people over the quick and flat sections and closing gaps when riders would sprint up hills and then just slow down as soon as they got to the top. I saw the next group just a few hundred meters ahead but the cooperation in our group was so bad that we never started gaining any ground on them.
After about half the race we started getting some rain and that increased towards the end of the race. Conditions became a bit more slippery.
With about 20km remaining we were caught by two riders who were going really fast. A larger group of some 6 riders developed for a while. The pace went up but towards the end of the race I had to let them go. Our group split up with three riders going ahead of me and two riders dropping of behind me. I ended up doing the last 10km on my own, but always under pressure from behind.
I finished the race in 31st place. Now this doesn't sound very impressive but keep in mind that this was overall (no categories) and a lot of good elite riders took part. I finished the race 2 minutes faster than last year.
I'm a bit unsure of if I did a good race or not. Heart rate data shows quite low numbers. I think the main problem was that I had to do almost all the hard work myself during this race and that no good group developed.

Sometimes it's hard to find a good pace and group to ride with

Friday, 1 May 2015

Testing this year's Swedish National Championship's XCO course in Isaberg

We decided that we needed to practice this year's XCO Championship course in Isaberg. As we were going to race Lidingöloppet MTB on Saturday and Isaberg was om the way we could stop by on the day before. The plan was to test the course but not go too hard as we had some racing to do the next day.
My previous experience with racing in the National XCO Championships was from last year and the Jönköping race. That was my least favorite race of all of 2014. The course was not suited to my skills and completely lacked flow. There were some sections that I found ridiculously difficult. The really dangerous ones had a b-line, but you lost so much time taking that line. I ended up not doing any of the a-lines (there were only two). Also, at the start of our race there was a really bad crash and that sort of set the mood. I did not place well in the race. So with that in recent memory I was very curious about the Isaberg track.
The Swedish XCO Championships are not until the middle of July but the course is almost finished and well marked. The region is very hilly and so there's plenty of steep climbing and descending. Now I'm not sure if we rode the course in "the right order" but here's a description of it anyway: The first part is some quite tight and natural singletrack through the forest. Mostly quite quick and flowy. No real technical difficulties. Probably hard to pass in a race situation however.
When you leave the forest you approach a ski slope and some newly built tracks. You climb beside the ski slope on some newly constructed serpentine tracks going uphill with switchback turns. It's quite steep but not overly so. I had no problems using my front 34T chain ring. Anyone doing the race should be fine with 34T (running 1x11 with 42T in the back). After reaching the top you're presented with some typical downhill riding with tight banked turns. Two of the downhill sections, connected by a tight curve, are extremely steep with quite loose surface. Those were rather scary.
After this part of the course you get to a section which is out in the open and contains a collection of man-made obstacles. There are some drops, one high jump (with a b and c-line). A lot of banked turns. Also a rather high rock that you need to drop off (again with a b-line). This is the part of the course that is technical and where practicing will help. The interesting part is also that the way the b-lines had been constructed (keep in mind that this may now be the final version of the course) they just cost a few extra seconds to take. This is in stark contrast with last year's course.
We only managed one lap of the track because we didn't want to wear out or legs too much. But, in conclusion, this track is great! It's fun to ride, not too dangerous or too difficult. It has good flow. Top marks all around!
We'll try to make it back for more practicing.