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.

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