Sunday, 21 June 2015

Alpe Adria Bike Festival - Three Country Mountain Bike Race in the Alps

Result: 5th place

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Racing Ralph 2.1 SnakeSkin - 1.6ar

This is a fun race that I did for the second time. It's mostly on gravel roads but it's fun anyway because of varying nature of the race. It starts off in Austria, goes over a mountain with the first climb taking almost an hour (1000 vertical meters), into Slovenia, and down the other side of the mountain on gravel roads with insane speeds and fun turns. Then into Italy for a while, and back to Austria. All in all it's 105km and 2000 vertical meters.

Results: Alpe Adria Bike Festival - Mountain Bike

Race story:
As the race starts with this huge climb it doesn't really make any sense to try to stay with any other rider or group. You just go at your own pace and see how it goes. I can sustain a heart rate of about 170, or slightly more, over an hour, and so I tried to keep an even pace up the mountain. I succeeded mostly with my heart rate running around 172-175 for most of the climb, dropping down to 170 towards the end. I was passing riders all the way up but there was a group of riders that went away right at the start.
After the long climb there's an equally long descent on the other side. It's on loose gravel road with a lot of turns and serpentine turns. It's fun, fast and manic and if you're daring enough to stay of the breaks you can go really quickly. It took me 20 minutes this year, which is 2 minutes faster than last year. Last year I was getting passed on this section, this year no one passed me, instead I passed 3--4 riders. The funny thing is that I only gained about 50 seconds on the long climb before this descent. So my skills as a mountain biker have improved more descending than my better shape has made me quicker in the uphill.
After getting down the hill I was able to catch up with another rider. The next part is quite flat going past Kranjska Gora (in Slovenia) and we took turns at the front and the speed was good. However after a while he seemed to get tired and I was on my own. I realized that with half the race left there was no idea in pushing hard so I tried to take it quite easy and wait for the next group to catch me.
I got caught by a group of 4 riders and shortly after that we picked up another rider. I had no problems keeping up with this group. However I didn't want to end up in a finish sprint with these many guys so I tried to get the group down in size by sprinting up some inclines and hoping some one or two of the other riders would take my wheel. However, this did not work, and I only managed to leave the whole group behind. Again, with the distance that was left to the finish line there was no point in pushing on myself so I just let them catch me again.
The finish of this race is a bit special: You ride on a strolling path next to a large river going into the Austrian town of Villach. A couple of hundred meters before the finish line there's a sudden turn and you go up a flight of about 20-30 stairs. It's not possible to go up them on your bike so you have to get off and run up them. After this there's an uphill sprint finish on cobbles which is about 200 meters. Now, the stairs are only wide enough to take one biker at a time. So if you're first up the stairs you tend to win the sprint.
So with 1000m to go there were the six of us in the group, and I had just switched to the front of the group. I pedal normally for a few seconds and then I stand up and to an all out sprint. After a few hundred meters I look behind me and I can see that at least two riders had taken my wheel. However I manage to get to the stairs first, run up them, and sprint across the finish first in my group.

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