Monday, 27 July 2015

Ranking for Långloppscupen

The Swedish Marathon Cup, "Långloppscupen", has a system that determines your 'rank' and thereby which starting group you line up in. The ranking number is calculated using a few different factors, the main one being how far behind the guy in first place that you came. There have been six races so far in the cup (there are three left) and I had a look at my 'ranking' numbers during the season:

Långa Lugnet21.1
Lida LoopN/A

The trend is looking good!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Engelbrektsturen - Muddy as hell!

Result: 7th place

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak Control / Rengade Control 2.0 - 1.6bar

Engelbrektsturen is one of the races in Långloppscupen that's considered to be a "gravel rally", meaning it's mostly on gravel roads. They had changed to course since I last raced it in 2013 and we were promised more single track this year.

Results: Engelbrektsturen 2015

The weather forecast was terrible with more than 20mm of rain falling the day before the race and during race day. I was not sure whether I should race my usual easy-rolling Fast Trak / Renegade tires, or change to more grippy tires, but decided not to change. The race turned out to be the most muddy one that I've ever done.

Race story:
I managed to find a good position in the second start group, at the front. When the race started the first part was very quick on flat gravel roads which quickly turned into double track. I slowly worked my way forward but it was hard as the racing was really tight. When the first hill came after about 8km I was able to advance some positions and pass Atle Hansen, among other riders.
On the first slight downhill on slippery grass a guy in front of me fell, and when I was trying to brake to avoid him, my tires lost grip and I crashed into him. And, of course, the guy behind me crashed into me. I was on my bike again within a minute, or less, but I lost some good wheels and had to sprint to make up ground.
A group formed quite quickly and I was able to hang on easilly. On the small climbs that followed I felt quicker than I've done all season. I think this may be due to the weight loss that I've had lately. The general feeling was that exherting myself just didn't hurt that much today.
The parts with  single track on wet grass, mud and wet roots were dfficult with my slippery tires. I slowed down and just tried to cover the terrain safely and without using too much energy. This worked well most of the time. Had I had grippier tires it would have gone faster. But it wasn't a disaster either.
With 10km to go there was four of us left in the group. The pace was quick. Mikael Johansson was in the group and tried a long sprint with 2km left. I took his wheel but when he ran out of steam I didn't have any energy to continue the sprint myself. So the other two guys, who had been left behind, were able to catch up. So it turned into a sprint for the four of us. The finishing area is on paved roads with tight 90-degree turns. I came into the section leading the group of four riders and even had a bit of a gap to the second guy. However on the last part of the sprint, slightly uphill, he was able to get beside me and I could see his front wheel just nudging ahead of mine over the finish line. He took it by about 10cm. 
After checking the results I noticed that I had come in 7th place. 2 tenths of a second behind sixth and one full second behind fifth place. I'm really happy with this result. Racing in these extremely muddy conditions isn't one of my strengths. Finishing as well as I did makes me happy.

I had been thinking lately that I'm not drinking enough during these long marathon races,and also not taking enough gels, however during this race I really concentrated and forced myself to stay hydrated. Hopefully I'll be able to continue this trend.

Being thinner makes me a quicker cyclist

At this point I was still able to use my glasses. I had to ditch them later

Sprint across the finish line
Sprint across the finish line
Sprint across the finish line
Sprint across the finish line

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Swedish XCO Champtionships - DNF due to puncture

Result: DNF

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Vittoria Barzo / Peyote 1.4 bar

Well, what can I say? I tried a new tire: Vittoria Barzo / Peyote (front/rear) and on the third lap out of six I punctured. I was running tubeless as usual and tried to inflate it using CO2 but I had a tear in the sidewall and the Stans fluid would not seal it. When I got home and analyzed the tear I found that it was really small (see photo below). It's not even visible on the inside of the tire. The Vittoria tires weigh in at almost exactly 600 grams and don't really have very thin sidewalls (compared to Schwalbe Rocket Ron Liteskin) so this shouldn't have happened. I'm very disappointed in the tire.

I had visited the track on several occastions during the spring and summer to practice. It was a difficult track for me, not being the most technically adept of mountain bikers. But bit by bit I learned to ride the whole track and on race day I was able to perform well on most parts of it. There were still two A lines that I did not take.

Looking at the section called "Ragnarök" which was the steep downhill part of the track Strava says that I did it in 1m50s and that's just some 10 seconds down on the really quick boys (my best time there is currently 42nd out of 217 riders). So I'm really pleased with this.

This being an XCO race I was a bit insecure and so I didn't take it all too seriously (silly, I know. Being a championship I should take it seriously). This led to me being rather defensive and careful at the start meaning I dropped back too far. I was making up ground quickly on the climbs and was heading for a top-15 position when I puncuted. Still, with a 'normal' and aggressive start I think I might've been in the top-10. I need to get my "head straigtht" at the start of these XCO races. Yes, it's not my strongest discipline (yet) but that doesn't mean I should back off.

So to summarize: I'm really happy that I'm becomming a better XCO cyclist and that I feel comfortable with racing XCO tracks. I really feel the urge to go out to the local downhill tracks at Genarp and do even more technical riding; I probably will this week.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Mörksuggejakten - Not good enough

Result: 11th place

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

Mörksuggejakten is another race in the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen). It's a quick race with flowy trails and gravel roads. The fast paced single track and loose gravel give an adrenalin rich experience. The race starts of with a long climb on a paved road which stretches out the field of riders really well.
I hadn't been feeling all that great after last weekend's race so hopes were not that high. I was however looking forward to racing, as I always do. In last year's race I had a puncture close to the start so nothing to compare with really.

Results: Mörksuggejakten

Race story:
I started in the second row again, but I mamanged to place my bike at the very front of the row. I, for some reason, ended up in the center of the pack while riding through Rättvik on the way to the long first climb. I usually chose either the right or left side of the road so that I can advance easier and it always feels a bit safer too. I had a pretty good ride up to the bottom of the climb.
The length of the climb is 2.5km and it's about 200 meters in altitude. As I always do I started advancing through the field. Pulse was good at above 180 all the way up. It hurts, but it's the only way to do it. I did however never quite manage to reach Jerry or Robert Elisasson and so I felt that I perhaps missed some of the good wheels that I needed to hang on to in order to place really well in this race. Checking Strava after the race and comparing the time going up the hill to last year's race the times are almost identical. However last year I rode the Stumpy equipped with the Lauf Fork so the bike was probably around 1.5 - 2kg lighter then. Considering that I think I was going well up the hill.
So after the hill is a quite messy and quick descent, even tough it's not the least bit steep. And then you get to some quick gravel roads. Here I was really missing the fast guys and had to do a lot of work myself. I jumped from group to group trying to advance. Once things settled down and we had a group of riders it was hard to get people doing their job pulling at the front. Only a couple of riders were willing to do any real work at the front.
Once we got to the more messy, rooty and quick single track the full suspension Superfly really showed it's best side. I was able to be really brutal and not worry about the bike throwing me off or doing anything unpredictable.
There's a bit of a climb at 40k (with 30k left) and at this point we had a group of about 10-15 riders. I decided that it was time to perhaps bring that number down a bit. I went to the front and pulled hard all the way to the top of the climb. It felt like I was going well (heart rate looked good all the way up) but when I looked behind at the top I noticed that I had only managed to stretch the group out into a long line, not split it up.
More hectic and fun single track followed and there was a guy who went to the front of our group and pulled hard. I got on his wheel and things started to go really quickly. The group grew smaller all the time and I felt really good at this point.
With only 5km to go I started to feel tired though and lost a few places. Going over the finish line in eleventh place was a bit of a disappointment with 3-4 guys only 30 seconds ahead of me.

Technical riding is now working really well, now I just need to find my form