Thursday, 27 August 2015

Hotcup #6 - Chaotic start and total disorganization

Result: 6th place

Bike: Trek Superfly 9.9 SL, Vittoria Barzo / Peyote 1.5 bar

If you look at the blogg you may notice that I haven't done many of the Hotcup races. I've missed the last three races (due to other races) and you're allowed to subract only one result, so my total standing is not relevant.
During the night leading up to the race I was waking up soaked in sweat and with a sore throat. Throughout the day I was unsure whether I should take part or not. As I did not feel any worse I decided to race: It's hard to say no to a good race. Now, writing the blog the day after, I can deduce that it was the wrong decision as I now have a cold. Ouch! Now, I may have gotten a cold even if I hadn't raced, but I don't think so.
The race was 80 minutes + the lap and on new trails. Fun! The Hotcup races are always fast and furious and this would turn out to be no different.

Results: Hotcup #6

We lined up in the starting grid with me in group 1. I had perhaps 10 riders in front of me.The start was supposed to sound at 18:30 hours. However at 18:28 there's a vague shout from behind: "Start!". There's confusion everyone with people asking "Did he just say start?" and then we're off.
There are 5-6 guys up at the front of the pack, all in red jerseys, and they're covering the entire width of the gravel road. We're on the start loop (gravel road) and the pace is moderate so I understand the situation as these guys being the "pace riders" and that they will at some point get off the track and the we will be free to overtake. So I'm in around 20th position waiting for the pack to be set free so I can move up in positions while still on the gravel road of the start loop. However the 5-6 guys in red jerseys up front don't get out of the way and we actually get into the first singletrack section with them in front. As the pace is moderate the field has not been stretched out at all and total chaos ensues when everyone tries to squeeze into single track. I realize that I'm way too far behind and out of touch with the quick guys.
After just a few hundred meters of singletrack the guy in front of me falls and blocks the entire trail. So we wait for him to get back on his bike. Then I start making up ground taking position after position. I realize that I'm way too far behind to catch up with the quick guys.
I catch up with a group containing Stefan Methander and start moving up in that group. Soon after that Stefan crashes but is ok. I move to the top of the group and start getting a gap. One of the riders hangs on to my wheel: On technical sections the gap opens up and he falls behind but he catches me again on the short climbs.
After a while I see the yellow sweater of a Team Roslins cyclist in front of me. As I catch up I see that it's Luke Grindahl. Luke and I take turns driving hard and we quickly distance everyone else behind us.
Towards the end of the race there's a lot of lapping slower riders. A quick guy catches up with Luke and I just before the end of the last lap. But a he turns onto the finishing gravel straight, only 100m before the finish, his bike looses grip and he falls. He blocks me the most and I go right of him while Luke gets a straight line and goes left of him. So Luke finishes in front of me by a few seconds. I finish in sixth place.
I ended up having a really intense race (high heart rate!) on a fun track. But when you lose as much ground as I did due to bad organization it's a bit frustrating.
One of the really positive things was that after the race one of my compeditors came up to me and said: I tried to follow you and I was able to in the easy terrain but in the technical stuff you were just too quick. That's probably the only time ever that I've had that said to me.

Conclusion: Don't race when you're feeling half-sick

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Snapphaneturen - Great form!

Result: 7th place (overall)

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak Control / Rengade Control 2.0 - 1.52bar

Snapphaneturen is a marathon MTB race with one big difference from most other marathons: It's mostly on single track. This leads to tough technical challenges and total exhaustion as there are few opportunities for rest.
Snapphaneturen was my first MTB race back in 2010 and I've raced every year since. I have some of my worst memories from this race, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because the first few years my physical form was not up to snuff for the tough races. The first three years that I did this race, I had to stop at some point during the race, with leg cramps.
The race course had been redone for this year's race so instead of repeating the same loop twice and doing 75km we did one loop which was 60km. This seems easier however the amount of singletrack had been increased for this year's race.
I was a bit worried that having racing Vaude Trans Schwarzwald last week I would not be fully recovered. My body felt sluggish during warmup.

Results: Snapphaneturen

I found a good starting position at the very front of the start box. The start loop went well and I was around 15th place for the first part of the race. Really early on I got a branch stuck in my rear deraileur and partly in the casette as well. This was a bit of an annoyance as it, at least for a while, prevented me from using the highest gears. However it came free from the cassette after a few km and while it was still stuck in my rear deraileur it didn't do much harm other than make some annoying noises.
Soon a group formed with Johan Malmsten, Robert Eliasson, a Danish junior, Björn Österberg, Nico and another guy whom I didn't recognize. The pace was good all along and we were making good progress. About halfway through the race Nico noticed that his bike computer had fallen off and made a u-turn to get it. I later heard that he DNF due to a crash and bike problems after that.
With about 20km left our Danish junior started pushing harder on the climbs and I clung close to his wheel. Him, me and Robert Eliasson got a breakaway going from the rest of the guys and the gap started to widen.
Upon reaching a gravel road climb with 15km to go the Danish guy upped the pace another notch and I had to let go, Robert hung on for a little while longer. Just a few km:s later Björn came up from behind and went past me. I had no power to follow but I felt I was still making good progress.
Being alone I concentrated on keeping the pace high and I noticed someone approaching from behind, but I couldn't see who it was. During the last downhill section I manage to get ahead of the unknown cyclist behind me and then I just went all-in knowing that there were not more than 10km left.
With about 6km left we got out on a long gravel road and I had a look behind me and noticed that I had a gap of 200-300m to the chasing cyclist. Afterwards I learned that it was my old Danish nemesis, Henrik Söeberg but he was also with Martin Wenhov and Jerry. I had no idea that it was actually a group chasing me!
The gravel road turned into single track going gradually upwards at a slight incline. I looked back a few times but saw noone. Then a short downhill section followed by the super steep climb called "Hard rock". I felt quite safe going into the climb as I could hear noone behind me. But then, suddenly, at the top of the climb a cyclist had caught up and was on my wheel! It felt like he had come out of nowhere!
I realized that in order for him to catch up so quickly during that short and steep climb he must've gone all out and was probably at max heart rate. I had just concentrated on keeping a steady pace up the hill and was not that maxed out. So just after the hill there's a level and slightly bumpy grassy section where I pushed the pedal to the metal! A short downhill section followed, still at full speed. Then just a km to the finish and glancing behind me I saw that I had a gap of about 30 meters.
I was able to finish ahead of, what I later discovered was Danish ace cyclist Henrik Söeberg. I was very happy with my seventh place finish (overall, no age categories)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Vaude Trans Schwarzwald 2015

Result: 7th place

First three stages: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak Control / Rengade Control 2.0 - 1.75bar
Last two stages: Trek Superfly 9.9 SL, Fast Trak Control / Rengade Control 2.0 - 1.75bar

Vaude Trans Schwarzwald, a five stage race in Germany with 10400hm and 400km in total. There's a summary of the complete race at the bottom of this article, in case you don't want to read all the details of each stage.

Day before Race, introduction

We arrived in Germany today. Picked up our starter's package and checked in to the hotel. We also had time to do a quick bike check and to spinn our stiff legs for a while. I topped off the Stans fluid in both tires.

The race starts tomorrow, Wednesday. I've only had two days of recovery since Finnmarksturen, which is not optimal.

I will be racing my Trek FS Superfly SL. It should be the optimal tool for this race. My initial plan was to use the Racing Ralph 2.1 tires, but after looking at tomorrow's stage in Google Earth I've decided to run my easy-rolling Fast Trak / Renegade combo instead. The stage looks like it consists of mostly gravel roads. I may change to the Racing Ralphs later on. I've also decided to run a 34T chain ring, instead of switching to the 32T. It's a long stage with lots of climbing but the altitude gain is spread out over a long distance so the climbs may not be all that steep. Again, this is for the first stage only. I will probably change to the 32T later on.

Temperatures for the first stage tomorrow are looking crazy high!

First stage

Fifth place on the stage! Very pleased! This is out of 100+ riders in my category (Master 2).

Very warm! Ran out of drink between the first and second feeding station, but only for a few minutes, and again between the second and third, this time for 15km! Once I got to the third feeding station I drank an entire bottle and took another one with me.

The stage turned out to be a bit longer than advertised: 122km and 2500 meters of climbing. It was mostly on gravel roads (and some paved ones even). The amount of single track was just a few percent. That doesn't mean that it wasn't fun though. Many exciting descents and beautiful nature. The 34T chainring and Specialized Fast Trak / Renegades worked well on this terrain. None of the climbs were steep enough that I needed a lower gearing. I was running 1.8 bars which is WAY higher than I usually do but that worked well too. There were some messy single track descents but nothing spectacular.

I let the big boys go on the first climb. There was just no point in going that hard on a stage this long. We got a good group going quite quickly. Our group kept picking up riders who were dropping back and we dropped off riders at the back who were not able to hold on. I was at the front of the group most of the time. Towards the end there we were four riders who left the rest of the group. Two of the guys went away and left me and an Italian guy. During the last two climbs and last 20-30km I did start suffering a bit. The last bit went okay though and I finished just under 5 hours.

I'm a bit worried that I may have gone a bit too hard today. We'll see tomorrow. 165 average pulse and 182 max.

One decision that I have to make for tomorrow is whether to use a 32T chainring instead of the 34T that I used today.

The stage tomorrow is 77km and 2300hm. So almost the same amount of climbing as today on a stage that's much shorter. This means things will be a lot steeper!

And, well, yeah, the weather will be EVEN warmer!

Second stage

Today's stage was 78km and 2300hm.

After finishing fifth in the first stage I was in start box A1. This meant that I was called into the start box by the announcer. Very cool!

The stage started off with a looong climb of almost 20km and 700hm. I let the quick boys go after about 5km and found a good group. I was suffering from the long first stage and had to let the group go with about 5km left of the climb. Got caught by another group which I managed to stay with until the end of the stage. I felt that I finished quite strongly and in good shape.

I finished the stage in nineth position.

The terrain today has been almost exclusively gravel road. Almost no single track. I did get kind of bored towards the end. Some nice descents but nothing more exciting than that.

I managed to minimize my losses by only finishing a few minutes behind most of my compeditors in the M2 category. In the total standings I'm still jn fifth place.

Changing the 34T for a 32T before stage 2

The race pack (plus spare tube taped to the seat post)

Third stage

Again a longer stage of 86km and 2300hm.

The legs were stronger today. I took it easy from the start as I was feeling a bit worn. Again a group formed which gradually grew to about 10-15 riders.

At about 20km we noticted that we were catching up with a larger group of about 20 riders. This was at a start of a hill and so 3 riders in our group sprinted ahead hoping to catch this larger group, I managed to attach myself to one of their wheels and got up with this better group. Here the pace got really quick (and I never saw the rest of the old group). Things were going nicely and I was feeling stronger and stronger during the climbs.

At about 40km, while going downhill over a wooded area with a lot of branches over the path I heard a loud crack, like a branch snapping in two. At the same time my bike shook. I know that when a branch gets caught in your bike and makes a noise that loud, something else has to break, other than the branch. I stopped and had a look at my bike: The cage of the rear deraileur was angled in towards the wheel. I could ride the bike but there were all kinds of weird noises coming from the deraileur. I noticed that if I tried to reach the two lightest gears the cage wanted to touch the spokes of the wheel. So I was limited to gears 3 through 11. Also, the chain kept derailing from the lower pulley wheel so I had to stop and lift it back onto the pulley wheel at regular intervals (mostly in the climbs). As there were still 46km to go there were some serious climbs left.

I managed to make it to the end of the stage by doing a lot of climbs on high gears and very low cadence. The legs got a real workout today.

After checking the results I saw that I had come in at 11th place. In the total standings I've dropped down to sixth place.

I visited the Vaude Trans Schwarzwald service team but they didn't have a single XX1, X01 or X1 deraileur. Which I thought was kind of strange because it's a common component. I would say that at least 20% of the riders here are riding bikes with that rear deraileur. So I've made the decision to tide my Superfly SL hardtail (which I had lucklilly brought with me for just this sort of incident). After riding three stages here I feel that the lightness of a hardtail may actually be superiour to the extra comfyness of a full-suspension bike.

The broken rear deraileur cage (notice the chain going beside the pulley wheel)

Getting the hardtail ready for the fourth stage (moving over the 32T chainring and the Valor wheels)

Fourth stage

Today's stage was 75km and 1850hm. The stage was actually more downhill than uphil. This is an interesting thing that occurs in stage races where the start and finish are not in the same place. Some stages go uphill, others downhill. 

I had changed to my hardtail due to the failing rear deraileur yesterday. I could've changed deraileurs, had I wanted, and then ridden the fully today. But as I've learnt more and more about this race I start to realize that with the terrain being mostly gravel roads and UPHILL you just want as light a bike as possible. The hardtail is about 1kg lighter than the fully and I felt this would be an advantage.

It had been raining the whole night... hard! And the weather forecast promised more rain during the stage. However, the ground was more or less dry and no rain fell. In some places there was some slippery grass and perhaps 3-4 places with mud. But there was nothing that that even my easy-rolling tires could handle. 

I had been moved down on the starting grid to slot A2. Demoted from A1 as I had lost my fifth place in the total standings. Still, this was not an issue as every stage starts with a climb which splits up the field directly.

Warm-up was minimal. This is the fourth day and my body is rather worn out. I may have made a misstake with not warming up enough as when the race started and we went immediatelly into a climb (yes, the climb actually started right after the starting line) my whole body felt really weak and it was as if my whole upper (!) body ached as I tried to push my pulse over 150. I quickly realized that I just needed to take it easy for the first part and let my body settle into it.

A group formed quite quickly and I recognized many of my competitors from the previous stages. As the stage proceded I started to feel better and the legs got working. I spent most of my time at the front of the group. We picked up riders all the time who were dropping back. During the whole stage only two guys went away ahead from us.

This stage contained the most single track of any of the stages so far. That doesn't really say much. Perhaps, out of the 75km of the stage some 5km may have had been single track. There were still some rather fun down-hill segments on single track. And especially the last few km to the finish which were on a track with some jumps going downhill all the way. That was A LOT of fun! I actually surprise myself by writing this because this sort of terrain would've scared me before. Instead I was at the front of our group bombing down the track and distancing the rest of the riders.
One scary moment today was when we hit one of the single-track sections going steeply uphill with a steep drop on the right hand side. I was in fourth place in my group and the guy leading the group (probably the strongest guy we had in the group) all of the sudden leaned right and fell down the drop with his bicycle tumbling over him. It looked really dramatic and he probably fell at least four meters before the bushes caught him. We all stopped to look if he was ok and he immediatelly got up and started pushing his bike up the steep incline. He seemed ok but I never saw him again during the stage.
So I ended going across the finish line with good legs and quick pace. Checking the results showed that I had come in at 6th place. I was very pleased with this. I still however lost one place and I'm down in seventh overall now.
So, the last stage starts tomorrow and I have 2.5 minutes to make up to get to sixth place overall, almost 10 minutes to fifth. And the seventh placed guy is 6 minutes behind me. Tomorrows stage is ONE LONG CLIMB! It's the shortest one of the whole race, but it still looks very daunting.

Fifth and final stage

The final stage of the race was also the shortest one, 67.5km and 1900hm. However, looking at the profile of the stage one came to the realization that it was almost all uphill! Especially the last 20km which were the steepest and most difficult. The stage finished at a ski complex, at the top of the hill.

The weather was the worst of the race. 14 degrees C and rain. The difference compared to the two first sunny stages was 20 degrees C!

Going out for the last stage I was in seventh place overall. I had about 2.5 minutes to gain on sixth place and 10 minutes to get to fifth place. In spite of it being the last stage I was feeling really stoked and eager to go hard.

I warmed up better this time and as we started the last stage we went straight into a climb. This time the first climb went much better than the previous stage and I saw my pulse go well above 160. A good sign!

After the first climb I started attacking and jumped from group to group. After about 10km I ended up in the same group as Sabine Spitz, the overall leader of the women's category (google her name in case you don't know who she is). I knew that there were some serious climbs coming up and that I may have to let go at some point, but there was a section between 20km and 40km which was relatively flat (allthough going uphill all the time) where I knew that being in the group would be an advantage.

Entering the last 20km there were two climbs of about 300hm each and then finishing with a climb of 100hm. The section was going uphill all the way so there was very little respite between the climbs. So at this point I fully expected that I would have to let go of the group. However it turned out much better than I thought: Yes, I had to let go of Sabine and a couple of other riders. But the majority of the group instead got dropped behind me. These last climbs were crazy steep with me just managing to climb parts of them without getting of the bike and walking. Actually, there was one section parts where it was so steep that walking was the only way.

Being encouraged by the fact that I had dropped most of the group (and hopefully some of my main compeditors in the M2 category) I sprinted for the finish. The last climb being up a ski slope and again ridiculously steep.

I finished in fifth place. After checking the total standings I was a bit disappointed to find that I had missed sixth place overall by a measly 14 seconds and I was just over a minute behind fifth place.

Seventh place overall in my first Vaude Trans Schwarzwald. Considering that I probably lost 10-20 minutes in stage 3 where I broke my rear deraileur I was very pleased.


Vaude Trans Schwarzwald 2015 was a great experience which I enjoyed immensly. The result, a seventh place in M2, was a big part of the enjoyment. The fact that I had my rear deraileur fail on the third stage,  was very annoying, because, as it turned out, I was only a minute after fifth place in the total standings after the last stage. Had that incident not ocurred I would have been in fifth place.

So first some reflections on the race, in genereal, and then some about how I performed

Vaude Trans Schwarzwald, terrain and tracks

The reflections on this race will have as a basis my experience with The Beskidy Trophy stage race which I did in June. These are the only two stage races that I have ever done. I am sure, however, that I will do many more.

The terrain that Vaude Trans Schwarzwald takes place on is something like 99% gravel roads, paved roads, wide trekking paths and jogging paths. A very small part of the terrian is what we mountain bikers refer to as "single track". Does this make it boring? No! There's plenty of adrenalin filled action to be had on quick and steep descents, even some downhill sections, and riding the gravel turns at breakneck speeds. So it's fun! But compared to The Beskidy Trophy the terrain is not as varried, and Beskidy has a lot more single track.

There are a lot of climbs in the race, some long and winding and some shorter and very steep ones. The good thing here is that very very few climbs are so steep that I had to get off and push the bike. I can only remember one or two such climbs. And I was running a 1x11 setup with a 32T front chainring. Again comparing with Beskidy, perhaps the most boring part of that race is that there are long sections there that are so steep that you have to push the bike, sometimes for 5-10 minutes (I was running the 32T-setup on Beskidy).

The tracks are easy enough so that you can ride them on "quick rolling" tires. I used Specialized Fast Trak 2.0 in the front and Specialized Renegade 1.95 in the rear. You want something with good puncture protection, I used the "Control" variant of my tires as opposed to the "S-works" which are thinner. Even for the last stage which was wet they not-so-grippy tires worked fine. Also, due to the easy terrain, I ran quite high air pressure in my tires, some 0.2 bars more than I would otherwise.

Due to the nature of the race riding in groups becomes imporant and groups stay together through much of the race. I noticed that the riders that I had around me were much the same during all the stages. Gaps develop during the climbs but people catch up in the descents and on the flat. Not that there is that much flat. The race is mostly either up or downhill.

The race gathers very tough opponents. This year there were many pros, winners of world championships, previous winners of Cape Epic and Trans Alp.

Now for some words on logistics. Vaude Trans Schwarzwald were extremely helpful in that they found a girl in their massage staff to drive our car from stage to stage. This was because we needed the car right after the last stage in order to catch our ferry back to Sweden. I can not thank them enough for this. Had we not had our car we would have been more dependent on their shuttle service... which brings me to the shuttling around: We had the hotel package. There's also the option to sleep in sleeping bags in schools are gyms during the race. Now, if you do this, then you get to stay in the town where the start/finish is on each stage. However, if you, like us, order the hotel package, then your hotel is not in the same town as the start/finish (well, ours wasn't on any of the stages anyway). This means that you need to make use of the shuttle service that Vaude Trans Schwarzwald provides. So the scenario then is this: You finish the race, was the bike, put the bike in the bike park, wait for a shuttle buss to leave and take you to the hotel (this can take a while), unpack your bag (that the shuttle has brought) at the hotel and shower, wait for the shuttle to take you back to the start/finish area where dinner and the prize ceremony is, eat, take the shuttle back to the hotel, sleep, and in the morning, after breakfast, take the shuttle to the start. As you can read there's a lot of shuttle waiting and riding going on. Perhaps not what you want to do when you really need to rest for the next stage. In our case we had our car which is a big plus because we didn't need to wait for the shuttle, and we ended up eating at the hotel instead of going to the joint dinner.

So the last part is perhaps the only major negative bit of the race. And of course, you can avoid it by not using the hotel package. You save money, but then you get to sleep on a floor in a sleeping bag.

Still, overall, I give the race maximum points. It's great fun and I recomend it warmly!

My race

When planning for this race I first thought that perhaps a top-5 finish would be something to aim for. Then I saw the entry list and noticed that there over 100 riders in my category. So then I wasn't sure. I ended up finishing in seventh place and it's something that I am really pleased with.

The lead-up to the race was not optimal: I did manage to take it fairly easy during the week before the race, but on the Sunday, just three days before Vaude Trans Schwarzwald, I did have an important marathon mtb race, Finnmarksturen, which I had to race. Finnmarksturen also turned out to be a really intense race for me where I did go all-in and also did completely empty myself of energy. So after this I had two rest days, one of which was spent in a car driving to Germany.

Before my first stage race, The Beskidy Trophy in June, I had read up on some others rider's experiences with stage races on mountainbike. Some had gone out too hard on the first and second stage and had had to pay for it on later stages. So for the Beskidy Trophy I did try to take it easy on the first stage. I'm not sure how I succeeded but I know that I didn't go all in during the first long climb at least. I feel that I got stronger and stronger during Beskidy and the last stage was probably my best one. This with no previous experience of stage racing. So for Vaude Trans Schwarzwald I did the first stage at almost full speed. And the first stage went really well (fifth place and a position in starting grid A1).

Now, the second stage didn't go all that well; I finished ninth. And I lost some time on my compeditors. This may be due to me going too hard on stage 1, but perhaps also a consequence of Finnmarksturen the weekend before Vaude Trans Schwarzwald started.

Where I lost a lot of time was on the third stage with the broken rear deraileur. Somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes is my estimate. This is where I lost my fifth place in the total standings.

Fourth and fifth stages went really well with sixth and fifth place finishes.

It's interesting to watch my average pulse for the five stages:
165, 155, 150, 149, 149
Max pulse:
182, 173, 168, 169, 168

I think the climbing in all the stages went well due to the fact that I have lost a 1-2kg in the last few weeks. The technical bits, the downhill parts, went very well and I managed to distance many riders and catch up with others during those parts. I ended up looking forward to the next technical downhill after a while. There's a lot of group riding in this race and being smart, hanging on to wheels really close, making efficient turns, knowing when to press hard to hold onto a wheel, and when not to, is really important. I think I did well in those aspects.

I did the first three stages on the full-suspension bike and, after the rear deraileur broke, I did the last two stages on the hardtail. The weight difference being 1kg between the bikes and with the terrain being very even and easy the rear suspension does not get much work and I should've riden the hardtail on all the stages. The easy-rolling and light Specialized Fast Trak and Renegeade tires were also perfect.

To summerize I think this was one of my best races of this season, so far, and I'm really happy about the result.

All the results are located here

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Finnmarksturen - My best ever race in the Långloppscup

Result: 7th place

Bike: Trek Superfly FS 9.9 SL, Fast Trak Control / Rengade Control 2.0 - 1.55bar

Finnmarksturen is one of the quicker races in Långloppscupen, meaning gravel roads and quick single track. However you do a fair bit of climbing (for a Swedish race). So it is tough. The weather this year was perfect: sunny and warm, but not too warm. The track starts off the way I like: With a substantial climb. I like it when an early climb separates the field; you get fewer tight and dangerous situations. This race was also my first in the first starting group. So after three years of racing the Långloppscup I was finally at the front! The practical consequences are that you can warm up later, closer to the start, and you don't have to fight for a good position in the starting field.

Results: Finnmarksturen

The start went well; there was a pace car up front but as always there was the usual commotion with people trying to overtake (on the sidewalks) and trying to get further up front. I took it fairly easy and let the overeager adrenalin filled guys pass me. There's no point in having an incident early on in a marathon race. Going into the first hill the pace car let the field go and we were off. I hung on the the rear of the leading group of some 50 cyclists and managed to get to the top while still having contact with the group. This is great because after such a climb the pace always picks up and you don't want to be behind trying to catch up. At the top of the hill I passed Robert Eliasson, but after that I did not see him any more. Robert has been quicker than me on most of the races this year.

I stayed in touch with the leading group of really quick guys until 11km into the race when we started to split up into smaller groups. Even after this the pace was quick and cooperation was good with people taking the lead of the group and driving hard. I tried to stay in the top-5 in our group and it worked out well. After the first hill there is a section that's quite quick up until half way through the race and you want to be in a good group.

At about the halfway point our smaller group of about 8 riders started to catch up with a larger group of about 20 riders. When we caught up, just by the lake, I saw two number plates on the backs of two of the riders: 4201 and 4202. This means that they are the two overall cup leaders of the M40 category. I was amazed that I had caught up with them because I had not even been close to them in the previous races of the cup.

The second part of the race consists of a section of climbs of between 50-100 altitude meters. There are five of them all in all, the last one ending som 5km before the finish. As we went into the first of the climbs the pace picked up and I moved to the back of the group determined to not lose touch with it. The group stretched and broke into smaller groups but I managed to hang on to one of the rear groups.

On the second of the climbs I was feeling fresh and decided to go to the front of our smaller group (with perhaps 5 riders) and pull a bit harder. This went well and I stretched the group. However, at the top of the climb, all of a sudden, there were suddenly no more course markers. Everyone was surprised but someone at the back shouted: "Hey guys, you've gone too far, it's left down here". So we all turned around and I went from leading the group to being last. This was rather annoying.

The penultimate climb is a long one and just before it Michael Johansson came up from behind with a team mate (elite category) leading the way. They set a brisk pace up the hill that I (and most of the other guys) had no way of following. I did hang on to the wheel of the only other M40 cyclist in our group. I was starting to feel the onset of cramps in my calves at this point too. I think that's the first time this year. I staved them off by stretching my legs.

On the last climb, with only about 8km to go, the M40 guy whose wheel I had been following started to edge away from me ever so slowly. After the hill I was alone and understood that I needed to set a quick pace so that no other M40 guys would catch me from behind. Motivation can be a hard thing when you're on your own. After a while I got help from an elite guy who came up from behind. I was pretty tired at this point but I dug deep trying to find the last of my energy. I had his wheel until about 3km left. Then I was on my own trying to go as quickly as my weary legs would allow me.

With only one km to go, the thing that was just not supposed to happen did in fact happen. Rolf Svensson and one other M40 guy caught up with me and I just had nothing left to give to hang on. The section of track with one km to go is rather bumpy singletrack and you need good legs to go fast. My legs were not good.

I ended up finishing seventh. After the race I had a look at my halfway intermediate time and they showed that I had been in third place at that time. Probably in the same group as the first placed and second placed guys. I'm still happy as I finished only 10 minutes after the first place guy in the elite category. I have never been that close. The 'Ranking' for this race is 10.0. This puts me in starting group 1 for the rest of the season and next year. CORRECTION: The ranking has been changed. I'm still in group 2.

Conclusion: My form is progressing really nicely now and the weight loss has had good effect. Yeah, I still go out very hard but right now I'm almost able to keep it together to the end... almost...

Highest peak heart rate of this season!

First hill Strava section

Sunday, 2 August 2015

XCup #5 - Super fun XCO track!

Result: 9th place

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

The plan for this week was to over-train in order to try to achieve a peak in form in the upcoming Vaude Trans Schwarzwald. And I did a lot of cycling: Nine days straight leading up to today's race. So coming to the race today I did not have very high hopes. Mostly I hoped to achieve an intensive (high heart rate) session after a week of low intensity training. I was not sure if the legs were up to it though.
The race was on the Möllerödsbanan, which I have ridden twice before, however long ago. I remember the last time I rode it I really felt out of place and didn't perform well. At that time it felt like the bike was bouncing around a lot, my body was going in one direction and the bike in another, and I didn't have a lot of control. The course is tight, tricky and has a lot of stones. Not really any dangerous stuff, you just really need to place the bike within some tight margins.
I decided to take the Trek hardtail mostly because the race was not all that important and I wanted to save the full-suspension bike for the upcoming races. The track did turn out to be better suited for full-susp bikes though.

Results: XCup #5

I lined up at the front of the field. Warren was to the left of me and as soon as we take of his and my handlebars briefly touch making me lose balance. I fall back a few places but I'm able to catch up quickly. After the start loop I'm in the top-6.
Going into the forest I was on the wheel of Rolf Svensson. We swapped places a few times and then martin Wenhov also came up from behind and went by. I held on to Martin's wheel until I got briefly stuck in a section.
I felt that I negotiated the single track really well. This was not att all how I remembered this track from a couple of years back. I guess my skills have gotten better. The short and messy descents were a joy to negotiate.
For most of the race I ended up having a fight with Benny Andersson. His full-suspension Trek (with electric gears AND shocks) really handled the terrain brilliantly. On the last lap I let him go and took it a bit eaiser. I finished in 9th place very happy with how I had handled the course. AND, as a bonus, my heart rate reacted very nicely giving me a max of 188 and and average of almost 180.
So did the hardtail work on the track? Sure, it worked well. However I'm a bit out of practice with racing it and this I noticed by how many times the saddle hit me in the ass when I forgot to stand up. My lovely Trek soft-tail has spoilt me.

Tight and messy tracks can be fun these days! Also: I can train A LOT and still have working legs for a race.

Trying on my friend's POC glasses after the race