Saturday, 30 April 2016

XCup #2 - Mud, roots... more roots... did I mention roots?

Bike: BMC Teamelite 01 XX1, Rocket Ron LiteSkin 2.25, 1.4 bar. Medium MTT damping

The second XCup took place outside of Höör. We were here racing last year and it was muddy and rooty. This year was about as muddy but a lot more rooty.
The starting hill went really well. I flew up it and went into the single track in second place behind Stefan Larsson. However after that I gradually lost places. I didn't like the terrain all that much. I ended up in 11th place... not very good.

In hindsight I should've taken the Fourstroke instead. The full-suspension would've really worked in this terrain. I did however want to give it a little rest and relaxation. It's going to have to work hard soon enough.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

XCup #1 - The art of racing on consecutive days

Result: 9th place (overall)

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.2 / Bontrager XR2 1.5 bar (training wheels)

Today's race was the first one of this season's XCup. The whole cup takes place in southern Sweden and all of the races are within easy reach for me. Also most of my training pals participate in the cup it's really fun racing against your friends. The races are 60 minutes long + the lap.

This particular track is a lot of fun with some tight single track mixed in with sections of gravel road. Especially the first 'loop' is really twisty and tight and I've had problems there in the previous year's that I've raced this track.

As this was my second race on consecutive days (Varberg took place yesterday) I was very curious as to how much my body had been able to recover. I know that each consecutive day of racing lowers my heart rate a bit and so performance suffers slightly. As I knew at the start of this week that I was going to be racing both Saturday and Sunday I just had one intensive workout Wednesday morning. The rest of the week has been low intensity training.

Things started out very hectic with a bunch of us barrelling down the start loop which was a long gravel road. People were switching positions, advancing and being pushed back and it all seemed a bit chaotic. Luckilly everyone got out of it unscaved and we went into the first portion of single track in a bunch. I took the outside of the left turn into the single track and got a really good position somewhere around sixth place.

The pace that was set by the leading guys was totally manic. I hung on for the first half of the lap and then I let go. The front group was 5 riders; Johan M, Stefan L, Luke, Ola and Björn. I was in the second group with Jerry, Martin W, Stefan M, Kristian S and Erik Mattelin.

Erik seemed to be the quickest of us but he kept crashing, getting back on his bike, chasing us down, catching up and then crashing again.

After a while Jerry and Martin went to the front of our group and on each gravel road section they pulled HARD. I had either Jerry's or Martin's wheel and enjoyed being sucked along in the vacuum behind them.

The group stuck pretty much together with perhaps a rider or two going away on the tight first single track loop but he always got reeled in on the gravel road section. I had to fight quite hard not to get dropped as the pace quickened. A few times there was actually a gap of 10-20 meters between me and the group  but I managed to haul them in every time.

Going out on the last lap I was at the head of the group of a while. But as the end of the lap approached Jerry, Stefan and Martin went ahead and I was unable to follow them. Erik was behind me so I concentrated on keeping him behind. The last section before the end sprint on gravel road was over a rooty and slightly muddy section. I sprinted hard there and halfway to the finish line I looked behind and saw that Erik was a few meters back so I could relax and roll over the finish line in ninth place.

I really have to say that the BMC Fourstroke was an excellent weapon for this kind of terrain. This is exactly the kind of trails that you want a well setup full-suspenion bike. Raising the tire pressure by 0.1 bar was also the right decision. I didn't notice and of the rolling of the rear tire that I had in yesterday's race.

But now for the interesting part: How did the heart rate match up compared to yesterday? Two days of consecutive racing - What effect did it have.

Saturday pulse data: Average: 177, max 187
Sunday pulse data: Average 176, max 183

Really good in other words! I'm very happilly surprised.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Varberg MTB Meeting (Västgötacupen #1): XCO with failing chip and incompetent officials

Result: 6th place / DSQ

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.2 / Bontrager XR2 1.4 bar (training wheels)

There was this XCO race, Varberg MTB Meeting, not too far away (a 2 hour ride). Sandra and I decided to try it out. We do very few XCO races. This one is part of a a cup: Västgötacupen. The other races are quite far away and we may not do any of the other ones. But it's really fun to add variation to your life.

Now the reason we don't do much XCO racing:
1. It's usually a long drive away and the races are typically 1 hour long. 
2. They're technical in nature with jumps and stuff. And that's not my strong suit.

 All dangerous sections of XCO races have A-, B- and C-lines. The A-line is the difficult and often dangerous ones, the B- and C-lines are easier. The B- and C-lines are also made so that they take longer time to ride so by not doing the A-line you lose time.

It's always a challange for me to try as many A-lines as possible. In this particular race there were four places where you could chose. Three of these were serious jumps. Jumping isn't my thing. I didn't do the A-line in those places. The fourth place was a Rock Garden. Here I did pick the A-line. I'm very proud of myself for that.

Even where there are not sepparate lines with varying difficulty an XCO race can be dangerous. This was also shown in this race where there were several crashes, one leading to a rider being picked up be an ambulance. He was lying on the actual race track and they didn't dare move him due to the risk of a spinal injury. It was quite scary to see this while we (slowly) rode past.

For my class, M40, this particular race was 6 laps of a 3km course. The course was ALL single track. 4 sections with sepparate lines. Going either uphill or downhill in most places. Not steep, but few flat sections.

The starts in XCO races are always really chaotic as people now that the race is short and so getting a good start is vital. The start loop in this race was really short and we were into single track almost immedialtely. I was probably somewhere in the middle of the field at this point. Mostly because I don't want to risk a crash, it's just not important enough for me.

I quickly started picking up positions and I advanced through out the race. I think I must've overtaken some 20 cyclists while not being overtaken myself a single time. It was a lot of fun. Sure, some of the guys in my class took the A-lines and gained ground on me there but I got them back in the climbs.

The finish was fun because on the last lap there was a guy on my wheel all the way through the lap and I was not able to shake him until the sprint.

After going over the finish line an official came running up to me and told me that my chip had not worked and that they had no officially registered time for me. This has happened before and in cases like this it's the officials duty to look at the rider's number plate and register the time when he crosses the line manually (by just writing it down). Somehow the officials of this race did not have this procedure down. So, at this time, I'm listed as DSQ in the result list. However, checking my Strava entry for the race, I can see that I came in at sixth place. We'll see how this develops. I've filed a complaint with the race organizers.


Slightly low tire pressure in the rear. It felt like the rear tire wanted to come off in the turns (the ones with good grip). I should go 0.1 bars higher

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Hotcup #1 - Premature sprinting is bad for you

Result: 8th place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Fast Trak 2.0 1.6 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

The first race of this summer's Hotcup series is a long one: 2 hours plus the rest of the lap. A good length race to practice for the marathons of this summer. The lap was about 11km long so the race would be either 4 our 5 laps. This would end up being important... as you'll see below...

We have raced this track before and usually it's quick and flowy with lots of singletrack. This time it was a bit more tricky with some new blown-down trees and tricky detours around them.

Weather was... cold, but at least almost completely dry. I raced in short shorts and leg warmers! Very brave and unlike me.

Result: Hotcup #1

The start went well and I was in the front group from the get-go. After a while we had a group of about 8-9 riders. My club-mates from CKX, Stefan Larsson and Björn Österberg, were in the group. Pace was HIGH.

About half-way through the lap the pace dropped a bit and I could stop hanging on for dear life. Well, at least I thought it dropped. A quick look at  my computer told me that what I felt as a drop in speed was showing up as a heartrate of 180. Ouch!

After lapping the first lap and started thinking about the long-term implications of this hard pace. Would I be able to last for two hours? "No way!" was the answer. Here I took inspiration from a blog entry from one of our best Swedish mtb-racers, Henrik Öijer, which I just read a day earlier. He wrote that sometimes it's better to drop down to the second group in order to finish the race strongly.

So I let the lead group go and dropped the pace a bit. I went from a 180+ pulse to 160+ and waited for someone, or some group, to catch up. I was very curious about who it would be. I knew I had some really strong riders behind me.

I was a bit surprised by how long it took before I started seeing a lone rider approching from the back. It took him a while to reach me too, which is a good thing because I was more likely to be able to hold his wheel. It turned out to be a Danish rider on a Cannondale Scalpel. Towards the end of the second lap I took his wheel and he pulled strongly, but not too strongly.

The Danish rider was very technical and lightning quick in some of the tricky descents. Also, there was one place where you could ever go over a log, or around it. Here he bunny-jumped over it. Very impressive! Myself, I went around.

We went around the entire third lap together with him pulling 90% of the time. When lapping and going out on the fourth lap the clock said something like 1h29minutes. So I judged that we would probably just do one more lap as the fourth lap should be a bit slower than the third.

When there was about a quarter left of the fourth lap suddenly two guys came up from behind. The lead rider was in a CK Ringen dress (my old club!) and the other guy I thought may be Henrik Söeberg. The CK Ringen guy was pulling hard. As they went past my Danish guy didn't try to take their wheel so on the next road section I sprinted in order to get on the wheel of the CK Ringen guy. I managed to do this and I could tell that my Danish guy also made it.

As we approached the last few km:s of the lap I looked at my clock: It read something like 1h52m racing time. I thought we would never go out for a fifth lap. So this was it: The sprint was approaching. I this point I had a bit of luck with some back-markers and managed to get ahead of the three other riders. So I decided to try a long sprint to finish first in the group. I pushed HARD.

Well, it worked as far as that I was the first to finish the lap. However the clock showed 1h58m14s. Yeah, that's right. I fifth lap was happening.

I had spent all my energy on the sprint and my spirits hit rock bottom. I watched rider after rider go past me. Martin Wehnhov passed quick. At some point halfway through the lap I messed up lapping a slower rider, got stock on his rear wheel, and flew over my handlebars. I got back up just to see Stefan Methander zip past. With no will or energy left in my body I slowly rode the last part of the lap finishing in 8th place.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Fitnesslöbet - First race on the BMC Fourstroke

Result: 9th place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Fast Trak 2.0 1.7 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

Fitnesslöbet is a marathon race early in the season which is really good as a build-up to the marathons that come later on in the spring and summer. It's a long race: 76km, on a tough track, and all the good Danish riders are there.

The race is over four laps of a course. The course is rather special as it's mostly gravel road for the first half and then the second half is all single track. But not only that: The last part is totally murderous as you cross the same small hill in three different directions. And after that there's another three steep climbs.

Last year was really good as I finished in fifth place. This in spite of getting really tired during the last lap. The race last year was really muddy and took a long time to finish.

During this race I decided that I was going to improve my gel-intake process compared to previous races. I even went as far as to take my first gel just minutes before the start. A first for me.

Result: Fitnesslöbet

As the race started I got a really good position close to the front and I was able to not exhert myself too much during the start loop on gravel road. When the course turned into single track I let go of the quick boys and settled back in a good group. Henrik Söeberg was there, so were Palle Jensen and Thomas Kyrum-Stein.

Quite early in the race I noticed that my body wasn't feeling 100% full of energy and power. In the short climbs I had to drop back a few meters each time and then take them back in the next flat section. I decided that if I was going to finish the race well I would have to be super tactical. Not a strong point of mine.

Henrik Söeberg went away at the end of the first lap and took one other guy with him. I decided not to try to follow. I stayed with our group which looked like it was some 20-30 cyclists strong. I was up among the first few all the time. this is a good position to be in as it avoids problems when lapping slower cyclists and you get a good view of the course.

I looked back every now and then and saw the the group was thinning. At the end of the second lap Palle and Thomas also went off the front. Again I held back decided that I was not in a good enough shape to take any chances.

When the third lap was nearing its second half and the single track was about to start I decided to make a strategic move: I knew that it was really important to have some good wheels to follow for the first half of the last lap, where all the gravel road sections are. But there was a real danger of losing those wheels when the climbing started on this third lap. So I went to the front of the group so that I could set the pace for the last half of the third lap, thereby making sure that I would be in a good position for the last lap.

This all worked out as planned. We lost a bunch of cyclists off the back and on the last lap there were only five of us left in the group. As expected I was getting real tired now and I was only able to hang on until the climbs of the second part of the last lap started, then I had to let them go. I managed to finish the last lap without anyone catching up from behind so my strategy worked.

I finished the race in ninth place. Happy that my strategy had worked and that I had done what I could with the resources that I had in hand. Perhaps less happy with placing worse than last year though.

The first race on the Fourstroke was a fact. The bike performed flawlessly. I'm really looking forward to racing this bike during the marathons for the rest of the year.