Sunday, 31 July 2016

XCup #5 - Testing the damaged leg

Result: 16th place (overall)

Bike: BMC Teamelite XX1 Fast Trak 2.2 / Bontrager XR2 1.35 bar (training wheels)

Since the crash last Sunday I've been taking it very easy. The main focus has been to be back on and racing on Sunday the 7th of August for the next important race: Finnmarksturen. There was a local XCup race already Sunday the week after my crash but I thought my chances of being welll enough to race there were slim.

I tried getting back on the bike on Monday, the day after the crash, for my regular commute but found that I couldn't bend the leg enough to pedal. So I took the car... for the next three days. Then on Thursday I tried again, and by raising the saddle to the max I was able to pedal and perform my commute... very slowly. Same thing Friday. Then on Saturday I tried mountain biking and that worked out okay. So I had made my  mind up that I was going to wait until Sunday morning to decide whether to race the XCup or not.

Sunday morning arrived and I took a quick mountain bike ride pushing a bit harder than I had the day before. And all seemed well. So I decided to race.

I put some bandage over the part of the knee where I have the stiches. Then a leg warmer over just the injured leg. It looked kind of funny (check the photo below). I decided to take it easy in the turns and not risk crashing and also be careful when getting passed or passing someone.

The race worked out surprisingly well. I was a bit nervous and insecure in the turns and so I braked much more than I should have. My main goal was to have a really intense training session and the track delivered on that point by having a lot of climbing meaning my heart rate got really high. Great!

I managed three laps in total in the one hour of race time that there was. For each new lap I relaxed more and as my confidence grew I took the turns faster and faster. This was exactly what I had hoped for.

I finished in 16th place which is good. The best part is the pulse data with a max of 190bpm and an average of 175. Great workout session!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Engelbrektsturen - Crash and a trip to the emergency room

Result: DNF

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Renegade 2.0, 1.45 / 1.55 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

I had decided to really push it at the start to get a goood position. Something that had been a problem in a couple of the latest races. This worked out really well and I was where I wanted to be when the first climb started. I overtook a few guys but the fact that I was already so far forward meant that it was not as per usual: me going around a bunch of people. But this is good.

The first climb of the race, "Maskinvägen  upp", I did with an average heartrate of 192:

After a while a group formed and I saw a bunch of elite riders, and Robert Eliasson and Stefan Hellman från M40. These guys are the quick boys and it turned out they came first and second in today's race.

However, it did not end well for me as after about 20km I had the biggest crash I've ever had. It was on a quick gravel road going about 50kph. There was a slightly raised string of gravel at the center of the road and my rear wheel slipped on it. I went skidding along the road for a few meters and then into a ditch. The guy behind me did the same and landed next to me. And another guy just a few seconds later. So there were three of us lying in the same ditch. As soon as I landed I realized that this was no ordinary crash. I was quite shocked. Got up and examined myself. My left leg was rather badly hurt. Blood everywhere. The other two guys seemed worse of however and I decided to go for help. I slowly walked to the first official and told them about the two injured guys. She called an ambulance.  I started walking back towards the start. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride from a spectator. Lucky as it turned out that I was the furtest away from the start/finish area that I could be anywhere on the course.

At the start/finish area I found a medic who said that my injuries would have to be treated at a hospital and that there was nothing she could do. The hospital was in the next town. And Sandra still had about an hour to go before she finished her race. So I went into the neatest store to get something to drink. I got some funny looks from the other shoppers.

After Sandra had finished her race we drove to the emergency and well, 9 shots, 6 stiches, one x-ray and three hours later we were on our long drive back home.

I checked Strava and the speed at the time of the crash was 56.2km/h

This photo is from about an hour after the crash:

The next day:

The back:

Friday, 15 July 2016

Swedish XCO Championships - *CURSES*

Result: 24th place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Fast Trak 2.0, 1.5 / 1.5 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

So, what happened? Well, most things went to heck!

We arrived early on Friday morning for the practice session starting at 10:15 (the race start was at 14:00). Just to discover that the promoters had decided to move the session to 08:00 in the morning, which was 1.5 hours ago. Had they informed anyone? Sure, on their home page. But when I checked the home page schedule the day before the practice session was still listed. So I'm guessing sometime in the evening. Did they email all participants about this change? No.

But, I mean, they wouldn't change the ACTUAL COURSE without informing people, right? We had tested the course out 2 weeks before the race and checked the different A-lines and B-lines. I had decided to just do the B-lines (although I wanted to try one of the A-lines during the practice session that was then moved). Well, the race started and the first A/B-line split that I came to THEY'D SWITCHED THE TWO LINES!! The B-line was right and the A-line left two weeks before the race, when we tested the course, and during the race it was the other way around. I stopped dead at the start of the A-line, realized that I was not where I thought I was, had to get off the bike and lift it over to the B-line. I lost about 20 places doing this.

After that my mood was shot to heck. It didn't help that the skies opened up just before the start and that also during the race heavy rain fell. The track was made slippery and very hard to ride by all the water. The B-lines became as dangerous as the A-lines due to them being on lose soil.

At first I was just going to quit after one lap but I decided to finish the race. I just decided to look at it as a training session. I did however take it very easy and took absolutely no risks. I didn't want to crash and risk my participation at RACES WHERE THE PROMOTORS ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING!!!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Mörksuggejakten - Taking a chance riding the hardtail

Result: 9th place

Bike: BMC Teamelite XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Renegade 2.0, 1.5 / 1.5 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

Mörksuggejakten is the fifth race in the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen). This is a nice race with a looong starting hill. The race is rather quick with some longer gravel road section and also quick and hectic single track. A fun race!

Being tactical with the long starting hill I decided to race my hardtail, the BMC Teamelite. I had weighed it at home prior to the race and it came in at about 8.75kg. This is a full kilo less than my full suspension. It's a bit of a risk but then I'm a risktaker so... 

Race day was beautiful and sunny. I was figuring a finishing time of around 2.5 hours so I thought I could get buy on one large bottle. One thought was to plant it at the top of the starting hill and take it as I went buy after the climb was done. But we got to the track a bit too late as we had to stay in a hotel 2 hours driving away. So I started with the bottle on the bike.

The Track

  • The start:
    • Short stint through Rättvik, a roundabout and a couple of crossings.
    • Vidablick. Long starting hill, around 8 minutes. On paved road.
    • Downhill och singletrack, bumpy and hard, also some downhill on gravel roads, quick!
  • The middle:
    • Gravel roads and double track. Fast and furious.
    • Rooty and rocky but very quick singletrack
    • Some sandy sections. Be careful!
    • Some climbing here and there
  • The finish:
    • Last part towards the finish is on twisty singletrack

The Race

Apart from a small misshap with getting into my pedals right as the starting gun banged I thought I was in a good position going into Vidablick, as the climb at the start is called. There's a small section through the town of Rättvik, before you get to the climb, and there I tried to be aggressive and stay as close to the front as I could. It went ok.

Going up the hill felt good. I was passing riders left and right and could see the front of the field ahead. Strava later told me that this section went 20 seconds quicker than last year. Just after the climb I actually caught up with my pal Erik Mattelin who's a really quick guy racing in the Elit category. I had not been near him in the previous races so this gave me an indication that things had gone well this far.

After the Vidablick climb you have to be really careful, focused and quick. After a while the track starts going downhill over rather bumpy and messy terrain. You need to keep a quick pace here because after this section comes a long part which is on gravel road. You need to have good wheels to follow there. However the bike felt very stiff and bumpy in this downhill part and I had to let some riders pass. After a while also there was a rider standing standing right in the middle of the path with his bike. I decided to try to pass him on the left and just as I was doing this he decided to trip and fall to his left. I had to stop and wait for him to get up. More riders went by.

Getting to the gravel road section I took the wheel of another quick Elit rider: Viktor Ludvigsson. Also a pal of mine. He's a sturdy guy who has some really strong legs. I tucked in behind him and let him pull me along. After a while our group grew and we were around 10 riders. The pace was frantic and I contended myself with just hanging on at the rear of the group. As we hit some dubble track Robert Eliasson with two or three other riders still managed to join our group from the back.

As we moved into some really bumpy single track I again noted that my bike was so stiff that it felt like it was shaking apart. Things got so bad that I lost my water bottle, and didn't notice until Robert Eliasson pointed it out to me. Frak! I was going to have to solve this problem somehow. Inspite of all the shaking and bumping I held onto the group, actually going up in front and pulling hard in some sections.

After some 10km without any drink a spectator saved my life by handing me a bottle of water. Thank you stranger!! And then at about 40km my friend Caroline Olsson saved my life again by giving me a bottle of sports drink. Perfect!

The group more or less held together until there was about 10km left and the pace went up considerably. The group split in two and I was in the back part together with Robert Eliasson. Then a few kilometers later I had to let go of Robert's wheel too. I rode the last part to the finish alone, not catching anyone but not getting caught either.

I was a bit surprised when I learned that I didn't finish better than ninth. My time was 7 minutes quicker than last year and my 'Ranking' number was 12.5 which was really good. It seems that we had a few new M40 riders join us who don't race in the cup and who are really quick. Even Per Sjödin, the cup leader, didn't finish better than fifth.

So did the gamble of riding the hardtail instead of the fully pay off? Well, I was 20 seconds quick up the starting hill. But then things were rather bumpy afterwards. I think that if I had gone a bit quicker downhill after Vidablick then the gamble would definitally had been a good one. As it was now... Hard to tell...

This is a graph of my times for the Vidablick climb. All four years that I've raced Mörksuggejakten (click on it to get a bigger graph):

The aftermath of all this is that I realize that I have to start looking at my damper settings. The bike just shouldn't be this uncomfortable going downhill. I had already decreased the tire pressure from 1.6-1.7 prior to the last race to 1.5 for this race. That should be enough. Now, the lockout has been a problem throughout the season and was today as well. But I also need to look at Rebound settings. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Ränneslättsturen - Slow start ruined race

Result: 6th place

Bike: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1 Fast Trak 2.0 / Renegade 2.0, 1.6 / 1.7 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.

Ränneslättsturen is the fourth race in the Swedish Marathon series. I had only done the first one, Billingeracet, where I finished second. Then the next two races took place while I was away racing the Beskidy Trophy and Four Peaks. So I missed those. I had high hopes for Ränneslätt.

Ränneslättsturen is one of the few races in the Swedish Marathon MTB Cup that does NOT have a long starting hill. This always causes a lot of chaos in the start. The first 10k of the race are on (level) gravel roads. High speeds and tightly bunched riders create dangerous situations.

Apart from the lack of starting hill it's a good cup race as it contains a lot of singletrack.

The track

The first part of the race is on gravel roads. It's all flat. And this means high speeds. There are a few turns where you need to be well placed in the field. The tight right turn at 3km being especially tricky. The gravel roads continue for a while but gradually turn into dubble track where overtaking is a bit more tricky.

This goes on for about 20km and then a long section of almost all singletrack starts and goes on for about 28km, so until the 48km mark.

The last 30km of the race also has some singletrack, but it's not as technical as that middle part that I just mentioned, and it's mixed up with gravel roads.

As far as the finish goes it should be noted that some 2-3km from the finish line you get into an area of almost all singletrack where it's not that easy to overtake. You need to be well placed here. The last part, which is over a small grassy hill, is very difficult to overtake and just 50m before the finish line there's a trick left turn. You need to be first when entering this area because whoever is goes first over the finish line.

The Race

I knew in advance that I would have to be very aggressive in this race in order to stay with the quick groups out in front. Being a flat race with a gravel road start it would be easy to hang on to other riders... IF I was in a good position. I was in the first starting group which meant I only had some 20-30 riders to share the front box with. Behind me were some 1200 riders.

Almost as soon as the start went the rider in front of me had some problems getting his shoes in the pedals and I got stuck behind him. People were advancing left and right in spite of the pace care in front (overtaking wasn't allowed). Then, in the first tight left turn I took the wrong line. I kept falling backward and losing places. This was the sort of start that I had dreaded.

When we got to the double track I started making up ground, sprinting from group to group. While this went well it also took a lot of energy.

As we got to the long singletrack section which pretty much goes from 20km to 48km I understood that I needed to slow down a bit and start to conserve my energy. I still managed to jump a few groups, but then, at 32km my front wheel slipped on something and I went down. I got up pretty quickly and noticed that the group that I just had passed had gone past me and I started sprinting to catch up with them. I managed to do so but it cost a lot of energy.

When we got to the really twisty and turny part of the Enduro track (I think that's what they call it) I had a good group of four riders. I hung onto the last guy for dear life. It went really quickly and I needed to use all the energy that I had left just to stay in touch. However, as we started catching a group ahead of us I understood that we were going at a really good pace.

As we got out of this section and with about 30km to go a group had formed with two other M40 riders, an M30 rider and one Elite guy. Here I started planning my strategy: How was I going to finish ahead of my two M40 rivals? The Elite guy was really helpfull and pulled hard on the gravel road sections. Very nice of him! The two M40 guys also seemed strong and set a good pace when they were at the front. At the short climbs (and I mean really short, there are no long ones in this race) I was able to hold my own or sometimes pull ahead slightly. I tried to use these climbs to tire out my rivals.

As the finish was approaching with only 2-3km to go I went to the front of the group. I wanted to be in a good postion as the finish approached. I held just high enough a pace that no one would want to overtake me. As I saw that we approached the grassy hill which marks the end of the race I went all in and pushed as hard as I could. With only the last tight left turn and then the short sprint to the finish line I looked behind and saw that I had some 10-20m on my rivals. However, I still managed to mess up the last left turn coming into it too fast. It didn't matter, I still crossed the finish line ahead of them.

I had finished in sixth place.

What's positive? Well, I actually placed 25th overall. Which is kind of funny because the first race in the cup, where I came in 2nd place in M40, I placed 30th overall.

Other good things: The middle of this race is a really long twisty turny singletrack section. I was able to hang on to my group here and we actually caught up with another group ahead of us. So the technical riding worked well too.

And, I guess, what I'm most happy about: I outsprinted the other riders in my small group of 5 riders that came in towards the finish, including two M40 riders.