Sunday, 28 August 2016

Snapphaneturen - Slow in the slippery stuff

Bike: BMC Teamelite XX1 Rocket Ron 2.1 SS 1.5 / 1.5 bar. Bontrager XXX wheels

Result: 9th place

After some insane weather and rain during the night and early morning I changed plans in regard to which bike I would race. The original plan was the Fourstroke with the normal marathon-setup (easy rolling tires). At first I thought about just putting some grippier tires on the Fourstroke but in the end I decided that it would be fun to try the Teamelite in a marathon so I switched out the training wheels for a pair of Bontrager XXX with RocketRon 2.1 (the same ones I had used during Beskidy Trophy). So these were a bit more grippy but still quite well used and rather narrow.

When I arrived at the race location a the weather had actually cleared up and the sun was shining. However with the huge amounts of rain that had come during the early morning there was no chance that it was going to be a dry race.

There were some good riders in this race so I knew it was going to be hard. The pre-race favorites were Erik Mattelin (normally racing Elite), Mattias Israelsson, Robert Eliasson and a few others that I was used to racing against in the Swedish Marathon Series.

As we got off the starting line things went well. The race starts with a long starting loop first on asphalt and then moving on to a long gravel road climb. Everthing felt fine and I was up with the top riders. However, the gravel road then switched to a slippery and slightly muddy downhill section and here I lost all confidence in the tires (and in my abilities). I started braking way too much and lost contact with the front riders.

After the start loop you come back through the start/finish area and then there's another long gravel road climb. Here I managed to reconnect with the leaders and felt very proud of myself. This didn't last long however as the next singletrack section turned out to be slippery again and I lost contact again.

As the race progressed I started to get a bit more confident in the grip that my tires gave me. Also, perhaps, the trails started to dry up slowly and that also gave me more confidence.

I rode alone for a while and thent two guys came up from behind. We formed a group and the pace got quicker. After a while we lost one of the guys who dropped off the back. Shortly after that we caught up with a Danish rider and so we were a group of three again. One of the guys turned out to just ride the shorter distance and so we lost him after 43km. So with 17km of riding left there was me and the Danish guy.

I started thinking about how I was to go about crossing the finish line before this Danish rider. I knew that there was not that much riding left to do but that the last parts were quite hilly. I tried to up the pace in the first few climbs but didn't manage to drop him. He actually dropped me a few times instead, first on a climb and then on two muddy downhill sections. However once he crashed I had a bit of a gap, but he managed to pull that back.

So with 10k left we came out by the lake and I knew there was just three sections left: Solhem, a section of quick singletrack that criss-crosses a small section of forest, then out on an open gravel roadm nd after that there's just the dash to the finish which starts with a 2km long climb (not very steep). I started to plan that this last section was where I was going to drop the Dane.

I went on his wheel through Solhem, and then out on the gravel road where the wind blew a strong headwind. Here he surprised me by pulling quite hard all along this road, without asking (or giving) me a chance to take over lead. I was of course happy to let him do all the work. As soon as we got into the last 2km climb I went to the lead and went all-in. At once he let go of my wheel and after that I didn't see him again.

I crossed the line in ninth place. Not very happy with my performance. But a good training session nonetheless.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Faaborg MTB-marathon - Most fun track of this year!

Result: 5th

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

Faaborg MTB Marathon was a race which was previously completely unknown to me. I looked at the stats ahead of the race: 60km and 1200hm, which is rather a lot of climbing. The race was in Denmark where the terrain is usually not all that hilly, however this race was described as being "In the Alps of Fyn". Fyn is the Danish island that houses the race. The race was over a three lap course but starting and finishing in the town of Faaborg.

I turned out that the lap could be divided into two parts:
First part: Riding over grass covered hills with a bunch of steep climbs going up the hill and then steep downhills down the other side. This went on until we got out into a shorter section of paved roads which took us to:
Second part: very tight and twisty singletrack in the forest with branches and tree stems on all sides of the bike, close to the handlebars.


Race day had nice weather and the terrain was dry. I lined up at the start at the front of the grid which was nice. As the race started I took the lead and we rode through the town of Faaborg at an easy pace. Even after leaving the town no one tried to pass me and so I was at the front until the pace picked up at about 3-4km.

As we left the roads and got onto singletrack where we went over a meadow where the track turned downhill. I was perhaps in fifth or sixth place at this point. Then there were some holes in the grass and the bikes bounced around and suddenly the chain derailed from the front chainring. I got off the bike and was able to get the chain back on after a few tries. This never happens with SRAM XX1 so I was almost totally unused to the procedure of getting the chain back on.

While I was fixing the chain I was perhaps passed by some 10-15 riders and when I got back on the bike I was feeling a bit stressed out over this so I set a high pace and tried to gain back what I had lost.

I managed to gain back some of the positions that I'd lost but then at about 5km into the race I missed a turn sign and went straight ahead where I should've turned into a small trail. The most annoying thing about this is that I had another compeditor behind me who didn't warn me that I'd gone the wrong way. Very unsportsmanlike! It took me no more than some 200-300m before I realized I had gone the wrong way, turned my bike around and went back. I noticed on the second lap that they had blocked the section that I wrongly rode down with tape so I guess that more riders than I had made the mistake.

I was back to hunting the riders that had passed me when I made the bad turn. I managed again to gain back some positions before we went into the second part of the course: The thight and twisty singletrack through the forest. Now, generally speaking, the slower a mountain bike track is the slower I am compared to my rivals in a race. I like it better when a track is quick than when it's slow and twisty. I had never ridden this race before so I was a bit surprised by the technical nature of this part of the lap. As I was at the front of the small group that I was riding with everyone else was behind me and unable to pass (I don't know if they wanted to).

When we went out into the second lap I noticed that I only had two riders behind me now and they both upped the pace when we got to the hills again. I managed to follow for a while but then realized that I would have to let them go.

I had a quick look at my Garmin and was very surprised when I noticed that over an hour had passed of the race and I had just done one lap! I made a quick calculation and came to a total race time of about 3.5 hours. This is much longer than I expected and I realized that I was going to have to slow down my pace a bit to make it all the way through the race. The nature of the course was one where you had very few places to just roll and rest your legs.

I slowed the pace and rode alone for a while before I was caught up by two new riders coming from behind. At this point I had reached the twisty singletrack section of the second lap. I think one of the riders must have crashed just as he caught up with me because I heard the other rider call out: "Are you ok?". After a while the rider who had caught me passed and I was alone again.

Starting the third lap with the hilly section again I caught up with the rider who had passed me. I started thinking about the fact that this was the last lap and that the guy who I had caught again seemed faster than me in the singletrack. So I realized that I would have to create a good gap here in the hilly section in order for him not to catch me at the singletrack. I upped the pace and he dropped back at once. As I got into the last half of the last lap, the singletrack section, I concentrated on riding as cleanly as possible and not braking too much. I managed this quite well and never saw the rider whom I had passed again.

I finished in fifth place and very happy with the result.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Finnmarksturen - Trying to be brave again

Result: 10th

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

This was my first marathon race after the crash two weeks ago. Also, the type of race was quite similar with a lot of high-speed gravel road and quick single track. I knew I wasn't at my usual confidence level yet but I was looking forward to the race just the same. Weather conditions were good with dry tracks and summer temperatures.

My weight is a couple of kilos higher than I would've wanted it to be due to not being able to train after the crash, and also due to some extra chocolate consumption because I was feeling sorry for myself.


As the race started I found myself in a good position. There was a long climb just 3km into the race which went on gravel roads. I wanted to have a good position over that climb. However as soon as I started going up the climb I noticed that my body wasn't 100% with me. The whole climb was really painful and I lost ground to the leading group. Checking Strava afterwards I found that the climb was almost half a minute slower than last year and that's a disaster!

As soon as I made the realization that I was not going to have a strong day decided to ride a tactical race: Ride smart, conserve energy, no unecessary sprints, stay with good groups and on the wheel of other riders.

I did manage to get back in with the leading group by sprinting after the climb. I saw Robert Eliasson far ahead in the middle of the group but then lost sight of him as we moved to singletrack.

About 10km into the race I found myself in a group of five riders; Three of them were elite riders and then there was one more M40 rider: Stefan Hellman. Now Stefan had placed in the top-3 of most of the races in the cup so far so when I saw that I was in the same group as him I started thinking that perhaps it was not going too badly after all. Still, I was hurting and struggling to stay with this group.

I hung with the group until we came to a short wooden bridge about 20km into the race. I noticed that it was really wet and it looked very slippery. However the riders in front of me got across without problems so I thought that I just needed to go straight across, and NOT to turn on the bridge. After the bridge the track had a tight right hand corner. As I got towards the end of the bridge I started to turn very slightly and carefully to the right but that was enough for my front and back wheels to slip under me and I was off the bike sliding over the bridge. I was back on my bike within seconds but I had lost the group and as I was already going all-out to stay with them there was no chance of catching up.

Soon riders came up from behind and after a while I found myself in a new group consisting of the three leading M30 riders, five M40 riders and some elite riders. We were now approaching the second part of the course which consists of 5 climbs spaced out across the last 35km of the race.

I went up the climbs carefully; starting at the back of the group at an easy pace and slowly moving up through the group. I was happy to see that I did not have any trouble keeping up.

As we got to the last climb I knew that we were not far from the finish line and so I decided to ride hard up this climb in order to drop as many of my M40 rivals as I could. I went over the top of the climb third in my group but had no time to look behind me to see if anyone had gotten dropped because there was quite a tricky section right after. I rode as quickly as I could here and with just 1km we got to a grassy section going uphill. Here however I was passed by all the other M40 riders and as the sprint approached I was at the back of the group. I didn't manage to outsprint anyone and ended up in 10th place, just a second down on sixth place.