Sunday, 26 February 2017

Andalucia Bike Race 2017 - Did not go as planned

Quick facts about the Andalucia Bike Race:
  • 6 stages
  • Andalucia region of Spain
  • Mountaneous terrain
  • First and last stages are a bit shorter
  • Middle four stages all have some 2000hm of climbing and are between 80 and 100km long
  • UCI race

This was my first time ever competing in the Andalucia Bike Race. I didn't know quite what to expect but I knew that it was going to be technical and tough. My references, the stage races that I'd previously done, are Beskidy Trophy in Poland, Trans Schwarzwald in Germany and Four Peaks in Austria.

Bike used: BMC Fourstroke 01 XX1, Rocket Ron 2.1 SnakeSkin front and back. 1.50 / 1.50 bar. Stans Notubes Valor wheels.


  • Leading up to the race things didn't go quite as planned: Two weeks before the race started my achilles tendon started giving me trouble. I had to change my training (cut much of it) in those last two weeks leading up to the race. Still, as the race started and all through the race the pain got worse. Going from lots of training to almost none also resulted in some unwanted weight gain (about 2kg+ so I think I was around 74-75kg when I started the race)
  • The stages:
    • 1: 48th in my category (out of approx. 200 in M40)
    • 2: 36th 
    • 3: Three punctures, had to walk to get a new tube, 96th in my cat.
    • 4: 55th
    • 5: Rear deraileur broke, had to retire.
    • 6: Skipped
  • The results (placings) were not quite what I was hoping for. I was thinking that perhaps the opposition would be something like at Beskidy - It was NOTHING like Beskidy. Even tough my training had not gone well leading up to the race the 48th placing of the first stage was a bit of a shock. The eventual winner of my category, Francesco Casagrande; Well, I googled his name: He was an old pro who had come in second in Giro de Italia a few years back. 
  • The terrain, the track and the trails of this race are amazing. A very large prat of the race is on single track. The descents are super technical. This is a race for the fit and skilled mountain biker!
  • The organisation is very good. The track is well marked. The food and drink stops are good. There's technical assistance along the track. 
  • I highly recommend this race!

Stage 1 - The Achilles tendon held!

Yeah, stage 1 completed and my achilles tendon held together. There were three places during the stage where I had to get off the bike and push it up the hill (too steep to ride), and that was bad for the tendon. During the walking and for a while afterward I had some pain, but nothing serious.

Due to the fact that I had to reduce training in the two weeks leading up to the race because of the imjury I did unfortunatelly gain some weight... Perhaps 1.5-2kg up from my lowest reading of 72.8kg. It's too bad but nothing I can do anything about. I was unsure if I was going to come to the race at all as I had some serious pains in the last couple of short rides that I attempted at home in the days just before traveling to Spain. But I decided to come here anyway. My plain is to try to ride the whole race but if the pain gets too much then I will abort.

This first stage was the short 30km one where we started individually. The track was a lot of fun with some nice downhill segments and climbs mostly on gravel roads. Lose stones and gravel on some of the descents made things exciting. I didn't get off the bike in any of the downhill segments which I'm happy with. There were some blind corners and dangerious descents and there are absolutely no warning signs that a difficult section is coming up. I saw some brake skids on the ground which ended at, well, at the edge of a cliff. As I'm new to this terrain I'm being extra careful.

By the end of the stage I had been overtaken by four riders and I think I overtook about 40-50 riders myself. So I thought it might have gone quite okay... well, that is until I saw the results: 48th place in M40! What the...?! Yeah, so tough opposition. The guy who won M40, Fransceco Casagrande, it seems was close to winning the Giro de Italia a few years back when he was a pro (I googled him). Some 200 riders in total in my category.

Everything else felt good today, body, heart, legs... Heart rate responded well, but that's not surprising considering I have not been able to train properly during the last week due to the achilles problem.

Tomorrow's stage will be completely different compared to today's: 80km and 1800hm.

Stage 1 results

I'm trying out AirBnb for the first time ever for my housing arrangements for this race... This is me and the house cat in Cordoba (just after stage 1):

Oh, I just remembered that I should also mention the drama that occured just before the stage started. So I'm warming up and doing a steep gravel road downhill 30 minutes before the start of the stage... and my chain drops off the front chainring!! WTF!? Yeah, I had done some extensive riding back home on just this setup and had no problems. I had however changed from a 34T to a 32T (and my testrides were with the 32T). So the chain did seem a bit slack on the top gear. Anyway, very close to the start of the stage so I don't feel like shortening the chain myself.. But I thought I might ask for some help from the pro mechanics. So I find some Shimano guys just at the start area and ask them to shorten the chain by one link. They look at the bike and just wave their hands and say that there's no point in shortening the chain, they'll just adjust the rear deraileur to increase chain tension. And they do so. But when I get on the bike to try it out (15 minutes before the start) the bike will no longer shift into the highest gear. I go back to the Shimano guys. They do some more adjustments. Still doesn't work. Go back to Shimano. More adjustments... And again... 5 minutes before the start the bike is shifting correctly again. I'm in my start box on time and start the race... and... at the top of the first hill the chain drops off the front chainring!! However, after that there were no problems. I made sure not to be in the highest gear on the bumby terrain as the chain isn't tight enough there. I don't want to do any more changed to the bike right now as I don't want to risk anything.

Stage 2 - Started a bit too optimistically

Stage 2 was 80km and 1800hm. We started at the old Roman Bridge in the center of Cordoba. Now Cordoba is a big city and we had quite some distance to cover through town before we got out of the major streets. And of course there were intersections and roundabouts and cyclists going crazy trying to make their way further up the field, even though we had some 4 hours of riding today. As always in these situations I try to stay calm and passive until the field thins out.

As we got to the first climb, some 20km into the stage (yeah, those first 20km were absolutely bonkers), I started moving up through the field. The climbing was mostly done on different kinds of double-track. Very little climbing on any kinds of roads. Really nice. Each climb followed by some sort of fun downhill track. One could tell that most of the downhill tracks were used by local riders and very challenging and fun.

At about 30km or so a really fast racer was moving up through our field and when he came up from behind me and overtook me I got on his wheel. The other people in my group were dropped and we started catching up to and overtaking other racers. The pace was really quick but my legs felt great and I was feeling optimistic. This went on for some 20km... now I knew that the last 10km were almost all downhill so I was thinking that, yeah the pace was quick, but that I should be ok as long as I could keep it up until we got somewhat close to the finish. But already at 50km, with 30km left of the stage, my legs started to complain. I had to slow down a bit to survive.

Afterwards I saw that my placing during the time checks had been 35, 32, 31 and then 36th over the finish line. So, yeah, I dropped a few places towards the end. But I think I managed to keep it together mostly.

The most positive thing about the whole stage was how I handled the downhills sections. This has always been my weak point and I don't know how many races that I've been totally left for dead in technical downhill sections. No more! Now, sure, there was one or two insane local dudes who just went down the steep sections like batshit crazy. And I had no chance there. But for all the other 'normal' racers I held my place in the group. So really happy about that.

I finished the stage in 36th place and have moved up to 36th in the totals too, up from 48th yesterday.

Stage 2 results

Stage 3 - Three punctures, ran out of tubes, had to walk

The title says it all... I run my tires tubeless, as always. At about 30km into today's third stage I noticed the front tire was slowly losing air. I get off the bike and give it a shot of CO2 hoping the Stans fluid will fix the hole. Get on the bike again and keep going for about half an hour: the front is flat again. Take off the wheel, put in my spare tube, inflate using the second and last CO2 canister. I observe that there's plenty of Stans fluid inside the tire (which should've fixed any puncture).

I keep going for another 10km but going over a creek full of stones the front punctures (probably a snakebite). I'm out of tubes. I remember that I passed a service station not too long back so I do a u-turn and start walking back. I get to the service station, they put in a new tube (and give me an extra one to carry). They inflate the new tube to about 3 bars but I'm not going to argue, I just want to finish the stage. Mentally I'm wasted and in no mood to race. I just want to be off the bike. But I have half the stage left. I finish in just under 5 hours. Not fun, not fun at all.

Now I'm back in my room: I've had two pieces of great chocolate cake so things are looking better. However I need to drive to the next stage town; Linares this evening. Also I want to go back to tubeless on my front wheel so I need to find the cause of my slowly leaking front tire. In order to do this I need to get hold of a floor pump, so I'll try to find a shop and buy one this afternoon / evening. I don't feel like doing any of those things right now... But it's almost 5 o'clock so I'd better get going...

UPDATE: 9 o'clock now and I'm in my hotel room in Linares. I did the whole procedure with the front wheel: Washed the whole thing and cleaned the outside of the tire, removed the inner tube, cleaned the tubeless valve, remounted tubeless valve, remounted tire, added Stans fluid and inflated tire to 3 bars. It's standing next to the bed now... as far as I can tell there's no leak. So what happend? I have no idea.

Stage 4 - Achilles tendon starting to bother me

My achilles tendon was rather painful yesterday, the evening before today's stage. The whole right ankle got rather swollen. I was thinking that stage 4 might be my last one if it continued to get worse.

This morning before the stage I wasn't in much of a race mood. The ankle was stiff. I did a minimal warm-up and got into my start box. The good thing was that the sun was out and it was supposed to shine throughout the day.

The stage started really badly... In that the terrain was really badly chosen. The first 20km was up and down some rolling hills. The problem was that going up each hill was so steep that everyone ended getting off their bikes and walking up. I think we all got off the bikes and walked about 10 times during that first part of the stage. This was both really boring and also rather bad for my poor ankle. Each time I switch from walking to biking is really painful. As long as I just can keep biking the pain is nothing more than a minor annoyance. I just ended up taking it really easy here because I didn't want to break anything (in my body).

The other thing that happened during that first 20km part was that we crossed some streams that had sharp rocks in them. The streams were all at the bottom of steep downhill segements so we came barging in at full speed. The good thing was that I actually converted back to tubeless in the front yesterday. Had I not done that I would've had a puncture in the first few km of today's stage. There were others that were not as lucky as I was however and after each of these sharp-rocked streams there were 10-20 cyclists fixing flats. I bottomed out twice but as I was running tubeless I didn't get a flat.

After 20km we got into the first long climb (of a total of two for the day). It was all on gravel road. This was more my cup of tea and I overtook a lot of cyclists going uphill. Then followed some varied up and down hills.

The second to last downhill was the most tricky one today. It's hard to describe it but it was down a walking path. However this walking path was strewn with big rocks were someone had made a road by pouring concrete between the rocks. These just made things really uneven with lots of weird steps, drops, high ridges and generally very uneven surface. My arms got so tired from working the bike and braking that I almost wanted to stop just to rest them. I got down safely but lots of riders were a faster than I was here.

The last climb went well and I passed a bunch of cyclists here too (not as many as the first one though). The last downhill towards the finish area was very nice

Something in my rear wheel started sounding really badly during the last 8km. Each time I pedaled hard in a high gear the whole drivetrain made a terrible grinding noise.

I got over the finish line. In 55th place on today's stage.

Update from this evening:

1. I was expecting my achilles tendon to get really bad this evening. Last night I was limping around in my hotel room. But it hasn't... it's actually less painful than it was yesterday. I can't figure out why!

2. I cleaned the bike and oiled the drivetrain and now that grinding noise is gone.

So right now it looks like I will continue with the fifth stage tomorrow! Let's hope my body and bike hold together!

Stage 5 - Aborted with broken rear deraileur

About 10km into today's stage I noticed something wasn't quite right with my driveline. Jumped off the bike and saw that the rear deraileur had broken. Aborted the race

These nice people gave me a ride back to town

Friday, 10 February 2017

Preparations for Andalucia Bike Race 2017

I have signed up for Andalucia Bike Race.  It's a mountain bike stage race with six days of racing. The event start is on the 26th of February.


Duration: 6 days / stages
Total distance: 413 km
Total climbing: 9732 hm

The race takes place in the Andalucia region of Spain. Three of the stages start in Cordoba, one in Andujar, and the last two from Linares. There's a lot of climbing which, as you know, I like.

Today is about five weeks until the race starts. I'm trying to work out a good training strategy for the time leading up to the race. I need to drop some weight. This morning I was at just below 75kg. I want to get closer to 70kg.


(2016 December about 79kg)
2017-Jan-18: 74.8kg
2017-Jan-27: 74.0kg
2017-Feb-02: 73.4kg
2017-Feb-04: 72.8kg
2017-Feb-16: 72.8kg (less training the last weeks before the race means weight has stopped decreasing)

Update 2017-Feb-21:

Achilles tendon is getting better. The reduced training load of the last two weeks before the race is helping. I did two mountain bike sessions this weekend with just a little bit of pain. Hopefully this last week before the race, with even less training, will make the tendon heal completely.

Here's the previous week of training:

The race officials have updated the route of the event. All stages have gotten longer and harder. I've updated the totals and the profile on this blog today.

Update 2017-Feb-15:

I currently (after last weekend's heavy training) have a very painful and swollen achilles tendon. I have not been able to train properly (on the bike) since Sunday. Today (Wednesday) I just did a slow commute and even that hurt.

Update 2017-Feb-12:

4 weeks of heavy training finished. Two weeks to go before the race. Now I go into the taper period:

Update 2017-Feb-06:

The list of participants was released today. It seems that there are 160 riders in the M40 category (my category):


Stage 1 (XCT) - Villafranca de Córdoba 31,1 km | 1.118 m+

Stage 2 (XCM) - Córdoba 80,0 km | 1.803 m+

Stage 3 (XCM) - Córdoba 79,4 km | 2.039 m+

Stage 4 (XCM) - Andújar 69,7 km | 1.885 m+

Stage 5 (XCM) - Linares 103,7 km | 1.911 m+

Stage 6 (XCM) - Linares 49,3 km | 976 m+

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Vintercuppen #5 - Roots roots everywhere!

Result: 5th place

Bike: BMC Teamelite XX1, Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 1.5 bar (Stans Valor wheels)

After spending the last couple of weeks preparing for the Andalucia Bike Race by over-training and under-eating my main focus on today's Vintercuppen race was to get a good workout.

And that mision was accomplished!

I started out a bit slower than I usually do becuase I was afraid of my tired legs not lasting the distance. However my recent weight loss meant I was flying up the hills. So I increased the pace.

After a while however my main nemesis in the total standings; Tommy Petersen, came up from behind. We started doing battle with him pulling away in the rooty sections (he was riding a full-suspension S-works while I was on my hardtail with stiff carbon wheels getting bounced around), and me pulling away from him in the climbs and the gravel road stretches.

I tried a long sprint with a few kilometers to go and managed to get a bit of a gap, but got stuck behind a backmarker. Tommy caught up and when he increased pace I had no strength left to keep up with him.

I finished in fifth place but the important thing: Excellent heart rate figures

Saturday, 4 February 2017

2016 - Results and reflections

It's time I wrote a summary of the 2016 season. Here it is:


  • Stage races: 2
  • Marathon races: 13
  • XCO Races: 24
  • Team races: 1

Total number of races participated in 2016: 40


The main focus this year was on the marathon races;

In 2015 I had finished ninth at Beskidy Trophy and fifth overall in Långloppscupen. The plan was to do better in 2016.

As a bonus I threw in a new (for me) stage race:

The Team

I joined a new team this year: Team Bikeitaly BMC. And that meant a new bike brand: BMC!


The bikes

My two race bikes for 2016:

  • BMC Fourstroke 
    • Full suspension
    • Under 10kg race ready
    • SRAM XX1
    • Fox 32 Float
  • BMC Teamelite
    • Micro Travel Technology (MTT) 'Soft tail'
    • Under 9kg race ready
    • SRAM XX1
    • Fox 32 Float

These two bikes turned out to be great. I loved how BMC had designed both bikes with a long top tube and short stem. It made the bike quick to react and very playfull

Wheels, Tyres and Pressure

Tubeless - Zero puncures this year!

On most Swedish and Danish marathons: Specialized Fast Trak Control 2.0 (front) / Renegade Control 1.95 (rear). Usually at around 1.5-1.6 bar (that's 22-23psi).
Beskidy Trophy: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 

Stans ZTR Valor. These wheels worked perfectly and are so light! It was especially very noticable when switching between the DT Swiss XR1501, which came with the BMCs, by no means heavy wheels, and the Valors. When riding the Valor wheels the bike just becomes so much quicker to react and accelerate.

Shocks - Rebound

I had never ever played around with rebound settings before. On all previous bikes I had just left the rebound setting at the default. Now, after getting shaken about in this year's Beskidy Trophy I started to experiment with rebound. I noticed that, by default, my BMCs had the setting at almost the strongest rebound. I changed it to somewhere in the middle and wow! What a difference! Instead of having to break in downhill sections because I was afraid of being thrown off the bike because of all the shaking suddenly the fork was working and helping me.

Training and Weight Loss

A large part of the training this year focused on Beskidy Trophy. As this race involves a lot of climbing (2000-2500 vertical meters per stage) one of the important things was for me to become really light. I weighed in at 78kg in December and my goal was to get down to the region of 72kg by May, when Beskidy took place. I actually managed to trump that and my lowest recorded weight was 70.5kg a week or two before the race.

The Beskidy Trophy also has many difficult, quick and dangerious descents. During my 2015 races I had lost a lot of time and places in the downhills and so I knew I needed to get better at that. It's a very demoralizing experience to get passed by riders going downhill, the same riders you struggled to overtake in the previous ascent.  I practiced descents by going to my favorite local downhill tracks.

Racing and Results

Great start to the year

Beskidy Trophy (4 day stage race in Poland)

This was my big goal for the season. I had done the race the year before, in 2015, and finished 9th. I was back for more! I got my weight down to close to 70kg just for this race. I practiced the downhills. Looking at Strava after the race I had improved my times compared to the year before as much going uphill as downhill. In the end I finished fourth, just 60 seconds behind the podium. Very sad. You can read the whole race story here

Långloppscupen (The Swedish Marathon Cup)

Långloppscupen is our Swedish marathon cup which consists of 9 races, 6 of which add to your total score. I had a fifth place, in the total standings, from the year before to beat.
It started really great in the first race, Billingeracet, where I finished in second place. I may even had one the race if it had not been for a crash. I was so cold after the race that I missed the price ceremony while I was warming myself in the car. However, at that time I thought that there were going to be more podium finishes for me in the cup... How wrong that turned out to be.
I missed two of the races in the cup while competing at the Beskidy Trophy. And then crashed at one of the races. That means that all the six races that I managed to finish ended up counting towards my total.
My placings were in the races were: 2, DNS, DNS, 6, 9, CRASH, 10, 7, 5.
This ended up giving me a fourth place in the total stands for the year. Fourth is better than last year's fifth place, but the individual placings I was not content with.

The Crash

At Engelbrektsturen it happened: I had the worst crash I had ever had. I was in the top-3 at the time it happened. We we're on a gravel road going real quickly. My rear wheel got stuck on one side of a gravel bank while the front wheel was on the other. The wheels started slipping appart and there was nothing I could do to prevent the crash. I went down at the speed of 56km/h and had to abort the race.

The crash also affected my confidence and it took several weeks before I was able to trust the grip of my tyres again.

The Swedish XCM Champtionships

I got a cold just days before the race. I still managed to recover in time but the situation wasn't optimal. I hung onto the group of top-4 riders until about 12km to go when I ran out of steam and had to let them go. Still, fourth place was okay... but just hundreds of meters before the finish line I get caught from behind by one M40 guy and I finish in fifth. I really wanted to be on the podium and I think that without the cold there'd be a chance...

Recovery, commuting and heart rate zones

In 2016 I started to bike commute a lot. First because I had no car (I sold my bike transpoter in the Spring and there were a few months before I had purchased a new vehicle). Then, even after I had a car I continued to commute because it was training before breakfast and I felt it helped me drop weight before Beskidy. It was low intensity (typically with an average heart rate of 130) and I didn't think it affected my recovery.

It worked really well and performance in both the big race before Beskidy; Billingeracet, and also at Beskidy was really good. This in spite of practically no rest days before those two races.

This is how my training schedule looked before Billingeracet

I cycled for 16 straight days ahead of Billingeracet. And then did my best marathon ever finishing in 2nd place.

Ahead of Beskidy I had the single rest day.

This actually worked for me early in the season.

However as June and July wore on I started to feel more and more worn out. So here I think perhaps I should've had more rest days and ALSO perhaps my bike commuting (which I continued) did not allow me enough rest. I actually checked the heart rate of my bike commutes and I'm firmly in Zone 2, which is NOT recovery, not in Zome 1, as I should be.

What needs to change and get better?

  • Smarter training
  • Better recovery