Saturday, 29 July 2017

XCup #5 - Ending my week of over training with a fun race

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron/Thunderburt 2.1 Snakeskin 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: 14th place (overall)

I'm in the middle of my preparations for the Swedish Marathon championships in exactly one week. That meant that the plan for this week was to over train and break down my body, in order to take it easy next week and get a peak in performance just when the XCM race is. That meant that I came to today's race pretty tired, but it was all part of the plan. Also an intense training session on this day was a perfect way to end this week of over training.

The terrain here in Hässleholm is always fun and for today we were promised an entirely new track. The races here are always twisty and fun and full of small technical difficulties... and A LOT of singletrack. And, during the training session, I found out that the same was true for this new track.

Typically when I am over trained I notice it in the starts: I have a hell of a time keeping up with the quick pace in a typical starting loop or hill. But then as the pace settles things get better. The same thing happened today and as we, after the start loop, went into the first singletrack section, I was perhaps in 20th place.

During the race I worked my way up and ended up in a group of five riders. We swapped places a lot, and also caught up with other riders who got tired and passed them.

When the end of the last lap approached I made sure to be in the lead of the group. The sprint towards the finish line was on bumpy double track. I sprinted all that I coould but was onfurtunately passed by two riders. I ended up in fourteenth place. However, my body felt great, the pulse data was super; 177 average 187 max. I got an excellent training session out of this race, AND I had lots of fun!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Engelbrektsturen - Improving form in the dusty gravel rally

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin, Thunderburt 1.58 / 1.62 bar

The Event

Engelbrektsturen is one of the quickest races in the Swedish Marathon Cup. It has lots of gravel road and few climbs, also not all that much singletrack. Historically I've had good results here:

2013: 8th place (my first top-10 finish ever in this cup)
2014: DNS (clashed with the Swedish XCM championsships)
2015: 6th place
2016: DNF - BIG crash

I'm not sure if I should be proud of placing well in this least technical of all races.

Last year I had a huge crash during this race (while I was in the lead) and I was a bit wary this year knowing how suddenly it had happened. I remember that in 2016 I was really worked up about performing well in this race and really went all-in. Well, until I crashed anyway.

The start of this race is in the centre of Norberg but there's just a short bit of paved road before you're out on a loooong gravel road. This means that getting a good start is absolutely vital. After about 5km there's a short climb, then some singletrack, and then another climb. Neither of these two climbs are major but they do stretch out the field and groups start to form here.

The Race

I had been battling poor form for the last few weeks. Pretty much since Beskidy Trophy I've not been able to get back on the same level as before that race. Same goes for my weight: I'm a couple of kilos heavier than I should be (not for lack of trying though).

This also meant that I was not super focused on this race. However I warmed up well and placed my bike very aggressively on the front row of starting grid. I was right next to the pros which was cool.

The Start and First Climbs

The start went well and I was among the first 30 cyclists going out on the long gravel road. Some guys took chances and overtook on the rough next to the gravel road but I stayed put safely in line. As we got to the first climb I pushed hard and things went well in spite of the extra kilos of body fat.

I checked Strava and found this for the two first climbs and also the first 20km of the race (last year I crashed at 22km so that's why I checked the first 20km):

First climb:

Second climb:

First 20km:

This tells me that I was going as quickly this year as last year (conditions were very similar).  2016, at 20km, I was in the lead (there were three of us in M40 together in fact). This year, however I was nowhere near the top-3. So tougher opposition I guess.

The Middle and Losing the Pack

Even though I had raced Engelbrektsturen three times before I was still shocked by how our group of 20 some cyclists held together over the easy terrain. Even the short sections of singletrack and climbs could do nothing to separate it. It was a lot like a road bike race.

With about 20km to go we came to a small incline and here the pace got really quick and I noticed myself drifting backwards through the field of riders. At the top there was not more than perhaps 10 meters up to the last riders of the group, but it was hard to catch up. I did get close a few times, but then we got into some singletrack and I lost them again.

The End

As I approached the last 15km of the race I was joined but two young riders who helped pull me along. I was pretty tired and just looking forward to the end of the race.

I thought we held a pretty good pace but just as we were entering Norberg and getting ready for the last sprint a group of some 7-8 riders caught up with us from behind. One of the riders win in my category and he sprinted by so quickly that I had no chance of catching him.

I finished sixth in the race, missing out of fifth place by 5 seconds. I was 2 minutes down on third place.

Good race and the form is improving.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Mörksuggejakten - One Weekend, Two Races

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: 12th place

One Weekend, Two Races 

Knowing I was not in good shape I decided to do two races this weekend. Yesterday was the shorter XCup race and today I had the marathon Mörksuggejakten. Today's race was of higher priority and normally I might hesitate to race on the day before, even though it was a short one hour race. However I knew that my form was not good and so I decided to do both races in order to get a good buildup to the Swedish Marathon Championships which are in four weeks.

The Track

Mörksuggejakten is one of the races that I do like because it has a good starting climb. However you need to cover about 1.5km through the town of Rättvik before you get to the climb and that part can be a bit hectic.

After the climb there's a long downhill section which is very good to take quickly because after that you have quite a long stretch of quick paved roads, gravel roads and double track where it's good to be in a quick group.

The last part of the race is largely on singletrack through forests, however it's very quick riding. Quite a lot of roots in places too.

The Start of the Race

On the starting line the officials kept telling us over and over that there was going to be a pace car in front all through the town of Rättvik and that there was no overtaking allowed. 

As the race started I got a good start over the first small grass hill. The white Mitsubishi pace car was at thte front of the wheel but almost as soon as we reached the paved road leading into town there was a red race official vehicle that somehow ended up to the right of the field. In order to get out of the way it stopped halfway down a ditch to the right side. It looked very strange.

Then just seconds later there was a big crash just to the left of me. Five or six cyclists became entangled and went down. I managed to avoid the incident and went around.

In spite of the instructions people were still overtaking quite crazily on sidewalks and all over the place.

The Starting Climb

I didn't come to this race in the best of shape, or the lightest of weight for that matter. I was at around 75kg before the race. So getting to this starting climb I did not have high hopes. I saw Robert Eliasson and Jakob Håkansson not far in front of me throughout the climb but I didn't manage to get any closer and I didn't see either for the rest of the race.

Looking at Strava I was actually slower up the climb than last year:

The First Half

Knowing my limitations I did try for a strategic race. This went well as we did form a good group as soon as we got out onto the roads and quick trails of the first half of the race. We were hunting down cyclists in front of us and the pace felt good.

The Second Half

Even getting into the second part of the race with more singletrack and rooty sections things still felt good. The group kept getting smaller with people dropping off the rear. There were perhaps a couple of cyclists that went off the front whom I was not able to follow.

The Finish

The last 10km I was starting to feel really tired but managed to hang onto the small group that I was now in. However with some 4-5km to go that tiredness increased a lot and I started getting left behind, also some riders caught up with me and passed me. The last few short but steep climbs were just murder on my legs. In the last few kilometers I fell out of the top 10.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

XCup #4 - A step forward

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: 13th place (overall)

After last Sundays disaster with the poor form at Ränneslättsturen I was totally focused on recovery throught this week: I just did my normal bicycle commuting at low intensity.

For this weekend I knew that I had the more important race on Sunday, but I still wanted to race at XCup today, Saturday. So I took a bit of a chance. Today's race was just 60 minutes + the lap.

The track was located outside of Hässleholm and is one of my favorite ones. The terrain is very undulating with small uphills and downhills throughout and almost 100% singletrack. This makes for fun racing.

My form still isn't good but better than last weekend. I had a good race, my heart rate being predicatably high after all the resting during the week (peak H/R at 190!). Towards the end of the race I didn't go 100% all in to still save a little for tomorrows race. This meant I lost three places during the last couple of hundreds of meters. Thirteenth place is ok. I had fun!

(Photographer: Linus Holmgren)

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Ränneslättsturen - Tired and worn out

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.60 / 1.60 bar

Result: Pretty bad


I've been on vacation in Slovenia since Beskidy Trophy, doing a lot of mountain biking in the Alps. I decided to prolong my vacation as long as I could so after 16 hours of driving during Saturday I arrived home late in the evening. The next morning I got up and we drove three hours to take part in this year's Ränneslättsturen. Perhaps not the best sort of race preparation. Well, that and the fact that instead of resting after Beskidy I had been doing a bunch of mountain bike riding in mountainous terrain meant that I had perhaps not had the best of recovery....

Leak Before the Race

One hour prior to the race, as I was ready with everything, and just straddling the bike while talking to my travel companion: Jonas Nilsson, I heard a pssshhhh noise coming from my front wheel. We tracked the sound down and found that the tire was leaking between the edge of the rim and the tire. Very strange as it had started leaking while I was just standing still with it. I opened up the valve core, poured some Stans fluid in the tire (luckily I had brought some), pumped the tire back up and rode around in circled for a while. This sealed the leak and there was no more problems during the race.

The Race

Things actually worked 'okay' for the first 2/3 of the race. I was in the top-10 and on the wheel of Stefan Hellman. But with about 25km left I started to feel very tired and I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish the race well. Instead of punishing my body over the last part of the race I decided to cruise the last part.


The next few days after the race I felt really tired and worn out. I slept around 12 hours each day during Monday and Tuesday. Something was probably not quite right in my body.