Saturday, 23 September 2017

Västgötaloppet - Worst race of the year

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

Last race of the Cup

The racing season has been long for me this year (my season started with the Andalucia Bike Race in February) but this was the last race. It was also the last race of the Swedish Marathon Cup. Motivation was not the best but I did manage to find the energy to swap the Thunderburt that I had in the back for a Rocket Ron. This seemed more appropriate as there had been a lot of rain and the track was going to be muddy.

Before the start: Still happy. This would change

Heavy legs that got lighter

As the race started my legs immediately felt very heavy but it all changed after just a few hundred meters. All of a sudden I was flying past a bunch of well known faces who I know are strong cyclists. I managed to hang on to the wheels of a small but strong group who went absolutely bananas during the start loop. As the start loop ended we had caught up to a larger group that had the eventual M40 winner, Robert Eliasson, in it. At this point I thought that either I'm going really quickly or Robert is having a bad day.

First half of the race

As we moved into the singletrack I lost Robert but there were still strong cyclists around me and the pace was good. The thing is that I expect the start of the race to hurt a lot and heart rate is high, but I know that it will get easier as people start to settle down. 

Today, however, it was like I didn't have any time to recover. The pace didn't slow, and I just kept getting more and more tired. The well known faces that I had left behind caught up with out group and soon I had Daniel Grass, Lars Hansen and Jerry Olsson with me.

Lights out

At about 30km, with every acceleration and climb still feeling like it took every ounce of energy from me, I started to feel that perhaps all was not well. Then, as we came around the stadium to lap at 40km all energy just left my body. I let go of the group and started thinking about aborting the race. Getting this tired just halfway through a race is not normal. I can't start doing damage control while knowing that I have 2 hours of riding left. After some thinking I decided to finish the race.

Typically when you hit this sort of a wall you notice it by your heart beat decreasing. It can clearly be seen from the graph below

Looking at the H/R curve you can see where I hit that invisible wall of tiredness

Limiting the pain

After I had decided that I was going to continue on with the race I was at first too tired to hang on to any of the riders that went by me. But after a while I took some wheels and managed to hold them at least for some kilometers. Every climb that came just killed me. Each section of singletrack was muddy and there was never an opportunity to just roll along: Everything took an immense effort.

The end

I finished the race in 14th place and that puts me in sixth overall in this year's cup. It's a disappointment as when I was planning the season I was aiming for a podium finish. Last year I came in fourth place in the overall standings for the cup

Tired and not so happy

Picked up some mud on the way

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bockstensturen - Insect bites and cracked saddles

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

Result: 10th place

Bitten by something

I went out the evening before the race just to make sure everything was working on the bike. I didn't get much further than a few meters into the forest before something bit me on the right side of my face. There was a burning sensation but it didn't swell up like a bite from a bee. I kept biking for a few more minutes and then suddenly my whole body starts itching. I turn around and head home and for the next hours I'm itching all over and my skin breaks out in small goose bumps. I take some antihistamine pills and wait for it to pass... although I can't really "wait" because then I go crazy from the itch so I try to keep myself occupied with computer games. At around 1 am I manage to fall asleep.

Reaction from being bitten by some kind of insect

I wake up the next morning feeling "okay" and decide to do the race anyway. I had a bit of a sore throat but I wasn't sure if that was part of the allergic reaction or not.


Bockstensturen is the toughest of the races in Långloppscupen: 100km and plenty of climbs. It's a bit different because you have this transport section that goes on roads out into the forest; about 17 km long. Then you have some 60 kilometers of mostly singletrack, before you leave the forest and head back towards Varberg.

Typically, as the race is late in the season, there will have been some rain and the terrain will be muddy. This was the case this year as well and I was covered in mud when I finished

Before the forest

As every year the start is just beside the beautiful castle, close to the sea, in the city of Varberg. It's the most spectacular start of any of the races in the cup.

The first 17 km of the race, on paved and gravel roads, went well. There's always a lead group of Elite riders who set a crazy pace and all I need to do is stay in the group and enjoy being pulled along. I remember that in 2016 the pace out of Varberg was absolutely crazy and I just managed to hang on. This year it was easier.

The forest and the climbs

As the track progressed into the forest there's a few climbs to be negotiated. On previous years I have at times gone a bit too hard here. This year I took it a bit easier but it seemed that the pace was good as I saw some familiar faces around me who I know are quick riders: Stefan Hellman, Daniel Grass and Lars Hansen.

Something went "CRACK!"

At about 40 km into the race there's some sort of bump which pushes the rear of the bike suddenly upwards and the saddle hits my ass rather hard. I hear a cracking noise. I feel that something must have gone wrong with the saddle. I've had a Tune Kom-Vorr before and had it crack on me, at that time I had decided to abort the race. I try to sit on the saddle and it seems possible, however I also notice that my bibs are getting stuck on something that's ripping them appart. It's also restricting my movement a lot: I'm not able to properly stand up. I notice that as long as I just sit as far forward on the saddle as possible I'm able to continue.

Hanging onto the quick boys

In spite of the cracked saddle I manage to hang onto this very nice group that has formed. I notice that I handle the somewhat slippery and technical downhill section better than I have previous years. 

At about 60km I start getting tired and realize that I will probably have to let the group go so that I can make it to the end of the race.

Surviving to the finish

After letting go of my quick group I end up riding by myself for a while. Then another group comes by but they're going really quickly so I just manage to follow for a few kilometers. Towards the end another smaller group of three riders form and I'm able to follow at that pace...

But then, with just 10km to go, my calves start cramping up. With just one cramping at a time I'm able to stretch and get rid of the cramp. But then all of a sudden both of them cramp up at the same time and all I can do is stand up to stretch both as hard as I can, but then I'm not able to pedal. So I let the two other riders go and wait for the cramps to pass while I slowly roll ahead. 

After the cramps pass I'm able to speed up and hold a good pace to the finish line.

I finish in 10th place and do my quickest time ever on Bockstensturen: 04:01:07s

Past years for reference:
2017: 04:01:07 (10th place)
2016: 04:04:06  (7th)
2015: 04:32:25  (12th)
2014: 04:02:29 (5th, 95km)
2013: 03:58:19 (28th, 95km)
2012: 04:10:24 (36th 95km)

My torn bibs from the cracked saddle

Young Jakob Håkansson, who has been my training partner