Sunday, 25 March 2018

Slagelse FitnessMTB - Where's my form? Has anyone seen it?

Bike: Cube AMS 100 C:68 SLT,  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin F/B 1.50 / 1.50 bar

Result: Ninth place

Quick summary

  • Epic 4.5 hour mudfest
    • Race took almost one hour longer than last year (in spite of better placing)
    • 2/3 of riders aborted to race
  • Was not feeling well during the week leading up to the race
    • Slight cold at the beginning of the week
    • Two aborted interval sessions during the week was all the training I did
  • Eased off the pace early in the race
  • Good last lap, climbed up the rankings

How to get back on form / when have I recovered enough??

Andalucia Bike Race went really really well. Form was perfect! But how do you best recover after a huge stage race? When do you start training again??

The first week after ABR I just bike commuted (in H/R zone 1; recovery). And then, during the weekend, I tried to get back on the nines... and failed. More rest was needed. 

The second week after ABR I managed to do a set of all nine of my nine minute intervals. And at a respectable wattage! I was recovered!... Or was I?

Third week (this week): Slight cold during Monday and Tuesday. Still bike commuted. Wednesday I try for 6x8min... I manage two intervals before I'm wasted! Okay, not recovered I guess... Next day I try again... and manage 2x8min again before I'm dead on the bike. Yeah, this is definitely a message I need to heed.

I decide to take it easy for the last few days leading up to Sunday's race. I do an easy 2h ride the day before, including a standard wake-up-the-legs-interval at just below FTP. Things feel... okay, I guess.

Race Day

The Slagelse FitnessMTB race is a great race to refresh your on marathon MTB racing form early in the season. However, being early in the season it's rather weather dependent. I've ridden the race many years and there have been some seriously muddy races, but also dry and quick ones. The race is 4 laps of a course totaling 76km.

During warmup I notice that the forest is really really really wet. There's water and mud everywhere. "This is going to be tough" I think to myself.

The Race

The start went okay and I managed to stay in the quick group. As we got to singletrack the field started to split up a bit. I could see a group with Henrik S√łeberg (very strong cyclist) just ahead of me and I considered sprinting  to catch up.. but tactically decided against it. The group of riders that I was with was sort of a mixed bunch of talent. I didn't feel that we were cooperating very well; Two riders, from the same club, were riding very strangely: Sprinting up the hills, and then barely keeping any pace during the straights. Both of them disappeared of the back during the second lap.

As the second lap started I realized that the race would turn really nasty later on. Conditions were already muddy and having a few hundred cyclists pass through the mud would make conditions worse and worse for each new lap. There were three more laps to go! I already felt that the first lap had been very intense so at the start of the second lap I decided to be tactical: When cyclists sprinted ahead I didn't try to go with them. But the pace was still high in the group and guys were dropping off the back too.

During the third lap I started catching up with cyclists who were feeling the pain of starting the race too quickly. Conditions at this time were horrible with the trails becoming wider and wider as the racers tried to chose various routes with less mud. I caught up with a tired Niels Bay Pedersen, who had beat me in every race of, and ended up winning the cup. I overtook him but then, as we got to the end of the lap, he caught up again. There were some steep and muddy sections there where he was able to get traction but where my rear tire just slipped.

As the fourth and last lap started I saw Niels far ahead but noticed that I was, meter by meter, catching up to him. About halfway through the lap I finally caught him and this funny discussion took place:

Me: I think we're probably in last place now
Niels: I'm just going to keep riding until it gets dark

While I was really tired at this late stage of the race I forced myself to continue taking my (homemade) gels and drinking my sportsdrink. Typically this is something I will be sloppy with when I get really tired. I managed to leave Niels behind.

I finally crossed the finish line in ninth place. Very happy that I was able to make smart decisions and make the best out of a bad situation.

The race this year took me almost an hour longer than last year, even though I placed much worse, 23rd last year.


No power data from this race as I was riding the Cube which hasn't got a power meter

Here's the heart rate data:

So way too much time spent in zone 3. When I'm in good shape and going strong a majority of the race would be in zone 4.

Typically I would want it to look something like this (from stage 1 of ABR):

The question is: What do I do now?? Any tips??

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Andalucia Bike Race 2018 - My Best Race Ever (?)

Ninth place

I finished the race in 9th place in the M40 category. This is out of 250 starters. With the opposition and this being a UCI race it is probbaly the best result that I have ever had in a race.

For comparison: When I took part in the race in 2017 my best finish in a stage was 36th.

My partner, Sandra Backman, also took part in Ladies Elite. Here's her story

Adalucia Bike Race

  • 6 Stages
  • 400 km
  • 10.000 hm

Strong last stage!

Here's the data for the different stages. Obviously heart rate will drop for each new stage during a stage race. But have a look at the average power for the last stage! It's almost half an hour longer than the first but almost the same power! Even though the heart rate is much lower! Very interesting!

Stage  Placing Time    Avg H/R Max H/R Avg Power Weighted Power
1      13      1h18m   173     187     251       281
2      10      3h10m   164     182     209       243
3      10      3h48m   159     177     196       237
4      9       N/A     N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A (bike comp died)
5      N/A     N/A     N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A (stage canceled)
6      10      1h51m   155     170     241       275

Training for the Race - 0 rest days

Training for the race started in October of 2017. I was focused on increasing my Watt/kg performance and it worked:

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't increase your Watts while dropping weight. The above graph is proof that you can.

I didn't have a single rest day in the 4 weeks leading up to the race: I bike commute to work and continued to do so up until the day that I left for Spain. My bike commuting is however done at a very low intensity (Zone 1).

The four week before the race:

1 week before: 2 shorter HIT sessions
2 weeks before: 3 HIT sessions. 2 long distance
3 weeks before: 2 HIT sessions, 2 long distance
4 weeks before: 2 HIT sessions, one race, one long distance

The Bike - Full Susp

The Bike

I ended up racing up Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL.

This is the most compliant and smooth mountain bike that I have ever owned. It's a full suspension bike. If you're going to race Andalucia Bike Race and you own a full susp I strongly recommend that you race it on that kind of bike. The terrain is difficult and you need all the compliance that you can get. My bike was not particularly light, ending up weighing around 10kg. I had new and lighter wheels on order but they were delayed.

Gearing - Wide Range

SRAM Eagle, 34T front chainring and 10-50 cassette. This race, while being hilly, has a lot of flat stuff on gravel roads where speeds get really high. At the same time it has super steep climbing. You must have good gearing range.

Tires - Puncture Protection is Key

  • Front: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin (600 gram), 1.4 bar of  pressure
  • Rear: Schwalne Racing Ralph 2.1 Snakeskin (600 gram), 1.4 bar of pressure


A bit wider in front for better grip. I could've gone wider in the rear as well but opted for something that's easy rolling.

The race has a lot of sharp rocks. The risk of punctures is super high. You must have tires with thick sidewalls.

Brakes - Use Metallic Pads

I came to Andalucia with organic brake pads. This was a big mistake. The race is very hard on the brakes. I ended up wearing them out after just a few stages. New ones could not be found on location but I got a pair of used ones, that I ended up wearing out again in the last stage. In the future I will only use metallic/sintered brake pads.

Gels, Drinks and Energy

I used my own gels in two small gel bottles. My bottle size was (one bottle of) 900ml. That's all that fits the frame of the bike. I would've liked to have used my 1.1l botttles but they don't fit. There are plenty of food stations during the race. I actually didn't end up using any of them however with the race being shortened the way it was and also with the cold weather. I had a recovery drink waiting for me at the end of each stage which I gulped down quickly.

Tools and stuff

This is what I had with me:

  • Multi tool
  • CO2 nozzle, two cartridges
  • One extra tube (taped to the seat post)
  • Tire levers
  • Quick chain link

Andalucia Bike Race - Difficult Technical Terrain

Andalucia Bike Race is a bit special compared to other stage races that I've raced: It does take place in hilly terrain but it also has a lot of quick gravel road sections. So you need to be ready for super technical downhills, really steep climbs, but also some quick group riding on the gravel road sections. If you compare this to a race like Beskidy Trophy then Beskidy has much less flat riding but the descents are actually more technical at Andalucia Bike Race, even though Beskidy has much more climbing (altitude gain) per stage and longer descents.

The Weather

The weather was the big subject of ABR in 2018. It was TERRIBLE. The first three stages were good but the last three were under pouring rain and strong winds. Actually there were no THREE last stages as stage five was cancelled due to the extreme weather, and both stages four and six were shortened.

Thursday, 8 March 2018 2017/2018 - Second place is a 6 race Winter series in Denmark. The first race is in October and the last one in March.

I really like having racing during my Winter training because it allows me to have goals to focus on that are not 8 months away. Every race is also really intense and that makes it a great training session.

This year's cup went well with me finishing in second place in M40.

My individual placings were: 5, 3, 2, 1, 5, 3

There was a clear and good trend going from the first race, which followed my increases in Watt/kg, except for the fifth race where I didn't place that well. The reason is that that particular race was crazy slippery with ice forming all over the place and thereby rather dangerous. The race was just prior to my Andalucia start and I didn't want to risk injury.

(the total number of riders in M40 was 91)

Looking at my overall placing (all categories) I came in fifth place in the cup, a personal best.

Here are some photos from the different races