Thursday, 31 May 2018

Beskidy Trophy 2018 - Live Updates!

Stage 4:

Rain has been pouring down since 05:00 this morning and thunder is cracking.

(The organizers have decided to push the start to 12:00 at the earliest and the stage will be shortened)

New information from the organizers just now:

The last stage of Beskidy Trophy 2018 is cancelled due to extreme weather conditions

Third place in Beskidy Trophy 2018. This is good!

Final podium for the Beskidy Trophy 2018, M4
Total standings Beskidy Trophy 2019 (M40):

First place: Szymon Zacharski 12:57:41
Second place: Pawel Gaca 13:33:07
Third place: Alexander Lapajne 13:35:13

Stage 3:

Third place in M40 (21st overall )

No rain today! Great!

Started out a bit quicker today than yesterday. Legs felt good, and the rest as well. Personal bests on pretty much all the climbs.

Also I grew some balls during the night and went harder on the downhills as well. That was nice.

The real fun thing that happened during today's stage was actually that I made a new friend: Martin Fus from the Czech Republic. He was on my wheel from the first climb and then we kept company throughout the stage, even waiting for one another during feed station stops.

The bad thing today was a new section they had added to the stage: It sucked! The track was covered by fallen trees which were chest high. One had to first lift the bike over them and then crawl over oneself. It was tedious and boring and not what I consider mountain biking. The new trails were also ruined by the rain and had turned into knee-deep mud in places. And as this was all towards the end of the longest stage it was rather tedious.

I felt strong towards the end of the stage and got a really nice climb up the last hill averaging 270 watts.

Finished in third place.

The situation before the last stage is: I've dropped to third place overall and I'm 2 minutes behind the second placed guy. I am however 13 minutes ahead of the guy in fourth place.

Stage results (M40):
1. Szymon Zacharski: 4:43:57
3. Pawel Gaca: 4:49:31
4. Alexander Lapajne: 4:59:19

Before stage 3:

Some servicing between stage 2 and 3:
  • The bike was making some awful creaking noises towards the end of stage 2 that only got worse. The fix was to remove the cassette and put it back on. Noise gone!
  • Checking the brake pads and re-aligning the calipers
  • Refill of Stan's fluid
  • Checking all bolts and nuts and tightening where needed
  • And of course all the regular washing and oiling in of all parts

Oh, and this is the kit that I carry:

Stage 2

Fourth place in M40 (25th overall )

Results are here

Rain was forecast for today but the stage started in beautiful sunshine and 28 degree heat again. I had a good margin on my competitors with Pawel Gaca in third placed being 11 minutes behind me. So I decided to play it safe today. I started out slowly going up the first few climbs saving my strength for the long climb halfway through the stage

My main man Jakob before the start of the stage

Chilling before the start of the stage

Once we got to the long climb I stepped it up a gear and it felt like I was going quite quickly. The climb takes 1.5 hours from bottom to top. But checking my Strava stats afterwards I actually went a minute slower than last year. Also on the early climbs of the stage I was a bit slower compared to last year.
First climb

Then, at 12 o'clock, just as I was going steeply downhill from the big hill everything got dark. So dark that I had to take off my sunglasses because I couldn't see the trails. Then thunder started to roll and I could hear lightning strikes close by. And then... it started POURING. Temperatures dropped from 28 to 8 degrees Celsius. I started shivering as I was drenched by the rain. Instead of going down trails I was going through streams of gushing water... And then uphill the same way. Conditions got very treacherous and I decided to slow down in order no to crash. Other cyclists went by me at breakneck speeds.

Once we got back to the valley the sun came out again and conditions were dry. I went all-in for the last 20 km of the stage. All Strava section from halfway through the stage I did personal bests.

Through the finish line in fourth place. A long way down on first place (Szymon Zacharski). I also lost 8 minutes in the overall standings to Pawel Gaca in third placed but I'm still in second place three minutes ahead of him.

Stage results (M40):
1. Szymon Zacharski: 4:13:25
2. Tarmo Neemela: 4:24:38
3. Pawel Gaca: 4:28:45
4. Alexander Lapajne: 4:32:04

Recovery food

Stage 1

Second place in M40 (16th overall )

Results are here

Seriously hot day here in Poland today. Temperatures of 28 degrees C. Lovely dry conditions.

The stage started with a shorter climb... When I say shorter I mean for Beskidy conditions. It took 15 minutes to get over. About halfway through the climb, when I see my heart rate go over 180, I let go of the leading group of about 20 (mostly young) riders. I still catch about five of them before the end of the climb. Things feel good. Averaged 321W over that first climb.

The next descent is tricky and I play it safe and all goes well. Next up is the second 'short' climb... Taking it easy because there's a huge climb about halfway through the stage... Better save energy for that.

There's quite a long asphalt road section leading up to the big climb and I am incredibly lucky to come into this section with a group of four riders. We each take turns team-time-trial-style and keep really good speed.

As the long climb starts I take the lead of our group of five riders. I like it up at the front of a group because I get to keep my own good and steady speed. That is my strength: I can keep a perfectly even and steady pace going over a long climb. Towards the end of this climb one tiny little guy from our group sprints ahead of me. He doesn't get that far ahead though as I see him just some 30 meters ahead of me all the way up. The other three guys lose touch with me and drop off the back.

I have a single 900ml bottle of sports drink with me and I don't need a refill until the second food station (there are three all in all). I stop briefly and the staff refill it for me. Shortly after this I have one of two crashes on the stage. I have no idea what it was but my front wheel gets caught on something and I fly over the handlebars. No damage done to me or the bike however and I'm back on the bike again. I crash again on a steep descent a bit later when the small strip of dirt that I ride on (with a ditch on either side) gets so narrow that I have to bail. Nothing more serious than that I lie down on my side. Otherwise the descents go really well.

I cross the finish line and get the information that I've placed 16th overall. I realize this is a good result as I've on previous years placed at best 28th overall. I have to wait several hours however before they update the results that show I'm come in second place in M40.

Szymon Zacharski in first place came in 3 minutes ahead of me and  Pawel Gaca, in third place, was 11 minutes behind me.

Stage results (M40):
1. Szymon Zacharski: 4:00:59
2. Alexander Lapajne: 4:04:05
3. Pawel Gaca: 4:15:04

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Beskidy Trophy starts in two days

Beskidy Trophy, the four day stage race in the Polish Beskidy mountains starts on Thursday. This is my main goal for the season and what I've been training all winter for.

This will be my fourth time that I take part. 2015 I placed ninth, 2016 fourth and last year I came in sixth place.

It's a tough race: You're either going steeply uphill och hurling downhill at breakneck speeds. There are almost no flat sections in the race.

Equipment choice

I will be using my Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL with SRAM Eagle. 34T chain ring in front (10-50 cassette). My nice new super light Duke wheels. Tires will be Rocket Ron 2.25" Snakeskin up front and Rocket Ron 2.1" Snakeskin at the back. This means I will go up one size in width up front compared to previous years. I rode the same setup (except for the wheels) at Andalucia Bike race this year and it worked really well. The added front-end grip is very useful in the technical downhills.

I have both my Cube full-susp bike and the Trek Top Fuel to chose from for the race. I like both bikes but as a downhiller the Trek is so smooth and confidence inspiring. That's the reason I chose it over the Cube.

You may remember that I had problems with my brake pads wearing out and losing my rear brake last year during this race. This year I changed to new metallic compound pads yesterday. Hopefully they'll survive all four stages. Although obviously I will bring spare ones

Form and Weight

As I'm deep into racing season my sessions on the Monark exercise bike have gotten fewer. This makes it harder to judge form. Ahead of Andalucia Bike Race I had a better check on my Watts but that was because it was i February and I was hitting that Monark every week. Now with races every weekend and even some in the middle of the week it's hard to combine with hard interval indoor sessions. Also the lovely weather that we've been having lately have made it more attractive to bike outdoors than indoors. In the few indoor interval sessions that I've done have produced decent Watts.

As for race results early this Spring they have not been great... Okay but not great. Billingeracet a couple of weeks back was going to be the big test but due to mechanical issues that race did not go too well.

Weight has been a struggle again. I got down to 70 kg ahead of Andalucia Bike Race in February. Then, after the race I peaked at 76 kg just a few weeks later. And now I've been moving gradually down again. 70.8 kg this morning, just 2 days ahead of the start of Beskidy. I really must find a better process for this... like NOT gaining all that weight between important races. I have another chance at this because I'm doing another mountainous stage race in July: Sudety Challenge.

Weather in Poland

The current weather predictions for the race look terrible. Rain rain rain... and some thunder too. I really hope they change before the race starts. However all the rain the area seems to have had lately will probably make the terrain wet and muddy. I'm glad that I have the wider front tire.


It would be great to finish in the top-3 this time....

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Långa Lugnet - Holding back a little bit

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

Result: 10th place

Quick summary

  • Strong on the climbs
  • Not going all in - Beskidy Trophy starts in 4 days
  • Great weather and fun race!
  • Did I go too hard anyway?

The Race before THE RACE

Långa Lugnet is a great Swedish marathon that I love to ride each year. However, this year it was on the Sunday just a few days before Beskidy Trophy started (Thursday the week after). So the big question was: Is it a good idea to ride a long race so close before THE RACE? Well, I rode it but decided in advance to not go all-in. What does that mean? Well, I didn't go out as hard as I do from the start because I didn't want to risk getting tired towards the end and "surviving" to the finish line. My opinion is that that kind of races really demand a long recovery. Also I decided to not "light any matches" during the race, i.e not do any small sprints to bridge gaps. I don't know if this was a good idea... I guess we'll see in a few days as Beskidy rolls around...

How did it go?

Well, I guess it went okay. I felt strong on the climbs. A bit less strong in the bumpy sections full of roots and stones. I did finish strongly catching up with cyclists towards the end. I ended up in 10th place... a bit worse than I had hoped.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Billingeracet - A series of unfortunate events

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL  Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 1.50 / Thunder Burt 2.1 Snakeskin 1.50 bar

Result: 9th place

Going up the final climb (Thanks Fredrik!)

Quick summary

  • Great legs
  • Muddy and slippery conditions
  • Mechanical issues


Billingeracet is my favorite race in the Swedish Marathon Cup. I've had my best result here ever with a second place two years ago in 2016. It's hilly and, for a marathon, technical.

Conditions this year

It was unclear up until the race start what the conditions were going to be like this year. It had been dry for many days before the race but on the night before A LOT of rain fell. The organizers were talking about changing the starting climb, which usually turns from paved road to singletrack halfway up. The proposal was to have it go up all the way to the top on asphalt instead because the singletrack part was in rather poor condition after of all the rain. At the last minute they decided not to change it. This turned out okay for us top riders but I heard that further down the field everyone had to get off their bikes and walk up this part.

The rest of the track ended up having lots of muddy sections and also slippery stones and roots. Not my favorite kind of conditions as I tend to get clumsy, insecure and cowardly about crashing. I had decided on racing on my most 'racy' tires: Rocket Ron 2.1" up front and Thunder Burt 2.1" in the back. Now, afterwards, I think that may have not been the best decision. Rocket Ron 2.25" up front and Rocket Ron 2.1" in the rear would have been better... which in fact is what I had on the wheelset before I decided to change the tires out a few days before the race...

Start group 2 - Quick warmup

I had been relegated to start group 2 this year in the Marathon Cup as I didn't really have any good results last year. This makes the starting procedure a bit more difficult: Start group 2 is big and being at the front of it is a good idea. I decided on a quick warmup and then to throw my bike in at the top of the group just as soon it opened 30 minutes before the start. This turned out really nicely: The short warmup didn't affect my performance negatively.

The Starting Climb

In the last two races that I did (XCup #1 and Hotcup #2)  in the previous couple of weeks I had big problems in the start: I just couldn't get my intensity and heart rate up and got left behind in the starting climbs of both races. Once I had my steam up the races felt pretty good (not great though). It was as if I was lacking VO2max but the FTP was good.

I was worried for the huge starting climb of today's race: Was I going to be dropped behind again? I need not have worried: The starting climb went excellently. In fact I had a personal best on the asphalt portion of it: The power data said I had averaged 406W during the almost 3 minutes that it took. I was well up with the front runners at the top of the climb and things felt good.

My split times for the starting hill over the years

Slippery stuff and minor crashing

We got a good group going just after the first climb. Daniel Grass was there (H40 guy who finished 3rd today) and the amazing Stefan Carlsson came up from behind and started pulling us along. At the first downhill section which has a lot of slippery stones Daniel crashed just ahead of me, forcing me offline and causing me to have my own minor crash. My bottle fell out of the cage and I had to stop to pick it up. Daniel got on his bike quickly and at breakneck speeds started to chase down the other guys. I was a bit more careful (as I always am) for the rest of the downhill and lost the group.

A new group formed and things were going okay... I was losing some positions in the slippery and tricky conditions but it wasn't going too badly.

Öglundabacken - Moving up the field on the climb

As we came to the  middle climb, Öglundabacken, I had lost a few places and decided I needed to sprint up here. A funny thing happened here: The climb is about 4 minutes long and I always try to pace myself on these kinds of climbs. Even and sustained power all the way up wins the day. However in the first few seconds of the climb a young guy comes racing past me standing up on his bike and sprinting up the hill. Two thoughts go through my head: 1. Am I going that slowly?? 2. Does this guy know how long this climb is?? It turned out that number 2 was true. After about 30 seconds I catch him and drop him for dead. Towards the end of the climb I've almost caught up with a group of four riders ahead of me. The climb is however followed by a section of gravel road and I'm able to sprint up to the group - Legs feel great!! I end up averaging 342W on the 4 minute climb, 6 seconds down on my personal best for the climb.

My times for Öglundabacken over the years

Best power effort ever? 700+ watts!

Just after the climb follows a longer section of gravel road and then some asphalt, and then back on gravel road until the halfway point of the race is reached. Quick section in other words. Here I'm riding with my group of four guys and I see another group of four riders perhaps 200-300 meters ahead. I decide that we have to catch these guys: I start talking to the guys and urging them to pick up the speed. When It take my turn at the front we get closer but with the other guys pulling were just keeping the distance. When I take my second turn at the front I decide on being a bit spontaneous and crazy: I'm going to sprint up to the next group. As I start sprinting I look down at my power meter and see that I'm briefly above 700W! This is on flat asphalt road. After a few seconds I look behind and see that I've dropped my group. After another few minutes, just before the halfway point of the race, I've joined the other group. I feel great! BUT I know that this has taken a lot of effort and that I now need to conserve my energy so I ride strategically at the back of this new group.

Poor shifting on the rear derailleur

During the Öglundabacken climb I had noticed that my shifting had gotten really bad: The chain was skipping on the cogs and I had a lot of trouble finding a gear that I could maintain without the chain dropping up or down a cog. It was very annoying and really disturbed me. Now, afterwards, I know that I at an early stage of the race felt someone bump into my bike from behind: I wonder if they perhaps struck my rear derailleur and bent the derailleur hanger. The shifting problems got gradually worse during the race.

Photo taken after the race: Rear derailleur hanger clearly bent

Second minor crash - losing my super group!

Going out on the second half of the race I felt really lucky to be with this new four man group. Cooperation was good and everyone was pulling hard on the gravel road sections. Pace was also high on the singletack where I had to hang on for dear life. This still went surprisingly well, in spite of all the slippery roots and stones, and I started to relax... until... I was going across a "spång". I don't know if there's a english word for this but it's a low plank bridge, this one consisting of three planks. I was on the Spång and thinking: "I usually hate these but I'm doing okay"... and then I drop off the spång and crash off the bike. It's a minor thing but I lose valuable sections on the group. I try to chase them down for a while but they're just going really quickly and I know that I can't repeat the effort that I did before... my legs just don't have another of those sprints in them. After a few minutes of trying to catch them I decide to look behind and see that my old group isn't all that far behind: I decide to make the strategic decision to allow them to catch up.

Last part before the finish

Next followed some tricky singletrack where I unfortunately had to let a couple of cyclists go but ended up somewhere in the middle of my group. The, just as the last climb was approaching, and old friend of mine, Lars Hansen, caught up from behind. He went past my group and upped the pace: I immediately got on his wheel and to my surprise was able to accelerate while the rest of the group got dropped. This felt really good until... yeah, the gears really messed up and the chain dropped between the biggest cog and the spokes of the wheel. I had to get off the bike and pry it out, all this while the cyclists that I had dropped past by me. Very disheartening. 

Still, I got back on my back and started pushing hard up "Strupen", the final long climb. I had to catch up with the guys who had overtaken my when I had had my mechanical issues. I actually managed to overtake 2-3 of them, including one M40 guy. All during this my chain is skipping like crazy on the rear cogs and I have trouble holding gears.

My split times for the Strupen climb over the years

I end up going over the finish line in 9th place.

Average power during the race was 239W... about as expected for a three hour race. Heart rate perhaps a bit low.

Things are looking good ahead of Beskidy

So Beskidy Trophy, the big stage race in Poland, is coming up in less than three weeks. While today's ninth place is a bit disappointing the current form is great. That makes me feel positive about a good outcome in Poland. My form is improving and weight is going down. I need to continue this trend and try not to drop back down in my "overtraining hole"

Friday, 11 May 2018

Duke Lucky Jack 1290 gram 29" wheel set!

My new race bike for this year; Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL, has some nice wheels: DT Swiss XMC1200 Carbon

They look very nice and they are "new style" wide, with all the advantages that gives you. I raced them in Andalucia Bike Race and they performed excellently. But, for a cross-country wheel set, they are a tad bit heavy. When I weighed them with rim tape and tubeless valves, they came in at 1520 gram.

I ordered a new set of wheels through United Cycling as soon as soon as the Trek was in my possession. I wanted something really light and wide.

The new wheels have the Duke Lucky Jack rim and DT Swiss DT240S hubs (Boost).

I was pleasantly surprised at the weight: 1292 gram with rimtape and tubeless valves: