Sunday, 22 July 2018

Sudety Challenge 2018 - Live reporting

Final Standings Sudety 2018: Fourth place

Stage 5 (final) - Seventh place

  • 53km
  • 2200m altitude

  • Heart rate max/avg: 171 / 147
  • Power avg/weighted: 194 W / 237 W

The last stage was planned to be 55km long and have a total of 2500m of altitude gain. As you can see by the profile it was pretty much just hills all of the time. There was no particular climb to plan for or to save up energy for. However, just before the start, the race organizers told us that the stage would be shortened slightly with the second-to-last hill being skipped. We didn't get an explanation for this but it had been raining heavily during the night so that might have been why

The situation before this last stage was that I was 13 minutes behind Nicolai in third place, and the fifth placed guy behind me was about an hour behind. Now 13 minutes is a long time to make up, and after the stage was shortened it seemed even harder. My plan was to go out slowly, and if Nicolai had any kinds of problems, then I would give it my all. I had another reason, outside of Sudety Challenge, for this plan: The Swedish Marathon Championships are coming up in a week. Recovery will be hard as is, without having an absolutely murderous last Sudety stage.

So how did it turn out? Well, I was motivated to go hard on the climbs. But this last stage had the most crazy downhills that I have ever seen in any race. When I had to get off and run down the first downhill I still thought that it wasn't a big deal and powered up the next climb at full speed. But then there was another insanely steep downhill, followed by another and so on. On some of the downhills there were other competitors that rode downhill. But the steepest ones no one could ride downhill. And with each time that I had to get off the bike I lost more and more of my motivation to go hard on the next climb. This turned out to be the least fun stage of the whole race.

I crossed the finish line in 7th place. Not a good placing, but it didn't affect my position in the total standings in any way: I finished in fourth place in Sudety Challenge 2018.

Stage 4 - Third place

  • 58km
  • 1900m altitude

  • Heart rate max/avg: 171 / 153
  • Power avg/weighted: 206 W / 243 W

Today's stage started and ended in Gluszyca. I talked to the fourth placed dude in cat M3 (I'm in fifth), a nice Dane called Nicolai Madsen, and he said that he thought it was a mistake to go out as hard as we had on the previous stage. I concurred with him on that and decided to take it easy up the first couple of hills. I still managed 300W up the first climb but the pain was much less than yesterday. Legs, body, heart, everything was just feeling really good.

Nicolai and I traded places throughout the stage: In the climbs I would get ahead of him, while on the descents he would catch up. It was quite entertaining. Every time I thought I'd dropped him he would catch up.

I was able to push much harder than I thought up all the climbs because my body was responding really well. Checking my watts on the Garmin also showed very nice data.

On the long descent about halfway through the stage things were going quite well until I was about to do the last part which was super-steep: I checked my brakes just before going over the rim and noticed that my rear brake was gone! The lever just went all the way to the handlebar. Yeah, I had cooked my brakes! I tried quickly to pump the lever but it didn't help. My only option was to run, stumble and slide down the steep slope on foot. About 10 riders went past me at this point. At the bottom I pumped the brake a few more times and got it working again.

Now started the chase for Nicolai but it would take 15km before I caught him. The place that this happened was on an uphill segment full of loose large rocks. Now I'm on my full-suspension Trek but Nicolai is on a hardtail. Guess who was faster?

Now I was sure that at this point I was rid of him for good. But no, he caught up again! At the last feeding station I had again dropped him on a steep asphalt climb. I filled my bottle (the only stop that I did) and asked the people manning the station to pour water over my head. It was divine!

I sprinted on the last 6 km to the finish line but guess who caught me just before the end?

It was actually after we crossed the finish line that the really interesting things started to happen: Both I and Nicolai persumed that we had finished fourth and fifth, as on the other stages. The top two guys in M3, Santi and Yuri, are much quicker than the rest of us on each stage. Then there's another Danish guy: Björn, who is a bit down on the leaders, but still much faster than Nicolai and I. So it would make sense that we would place fourth and fifth again. But no, checking the list it said that we had come in second and third.

So what had happened? Well, it turned out that Björn had not come to the start of the stage at all for some (personal?) reason. He and his family had returned to Denmark. Santi had finished first (12 minutes up on us), but Yuri had broken his saddle and biked the last part of the stage without a saddle. He still just finished 5 minutes after Nicolai and I.

The situation before the last stage tomorrow is that I'm in fourth place, 13 minutes behind Nicolai who's in third. The last stage is the toughest one of the entire race: 2500 m altitude gain.

Now my good result was actually not just pure luck: Checking the power data shows that I had in fact done my best stage of the race power-wise: 206 W average power / 243 W weighted.

Top-10 after stage 4:

Stage 3 - Sixth place

  • 58km
  • 1900m altitude
  • Heart rate max/avg: 178 / 155
  • Power avg/weighted: 197 W / 237 W
Today's stage took us from Bardo, where we had spent just one night, and to Gluszyca. Bardo is altitude-wise below Gluszyca so most of the stage went uphill. But, of course, there was the famous enduro section at 19km into the stage...

We left Bardo on an asphalt road which started climbing gradually. This really suits me as I hate going hard from scratch. When I checked the stage profile map before hand and noticed that at about 10km there was a flat section before we went further up hill. I wanted to be in a good group for that section so I pushed the first uphill part rather hard. I average just below 300W for about 5km. And I was successful in my endeavour as the flat part, which turned out to be double track, went really quickly at the back of a quick group.

Then came the enduro section at 19km into the stage... It started well, but then perhaps halfway through, I was caught up and had to let a guy past, and then another one, and then my rythm was gone. It went okay though.

During the next climb I went hard again and was doing okay... But as I neared the halfway point of the stage I noticed that I was starting to feel weaker. I realized that I would have to slow down in order to finish the stage at a good pace. So from about halfway through until perhaps 10km left I left some riders past and just went at my own pace.

With the last 10km left I started to feel better and was actually able to speed up. I finished the stage well (which shows that slowing down was the right choice) and come in sixth, just seconds down on the fifth placed guy.

Interestingly enough looking at the power numbers they're almost exactly the same as yesterday's. So even though I felt I was going slow on average the stage went about the same as yesterday's.

One thing that I have forgotten to mention is that the heat here is scorching. I'm racing with a single 900ml bottle. On the previous stages I've only refilled it once, at the last feed stations (there are three for each stage). This time, even though it was the shortest stage so far, I was for the first time out of water when I got my bottle refilled. It was so warm that I started dumping cups of water over my head at the feed station and when the guy manning it saw what I was doing he just poured a while 5 liter water bottle over my head. GREAT! He might have actually saved me from losing more time on the stage.

Stage 2 - Fifth place

  • 60km
  • 2000m altitude

  • Heart rate max/avg: 177 / 159
  • Power avg/weighted: 196 W / 239 W

Today's stage left Stronie Slaskie and headed to the next village: Bardo. It started with a LOOONG climb again.

At the start we had two groups form rather quickly. I hate going hard right off the start, especially when I already have two stages in my legs, so initially I was towards the back of the second group of riders. During a small downhill just a kilometer out of Stronie Slasko I sped up and moved to the front of the group and when I noticed that the lead group didn't seem to be moving all the quickly I decided to bridge the gap. I found it funny that it was so easy but also that no one from my group tried to hang on to my wheel. I joined the lead group as the climb started getting steeper and the group broke up into smaller fractions. Strava has noted that first climb as being 8 km and 500 meters altitude gain and I did it with an average power of 267W.

Then came that downhill that the organizers had advertised as "DH frenzy" and I was nervous about.  The trail was brand new and therefore had lots of loose soil and it was super steep. I had to get off the bike a few times where I found it unridable. Unfortunately some of the other riders did find it ridable and whizzed past me.

The rest of the downhills went great and I felt brave. No one dropped me because I braked too much so that felt great.

Quite early in the stage, after perhaps 15 km, noticed that my rear tire was feeling a bit deflated. I stopped and felt it and yeah, it was down to perhaps 1 bar. It didn't seem to be leaking any more air (the Stan's fluid had fixed the leak) so I just gave it a shot of CO2. It held for the rest of the stage. It's hard to judge how much CO2 to inflate a tire with so I ended up with a very hard rear tire. After the stage I measured the pressure to 2 bars. Normally I would run between 1.5 and 1.6. Things were rather bouncy in the rear and traction was hard to find after that.

I crossed the finish line in fifth place, five minutes down on the two Danes who are in front of me in the classification. The dude who won my cat placed fourth overall, just second from the podium!

After this stage I'm still in fifth place overall. I have 10 minutes to fourth and 18 minutes to third place. My margin down to the sixth placed guy is a reassuring 20 minutes.

Stage 1 - Fourth place

  • 68km
  • 2000m altitude
  • Heart rate max/avg: 182 / 162
  • Power avg/weighted: 194 W / 235 W

The stage started with a long gravel road climb. I was eager to make up time after yesterday's fiasco. Perhaps a bit too eager. I averaged over 300W up the first climb which was LONG.

About halfway up the climb I was riding with two guys and saw a group of four riders just a bit further ahead. They didn't seem to be going all that fast so I decided to bridge the gap. That worked okay although I had to dig deep. But, as soon as I caught them the pace picked up and these four guys started chasing down groups of riders in front of us. I had hoped for a little respite when I caught them, instead I had to dig even deeper to keep up. I was doing 290W just hanging on the back of the group. NOT a good thing this early in the stage.

After this followed a quick descent on a gravel road full of lose stones. Everybody ended up riding on the patch of grass which was between the two wheel tracks. We were probably doing about 50km/h downhill and there were lots of turns. Quite exciting but also very scary. I let the quick guys go and concentrated on surviving.

More uphills and downhills followed. I remember an absolutely beautiful portion of single track at the top of one of the mountains where I rode between blueberry bushes and over roots. Almost like a fairy tale.

One of the downhills was steep and on roots going right across the path. This part was so darned scary because as soon as I braked my rear wheel skidded on the roots and totally pointed my bike in the wrong direction. Three times I ended up in the blueberry bushes and narrowly avoided crashing

Towards the end of the stage I noticed that my legs had taken a beating during that first climb. Second to last climb I averaged about 260W and the last climb I dipped just below 240W.

Probably the most rewarding thing during the stage was the last descent: Two guys had just caught me on the flat section on top of the last mountain and as we started descending, first on gravel roads, and then on vast grass fields, I passed them both and then put a lot of distance between us. That was nice. I felt cowardly on the descents yesterday but today I made up for that.

I crossed the finish line in fourth place and I climbed from 11th to 5th overall.

Prologue - Puncture and Bent Valve

  • 21km
  • 700m altitude

  • Heart rate max/avg: 185 / 167
  • Power avg/weighted: 186 W / 259 W

The prologue stage was ridden as a single start with 30 seconds between each competitor.  The stage was 21 km long and 700 m altitude gain in total. It started quite a fair bit away from the race village; 6 km uphill. The ending was in the race village so that meant that the stage was mostly downhill. We had checked part of the stage before hand and the first descent was quite tricky and dangerous.

I started really well and the first 3 kilometers uphill on asphalt and gravel road I had an average power of 330W.  However then came that tricky downhill section where I felt I had to take it easy. Perhaps a bit too easy. One guy caught up with me and blew past me (I did catch him in the next uphill). Still, just one guy got past me so I guess okay...? However, checking my times on that downhill section afterwards and comparing to Sandra's she had done it A LOT faster then me.

Then some more gravel road uphill and another tricky downhill. Just at the top of the downhill I hear a swooshing sound from my rear tire. I stop and I discover that there is air leaking out of the tire. I point the leak downwards and hope that the Stan's fluid will seal the leak. I stand like that waiting for the air to stop leaking but it doesn't. It's not leaking very quickly and the tire is not completely deflated. No point in trying to inflate the tire while it's still leaking... I decide to run down the hill. It was extremely steep and barely rideable anyway. When I get down to the next gravel road, after running for quite a while, I notice that the there is no more swooshing sound. I get out my CO2 and try to inflate the tire... But when I find the valve I notice that the valve core is bent at an extreme angle. I'm unable to unscrew it because of this. So I start bending it straight, while being careful not to snap the core, and try to unscrew again - not working, bend, unscrew, bend, unscrew. At last I'm able to unscrew the core and inflate using CO2. I lose a few minutes doing this but I'm able to finish the stage.

I finish in 11th place with a time of 1h14m. I'm some 10 minutes down on the first place guy.

Back in the hotel I inflate the tire to in order to see if there's a leak and at 3 bars of pressure the fluid pops and it starts leaking air again. I put a patch on the inside of the tire. I also replace the faulty valve core. I pump it back up to 3 bars and it seems to be holding now.

Now I have some time to make up on the remaining stages...

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sudety Challenge, 6 day stage race, starting SOON

  • 6 stages
  • 320 km
  • 11 345 m total ascent

The race starts this Sunday, 22nd of July!

First Time Ever

I've raced a few different stage races over the years but this will be the first time I compete in Sudety Challenge. Sudety is sort of a sister race to Beskidy Trophy, which I've raced many times. They both take place in the same area of Poland (though they don't share any actual locations). I'm expecting the same kind of fun and challenging terrain as in Beskidy meaning: Few gravel roads and mostly singletrack. Each stage has around 500 fewer meters of total ascent compared to Beskidy, while length-wise they are similar.

There is one big difference between Sudety and Beskidy and that is that you change start/finish location for the different stages, meaning you need to switch hotels. The good thing is that there are not six separate locations, only three. It makes sense however as finding six unique sections of trails for all the stages that all start and end at the same place would be impossible.

The race takes place in the mountains in the south of Poland where its borders meet the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The Stages

The first stage is a time trial stage with cyclists starting individually. My start is at 14:50 on Sunday. The stage is 20 km long with a lot of uphill.
The rest of the stages are 'normal' ones.


I'll be riding my Trek Superfly 9.9 SL RSL. I haven't used it that much since Beskidy Trophy. I've replaced the rear tire, put in new brake pads both front and rear, and topped off the Stan's fluid in the tires. Front tire was still fine.

10-50t in the rear, 34t up front

Tire setup:
Front: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin
Rear: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin

Tire pressure: 1.6 bars

Expectations and Form

Form has been going up lately. I came back from Beskidy Trophy a month ago feeling slightly unmotivated towards racing. But that passed the last couple of weeks.

I did my standard benchmark 9 x 9 minute session on my stationary bike last week were I managed an average of 326 watts. That's a new personal best.

Weight was a bit of a struggle and I was at 75kg four weeks back but I pulled myself together and as of this morning I'm under 71 kg. About the same as at Andalucia Bike Race and Beskidy Trophy this year.

It's hard to say something about what kind of expectations that I have on the race. I checked the list of starters and what surprised me is that perhaps 80% of them are from outside of Poland. My weight and power figures are about where they were before Beskidy Trophy and I finished that race in third place so perhaps something similar...?

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Hotcup #4 - All of a sudden: Good legs!

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL, Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin 1.40 / Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin 1.40 bar

Result: Fourth in M40, eigth overall

Quick summary

  • Great form!!!

The Aftermath of Ränneslätt!?

Today's race was only four days after my disastrous Ränneslättsturen. Considering that I had pretty much hit a wall at 20km before the finish of that race and I know how much that costs in terms of recovery... I had no high hopes for Hotcup #4 today.

Things went great!

But what do you know? Things went great!

The course today was quick and flowy; my favorite kind. I started slowly but gained positions throughout the race. I could see the front group for the first half of the race but they were just out of reach. 

I finished in 4th place in M40, 8th overall

Post Race Data is Super!

So everything that went wrong at Ränneslätt went right today. Obviously two very different races. Today's Hotcup was 1.5 hours, Ränneslätt was 3 hours.

Watt data was very nice: 263 W average (weighted average was 278W)'

Heart rate was very nice too: 175 average, 186 max.

So body was responding well.

The four lap data looks as follows:

Monday, 2 July 2018

Ränneslättsturen - Dropped bottle, leaky rear tire and not making the right decisions

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

Result: Really bad

Quick summary

  • Dropped bottle after 5km
  • Leaky rear tire
    • Noticed rear tire was not behaving properly
    • Kept going on anyway as I was with good group
    • Went too hard to stay with group
    • After stopping and inflating was too tried to finish well
  • Last 20 km I was dead

Good start

The start of the race was better than the past few ones. I was able to go really hard and advance up the field. VO2max feels good in other words

The warm temperatures and sun had made the sandy roads at the start really dusty. As we turned into a gravel road at 3km the dust was so thick that people started breaking in front as no one could see where they were going.

Dropped bottle

Already after 5km I notice that my bottle has gone missing. This is my first dropped bottle this year. I was using my large 1.1 liter bottle for the first time this year and I'm guessing that the bottle holder is a bit worn out and flexed too much. My pal Bo-Rickard Jepson saved my life and gave me a new bottle at 21km. And then tried to give me another one at 42km but I dropped it after trying to stove it into my rear pocket. Thanks Bo-Rickard! I ended up just drinking 0.6 liters for the three hours which wasn't enough on this warm and dusty day.

Rear tire deflating

At around 20km I noitced that my rear wheel wasn't behaving properly. It was washing out wide in grippy turns and also the tire was bottoming out over some stones. I suspected that it had become deflated but I wasn't sure. I was in a really good group and I didn't want to let go of it. So I decided to ignore the fact that I should probably stop and do a quick refill with the CO2. After riding harder and harder to keep up with the group because the bike was more and more difficult to control I finally stopped at 50km to refill the tire with some air. I quickly checked the tire before inflating it and there was perhaps half the correct air pressure. The refill fixed it right up though and it didn't continue to deflate. My guess is that there had been a hole which had allowed the air to leak out but the Stan's fluid had fixed it.

Obviously I should have stopped earlier...

Dead legs for the last 20km

I had gone way too hard to keep up with my group and the last bit of the race I was just exhausted. People passed me left and right and I just suffered all the way to the finish line. The heart rate graph says everything: