Sunday, 5 August 2018

Swedish XCM Championships - The Gravel Road Race [UPDATED]

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL  Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin 1.50 / Thunder Burt 2.1 Snakeskin 1.50 bar

Result: 9th place

Photos @
Photos @

Quick summary

  • Good legs
  • Slightly worn from Sudety last week
  • A girl in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Dropped chain followed by crazy chase

The Race - 1572 MTB Challenge

The race was advertised as being 87km, but when we arrived on site all the signs said 80km. It turned out to be 82km... but none of the officials knew. More about this later...

The course has a lot of gravel and even paved roads but it's still fun. Some shorter climbs, nothing major. There are singletrack sections but quite short ones. Nothing really technical.

A Girl in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

The start of the race went well and I felt good. There is no starting climb in this race and at this particular time (you will seldom hear me say this) this fact was actually good for me. As I have the six stages of Sudety in my legs (just a week back) quick burst of power are not working for me right now. I'm okay with steady state power though.

They started the M40 and M50 class together. Men Elite, Women Elite and M30 had started 5 minutes before us. As there were not decisive climbs there was quite a good group that held together. for the first 20km. I was close to the front of it so I'm not absolute sure how many of us there were. I'm guessing some 20-30 riders.

What happens after about 25km is that were riding a paved section and we catch up with one of the Elite Women. We'd previously caught a few riders from that group but quickly passed them. In this case however this Elite rider decides that she will hang on to our group. She does however not check behind her to see how many we are, instead she squeezes in in front of me. At that point she has about 5-6 of us M40/M50 in front of here (she's on their wheel and holding it despite of the high pace) and the rest of the group behind her. This works fine as long as we're on the paved road but I see singletrack coming up. At this point I yell for her to let us pass. She ignores me. As we start the singletrack section she's unable to hang on the the wheel in front of her and the 5 or 6 riders in front of her get a big gap. I can't pass her as the singletrack is incredibly tight. Once I do get past her the front group of riders has a gap of several hundred meters and as we get to the next gravel road sections they're barely visible in the distance. The top-3 M40 and the top M50 rider all turn out to be in this group.

Dropped Chain

About halfway through the race we have formed a good second group behind of the leaders. I recognize Rolf Svensson with whom I've ridden many races. He's at this point in second place in M50. There's perhaps 6 or 7 of us. The other riders are a mix of M40 and a  few M30 riders that we've caught.

We're going down a descent on double track at high speed. It's quite bumpy. I'm on Rolf's wheel... and as it flattens out and I try to start pedaling there's no resistance at all. My chain has dropped! I get off the bike to let the others past and quickly get it back on. It doesn't take much time but we're doing about 50km/h at this point so the gap that forms to the group is huge.

As I get on the bike again I make the decision to chase them down. There's still 40km of the race left and if I manage to catch up I can make good use of being in the group. I go all-in and give chase. I'm in the red as I start catching people dropping off Rolf's group. It takes perhaps 5km but I manage to catch them. At this point I'm pretty wasted but I'm hoping for an even pace with this group. I know that if there are any burst of speed up and inclines that I will be dropped.

87, 80 or 82km?

As I mentioned before it's unclear to me how long the race is actually going to be. It was noted to be 87km in the pre-race materials. But all the signs at the start said 80km. As we go past 70km this all of a sudden starts to become important. Somehow it's not important if you're going to do 80km or 87km at the start of the race. But as you're approaching the end of it and you're starting to feel really tired then it's quite important if there's another 10km to go or if it's 17km. I ask the other guys in the group (only three of us left at this point: Rolf, me and another M40 guy) and consensus seems to be 80km.

At around 70km we come to a hill and I just barely manage to hang on to the group by the skin of my teeth. Then shortly after there's another climb:  I'm dropped.

Now I really need to know how long I have left. I need to go as fast as I possibly can in my tired state in order not to be caught up by any other riders in my class. There are no signs at all along the course telling me the distances (which all other races have). As I pass a race official at a junction I ask him: He just shrugs his shoulders. At 77km, riding alone, I pass another official and ask again: He says 10km to go. I come to the conclusion that the race must be 87km as the pre-race info said. I ease back a bit as I need to conserve my energy for another 10km of racing.

Shortly after this a group of three riders catch me: Among them one M40 guy. Darned! This is bad! My legs are dead! I hang on to this group and just a little later we start to come towards the area that I recognize as the place were we started the race... But there still should be 5km to go!? The other guys start to sprint and I have nothing left in my legs and cross the line last in the group. So what was the total distance in the end? 82km!

I finish in 9th place. I'm pleased: I've done all I could under the circumstances.

The top three guys were a good way ahead of the rest of us. But I think that under the perfect circumstances I would have had a shot at the fourth spot.


Here's a video that Linus shot of me grabbing a bottle from my lovely friend Caroline at one of the feeding stations:



Power is interesting to look at after this race. I was using my Stages power meter so all the data is there. I have the average (lap) power on display at all time and I was quite surprised when I saw that about one hour into the race I was averaging 270+W.

Let's have a look at the power averages for the race:
First hour (first 1/3 of the race):  278W
Second hour: 239W
Third hour: 224W

The average for the whole race was: 246W. Weighted: 266W. This is way higher than any typical stage of Beskidy Trophy or Sudety Challenge which would typically average around 200W (240W weighted)


For the first time ever I used to combo Rocket Ron 2.25 in front with Thunderburt 2.1 at the rear. I really liked this. Even in a quick race with lots of roads as this one had the feeling is that the bike rolls nicely. On singletrack I really like the grip that I get from the wide front tire, at the same time not missing the lack of grip that the easy-rolling rear Thunderburt contributes. I think I will continue to use this combo in the future for marathons.

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