Saturday, 22 September 2018

Västgötaloppet - Last Marathon Cup race of 2018 - Best Result

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL  Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin 1.45 / Thunder Burt 2.1 Snakeskin 1.50 bar

Result: 7th place

It rained and it got muddy

The Venue

Västgötaloppet is the ninth and last race of the Swedish Marathon Cup. On previous years I have targeted this cup for my training but this year I had only raced the four first races, missing four in a row before Västgötaloppet. My best placing in the cup was a ninth place.

Västgötaloppet is a tough affair: 80km long, plenty of climbs (1000hm elevation), quite a lot of singletrack and some built trails as well. I felt my form was good going into this race. The weather was scheduled to be quite awful: rain and around 10 degrees. Just the day before the race it had been sunny and double that temperatur in my home forest. Had it not been for the good form I might've skipped the race entirely.

The Start

I warmed up and then as I had just placed my bike on the grid rain started to pour down. Luckily some people that I know from Hässleholms cycle club were standing around and one of them had an umbrella. I joined them and got some shelter.

The race started on gravel roads and at first I thought I'd made a good start but then I saw that there were not familiar (quick) faces around me. I picked up the pace and overtook Stefan Carlsson, who is an incredibly quick M50 rider, a while later. I took that as a good sign.

As I got to the first longer gravel road climb I could see that there was a group of riders ahead where I could identify several guys: Robert Eliasson (M40), Jakob Håkansson (junior), Daniel Grass (M40) and Martin Hansen (M40). These guys are all capable of winning races. Okay, good, I wasn't too far behind. During the climb I saw that Daniel Grass started to drop back from the group and I soon caught him. After another climb or two I had also caught up with Robert Eliasson. Both Robert and Daniel complained that they were not having the best of days. I just thought that they had started off really quickly.

The First Loop

Västgötaloppet consists of two loops where each is 40km long, so about half the race in each loop. During the first loop, after I caught Robert and Daniel, we formed a group together with three or four more riders. Both Robert and Daniel seemed to have recovered and were going hard again. Stefan Carlsson also joined from behind after a while together with an M30 rider. This caused the pace to quicken as Stefan went to the front and started to pull hard.

As we were nearing the end of the first loop, during a climb, Stefan and the M30 rider got a bit of a gap and Robert started to hunt them down. I tried to follow on Robert's wheel but couldn't quite hold it. From quite far behind I heard Daniel cry: "Don't let go of that wheel, Alex! No gaps!". I looked behind and saw that Daniel himself had dropped behind. I thought it was funny that he was telling me to close the gap to Robert while he himself had dropped my wheel.


Right at the end of the first loop we hit some tricky built singletrack and I let Daniel past me. He sprinted and caught up with Robert who himself had caught up with Stefan up front. I felt really tired and this point and but tried to push really hard in a last effort to catch up with this group of riders ahead of me. I almost made it, with a gap of perhaps 20 meters, as we hit the gravel road which took us through the start-finish area and out into the second loop. The guys ahead of me picked up the pace and as I was chasing them on my own I thought that that was it: I had lost them. But then something weird happened: Stefan Carlsson all of a sudden turns away from the trail and aborts the race. There's confusion with the other riders who were behind him and this allows me catch up using a last desperate sprint.

The Second Loop

We go out on the second loop and Daniel takes the lead. We're on gravel roads going downhill, the rain is falling hard, it's slippery and we're going fast. Daniel edges away from me and then suddenly, I see him standing still next to a muddy section. I assume that he's crashed but find out later that he got a puncture. It's really sad because he was racing for the overall win of the Swedish Marathon Cup; Långloppscupen. We don't see Daniel again.

The rest of the group stays together: Robert, another M40 guy, a couple of M30 riders and a M50 rider. The second loop is easier with more roads. The pace is hard and on the short climbs the group stretches out but then reforms during the road sections.

The Finish

With about 10km left on a short singletrack climb, while I'm at the front of the group, I hear someone call out from behind. It sounds like Robert and I can hear him swearing over something. Then I don't see him for quite a while. He doesn't seem to be in the group anymore.  However with about 5km he rejoins the group from behind. I can't believe that he caught up with us as I feel we're going really hard and I myself am barely able to hold on. Later he told me that his lockout stopped working so he stopped and "fixed it" somehow. Wow!

With 3km left of the race Robert sprints ahead, the group stretches out, and I feel that I'm dead. I drop off  the back. I've had slight feelings of cramps for a while. I go into survival mode: Minimize the damage. I cross the finish line without anyone overtaking me.

I finish seventh, just three minutes from first place in M40. Robert finishes fourth as he's able to pass another M40 guy who was ahead of our group. The next M40 guy is 5 minutes behind me. It turned out to be a very tight race at the top with seven of us within three minutes. Compared to 2017 I finished the race 25 minutes quicker.

I'm wasted. I gave it my all. For the next our I sit in the car with my heat turned up to the max. The average temperature for the race, as recorded by my Garmin, is 5 degrees. I rode in short bibs, with just a thin base layer under my shirt.


One interesting thing that I noticed is that last year, with equally wet conditions, I switched to a Rocket Ron tire in the rear. for this race Now however I've become so comfortable with the Thunder Burt rear tire that I didn't even consider it. Rocket Ron 2.25 in the front and Thunder Burt 2.1 in the rear has really become a favorite combo.

Comparing power data for my last few races is interesting:

 Avarage power   Weighted power
Västgötaloppet  249W  268W
Snapphaneturen  241W  271W
Swedish Marathon Champs  246W  266W