Thursday, 30 May 2019

Lida Loop - Mud, rain, slippery stuff and crashes

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL (2017)  Racing Ray 2.25 1.4 bar / Racing Ralph 2.10 1.6 bar

Lida Loop has never been one of my favourite races. Why? Because of the terrain. There are slabs of rocks and lots of tall roots. We don't get that kind of terrain in the south of Sweden where I live. I have in fact not races Lida Loop that many times as it has crashed with Beskidy Trophy several times. I did the race in 2014 and came ninth. Then 2017 I aborted due to mechanical issues. Last year I came in 10th place.

Last year was a dry race. This year was not. Early on in the week all the weather prognoses foretold of rain. And the forecast came true. It was raining the day before the race, the morning of the race, during the start, and most of the race. Things got slippery. I don't like slippery.

Another thing that I don't like about Lida Loop is the extremely short and steep starting climb. Normally I love a good starting climb. But the one at Lida Loop is just too short: Under a minute long. It takes explosive muscles. I don't have explosive muscles.

Going up the first climb I was passed by pretty much everyone. The good thing is that just after the climb there are wide jogging paths where you can ride 3-4 cyclists abreast and so it's easy to overtake. Which is what I did. I realised how far back I was when it took me something like 10 kilometers to catch up with Max Ahston (no offence Max, if you're reading this).

Just after the starting climb - Still clean

Towards the end of the first loop I caught Robert Eliasson and that's when I thought that perhaps I wasn't doing all that poorly after all. I was however wrong. The thing about the first loop is that's it's easy riding with mostly wide jogging tracks and some gravel roads. Not until the end of the first loop do you reach some rocky sections.

Going out on the second loop we got to the serious rock slabs... and roots... and they were all wet and slippery. Robert Eliasson flew by me as I hesitated and tried to chose the right line over the rocks. A minute after that I crashed. It was a silly crash really: My front wheel got stuck on a root and I wasn't able to put down a foot so I fell over sideways and banged my left leg on a rock. My shinbone to be exact. It didn't hurt all that much and I was back on my bike in seconds. I continued to lose time and placing in this section though and I never saw Robert again.

Start of loop 2

Start of second loop - You can see my left shin bleading

I looked down at my left leg a few times and I could see it bleeding. But I didn't think much more of it.

As we left the rock slabs I started to pick up the pace again. The second loop had some nice climbs where I could go hard. I was leaving riders behind and that felt good.

And then I crashed again: I was lifting my front wheel over a tall root but as the wheel landed it bounced a bit to the right and my right handlebar got stuck on a tree and over I went. Again I got back on the bike in mere seconds.

The third loop is easy BUT it starts with an extremely rooty section. I wasn't quick. I got passed a lot. But then the terrain got easier with a lot of road sections. Which should have been good but at this point I was getting very tired. The last 12-13 kilometers I lost placing but with 8 kilometers to go, Tomas Berg (who ended up winning M50) came up from behind and with his help I made it across the finish line without losing further placing.

Just before the finish

Just meters from the finish line

The thing with Tomas Berg coming up from behind was actually a bit funny because next year I will be riding in the M50 category so my performance on this terrible day was still enough to win me a theoretical first place finish in M50.

I crossed the line in 11th place.

Average H/R:            168 (rather low)
Max H/R:                182 (glitch in the H/R strap again?)
Average power:          239W
Weighted average power: 262W

After the race when checking my left leg I noticed that my injury was a bit worse than I had thought. It ended with a trip to the emergency room and three stitches.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Billingeracet - Aborted after 6 kilometers due to massive nail

My favorite race in the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen), Billingeracet, became a short affair: I noticed that my rear tire was a bit wobbly some 20 minutes into the race. I stop and have a look and there's a long nail sticking straight through my tire. It's gone in at the thread and out just above the rim. About 5 centimeters is sticking out each end. I pulled it out and tried to get the tubeless fluid to plug the hole while spending to CO2 cartridges trying to inflate the tire. No go! It just leaked out. I'm trying out Muck Off's tubeless fluid this year for the first time. It's supposed to plug bigger holes than its competitors. I'm not sure if this was a fair test though as the hole was really big. See photos below.

I was pretty disappointed but after a while I did try to get a tube in the tire and inflate it using the last CO2 cartridge that I had with me. But somehow the inflator or/and tube valve failed and all the CO2 went by the side. At that point I decided to give up. I went back to the car, inflated to tire using my big pump, took the bike into central Skövde and found a chocolate shop where I could buy some fancy pralines.

I rode back to the start/finish area and enjoyed my pralines while looking at my pals riding the race. Sandra did great and finished 4th in Women Elite.

Not me in the podium but Sandra in fourth place

Top one is where the nail went in and bottom where it was sticking out

Nail went in here

Nail went out here

Monday, 6 May 2019

Göteborgsgirot MTB (aka Bra Bil XC MTB) - The race with a bi-polar disorder

Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SL (2019)  Rocket Ron 2.25 1.5 bar / Racing Ralph 2.25 1.6 bar

Result: 14th place overall

Me on a spång

Göteborgsgirot MTB

I drove up to Gothenburg in the morning to try this race, sort of, for the first time. I actually did ride it the first time they ever organized the race, back in 2013. But the course had changed since then so this still felt like the first time.

Back in 2013 the terrain that they chose for the race was crazy technical and dangerous. Back then I wasn't a good mountain biker, I'll admit that. Still, when the girlfriend and I decided to try the race we knew it was open for all riders (including non-licensed) and so we thought: "How bad can it be? They won't want to kill people... right??" It turned out to be REALLY bad at that time. Sandra crashed out of the race early and had to retire. I remember getting off my bike and walking several sections because they were just too dangerous.

I wasn't expecting that kind of technical terrain this time around.

The track is 50km long. It starts of quite centrally in Gothenburg so you have a police motorbike escort the first 4km out of town, until they let the field go. The weather was dry, sunny but cold.

Getting out of Gothenburg

I lined up on the grid next to my old racing pal Robert Eliasson. I don't know how many marathons we've done together. He's a local guy and has done this race many times. He told me before the race that it usually ends in one of two ways: A puncture or failed navigation. After the race I understood exactly why.

Two good things:
1. Car parking is right next to the start of the race. Litterally meters away.
2. You can get a good position in the start grid.

The first four kilometers of the race went through Gothenburg, on (narrow) bicycle paths, with police motorcycles in front controlling the (slow) pace. There was a lot of braking, some swearing, and a lot of bunching up. Some cyclists took shortcuts. The whole situation was mildly annoying. I didn't know exactly when they were going to let the race start so I had to try to keep a good position in the field. I saw cyclists around me who were clearly not of the "quick kind" but who were very eager and so quite aggressive.

Release the riders!

We left town and got to an area with jogging paths and here the field was released. I was not in the best position (as so often) and slow to start (quite common too) but I gradually made my way to the lead group of about 15 riders. Robert Eliasson was there, and some really quick elite guys. This first part went mostly on wide jogging paths and the pace was quick. There were a lot of quick and short climbs. Actually this whole race is full of climbs and descents and has few flat areas.

The bi-polar race

After a few kilometers of this quick and non-technical riding on paths we got into the rough stuff. My immediate reaction was that I was surprised by how rough the rough stuff really was. If you made the wrong choice of path over the rocky terrain you could easily end up going over a 1 meter drop.

There were also lots of (high) roots. Lots of roots and stones! Knowing the terrain, and which route to take around the obstacles, was a BIG advantage here.

Also, "spång"/"spänger"... a LOT of them. If you're Swedish you know this word: It's a small and narrow bridge. You can see one on the photo above from the race. That particular "spång" is really really wide, most of them are just three planks wide... some are two planks.

So what happened? Well, not knowing the terrain I took it easy. I got overtaken by some 4 or 5 of guys who seemed to really know the terrain because they really flew past me.

Then on the next climb I caught the same guys and went around them... really quickly. And then repeat on the next downhill with them going past me. After I while I felt I had to apologize for my riding: "Sorry guys, this is the first time I ride in this terrain. Just go past me!"

And, yeah, that was the bi-polar nature of this race: It's either really easy terrain; asphalt or gravel road, or it's oh-no-I'm-going-to-die terrain.

Poorly marked course

There's one major point I need to bring up about this course. You may remember what I wrote at the beginning about Robert's verdict of the race (it either ends in him taking the wrong turn or in a puncture). The course is really poorly marked out. The arrows come too late, typically when you're going downhill  at 40km/h and suddenly you see an arrow pointing left exactly where you're supposed to turn. There should be some forewarning of a turn. There are also long sections with no arrows which led me to worry if I was still on the course. I didn't go wrong anywhere, but there were places where I went past the turn-off point and hade to double back.

In many intersections they had officials standing but very few of theses people actually pointed to where the course continued to. I could come to an intersection, with a guy standing there, and just look at him and ask him: Where do I go now?? And THEN he would point.

The chaotic return to Gothenburg

Approaching the last 10km of the race, as we were nearing Gothenburg again, I had caught up with most of the guys that had overtaken me in the rough terrain. The last part was quite easy and I really wanted to show the guys (the *real* mountain bikers), who had sped past me in the rough, who the road king was (me).

I had three guys on my wheel and there were some short climbs: I sprinted up them and managed to lose them one by one.

However, then we got back to town... And the roads were NOT closed off! I was weaving through traffic, overtaking cars, trying to stay clear of the riders chasing me. It was really exciting!

With the last kilometer approaching and the stadium area where the finish one just ahead of me I had a quick look back. I didn't expect to see anyone as I thought I had handled the traffic quite well. But to my surprise there were two riders approaching just 10-20 meters behind.

The last few hundred meters was a loooong straight bicycle lane that led up to the finish line. It was stressful and I crossed the finish line with the highest heart rate of the race. The guy behind me just one second after.

Stats (excluding the master start):

Avg heart rate:         170 bpm
Max heart rate:         187 bpm
Average power:          220W
Weighted average power: 250W

I'm starting to wonder if my new Stages is giving me good results as they seem rather low. However, with the terrain being what it was, it was hard to put down good power in the rough stuff. Good max H/R however!