Sunday, 7 July 2019

European XCM Championship - Disaster!

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

Result: 15th place in M45

The idea of participating in the European (Veterans) XCM Championsships in Norway was sort of an afterthought. I had found out about it just before Beskidy Trophy. The situation was this: The big goal of the season was Beskidy Trophy. After that I had a two week vacation planned in Slovenia. I've done this setup for the past few years. My preparations for Beskidy always include a lot of weight loss getting down to 70 kg by starving myself. In Slovenia, in the two weeks after, I want to be able to enjoy myself and part of that is eating as much as I like of the wonderful food that the region offers. When I realized that the European champs was just two weeks after Beskidy and thereby at the end of the vacation I was thinking about my options:

  1. Stay lean throughout the vacation and try to keep my weight at 70kg (I even thought about bringing scales so that I could measure my weight).
  2. Enjoy my vacation, eat the lovely food, bicycle in the super terrain, have fun, and let the weight be whatever it may be.  Get the maximum out of my vacation days meaning get back to Sweden the just in the nick of time, repack the car, and drive the 900km to Norway the next day. 

Even though I train a lot and take my racing semi-seriously there's a limit to how much suffering I will take. Bicycling, and racing, has to be fun. I needed my vacation and wanted to enjoy it fully. So I decided on option 2.

The European Champs event was on a race that takes place every year called Furusjoen Rundt. I knew almost nothing about the event except that it included a lot of mountains and climbing. That's the thing that first attracted me to the race as I love a good uphill. The location was about 100km north of Lillehammer in the Norwegian mountains. The course was 73km and 2200 meters altitude gain. Expected finishing time was around 4 hours.

The race was on Saturday. I drove all across Europe from Slovenia to Sweden the Thursday before the race arriving home late in the evening. Then got up early Friday morning to fix my 2019 Top Fuel for the race. Now the bike that I had with me to Beskidy, the older 2017 Top Fuel had no brakes (as you can read in my Beskidy Post) so I couldn't use that. The 2019 Top Fuel was at home waiting for it's new Fox SC 32 Factory fork. The fork had arrived while I was away. My good pal and mechanic Lars J├Ânsson mounted the fork to the bike. Then I had time for a 30 minute test ride (where everything *seemed* to work okay). After that I packed the car and started driving the 900km to the race arriving there at about 10pm.

The morning of the race I got up early and drove to the venue. It was raining all the way. The start was at about1000m altitude and as I got out of the car the temperature was around 8 degrees C and it was drizzeling. In two days I had gone from 35 degrees C and sunshine in Slovenia to this close-to winter weather in Norway. As I unpacked the bike from the car I could see snow on the mountain in the distance. Wow!

While warming up (and, yeah, it took a lot of WARMING up) I met my pal Norwegian Roar Sollie. It's a funny story because we had first met some 6-7 years back when we both rode a Danish race called Merida Marathon. In that race we had ridden most of it together and both placed really well. Since then Roar has had some amazing results and is an ace mountain biker. Other well-known face were also there like my Danish pal Palle Egbert. Some Swedish pals were also there like Max Ashton (who did a great race!).

I was freezing so much at the start that I decided to wear both a long-sleeved base layer, jersey, and wind jacket. I wanted to take the wind jacket off after warmup but I was just shivering too much.

The race went terribly so I'll summarize it rather quickly:

  1. The terrain is like nothing I've experienced before. It started with a long uphill which became so steep that we had to get off the bikes and walk about halfway up. When walking uphill I noticed that the rocks that we had to step on were so slippery that I couldn't get any grip at all with my shoes. My thought was: Frak! Are we going to ride DOWN these slippery rocks!? The rocks were covered with moss and the rain just made them super slippery. I haven't encountered this before.
  2. There was a infamous downhill at 40km that everyone had warned me off. That downhill turned out worse than I had imagined. The added problems was that when I got to this section we were caught up by the leading Elite guys (who had started one hour behind us). I had to interchangebly get off my bike because I didn't dare to ride parts of the downhill and then again get off the bike when I had to let another Elite guy pass me. In the end I just lost my motivation totally and my mood turned sour and I just ran/walked/slipped down the rest of the downhill for what felt like half an hour.
  3. I had multiple minor mechanical problems. My gears worked poorly and I dropped my chain multiple times because of this. When I got home I noticed that the B-screw on the deraileur was poorly set. My saddle slipped on the rails and came to rest in the rear-most position. That made doing downhills really hard as I could not get my ass behind the saddle. And to top things of a small metall plate that protects the frame just by the cranks came of and lodged itself between my front chainring and the frame. I was able to move it about a little so that it no longer disturbed the operation but it keps rubbing agains the frame and cranks and made metallic noises throughout the race.
Instead of finishing in the projected 4 hours I crossed the line at more than 5 hours... In 15th place. Which may not sound bad but there were only 18 guys in my class who actually finished the race so...


I talked to some of the veterans of this race (who have done it several times) and they say that it's a wonderful race in dry conditions and hell if it's wet. I agree with this assesment. I will NOT be doing this course again. It just gets too dangerous for my poor technical skills when conditions are like they were this year.

1 comment:

  1. It is really interesting to read a totally opposit view of the race :) I thought the course was fun and challenged different skills... Just had to take a deep breath sometimes keeping it on the ”safe” side not trying to overdo things.. :)