Sunday, 22 September 2019

Merida MTB Marathon - From Heaven to Hell in a minute

Merida MTB Marathon is a race that really suits me. It's 103km long and full of gravel roads and flowy single track. It's quick: 26-27km/h average speeds for the best riders.

I switched my rear tire from Racing Ralph 2.25" to Thunder Burt 2.1" the evening before the race to make the bike extra easy rolling. In front I kept the Racing Ralph 2.25" that was already mounted. I upped the air pressure about 0,1 bars over my usual to 1.6 up front and 1.7 in the rear.

I was really looking forward to the race. I rode it a few times when I first started racing mountain bikes and had some great results. The race is BIG in Denmark and all the best racers take part. I rode my last Merida in 2014 but then when the Swedish Marathon Cup got it's ninth race, Västgötaloppet, it always collided with Merida Marathon so from 2015 o 2018 I always rode the Swedish race instead. Now, in 2019, Västgötaloppet is no more so I got to ride Merida again.

Today's race was in brilliant sunshine, even though it was a bit chilly in the morning.

Things went great. We started with a group of about 30 riders up top. The bunch gradually got smaller until there were just eight of us left. I could see the winner from last year, Rene, in our group. Also Henrik Söeberg and Henrik Ahlbäck were with us. The pace was brutal (that's how the other 20+ riders were dropped) and the front guys just kicked ass all the time. I hung on to the tail and got a really good ride. I was thinking: "Wow! I'm in the top-10 of this huge race. This will be a great way to finish the 2019 season".

Then, at about halfway through the race Henrik Ahlbäck rolls up next to me and says that my rear tire is spraying pink Muc-Off tubeless fluid. He says that it stinks and that he's not going to be on my wheel anymore because he's getting it all over himself. I look down and notice that he's right. My spirits drop. I hang on to the group for a few more minutes but then the tire deflates completely.

I get off the bike, inflate it with CO2, and pray for the Muc-off tubeless fluid to seal the hole. It does briefly, I get on the bike. My group is long gone but I continue and go quite easily waiting for someone to catch up. A guy does catch up and we up the pace again... The tire holds air for about 2-3 km and then deflates again.

I start getting pissed off at this point but think: No, I won't let this get me down. This is an excellent time to practice using my puncture strips. I get the tool out, put a strip in, inflate with my second CO2 container (I always carry 3 CO2 containers with me). Again it holds for a while and then the tire deflates completely again.

At this point I decide that I'm going to abort the race. But I've gone almost 50km from the start and I need to somehow get back to my car. Okay, time to put in the spare tube. I get the rear wheel off and start to unscrew the tubeless valve... But it won't budge. I spend about 30-40 minutes trying to get it off and get the bolt about halfway off but then it won't go any further. I give up. I've completely shredded both my thumbs trying to unscrew the bolt. I'm bleeding from underneath both thumbnails. I also have pink tubeless fluid everywhere.

I hike to the nearest tech zone which luckily turns out to be just a kilometer away. I wish I had known this before I started with all the mechanics. I find a Swedish family who kindly give me a ride back to my car.

Imagine: I was in the lead group for half the race and manage to have the worst possible turn of events. Sometimes MTB just isn't all that much fun.

I've had problems with Muc-Off's tubeless fluid all year. This is the first year that I use it. I always used Stan's before. I think that this ends my experiment with Muc-Off: I'm going back to Stan's.

Also I'm very dubious whether I'm going to use Thunder Burt tires any more...

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