Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Andalucia Bike Race 2020 - Crashed out on Stage 5


I crashed on the fifth stage and had to abort the race due to the injuries that I sustained. See the specific section on stage 5 below.

Race Bike Setup

Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL 2019

Duke SLS wheels

Tires: Continental Race King 2.2". Tire pressure: 1.5 bar front 1.6 bar rear

34T chainring (10-50 in the rear)

Stage 1 - Prologue 

24,5 km, 1.119 m vertical ascent

Result: 15th place in M50

I had very mixed feeling about today's stage. After the crash on the first day here and testing this first stage yesterday knowing it had some seriously technical downhill I was dreading how I would feel about that part of the stage when I reached it.

The Prologue stage is a XCT, meaning a time trial. We all started at 20 second intervals. First group was Master Women, then M50 (my category), and then M40 and so on. I was towards the end of M50 which made me think that I would probably be passing a lot of cyclists up that long climb.

The climb started quite nicely on a bike path, turning into an asphalt road, then gravel road and then the major part of the climb was tight singletrack following the side of the mountain.

This meant that overtaking was easy at first but got gradually harder. Whomever you needed to overtake on singletrack needed to decide to more over towards the precipice, which understandably wasn't popular, on to the other side towards the mountain side. It all worked out most of the time though. I think I passed about 30 cyclists on the climb. I felt things were going well. Unfortunately my Stages power meter was giving me bad data so nothing to go on there.

I came to the dreaded downhill and managed to almost crash immediately. In a way this was good. Why? Well, it meant I was going quickly and willing to take risks instead of being too scared and just braking my way down.

All in all the downhill went okay. I was passed by a total of 5-6 riders. I biked on a lot of places where I had gotten off the bike and walked the day before when I testrode the stage. So all in all the feeling was good.

I finished the stage and found out that I hadn't placed better than 15th in M50. That was a big disappointment however. I thought that I'd at least be in the top 10. There are 70 riders in my category.

Some words about the tires. This is the absolute first serious race that I use the Continental Race King tires. I've raced in different setups of Schwalbe tires for the past 6-7 years. How did the Race Kings work today? Well, they are easy rolling and so you notice that in lose gravel. The rear tire does slip easily when braking. But I still feel that they worked well and I want to continue with the experiment.

Stage 2

71,9 km, 2.190 m vertical ascent

Result: 12th place in M50

After yesterday's prologue today was the first real stage. I was hoping for a comeback after yesterday's disappointing placing. I knew that after the big crash before the race (read about it at the end of this post) my confidence would been a bit of work before it was back to normal levels (not that I'm that confident about technical descents even then).

The start was a bit weird: We start in the center of Jaén and then it's all downhill going out on wide asphalt roads with some roundabouts and turns. Everybody is going at 50-60km/h and it's quite dangerous. Also, and this is even weirder, they let all the Elite riders go 2 minutes before the Master classes and as we started to catch up to some of the Elite Women riders our lead motorcycle slowed us down in order for us not to overtake the ladies. So after going all out we were brought back down to slower speeds and this is how it continued for about 10km until we got to the first singletrack where the field was let go.

There was a long climb to start us of and I advanced up the field. And then some mixed up and downhills. Feeling a bit insecure I got off the bike in a few places. We reached the peak at just after 40km and then the rest of the stage was mostly downhill.

Again the last big downhill starting at about 40km was quite hairy and I couldn't ride it all. The crash still bugging me I did get off the bike in a few places where I normally wouldn't.

The last 20km to the finish were nice gravel roads and then some asphalt. I felt strong here and probably passed 30-40 riders. This really grew my confidence and I ended up feeling relatively good about the stage anyway.

I finished in 12th place.

Stage 3

69,8 km, 1.897 m vertical ascent

Result: 16th place in M50

For today's stage we had left Jaén and moved to Andujár. I had changed residence from Jaén to Cordoba. Andujár is about an hours drive away. The first two stages in Jaén I had never ridden before but today's stage had been part of the race since the first time I participated in 2017. In other words I knew what I was getting into.

Temperatures in the morning we really cold, around 5 degrees C, but I knew it was going to warm up above 20 so I had to dress lightly anyway and that meant I was a bit cold while waiting for the stage to start. On the other hand the sun was out and shining brightly.

The stage started with some rolling smaller hills. I had decided to take it easy as there where a huge and long climb starting at 20  km and going all the way to 30 km into the stage. That's where I was going to spend my energy I had decided. The boring thing about these starting smaller hills is that the last three of them are so steep that everyone gets off their bikes and pushes them uphill.

As we got tto the long climb I went into high gear and started passing people. I probably passed about 30 or 40 riders going up. Things were looking up and I was feeling good about myself. I still held back a little bit because that last climb at 50km is a steep killer and I know that on some of the previous time in this race I had come there and been way too tired.

Just before that last steep climb at 50km, there's a crazy downhill section. Now, this far I was feeling good about my handling of the downhill section. The crash (read about it below at the bottom of this post) was still in the back of my mind... but this far, with 2 / 3 of the stage done, I had not gotten of my bike yet. Okay, I wasn't going downhill as fast as I normally would, but I wasn't too far off. Now, however, the crazy downhill was ahead of me. It's difficult to explain if you've never been here: It's a walking path with huge stones joined by concrete. The huge stones are all sorts of different angles. Also there are sections of water run-off canals which are perpendicular to the path and raised by anything up to 50 cm. And all of this is extremely steep. Here I got off the bike and ran some of the most dangerous parts. And... Yeah, I was passed by probably as many cyclists as I had overtaken during the previous climb. This is mentally discouraging... not fun at all.

The rest of the stage went well. Finished in 16th place which was a bit further back than I had expected.

Stage 4

58 km, 2.310 m vertical ascent

Result: 9th place in M50

Today was the stage with the most ascent over the shortest distance. Only 58km but 2300m of ascent. So lots of climbing. It was also the warmest day so far with temperatures of over 20 degrees.

Everything started out with a bit of a panic for me: The location of the stage is about an hours drive out of Cordoba, where I'm staying. I was low on gas but I thought I'd pick some up on the motorway on the way to the stage... Because the motorways have gas stations all over the place... usually. Not this one however. With the needle showing ZERO gas left i slowly rolled into a small village where I had found a gas station. Lucky!

The stage started with a gradual climb where I took it easy. I hate it when I have to shock my body and go hard from the beginning... So I didn't. It took me about 5km and then I started picking up the pace passing people.

This was the stage where I in 2019 was kicked in the head by that mountain goat. Something that I thought about when I passed the 10km mark. No head kicks this time around though.

I picked up a bunch of places again on the long climb halfway through the stage. Then came the long and steep downhill. It was strewn by sharp rocks and very slippery dirt. I had to get off the bike when it got too steep. But, to my great joy, I was not the only one who got off my bike and ran downhill. I was joined by several other riders. Finally!

Towards the end of the stage I sped up and passed a lot of riders on the easy rolling gravel and paved roads going in towards the end of the stage.

I had a real fun battle with another rider the last few kilometers. We were both trying to outsprint the other one and he had a lead of perhaps 20 meters with just a few hundred meters to the finish, but then in a slippery corner he lost traction and fell. I was able to get around him but he got back on his bike quickly and started chasing him. I managed to cross the finish line just ahead of him.

Ninth place on the stage. My best finish so far. In the overall I'm up to 12th place now.

Stage 5 - Crashed and aborted the race

83,70 km, 2.040 m vertical ascent

Result: DNF

About halfway through the stage, on a steep downhill following a creek with high walls on each side, a Russian rider tried to squeeze past me. His handlebars hooked into mine and we both went down. I went down a lot harder than him though and fell onto my left shoulder. I couldn't move my left arm properly after the crash but I was able to roll easily back to my home.

It's extra sad because I was going really strong. Legs felt great and I was advancing up through the field when this happened. Even the downhills were going well and, for the first time this year, I was catching up and passing some riders even there.

Stage 6

58,7 km, 1.239 m vertical ascent

Did not start stage 6 due to crash on stage 5.

Andalucia Bike Race

  • 6 stages
  • 364 km
  • 11.500 m of total ascent

Pre-Race - Clumsiness and a Crash

I arrived in Spain on Saturday, four days before race start on Tuesday. I'm staying at an Airbnb in Jaen where the first two stages are. I got my bike assembled and then decided to head out to make sure everything worked. I was really tired though after a week of bad sleep which culminated in just 2 hours of sleep the night before my flight to Spain. 

I found an asphalt going up the mountain to an old castle which turned out to be Castillo de Santa Catalina. Once there I decided I was going to try to find some nice downhill singletrack in order to get used to the terrain. I find it always takes me a few stages before I can fully relax and go quickly downhill in these technical stage races.

I did find singletrack but... well, after just a few minutes I crashed. I have no idea what happened or why I crashed. But it was a bad crash. I cut up my right arm pretty badly and had various bruises on my body, as well as hit my head quite hard (helmet saved me). This was all due to my lack of sleep of course and what I should've done was just go back to the apartment the same (road) way that I had come up.

I got back to the apartment, showered, cleaned the gash on my arm, and got bandaged up. I thought about going to the hospital to get the wound on my arm stitched up. But it was Saturday evening and I was just too tired. 

Now, after three days the would looks good. It was bleeding for almost two days and I couldn't get it to stop. But when I took of the bandages and slept with it like that over night the wound closed up.

I'm still a bit stiff but the big problem is the mental bit. I'm not the most confident of downhillers under normal circumstances but a crash makes me even more insecure. I test rode the first stage and it went okay... I didn't go very quickly downhill but I didn't go really slowly either.

Let's see how this all goes!

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Summary of 2019 Season: Incidents and Accidents

I think that the title "Incidents and Accidents" best summaries my 2019 racing season.

2019 was to be my last year in the M40 category. That means I'm the oldest one and so I'm supposed to also be the slowest. I actually didn't think much about that and was still aiming for podium finishes.

During the winter training, while doing intervals on my Monark indoor bike, I was hitting higher watts than ever before. At 49 I was stronger than ever before. I was really looking forward to the racing season.

But then things happened...:

There were also good racing results:

  • Even with malfunctioning brakes I managed a podium finish on the first stage of Beskidy Trophy.
  • No podium results in the Swedish Marathon Cup (Långloppscupen) but in a couple of the races (Långa Lugnet and Bockstensturen) I had my best results ever since I started participating in that cup almost 10 years ago.
  • Third place in the Danish race Outdoor Sydfyn
  • Victory in the Thai race Chiang Mai Epic

Other than racing results... I managed to bicycle a lot again in 2019. All of my bicycle commuting obviously plays a big part here. 40 km, every work day, year round adds up.

Now I'm looking forward to the 2020 season... Which kicks off with Andalucia Bike Race in just three weeks!