Der etwas andere Rennbericht

6. Platz beim Rocky Mountain BIKE Festival über die “Ronda Extrema”, 15. auf der D-Strecke beim Achensee MTB-Festival (von 273 Startern) oder aber 18. beim Eldorado Bike Marathon in Wörgl.

Über seine Erfahrungen, Gedanken und Pläne schreibt Hüseyin uns ein paar Zeilen – auf englisch!

Von Hüseyin Celebi

Wörgl Race Report, 21.05.2017. 2:40:08, 9. AK, 18. Overall.

Pre-Race condition: feeling good but not great. Cut back on the training after a massive 13 hour, 600tss weekend. Only 2 short endurance rides and another one with a couple of 3 min intervals.

Route: 60km, 1800m. Short and fast race with 2 climbs: First climb starts at km5 and goes on for 40-50mins followed by a descend on gravel roads. Second climb is at km50 and can take 18-25mins followed by single track descend and a 2 km dash to finish line on asphalt surfaces. Two climbs are connected by a 25km flat section with short climbs, some single track and asphalt sections.

Target & Expectation: Payback for the last year. Last year I had a bonk-royale on the last climb and barely made it to finish. I had a small hope of making it to AK podium but as soon as I saw the route video I knew my chances are slim. Any single track along the flat part will cost me time and position.

Effort wise expectation is after getting over the first climb with a 330w+ effort riding flat sections at 300w np and also being able to ride second climb with a close to threshold effort as a test of race pace endurance.

Nutrition plan: Since race is short it is hard to mess it up. Starting with half full 750cc bottles, one with isotonic other with plain water. Aim is emptying both before starting the first descent. Also carrying a couple of gels to be consumed with water from feed zones.

Equipment: Front and back Continental X-kings, tubeless. Terralogic suspension keeps bottoming out even though firmness dial is one click away from a full lockout position. It has 70 psi air in it so problem must be somewhere else. Wheels have new bearings so they are happy. Changed the chain after twisting it during crashes at Lake Garda marathon. New chain jumps on #9 and #10 cogs and also makes a funny noise when in small ring. Probably they are both worn down but no time to investigate. 2×10 Shimano with stages power meter.

Race Plan: Breaking point is getting into a fast group at the bottom of the first descent and hanging on to them until the second climb. So getting up the first hill as fast as possible is paramount since fast riders will catch up to me during the descent. For the entire first climb I target a threshold effort for ~45 mins. For the flat parts except single track I aim for 300w np and for the final climb a threshold effort for at least 15 mins. I guess for getting close to podium I need 300w np for 2:30+. I am capable of that for 2-2:20 for iso-power efforts but not for intermittent efforts and not for that duration. Not yet…

What happened:

I started a bit far from the front rows but not a big issue since there is a neutralized 5km before we hit the first climb. Rather than taking a front row I spend some time warming up because there is not much of a warming up during that 10min neutral group ride.

After the start I moved up a little to get into a safer part of the peloton. Mtb marathons are not a place to look for group riding skills and your season can come to an end right there.

As soon as we hit the first section of the first climb I settle into hard but recoverable effort near but not over my 20m max power. This first part is a 10-12min steep climb followed by a flattish 4 km section before ramping up again for the top. If you want to push somewhere it has to be here since steep sections generate the most time gaps per extra watts. And I want to ride with a fast group on that flattish section but I have no idea who is who and where are the fast boys. All this turns this to a blind date at the top: whoever shows up! After 11 mins and 350w I am at the top of this steep section. It was unknown to me that I was 1 min behind the podium at this point. As soon as I see a small group forming up in front I jump to get to their wheel. Well worth the effort since I am with a pretty strong group including some familiar faces and legs. In races we see more of the legs of other riders than the faces. And I remember these legs from Kitzalpbike hill climb. I followed them for some time only to be dropped mercilessly half way up –I was having a bad day/week but still…- So, I figured if I can stay with or even drop these I have a good shot. This middle part is 4% on average and takes around 10mins. Rule of thumb is anything less than 5% or any section I can ride the big ring is considered “fast” and better to be ridden with others. Not sure what will happen to my precise formula if I ever switch to 1x. As we ride undulating terrain I am pleased to see other riders getting dropped and myself at the front as we hit last steep part. During this flat section I pretty much kept the time difference to the podium despite clearly being the less powerful rider. So getting into a group works!! Now there is a steep asphalt section with a short descent in the middle. Asphalt section takes around 15 mins and followed by a 6-7 min steep gravel climb and multiple push the bike sections at the top. I want to drop the riders remaining in my group but also have to spare some power for steep and loose section. So I settle into 330-340w pace for ~15 minutes until we get off the asphalt and hit the gravel. I ride the gravel as fast as I can around 320w and manage not to slip. It is pretty costly having to stop and restart again on these sections. At the end of the gravel section I managed to lose another minute to podium in just 20 mins of climbing. Brutal!! There are doors and almost impossible to ride sections so carrying the bike and running is in order. Before getting off my bike I ended up with 332w np for 45 mins, which is right on the target.

Before the descent I am happy to put some distance between me and other similarly capable riders. At this point I was around 3 minutes behind the podium. Descent is fast and on gravel roads so not a place to get it wrong. When I started doing these races in 2014, list of the people overtaking me on descents were who is who of amateur mountain biking. Nowadays I improved a lot but still far from holding my position. Knowing what is ahead is critical in these sections. Both not slowing down unnecessarily and also hitting corners at right speed and direction are keys to making it down fast and safe. Two riders are following me so I let them both pass and start following them. Riders in front of me are valuable guides since I can see what is ahead by just watching them. You can tell a lot from their breaking, pedaling or sometimes panicky body position. On bigger roads I would also use Garmin’s map screen to see what is coming up but that does not work on unpaved small roads since road surface is more important than the direction and sharpness of curves. Halfway down the descent I am still with these two riders and dreaming of working with them. Boy, they look strong!! At some point we take a sharp left turn and come to a stop before a closed road gate. Is this the correct route? We reluctantly keep descending but if we are on the wrong track our day is over. Soon we get confirmation from a hiker that there were other underdressed riders with numbers hanging from their bikes and going unnecessarily fast. Ok, race is back on. At this point in the descent I was keeping the time difference to podium. Shortly after, my mind drifts to other thoughts and I lose my concentration. We hit a couple of sharp turns and I lose touch with my small group in just 3-4 turns. They were maybe a 100-150m ahead but I cannot close it during a descent. Damn!!

At the beginning of flat section I am a little over 3 mins behind podium thanks to a slip in concentration and without a group. I see them ahead of the road and working hard. No point in chasing, if I spend the necessary effort to catch them I would be shelled out the back at first acceleration. There were 1-2 riders 200-300m behind me but no point in waiting for them as well. Ahead there is a short climb and a tricky switchback trail after that. Last year that trail was the location where I got left behind by a very fast group so no point for waiting for others only to be dropped there once again. Better option is gaining some time before hitting that and regrouping after the tricky part. During the short climb before switchbacks I see a 7-10 rider group approaching fast. Not something I wanted to see this early since we are too close to the switchbacks. Not enough advantage to keep them away. To my luck and a 4mın 360w effort only one rider catches me and we enter the trail together, closely followed by the large group. I am improved over last year but still cannot make all of the 180 degree, steep turns. Floor is wet, loose and beaten up so locking any one of the wheels is not an option for me. I lost the rider in front but at the end of the section managed to regroup with two riders catching up from behind. At this point difference to podium reached to 4 mins showing I was slower on the flat section when riding alone and also on the trail. Getting beaten on all the fronts!!

Three of us quickly start working together and rest of the large group quickly distanced. There is a 3 rider group in front and we were able to gain on them but due to slow sections we cannot take the full advantage of being the stronger group. After a 30min 286w np effort we cover the 15km section connecting two trails. We acquire other riders having a technical or taking a wrong turn and also a small group catching up to us before hitting the single track. At this point, time difference to podium is just over 2 mins showing the benefit of a well working group. We hit the single track with a large group and immediately I start losing momentum. Different riding styles do not mix well in a flat technical terrain. I tend to push through bumpy parts on flat sections and sprint up small climbs only to take descents and large obstacles as places to rest. If other riders do the opposite whoever is behind loses the flow and momentum. I should have attacked and entered this section at front but I did not have the legs to go full gas at that point. I end up losing a full minute to podium on this section. Talk about room for improvement!!

At the end of the trail my two comrades have long disappeared in front and I am alone to make it to the bottom of the second climb which is 5kms away! It is mostly flat with short slow sections so a good base pace with short hard efforts is in order for keeping the speed and momentum up. Like riding 300w constant with short bursts for 10-40 seconds. As soon as I push for the first uphill section disaster strikes in the form of cramps. That is a bit of a surprise because I never had cramps on rides before. I puked, cried, slept and even had a dream once but never the cramps. This is new and serious since it is on both legs and almost for all of the leg muscles except calves and outer part of quads – vastus literalis- . Not knowing what to do I keep a tempo pace and hoping for it to go away. I still can ride around 250-280w but anything above and it bites back. Somehow I manage to gain some time from podium and hit the final climb with a deficit of under 3 mins.

On the climb I ease into the target pace avoiding sudden pace changes and start climbing cramp free. I never rode this climb before calculated that it would to take 18-19 min at threshold effort. For first 10 mins I ride 320w tempo but start slowing down afterwards. I keep slowing down for the next 10 mins and scoring a 300w effort for the latter part bringing down the entire 21min effort to 310w np. I lost almost a minute to podium here, yikes!!

I hit the descent with others and manage not to lose any positions during the descent. Trail is fast and has some steep drops on one side if you go off but itself is not hard to ride fast. At the bottom we regroup into a 6-7 rider pack and start flying to the finish. It is almost pointless to fight for a better placing here but boy it is a lot of fun!! There are a couple of accelerations but either I or others quickly covered these. A little later one rider jumps and I follow immediately. He gets a 3-5 meter gap with me at the wheel but sits up and checks back! We would be away if he swerved left to give me an opening to take over the lead. We slowed down but still have a couple of meters so I accelerate hard to make the group work. Groups in mtb races are like herds of cats so if someone has to work hard to close a gap changes are no one will!! I keep the pace and increase the gap but cramps come back hard. Yeah, I know oldest excuse in the book but believe me they did. 2 riders catch up to me and we ride to the finish together me getting beaten at the sprint.

I end up 9. in U40 and 18. overall with a time deficit of 4 mins to U40 podium and 13+ mins to the overall winner. Not bad but could be a little better if I had not lost contact to two riders on the first descent and had the power to attack the single trail.

A time of 2:40 with 294w np and 251w ap is a little better than what I did during the weeks before the race so a sign of small but clear improvement. I failed to ride 300w np for flat sections and also riding threshold at final climb but I feel those was the result of an temporary weakness rather than a lack of capability. So on a great day I would be able to do both.