Saturday, May 14, 2016

RACE REPORT: Billingeracet 2016 -- "Gilla läget"

Wow! Quiet on the blog for awhile despite that we've already competed together in Rock the Trail (which we cycled in the wrong direction!) and David has even squeezed in Lindingöloppet MTB (which he killed this year, according to my commentary on Instagram). Today was Billingeracet which David reported on in 2015 concluding that the prospects for a 2016 entry could be summarized as: "If you asked me directly after the race it was a definite NO WAY". Ha ha, and there we were this morning (both of us this year!) shivering in the 3ºC foggy and slightly rainy conditions,

11:00 was the start and off we were in group 6 (David) and group 7 (Jon). The start of the race is a long uphill asphalt road with a huge pack of cyclists. I settled in behind a Magnus Johansson (bib 811) who had a good pace and provided a little break from the wind. Then we abruptly turned into the woods on the left and a huge bottleneck ensued as the course turned to a single track with hundreds of people trying to climb a pretty technical hill (many were walking) all at different paces and with different skill levels. The early part of the race was basically like the start of a Blodomloppet....there was no chance to choose your own pace so you just had to "gilla läget" as Swedes say and rest assured in the fact that you weren't about to burn out early.

Slowly but steadily the field broke up and we alternated between sections of single track and transport sections which consisted of gravel roads and even bits of asphalt here and there. I kept to my strategy of picking up pelotons that were moving slightly above my natural speed in order to push a little extra on those stretches. At least four or five times during the race I managed to catch onto groups that were moving upwards of 30 kph and it felt great to stretch the legs and take advantage of the nice air pockets created by guys like Emil Aggefors (bib 1001). (I also tried to return the favor. At one point around the 40 km I was out on a long stretch with just one other cyclist. I had been drafting him for awhile on a gravel road, and I felt great. As we turned onto an asphalt stretch, I pulled around him assuming that he wouldn't mind a break himself. But he never settled in behind me and as we approached a right turn onto a gravel road, he just cut the corner and pulled in front of me again, so once again I found myself enjoying the wake created by someone else who apparently didn't want to save a little energy for later!)

Four times I stopped during the course--once around 20 km to stretch and eat a bit, once at each of the depots at 40 km and 50 km and finally around 65 km when I felt that my legs needed a stretch unless I wanted to risk a debilitating cramp. Stopping can seem like a bad decision in a timed race, but actually a couple of minutes off the saddle make a real difference in keeping the legs feeling fresh and my theory is that the breaks waste less time than trying to massage out a cramp on the side of the course.

I must say that despite the weather I really enjoyed the day. The course passes through very beautiful forests and at one point I spent about 30 minutes completely alone on a single track listening to birds chirp and the sounds of water bubbling through creeks. At the 60 km mark I got a huge boost as David's son Ollie and both of his uncles (Ollie's uncles that is) were standing by the side of the course cheering me on. What a lift to see them there smiling and shouting words of encouragement!

By the 70th km David and I were riding side by side and I was having delusional visions of us crossing the finish line together as we've previously done in Åre. But alas my visions were indeed delusional as we made a sharp turn onto the final hill and I got caught off guard by the steep grade. I shifted too late and my gears ground against the strain of my pedaling. SNAP! went my chain leaving me to walk, coast and skate the last 1 km. What to do? What can you do? "Gilla läget" the Swedes say. So I stopped and took this selfie next to the 1 km sign, chain in hand and a smile on my face. As I pumped my bike towards the finish line (like a skateboard), a guardian angel named Carl-Johan Appelberg (bib 713) rode up beside me, told me to get up on my saddle and then proceeded to grab the handle on the top of my Camelbak, towing me across the finish line.  

David says he won't go back next year, but we'll see about that. :-) 

No comments:

Post a Comment