A week later, Tour de Helsinki 2011 already feels like a distant memory. I was glad to be able to participate, despite still having a flu at that moment. And I knew there was little for me to achieve, since I'd been ill for almost two weeks and hence, had no possibilities to train for the race. The weather couldn't have been much better, +20, sunshine and almost no wind.
We started at the back of the group 30km/h and planned to just ride easy with that group to the finish line. Soon though, me and my friend, we felt a need to make a stop, which we did at approx. 10km, just before the "free-ride" started. This was a big mistake. When we got back on our bikes, we found ourselves at the back of the 29km/h bunch, which meant we had fallen probably 300-400 riders from our original group.
At this point, the leadout car had left the front, and all the groups were speeding up, which meant we had to speed up even more to get back to where our friends were. I started looking at my Garmin, and could immediately see and feel my untrained body. I was riding almost 40km/h with some 190bpm. It took me half an hour (~15km), many short steep climbs and some longer (Velskola) to finally find my friend in the 30km/h group. And i felt sick. My stomach was turning upside down, and I had a hard time trying to establish my pulse to a somewhat normal level. All the way chasing, I had to ask people whether i was still in the 29 group, and believe me, it felt good when I heard some guys telling me I was in the 30km/h group, or what remained of it.
It took me maybe 10 minutes to recover from the great effort I'd just made, and I was happy I could continue, after feeling really sick just a moment before. So we rolled with the 30km/h group all the way to 95km, where the group leaders made a stop, and some of the group continued, us included. I could sense the pace was increasing and there was certainly more tension in that group. I knew I would be glad just to ride with these guys 'til the finish line, that was just 30 km away.
Kuninkaanmäki was the last "big" climb before finish, at approx. 120km. No one seemed to be willing to attack, and I was happy. But as the group was in that climb, I could definitely feel it slow down. I felt good, so I kept up my own pace, and in a fraction of a second, found myself riding in the front of that group. Some riders had apparently made an increase in speed and were riding away from us. I knew I couldn't make any greater efforts, I just stayed where I was, with the group. One guy tried to get back to the riders that had at this point made a significant gap, maybe 100m. I looked down at my garmin, and at this point I felt, "what the heck, I can't let that guy suffer alone". So I pedaled beside him and told him to stay behind me and I would close the gap, that would make it easier for us to ride the last kilometres. So I started pedaling, and after a minute or so, I had managed to close the gap, and got a big thank you from the other guys.
So we rode further, and there was maybe 10km to go, when I was riding at the back of our group, now maybe 20 guys, and I realized there was an attack at the front (Cervelo guy). I looked down at my garmin, it was almost like shouting at me to hang onto that attack. So there I found myself, chasing a breakaway and a few moments later found myself in a two-man breakaway riding like hell. I don't know what happened, I was so sure I could resist any attack, and just stay calm and take it easy,because I was ill, and was far from top condition. It seemed, the garmin knew me better.
I could feel the lactic acid get into my legs, my heart was beating like hell. I left my place, and passed along the pacekeeping to the Cervelo guy and looked over my shoulder. I could see the group chasing us. And again, it was my turn to split the wind and keep up the pace. I asked the Cervelo guy how he was feeling. "It hurts!". I answered him that we cannot let that group catch us, let's keep it up! My legs were feeling like logs, and the lactic acid was doing the job it did the best. My garmin device seemed to have stuck on 135km and I started feeling desperation. But as we passed riders that had fallen from faster groups, I asked two guys to join us, because they seemed to be in quite good shape. They were happy to join us, and at this point I knew we would make it. We were now 4 guys riding, and it was easy. And the last kilometres went really fast, and a moment later, we were at the Velodrome at the finish line. We chatted with the group, and shook hands, and it felt really great. I had just made my time almost 15 minutes better (from the previous year), even a bit untrained and having a flu. This again, was a great example of how sporting brings people toghether, it was really awesome to be in that breakaway group, we were all really exhausted, suffering, but we made it.
At the finish, we also had a time to talk to Kjell Carlström. Unfortunately he had been forced to attack all day, and in the final sprint he just didn't have the legs to take the win. A great second place anyway for Kjell!
So what did we learn? First of all, Tour de Helsinki should take place in July or August, for the sake of weather and to avoid the worst influenza period. Secondly, you shouldn't participate in only one race, because if you're ill and you can't participate, it really sucks. And maybe I learned something about myself as well. Or maybe not.
I'll keep you more updated about other stuff soon!