Race day morning
August 18th was the last race for me this year, even if I didn't know that back then. 136 km in windy conditions, with some stomach issues the day before I still felt I was not 100 % in shape. It had been raining some during the night and the roads were a bit wet in the morning, but the forecast promised some sun during the day. First time ever I was able to roll to the starting line from home, just 700 m away from my door, that was awesome.
About an hour before start I met Sebu and Klaus at the starting area. Good moods and nice talking to some other cyclist who had cycled the Route 300 the day before in pouring rain. That means 300km in heavy rain. Respect. At 9:45 we lined up for start, among the 50 first cyclists.
At 10:00 the clipping sound from the pedals begun. For 6 km we were following the organizer motorcycle at about 20km/h. Then the bike accelerated and we were off at full speed. Together with Sebu we climbed closer to the race lead and after some kilometers we established ourselves at the front of the pack.
After passing the city of Naantali the pace was really not stable, the steep hill at Naantali had cut our group to just some 30 cyclists and some tried to break loose from the group. I instead concentrated on grabbing an energy bar and tried to hang in at the end of the group. I managed to eat and drink and a few kilometers later the pace settled to at around 40 km/h. We started out with a single pace line and everyone worked well. For the first time in a race I was actually cycling behind the organizer motorcycle, being the virtual leader of the race.
After some 40 km we even managed to set up a proper echelon. When we've passed 60 km sign I got slightly worried. I was looking at my Garmin Edge 500 and realized I had a hard time getting below my anaerobic zone. I also started to feel the energy drain that probably was because the pace but also because of earlier stomach issues. Nutrition is everything. I had to start leaving the pace keeping every now and then in the echelon and at 70 km I realized I couldn't hang in a lot more. More than 60 km to go, way too much to do by yourself I thought. I actually got left behind the group a couple of times, but managed to struggle my way back to the back of the group every time. It's really hard to get left behind some 20 meters and then try to take back that when you're at your limits. I told Sebu several times I'm not able to hang in a lot longer. He seemed to be in pretty good shape.
At 90 km it happened. I was not able to follow the leading group any longer. My body was empty. At the same time Sebu said he'd be okay to ride together with me to the end. At the same time we ran into heavy headwinds. We worked together and soon saw other cyclists that had fallen from the group. Together we worked to close down the gap to the two cyclists and soon we were four. At this point, each time at the front hurt like hell and I started to feel ill. I had to tell the guys I was not able to work for the group any longer. I was lucky to have three stronger cyclists with me and together they did a superb job helping me and us closer to the finish line. Some 10 km before the finish I felt I had regained some energy and was able to work some for the group for the last parts. We were also joined by the Kaupin Kanuunat guy we've met in Vuelta Vantaa some weeks before. And in good mood we cycled together to the finish line. At the end we were among the 15 fastest that day, not bad after all.
Again, it was superb to meet people from previous races and the time below 4 hours was not that bad either. The 90 km average speed of 40 km/h was the fastest 90 km I've ever done, so I can't be too disappointed.
Thanks also to photographers Johanna and Jenni!
Next Sunday I will write you about the most challenging route I've seen in Finland, Eteläkärjen Ajot and how that race went for me.
Have a good Sunday, take it easy!