sprint

Royal Cycling, a week later

So a week passed by.  Royal Cycling was a new event in my cycling calendar and I was really eager to be racing again. The alarm sounded at 5 am and the morning procedures are at this point quite well trained. It took me less than an hour to eat and pack the things I'd need during the day. And I had plenty of sleep during the night ( 4 hours), so I was ready to go.

Canyon Ultimate CF 8.0 in the morning light

Canyon Ultimate CF 8.0 in the morning light

The car ride to Lahti took us almost 3 hours, and we arrived an hour before start. The weather was perfect, +30 and sunshine. And soon we found ourselves at the starting line.

Preparing the bikes before start

Preparing the bikes before start

All smiles just minutes before start

All smiles just minutes before start

Ready to go

Ready to go

Cyclist getting ready

Cyclist getting ready

Start/Finish line

Start/Finish line

I started at the rear of the main peloton, and at 5 km from start the pace car left the front and it was all out. There was a breakaway immediately and the main group split into several smaller groups. Together with a teammate we started chasing groups and worked our way to a group of maybe 20 riders. Not long after that our group was mislead to take a right turn where we should have taken a left turn. This cost us some minutes and we had to work again. The pace was then settled to somewhere around 36 km/h. 

One hour into racing we faced a pretty strong headwind. This section would keep up for quite a long time and pretty soon the group we were in was slowing down. There was not enough cyclists willing to work in the headwind, and the speed dropped a bit. We made a couple of turns as pacekeepers with teammate Sebu, but really didn't want to kill our legs at an early stage. Somewhere around 70 km I started feeling a bit tired, and for a moment a feeling of maybe having to ease up the speed was crawling upon me. Fortunately the headwind eased as we turned east, towards Lahti again and there was a 10 km section of easy terrain. I managed to recover and somewhere around 100 km I started feeling good again.  

The long hill at 125 km was approaching as we worked as pacekeepers in the group. I looked down at my Garmin computer as I left the pacekeeping and took a couple of steps back in the line. 123 km. And there it was. The pace was easing and I shifted down a gear, then two and three gears, the climb had started. Sebu took the pacekeeping. "we'll meet at the finish line, just do your own speed" I shouted to him as I felt I couldn't keep up his pace. "No way, just hang on!" he shouted. Well, that's what I did. 300 meters into the climb I realized it wouldn't be that bad. Actually it wasn't all that steep and not that long either. We kept a good pace with Sebu and a couple of other guys, and found ourselves quickly at the top. And then the final kilometers. Sprinting, speeding, chasing down, keeping up a high pace. Was fun. My legs felt pretty good actually and it was easy to make fast sprints.  

500 meters before finish I made an increase in speed and took the lead of the group. Seconds later I heard the announcer shouting to the radio for a final sprint. Well, what the heck, lets go for it, i thought. As I rammed the pedals I heard a loud cracking sound. Sh*it, was I hit by a puncture? Looked down at the wheels. No. Started pushing again. Same cracking sound and at that time I was passed by another sprinting cyclist. My chain and rear hub were so worn out that they slipped when I put all in. So, I was not first to finish from our group, but anyhow all smiles at the finish! Superb day on the bike once again. We chatted with the other riders and I thanked them for a great job. 

Pulla, coffee and drinks at the finish. Superb job by the officials

Pulla, coffee and drinks at the finish. Superb job by the officials

Not all had a great day on the bike. Our third team member had technical difficulties already at the 40 km mark, he had lost his freewheel. That meant he had to ride a "single-speed bike" for 90 kilometers.  

Despite technical difficulties he didn't give up

Despite technical difficulties he didn't give up

I hope you managed to read all the way down here. I always try to keep the stories short, but as I write I find myself caught in that feeling of being on the bike. My apologies. 

Energy

Energy

Have a good one, remember to watch the last week of the Tour!

Royal Cycling

Tomorrow is the third race of the year for me, Royal Cycling (Royal Pyöräily) in Lahti, Finland. It will be a 132 km long route with around 300 riders starting. Youll find the route here. The route is somewhat hilly, and really looking forward for the hills at the end. A fast 2,8 km long uphill section just 10 km before finish. Whatever group I'll ride in, that's a place to make a breakaway in. So hopefully I'll have fresh legs tomorrow.

Elevation graphics

Elevation graphics

As usual, you're able to track my ride on Endomondo. The live tracking link should appear on my Endomondo page here or alternative you can actually follow it straight from my site here on The Invisible Hill under main menu, Races/Live tracking here.

We will start at 6 am, so once again a really early wakeup. Hopefully I'm able to get some proper sleep. 

Today was once again a great day of road cycling. A proper breakfast, coffee, and out for a short ride with a couple of short sprint-intervals just to get the legs going.

Pre-ride espresso

Pre-ride espresso

And what could be better after that, than watching a great mountain stage of Tour de France and have some proper food and coffee. Superb effort by Team Sky and Chris Froome, not to mention Richie Porte. Huge. I just hope Contador, Valverde or someone else could make it a good fight for Team Sky. If the domination is like today, it might be a boring last 2 weeks of the tour.  

Rice, chicken and green beans, my fuel-up-for-a-race-nutrition, always

Rice, chicken and green beans, my fuel-up-for-a-race-nutrition, always

So I'll keep you updated tomorrow on the facebook page with pictures from along the day. The weather should be great, hopefully my legs are great too.

No summer without wild strawberries, a must-stop when you see these on a easy ride. 

No summer without wild strawberries, a must-stop when you see these on a easy ride. 

Until next time, enjoy the summer, ride your bikes!

Le Tour de France 2013

So we've seen the first stage of the Tour de France 2013. Hectic chaos would probably be the best words to describe what happened yesterday. First we saw Johnny Hoogerland crash (again..) and then we heard about the Orica Greenedge bus that had created a chaos at the finish line. 

The famous Orica-Greenedge bus (photo from www.steephill.tv)

The famous Orica-Greenedge bus (photo from www.steephill.tv)

This gave organizers a headache and they had to make a decision to have the finish already at the 3 km to go line. At this point the riders were only 10 km from the original finish line and hence the teams started immediately to line up for sprint. Moments before the "new" finish at 3 km sign the bus was removed and the organizers decided to move the finish back to the original one. This lead to immediate change in pace from 100 % to less and this disorganized chaos led to a big crash.

The big crash before finish took down both Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan (picture from www.steephill.tv)

The big crash before finish took down both Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan (picture from www.steephill.tv)

When the big sprinters were away, Marcel Kittel had a pretty easy job to take the stage win. Only the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff from team Katusha gave him a decent fight.

Marcel Kittel the first to wear yellow in Tour de France 2013 (picture from www.steephill.tv)

Marcel Kittel the first to wear yellow in Tour de France 2013 (picture from www.steephill.tv)

Today will take the riders to mountains already. Hopefully everyone who crashed yesterday are able to start. The mountain stage should make the bunch a bit more relaxed. Let's at least hope so. 

I also found a great graphic that visualizes the development of the Tour de France (picture by Bikeraceinfo.com):

Enjoy the greatest sport event of the year!

Post Giro d'Espoo 2013

Giro d'Espoo 2013 is now behind. I tried to keep this post as short as possible, but you know, sometimes that's difficult. I hope you don't fall asleep or bounce back to browsing through your facebook feed, at least not straight away. I also had a cam with me during the race so there's both video and pictures from the in-race, so you'll get a picture of how it is cycling in a bunch.

We needed to wake up quite early to get from Turku to Espoo in time. That time was 5.50am. Due to "whatever that thing in my knee was", I slept poorly, waking up every now and then to check how the knee felt. I managed to pour in some porridge and bread in me and 7.30 am the bike was in the car and we were traveling towards Espoo. Before packing the bike in, I took a short ride with the bike to feel how the knee felt while cycling. It didn't feel good at all.

7:30 am, ready to go

7:30 am, ready to go

Nervous we arrived to Espoo well before the start. We got our stuff from the organizers and went back to the car to prepare. Not only was I nervous because of my knee, but also because of the wind. I'd say it was around 10 m/s and winds gusting up to 15 m/s. Having probably many beginners in the group, these heavy wind conditions could be a dangerous thing to have. The only thought at this point was to be able to finish the race.

My number today

My number today

It was sunny though, and when we lined up for the start, I'd taken a short warm-up, and the knee felt a bit better. Hope started crawling upon me. It was again nice to see that cycling brings so many people together, and in a country like Finland where the public opinion is that you shouldn't talk to strangers, those barriers were all of a sudden removed. Had a nice talk with other cyclists and the mood was  good.

Bike ready for racing

Bike ready for racing

We, ready to race

We, ready to race

Cyclists lining up

Cyclists lining up

This picture might give you an idea of the wind...

This picture might give you an idea of the wind...

10 minutes before start

10 minutes before start

And then we rolled. The start was somewhat hectic as usual, but all in all the first kilometers went pretty okay. But the wind. I already felt we were in for a  pretty tough 3 hours in the saddle today.  

Passing the start/finish gate

Passing the start/finish gate

First unfortunate to have a puncture in the first 10km

First unfortunate to have a puncture in the first 10km

111 km is not that long a race, and in just a couple of hours we were well on our way to approach the finish. Passing 70 km we had some rain, but for me that was only a nice "refreshing" shower. The knee had functioned pretty ok, but I could feel the legs were already a bit tired. As usual, even if I had started in the front of the group I again found myself at the back of the group. And every 2-5km there were some gaps I had to close down when the cyclists in front of me were not able to follow the pace anymore. A bit frustrating situation. The idea is to ride in two lines, but in the very beginning people who for some reason think the will finish earlier at the front of the group will pass you who follow this principle of riding in two lines. They pass you on both left and right, making it sometimes pretty dangerous. And at some point, these cyclists find out the pace is too high and the fall behind. And this is where the "close down the gaps" begin.

Here's a visualization of a gap taking shape

Here's a visualization of a gap taking shape

The heavy wind made it extra difficult, especially when the wind was blowing from the side. Cycling in 50+km/h in some sections and suddenly getting a blast of wind from the side easily throws you 1-2 meters sideways. Fortunately I managed to hold on and avoided crashing. There was 3 small crashes in the bunch during the whole race. Those were all in uphill sections and caused by stupidity. The big picture though was pretty clean riding.

This is what causes problems, never do like this when you can not be sure there are no cars coming. And anyhow when you're riding in a pacegroup, you win nothing by taking the left lane.

This is what causes problems, never do like this when you can not be sure there are no cars coming. And anyhow when you're riding in a pacegroup, you win nothing by taking the left lane.

First almost crash

First almost crash

The problems seemed to build up towards the end

The problems seemed to build up towards the end

Same section just moments later

Same section just moments later

I knew there was a big hill at the 100km mark. Legs were slightly tired but I felt the effect of having that number on my back. When we got to the bottom of that climb I got out of the saddle and from the back of the bunch I got to the front, and kept on attacking. I was joined by a couple of other cyclists and together we kept a pretty good pace. The last 10 km are mostly downhill, only 3 hills to pass. I did the job in those climbs, otherwise the other guys kept the pace high. I was really enjoying cycling! My legs felt really good, I was able to follow all sprints easily and felt strong. I also tried to cheer the others to try to hang in. In the last km I still felt strong, and took the lead. Shouted out to the others to follow and made an increase in pace. Unfortunately the others were not able to follow, but still they had almost the same final time as I did. Breakaway groups are the best thing in cycling, and having a strong group is so motivating. There are no words to explain that.   

At the bottom of the hill where I made the attack. The front of the pacegroup is already at the top of the hill.

At the bottom of the hill where I made the attack. The front of the pacegroup is already at the top of the hill.

At the top of the same hill I've passed the front and was chasing down a breakaway

At the top of the same hill I've passed the front and was chasing down a breakaway

A moment later there was another hill, and I managed to pass the breakaway and started chasing the next group that would then be the breakaway that kept 'til the end

A moment later there was another hill, and I managed to pass the breakaway and started chasing the next group that would then be the breakaway that kept 'til the end

This guy, I assume his number was 625, was super strong and made a huge effort!

This guy, I assume his number was 625, was super strong and made a huge effort!

I arrived to finish with a time that was 4 minutes "worse" than last year. I was not disappointed, quite the opposite. The last 10 km was super strong riding, the time was worse because the group could not keep the pace quite as high as last year due to the heavy winds. 

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

At the finish we chatted with the "breakaway" guys and everyone was all smiles, me included. I also received a big thank you from a guy that was riding in the same start group. He had been riding behind me almost all the way, and thanked me for a steady and safe riding, that made his journey much more pleasant. It's always really nice to get this kind of feedback, and made me even more pleased with my race. It usually is hectic with braking and sprinting in a big group, but you can always minimize this by looking over the shoulder of the guy in front of you. By doing this you know what is happening and this minimizes sudden braking and situations usually does not come as surprises when you know what's happening in the group a couple of rows in front of you.  

At the finish, I also had some time to chat with Alexander Stubb. A great person who also enjoys cycling a lot. Always cheerful and happy to talk with you even if he would be busy (even if I had a Samsung to take this picture with, and not a Nokia).  

At the finish with Alexander Stubb. He had beaten my time, again.

At the finish with Alexander Stubb. He had beaten my time, again.

I waited at the finish for my friend to arrive, and during that time the muscles had cooled down and I could feel the pain in my knee, back and hip. I had probably unconsciously been careful with my knee while cycling, and hence probably did not ride in the best possible position. But that didn't matter at that point, I had finished, I didn't crash and it had once again been a superb race!

Klaus arriving

Klaus arriving

Recovery snack

Recovery snack

And here's a 20 minute video from the last 10 km and the breakaway (available in HD):

So if you ever doubt taking part in any cycling event, read this post again and just do it!

 

Hope you managed to stay awake all the way 'til the end.  

 

Have a good one!