Trofeo Karlsberg is one of the hardest races in the Juniors racing calendar. It's a UCI race and has the status of a nations cup stage race, meaning the teams competing consist of national teams. Representing 19 countries in total including some strong cycling nations such as Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, USA and Italy, just a few to mention. The race consisted of 3 days of racing and 4 stages in total between 5th and 7th of June 2015. Together with part of the Finnish team we started our journey towards Gersheim, Germany on June 2nd.
During two days we drove from Finland to Gersheim, in total some 1800km. Our first stop was in Puttgarden, Germany where we stayed for the night. The boys had also the opportunity to make a short evening ride before heading to bed. On Thursday morning we continued driving early in the morning and arrived in late afternoon at Ökologisches Schullandheim Gersheim, where we would stay for the whole race. Before that we had picked up the rest of the team from Frankfurt, since some arrived by plane from Finland and our Team Director Toomas Kirsipuu from Estonia. The Finnish team in Trofeo Karlsberg 2015 would consist of, Jaakko Hänninen, Erik Relanto, Jesse Uusiperhe, Jonas Nordström, Aku Keloneva and Simo Terävä.
Stage 1 was a 89 km long, pretty hilly stage and the heat (+35) would certainly make it difficult for many riders. The warm weather also made it really important to keep the riders hydrated at all times.
The stage started at 16:30 local time and the riders were off to an early climb. The steepest segments had an average steepness of 18 %, adding the heat to that equation we knew it would be tough. We headed for the feed-zone to prepare and be ready for the riders when they arrived. We tried to keep the drinks cool to provide our riders with some extra refreshment when getting that bottle. Below a video from the feed-zone:
In the video you can also get the feel of how big and well organized the event was. Long car caravans and team cars passing by, just as in a Pro Tour race. There was a breakaway when the first riders arrived. We had none in that group, but soon after there was a chasing group with Jaakko in it. That group was soon followed by the main group where Erik was well positioned. We also updated the team car about the situation when they arrived (providing them with some water as well).
A while after we saw a struggling Jesse and Jonas riding just in front of the Broom Wagon (Voiture Balai). But they were determined to finish the stage. In that car was both Aku and Simo. After picking them up we headed for the finish line and camp to start the post-stage activities. Jaakko finished the day strong with a 12th place 1:09 behind the winner. Erik also rode well and finished in the peloton 1:49 behind the winner. Jesse and Jonas fought their way to the finnish with a swede finishing 19:33 after the winner.
It was important that the recovery would start immediately. Day 2 would include 2 stages, an 9,6 km ITT and a 79 km long stage.
Day 2 would begin early with a 9,6 km long individual time trial. The ITT was short but included some climbing, so it would be a hard 9,6 km.
Jesse would be the first rider to start followed by Jonas. Erik and Jaakko would start later, Jaakko among the last riders since the start order was reversed from yesterdays results. Jonas and Jesse fought hard and ended 2:19 and 2:28 respectively behind the winner of stage 2.1 (overall 103 and 105).
Erik had a good start and ended up with a solid performance 1:17 behind the stage winner with an average speed of 39,41 km/h (57th). That still left Erik with a good 45th position overall, 2:24 behind the race leader.
Jaakko was our last rider to start as he had finished strong yesterday on a 12th place.
Jaakko also had a solid ride, losing 1:11 to the stage winner with an average speed of 39,68 km/h (55th), and that would put him into a 25th place in the overall standings after stage 2.1.
Having giving it all in the ITT the riders had to start preparing for the second stage of the day. Since the heatwave was still on it was also crucial to stay hydrated. The second stage would be a 79 km long stage, where a 20 km long route would be ridden 4 times.
It was clear that many riders wanted to improve their positions and it would be another hard stage.
As the start went off we headed for the feed-zone to wait for the riders. Again it was crucial that the riders would get their drinks because of the heat.
Jaakko had yet again proved he is in good form, finishing 27th just 35 seconds after the stage winner, keeping him 25th in the overall standings just 2:01 after the race leader. Erik, according to his own words didn't have the best day today, but still fought his way to a 74th place finishing 6:41 after the stage winner. That would put Erik in a 54th place overall, 8:53 behind the race leader. Jesse and Jonas fought the whole stage and their goal was to finish within the time limit, and that's what they did finishing 99th and 100th place respectively with more than 38 minutes to the race lead.
Sunday was the last day of racing, and during the night the weather had cooled down and the forecast promised us around +25 and sunshine. That would surely be a welcomed change. The start would go off at 10:30 local time and it was located close to where we stayed, meaning the riders could ride to the starting line.
The course would again consist of a 20 km long route being ridden 5 times over giving a total length of 99 km and some pretty good hills. The race win was far from secured and it was clear that many teams would ride aggressive today. Patrick Haller from Germany had the race lead and it was likely that they would defend that position with their whole team. We had Jaakko in a good overall position and race tactics were closely discussed before the race. Jesse also received a surprise by Toomas, he would attack immediately and try to hang in for as long as possible.
Both Jaakko and Erik finished in the peloton, Jaakko 24th and Erik 38th. Both were happy about their performances on stage 4, and with the race overall. Jaakko was able to better his position by 3, ending up 22nd in the overall classification and Erik 45th overall. Jesse and Jonas were not able to finish the stage but did track some really important hard racing kilometers during the weekend.
Overall feeling from the race was positive. The organizers did a good job, everything was done in a professional manner and the roads selected for the race were all in more or less superb condition. Also the staff at Ökologisches Schullandheim Gersheim deserve a big thank you from us. Taking care of our riders was easy when everything worked well at "Spohns haus". The food was really tasty and there was always plenty of options to choose from.
Our team did a good job, everyone got some good experience and especially for Jaakko and Erik it was a proof that the path they are on is pointing towards the right direction. Of course there is a lot of work to be done, and as we all know there won't be an easy way to improvement. For me, having the possibility to join the team, it was all an eye-opening experience. Taking care of a team at this level is a hard job that beats many other jobs in many different ways.