Adria 4islands: A unique race indeed

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Ram Bikes

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Well, the logo “a unique race in the world of mtb”is not a lie, no, by combining the authentic atmosphere of a small race with the professional level of the biggest in an environment that is so strange, well, unique is the least we can say! Great, unforgettable, fantastic,.. , are some other words to describe it too…

Yes, after having seen the first edition of this event last year, I was really looking forward to this 2nd edition. In that first edition, the organization had proved that they were more than capable to make this event succesfull, more, after seeing all our happy faces after the finish on the 4th stage, they were only motivated to make things even better. And they did!! The trails were already great, so there was not a lot to do there, except for removing-replacing some trouble zones as going around some private zones, to avoid the dangerous citycenters, choosing more for the race and less for tourism (But by moving the startposition in stage 2 from the ferry harbor in Kampor to the center of Lopar, they left plenty of opportunity for the riders to explore the beautiful historical center after the stage to make the perfect combination of a recovery-ride with a travel back in  time)  and more signs and volunteers to get us all in the correct direction. The super nice and always helpful team was still able to handle the dubble-sized group of riders and give us all a feeling of getting a personal touch as everybody with a “staff-sign” was always ready to give you a fast solution to your problems with a smile! Amazing! Logistically, to have 4 races on 4 islands will always be a challenge, but again, I have to admit, things got better! And sure, the hotels, the food, the route-marking, the volunteers, the waterpoints, all super and so, to improve stuff again for 2017 will be difficult! But that’s the challenge the organization-team is looking for again and they have never stopped to amaze me so far, so I can’t wait!

 

Day 1, Island Krk, Baska-Baska, 67km 1700Hm, 4th place

In the week before the race, the weather in Budapest has been great for the last hard trainings, but great weather in spring is a bad thing for me as I am allergic to pollen… And, being stupid, I have always tried to survive this without any anti-histamine pills as they make me feel like a zombie. For 15 years this has worked, but apparently my luck came to an end. I woke up Thursday at midnight unable the breath, my lungs didn’t open and it was scary. I guess this is what they call asthma? Anyway, I tried a couple of nights for improvement, but finally after 4 bad nights, I had to see the doctor. He told me I had to take my anti-histamine from now on every day, or things would be worse. I had to do it to build up some resistance for the pollen, no discussion. I also got an inhaler for the worst moments, but damn, that is what all wannabee pro riders are using, no way I will go for it if I can help it! So, very motivated I started my pills Monday night… But with the race starting at Wednesday, I was exhausted from lack in sleep + still not able to breath normal…. So, no ideal conditions to do my first race of the season. But,  I didn’t care so much for myself, I just hoped I wouldn’t let my teammie, Marci Blazso, down L….

So, Wednesday 10 o clock, time to test the lungs! The start is through the old center of Baska, and so it’s best to stay in the front to stay out of troubles. After 1km, we start the steep climb up to the church and things get clear fast! Yes, I can drive fast. No, I can’t follow the fastest. But things are not that bad, by the time we jump to the trail, we are in third position and following the first 2 teams would also have been suicide for Marci. He chooses the pace, I sit back and suffer in his wheel, but the tempo feels ok. When we arrive at the moon (plateau on the top with just rocks) I can enjoy the fully and relax a little while Marci has to work hard and so in the following jeeptrack, I try to help a little by taking the wind although I am not sure of my shape. As a team we are great and being both experienced, we don’t need to talk a lot, we just feel eachother. After the first waterpoint on the top, I see team in 4th position is closing in. We know a long technical descent is coming and so we decide to make an acceleration. But, that feels like knifes are plunged into my lungs, it can’t be good… But ok, mission accomplished and we start the first challenge of the day: minutes and minutes of rocks on a demanding trail downhill. Great to us, not so much to other teams.. I expected an easier middle part, but the organization did a good job and found us an extra climb, steep, loose gravel, hard, very hard! After that, finally the easier middle part and I feel things are going wrong. In every effort so far, I have been collecting lactic acid in my muscles and it just stays there, so my legs are getting heavier and heavier. I now have to leave all the work to Marci and I hope by eating and drinking a lot, I can save my ass, but nope… When we get to the 2nd waterpoint, I decide to make a full refill (1.5l) and at this moment the 4th team comes back. Motivated (stressed) we hit the descent, but in the following last climb, they catch us. I can’t go faster anymore, I have to go careful and so I explain to Marci that it’s just the way it is. Not nice, but at least I don’t hit the wall, I can keep a descent pace and the other Calcit team is happy with my pace too as they don’t try to attack. The last 10kms are descending and we work well together. Fast roads to the finish and I tell Marci to let the boys take 3rd, to save energy for the next days and so we finish just behind them in 4th. Sure, we were surprised to see a 30sec gap, but it was proof again of the top organisation: in day 1 the timing is netto, from when you cross the start to the finish to make it fair for people who are coming from behind (we had first row thanks to the victory of Blazso in 2015, Calcit was nr 80+)

 

Day 2, island Rab, Lopar-Lopar, 61km, 1150hm, 2nd place 

Today’s ride would start from a new location, the beautiful historical town of Lopar, but the track would be almost identical to last year. We wouldn’t go through the center, but I think it was better this way. So, after a nice boattrip of almost 2 hrs, we get going at 10.30. After only 1km, once again a steep climb and like yesterday, the first teams jump away like they are from a different planet. We jump to 3rd and in the next kms, we even succeed to close the gap to team nr 2. By the time we get with them, their bad luck starts with a flat tire (unprotected???). Now Marci is motivated to speed up and we are only with our yesterdays’ friends, team Calcit from Slovenia. On the long easy climbing rocky trails in the forests, Marci is going so hard that finally the boys give up. I am observing from 4th position and when they slow down, I jump passed them and close the gap to Marci, so far, so good… We are now in second position and here comes a faster flatter stretch on rocky jeeptracks with dangerous slippery turns. After yesterday, I am scared that a similar thing would happen to me, and so Marci has to do 80%of the work, sorry…. But, he is so strong that it isno trouble at all, kms going fast and safe and once the climbs start again, I decide to work more as my legs still have some juice in them left. The second waterpoint goes super, just grabbing some fresh waterbottles that we then poor into out hi5 bottles without losing any time. Now, the rocky crazy old Roman trail starts and so it’s time to test the bikes and Maxxis Ikons to the limits again! We make it and start attacking the last 3 hills with a smile, being still in 2nd with nobody in sight… So, great stage, perfect day, moved in general from 4th to second (team in 2nd would have 2 flats and more technical troubles, losing 1hr). After the finish, I went to look for the last years trails in the center + along the beach and old houses + private beaches, beautiful!!! After that a quick wash in the toilets, change of clothes (always bring a backpack with spare clothes and jacket on the stages for this) and a good meal in the hotel next to the finish, yes, the organization thought of everything!!  They even had booked the sun on our relaxing boattrip back to Krk, just another day in paradise!

 

Day 3, island Cres, Merag-Osor, 67km, 1550hm, 3rd place

Today, no boats, but a bus and a ferry (yep, that is also a boat, but so big it just doesn’t feel like 1 ), the track would be an exact copy of the 2015 edition, my favorite stage then. At the harbor of the island Cres, we have to start once again with … yes, another steep 300hm climb. In the warming up I didn’t feel great, but maybe the others would be even worse? A little stressy start from the boat leads us to the small old road up. I can set a nice pace and we can even jump to 2nd place but never se the first guys, they are already gone… After a steep climb comes.. a stony rocky descent J. Somehow, my rearsuspension stays locked and I lose my fresh Hi5 bottle L. But, no time to worry, we need to hit the pedals and before we enter the town of Cres, the unlucky KTM team gets back to us and they put on a crazy fast pace! They fly through the rocks, and so we decide to try to hang on. We manage to keep with them to the first waterpoint, but here we need to slow down to refill while they have the teamsupport and so they get away. We are now alone on the steep long climb to Lubenice and we relax maybe a little too much. We also drink and eat well, but by the time we have to start the nice long descent, our Calcit guys are back on us and so we hit it hard on the rocky descent. A great trail brings us almost back to the seaside and we are alone again. But, this time, we don’t relax, we will keep the pace up! Knowing the following kms will be very rocky singletracks, Marci decides to rest a little as on his hardtail life wouldn’t become easy soon. But, he is an animal! On the trails he is fast , very fast!! I have to drive all the time in descent mode (open damper) and what I hadn’t considered is that the riding position is influenced by this and riding uphill  with open shock gives a saddle in the wrong angle and that slowly kills my back, taking away the power! Incredible, on a fully I get problems with my back while Marci keeps on hammering the pedals, wow! By the time we exit the trails, only 8 easier kms are left and I help as good as I can. We get 3rd place, 1.5min behind 2nd and about the same in front of 4th team, a good day. The finish is in a small old town, Osor and the atmsosphere is amazing. Great food once again for everybody provided by the organization and it really feels like a holiday!!! (and thinking of it, all races should be like this J ) When we go for a recovery ride with our full stomachs, we end up at some small beach and decide to go into the sea, but somehow I cut my toe bad in the water on something. Time to test all facilities I guess and so up to the medical team! They decide not to stitch it, but to glue it somehow. No walking for 1 day, but that’s fine J. Another bus brings us to our new hotel, was perfect for a 30min nap J.

 

Day 4, island Losinj, 42km 900hm, 2nd place

Whoaaa, already the second night of real sleeping, feels great! I can even breathe really well and yes, when we are warming up, I can see my HF going up much higher than the previous days, yes, time to attack :) !!!

The start is like last year in the center of Stari Losinj, but we start in the opposite direction as this time the stage would be longer. In 2015, the organization had to remove some dangerous part that would be too crazy in the wet, so I was curious! Today, we could use tactics and stay behind our Calcit friends, but that’s not our style, so we hit it hard, trying to keep up with the first (they must have been doing a recovery ride as we managed to stay close ;) ). The climbs are steeper and longer than expected and they hurt, but we go well. Just before we jump into the first technical steep descent, some Italians push in front. Fun? No, to be slowed down is frustrating and dangerous as you have to hit the brakes too much. At the end, the guy even crashes and so it was time to go a little faster, but then we see the next climb, woowww, it is a wall. Even the strongest machines from Czeck republic have to walk and push a little. Not perfect with my toe, but ok, we manage. I have power for the first time in 4 days and so I am pushing hard. Not fair to Marci, as after working so hard the last days, he is tired and so I have to watch him and I keep my pace down. I try to work hard where I can and I was so enthousiastic-happy that I make mistakes. Twice I don’t see the signs and so it was really time to slow it down. Now Marci starts to do the navigating in the towns but even for him with the gps, it gets confusing to see signs everywhere in all directions. Using common sense we make it throught the difficult places and at the next volunteer showing directions, we are jelling to get some people to fix the problems (which they did instantly). Now, only great trails to the finish, same as last year and so we can relax. We are 2nd again today and 2nd overall, a great performance knowing the circumstances and a real good test for our new stage race team ?? J

 

 

Conclusion:

This is  a toplevel race in every aspect, but a hard one too! Don’t think about hardtails, about small wheels or about light tires!! No, be prepared for the race in the land of the million rocks! But, I hope that this organization will keep this style and that they won’t change the level of the trails to open it to the less experienced riders. This challenging terrain is what makes the race unique, the roughness of the nature, the beauty of the old historical towns, the incredible contrasts between the rockiest hills and the most blue coastlines, seeing 4 different islands, boattrips,… It is a lifechanging adventure exploring a very special part of Europe.  After 4 days of hard work, I only saw happy peoples in the finish, proud to have overcome their difficulties, so some things should just stay tough! As the race shouldn’t grow in the number of racers (logistically ultra hard + it would destroy the authentic atmosphere) and it is proved that people are really loving this event (sold out early + 150peoples on waiting list), I think the race has already made it to history and the logo will stay forever: Adria 4island race: a unique race in the world of mtb!  Tough, beautiful, a race to look forward to, again and again!!

 

Thanks to the whole organization team!!

Wouter