So, some weeks have passed since I had to change my game and with every week of training, I feel better, stronger, faster. I know I am not on my 100% yet, but the last percents are the hardest to get back, the slowest to work on and I am running out of time… Why? Well, on Wednesday I will start in the Protective Four Peaks race in Austria and so I won’t be around here to race for a couple of weeks. But I need to know if I am doing a good job with my training and, although it’s too early + it’s too close to the start of this stagerace, I have to do the big test for my confidence and the only way to know my current level is to race the same guys as always in the long distance…
The good things about this race is that it is very close to home, so no travelling + the team is here again with the full support and that really makes a difference! If you know that we will be racing at +30 degrees (inferno for a poor Belgian), then you can understand the importance of getting bottles, lots of bottles…
9.30, time to do some warming up and my mind tells me to go and see the last descent that we will pass 3 times… It’s already too hot for me and on the way down, the spring of my xx-brakepads jumps into the disc. Hmm, so far my easy warming up, stress! Luckily, Dani takes me to Doctor bike where we can solve the problem. Now, it’s time to get to the start.
10.30 We get going, first over a bumpy field –oh yeah, I like the RAM podium fully- and then on fast dry jeeptracks. My body needs some time to realize the game is on, but everybody realizes it will be a hot exhausting day and so the pace is ok… , till Peter decides to accelerate. Woow, as always, he doesn’t just take the lead and picks up the speed, no he comes from 5th place and sprints away till 25m ahead of the group. He was a roadie before? J. Well, to me it looks like a pure waste of energy and apparently so think the others, because we just go a little faster together as a group. As my old body needs some serious warming up, I decide to slowly get back to Peter. I can go faster, but looking at the HF, the temperature and the fact that I don’t know what’s coming, I decide to stay behind him. Once on the top of the first climb, he slows down (realizes the others are back, so stops working…) and I am a real marathonguy who only knows 1 pace: my pace , so I go to first position and I even get a small gap. Soon, I arrive in the final descent of the first 6km loop and by the time I get to the finish, we are 4 again? We pass the first waterpoint but I don’t need anything while the others had decided to start lighter and have to take a bottle now. So, without pushing, I get ahead again. The first tough climb starts and I hear another rider getting to me. It’s Blazso. I can hear he has a hard time, but I know he is a tactical rider and so this could all be mindgames.. A couple of kms further he takes over and it seems we will be together today. Just behind, Peter is trying to close the small gap, but he has a hard day. So, Blaszo and me go away. As I don’t know the track, I let him take the lead in the descents and on the flatter parts + climbs I take the lead. The racetrack is great, no asphalt, just bumpy trails and jeeptracks, love it! Thinking of 4peaks, I try to keep it easy, but then I see Peter coming back to us and so I have to speed up. Sometimes I recognize the trails we are on as I do a lot of riding in this area, but I think I must do all of them in the opposite direction, because I am always late to realize where I am… But at km 14, I know it and I know what’s coming. At km 16, I see Dani and I expect a fresh bottle, but this was not the plan, I would get one 5kms later after the loop. Ok, I am good and so I start an interesting descent on slippery sand, gravel, rocks, hmm, nice! All the way down and then to turn up again in the sun on a steep hard road. Blazso is still with me, but during the climb, he decides to let me go. So, when I get to the top and to my new bottle ;), I am alone.
More than 50kms to go and I am dying already in every sunny part. But, as I am in the lead, there is only 1 thing to do, to keep on pushing. I try to be smart, to balance my power and to drive safe and economical, but whenever you get to a sunny climb, it’s like the power is draining from your body… Perhaps it’s a good thing that after 30kms, I get into the traffic of the other distances, as passing other people is always motivating, and hearing them cheering gives some extra motivation. But, a fact is a fact, I can drink faster than I can get bottles (up to 5liter) and so I start to take extra water on every point and after the double bottle switch with Gabor at km 35, I am worried I’ll be thirsty soon. Keeping the power going + fighting dehydratation are the main objectives from here. So, when I end loop 2 at km58, I even make a full stop to fill up my bottles. From here, I realize I am on the same climb as loop 2? Hard steep climbs take a lot of energy, but only a couple of kms further I arrive back to a refreshment point with Gabor. Hmm, perhaps I took too much water = weight, but no risks… So, I can only take 1 bottle here and now I realize I know the rest of the race, being the same last 12kms as in loop 2. Oh no, not again that steep sunny climb!? Sure, yes, why to make life too easy? And hop, drink more, push more. When I get to the top is see Dani and he tells me I can relax as I have more than 3min advantage. 3min? Hmm, that’s ok, and so I enjoy the last 9kms to the finish.
So, test was good but I still think I need to get my final 5% as I think the competition was also tired today and I shouldn’t put too much trust in todays results. I still noticed a lack of power towards the end (heat?) and so, after 4 peaks, I’ll have to keep on working for improvement. But, sure, winning feels great and my mind is a lot more relaxed already!
The crosscovacsi track was nice, I think it was real mtb! No, nothing spectacular technical, but 100% mtb, no roadrace here J..
To the Alpine team: I cannot thank you guys enough! It was great to see your smiles, to hear the positive words and… to get a whole lot of Hi5 bottles!!! J
Now, time for recovery again and let’s go to have some adventures in the alps! See you soon!