Saturday, August 27, 2011

Race Report: Merida MTB Finlandia 2011

There are two big mountain bike events in Finland: without doubt, nowadays the biggest is Tahko MTB, but the second biggest is Finlandia MTB, or Merida MTB Finlandia as Merida is currently the main sponsor of the event. I have never participated in Tahko MTB, although I have wanted to take part for many many years. But in Finlandia MTB I have been every year since 2003. (I was also in 1999 but the course was different and only 50 km and the event was arranged  by a different organization). There is simple reason for this. Finlandia is organized in Messilä/Lahti, which is only a 2.5h/200km car drive away from my home. But Tahko's home is Nilsiä, just above Kuopio, and it's a 7h/500km car drive. Time scheduling, logistics and economics makes Finlandia very easy to take part.

Actually it's a little suprising that Finlandia is not the biggest and most popular event. The terrains of Salpausselkä are really gorgeous, and the race course includes lots of nice singletrack. The course is physically really hard. The long distance (70 km announced distance, but the real distance this year closer 75 km) consists two laps, and gains total elevation of 1380 meters. There are four really steep, hard climbs in the end of the lap that really tests your body and mind.

In 2003 I fell love with the toughness of the course. I didn't know what to expect. I had the impression of 1999 event and thought that in addition of being a race, it's also a motion event. I had only my hydration pack with water and one single energy gel. The impact: I have never bonked so badly! I had to even stop a couple of times to keep going and survive, but in the end I survived and reached the finish line.

After 2003 I prepared much better for each participation. In 2006 I was in good shape and I had really good start for the race, but a puncture and front derailleur problems ruined my race. My best time is from 2008, 3h59min06sec. Last year I rode with a singlespeed, and it was a fun experiment. This year the natural choice of bike was of course my fatbike, 9:ZERO:7. And yeah, the goal was to have fun!

Usually I have been here alone, but for the first time I took my mother with me (logistics) and he took all the photos here. We arrived in Messilä well before the start and I had good time to eat and prepare. The weather was looking great. Temps near +20°C, some sun, some clouds.

My 907 caused a lot of attention:

Social media updating routines:

Looking calm:

Always meeting some familiar people:

Looking forward to a funny day:

The start:

After the start I found my own rhythm fairly soon. This summer I have done very little any intense, hard bike rides, so my plan was more to enjoy this event than 'race', but I felt so good that I soon found myself riding pretty well in my own standards. I was thinking that my overall time could be something in the range of 4h20-4h30min, and the first lap would take about 2h. Everything worked just as I have planned. It's so fun to ride technical singletrack with a fatbike, as it's so easy! All the dangerous descents went really well, as 3.8" Larrys have pretty amazing traction. I was able to ride all the last three climbs with the lightest or 2nd lightest gear. The time of the first lap was 2:05:16.

Heading out for the second lap:

After the first lap I have had sometimes a feeling 'hey, am I really going to do this again?', but it always goes away, and did so also this time. After all, this is a sprint race for me and after multiple 24-hour solos everything else feels pretty easy.

The second lap went also well. My experience with this event seems to be very useful. Despite my lack of fitness, I was able to gauge my effort near perfectly. The last four climbs are really hard and I knew that I had to preserve some energy for them. I was again able to ride those three climbs all the way. Even the first one would be rideable but there is one technical spot that I haven't been able to ride over. To my suprise, I ate only two energy gels, one bar of Snickers, a couple of salt cucumbers and a little raisins. Still no bonking effects.

Coming to the finish:

'Race face!':

HR and altitude data:

Official finish time 4h31min18sec. This effort made me really happy. It was fun but at the same time it was a good test of my current fitness and I was suprised that my average heart rate was 158 bpm and maximum 181 bpm.

My Finlandia medal collection:

The 1999 medal is missing from that photo, but it's somewhere. In that respect this was my 10th anniversary race but on the other hand the real 10th is next year. And of course my aim is to be there!

Thanks for TWD for putting up a great event again, and thanks mom for logistics and photos!

More photos HERE.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Revenge check

The summer is almost over and the fall is just around the corner, so it's soon the time to organize the annual mountain biking group ride Paimio's Revenge, this year Version 6. Last week I went to the woods to check out the condition of the trails with my friend Jan, the man behind the local bike shop in Paimio, Pyöristi.

Over the last couple of weeks we have had some serious raining here, so we knew that we would face some 'moisture'. The first sections were actually in fairly good shape.

For our disappointment, in one section (but fortunately a short one) a forest machine had done some serious damage.

We figured out that this section would be best to leave out from the actual group ride.

During our ride we had both small rain showers and sunshine.

Some nice views from the trail.

Nice singletrack.

The next three photos were taken by Jan. I like those unusual angles!

The evening turned out to be beautiful.

Some stunning cloud formations.

Pleasure for your eyes.

My bike after the ride.

Got wet, got dirty, but it was fun, again!

A slideshow with some extra photos is here.

Event Report: Southpeak's Ride

Even though I have been doing more and more mountain biking and bikepacking and less road riding, I still do some occasional road rides. And there is still one road cycling event that I really like. It's called 'Eteläkärjen ajot - Sydspets Rundan', which roughly translates Southpeak's Ride. This road motion cycling event is organized in Raasepori. Compared to some big events in Finland, like Pirkka Cycling and Myllyn Pyöräily, this is a small event that usually have only 60-80 participants. The event fee is only 20€, and for that you get a medal, 3 service points, a meal in the finnish and if you are lucky, a lottery prize. But what really stands out for this event is the 120 km route. It is incredibly beautiful. If your initial thought about road biking is boring with big, straight roads, you can forget that with the Southpeak. The only slightly boring road is right after the start, but when the route turns to Snappertuna, it's pure road biking paradise! The roads are small with lot's of twists and turns. The roads go almost all the time up and down, the total elevation being at 905 meters. And with this you are accompanied with absolutely beautiful scenes and landscapes, not to mention all the beautiful small villages and ironworks that have really nice feeling indeed.

The route map:

The event center:

The weather forecast was promising with partly sunny skies and temps near +20°C. I didn't prepare for this event very well, as I just didn't want to. My only goal was to have a nice day in the saddle and enjoy the familiar route. As there was those 3 service points, I didn't even take anything to eat with me. Just one bottle of water. I was also a little late for the start but the plan was to ride my own speed so it didn't bother me at all.

The first service point is at 48 km, so I knew that I would have a little hard time after the first hour of riding. And yeah, I was not far away from bonking, but I slowed my pace just a little and managed to reach the service point fairly comfortably. The service points are pretty primitive, containing only salt cucumber, bread and juice. But that is just enough to have some energy to keep going, so no problem here.

After this things went smoothly. I knew that the next two service points weren't far away, and I would survive. I was riding with too low energy levels for sure, and my pace wasn't fast, but hey, I didn't come here to rip my legs.

I can't simply praise the route enough. I have already a plan for the future to ride with a lots of breaks and take hundreds of photos.

My road bike after the ride. The front wheel is from my time trial bike as the inner tube of the original wheel was broken.

Data from my Polar S710i heart rate monitor:

As shown above, my heart rate was very low because of the low energy level, and riding still felt pretty tough. But I enjoyed it all the way!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Teijo S24O

Well, it took a lot longer time to go for a bikepacking outing that I had originally planned, but it finally happened last week. Went for an overnighter to Teijo area. A friend from work who lives in Salo said earlier that there is a high place where the views opens to as far as to Kemiö Island. That sounded really cool. The place is called Nikkallio.

I seem to have nice plans but lately I have failed to carry them out. This time my plan was to ride to Teijo via a trail route located between Salo and Teijo. And I wanted to be at Nikkallio just before the sunset. But, I didn't have time for that. Instead I rode with my fatbike mostly on asphalt roads - not very adventurous. This route is however beautiful with very nice views and I'm very familiar with it from my road biking times.

The evening was really beautiful. No wind and very few clouds. The soon-ready grain fields made a nice late summer feeling.

The road to Teijo goes nicely up and down, and the views are great.

I wouldn't be before sunset at Nikkallio, probably just after it.

At the crossroad of Hamarijärventie.

The Village of Kirjakkala Ironworks is really beautiful place.

A view from the other side of Hamarijärvi.

A rocky section up to Nikkallio.

Finally at my destination!

I had high expectations for this place but they were surpassed by miles! Incredible place! Also challenging to capture the views in low light. The preview in my camera looked better than in the above photo, so I didn't take more shots with manual settings - I should have. On other hand, morning and sunrise would fix this.

Good night!

The morning.

I had a busy day ahead so I decided to eat Real Turmat outdoor meal for the breakfast. Thanks to Peter for picking up a couple of them for me during his Norway trip!

Awesome rocks here...

Instead of heading home I rode to Kemiö as I had an interesting busy day ahead, and it was logistically better choice.

Nice overnighter, but I have to do this again very soon to this place and ride the trail route!
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