Friday, October 23, 2015

Summer racing: Levi24 and Merida MTB Finlandia

As I'm writing this, it's already fall. So, before it's 'too late' here is a short recap of two races I did this summer.


Fairly soon after ITI I wanted to do something in the summer. After three Tahko MTBs in 2012 (120 km), 2013 (180 km DNF) and 2014 (240 km) I didn't feel any reason to go back there. After all, Tahko MTB is not really my type of race. I've been thinking going back to 24-hour solo racing, and there is still one race in Finland, Levi24, this year 12th-13th of June. I did it in 2007 (2nd) and 2009 (3rd / 320 km). I really like the race course which is pretty fast and not too technical. 

It was of course clear that the goal was to improve my previous result from 2009. I set three goals: 1. Win the race. 2. Ride closer 400 km. 3. Show that 9:ZERO:7 with Nextie Snow Fox 29+ wheelset is very capable summer racing bike too.

I had a good training period in April and May and things were looking good. But just a few days before the race I had a sore throat, an early symptom of cold. Otherwise I was still feeling fairly good, but mentally I was a bit upset because I came to race for the win, nothing else. I drank lots of tea with honey and just tried to put the thing away mentally.

The weather forecast was looking good for the entire race. I scouted the race course on Thursday and it was surprisingly fast, with only few wet spots. The start was on Friday evening at 6PM. We started with very fast speed. I knew that from the other competitors, Jussi Karjalainen (multiple winner from the previous years) was the man to beat. He was behind me but took the lead fairly soon. After some laps he had problems with tires so I took the lead. We were riding really fast but I was feeling great. I lead the race all night. In the morning I knew that we had to slow down at some point because the race was crazy fast. After 12 hours we had done about 200 km. Pretty soon I encountered the first hard moment and I couldn't ride as fast as I wanted. I was completely trashed and rode a slow lap. In the pit my wife was taking care of drinks and food and she was encouraging me. I thought that the bad moment would go away, like always. But not this time. It just got worse. I had some very slow laps and I had to stop for short periods of time during the laps. Obviously the sickness was kicking in and my body just refused to co-operate. About 17 hours in to the race I took a longer break and tried to sleep a bit. Jussi was now leading the race with closer two laps more of riding than me. The longer break helped slightly but riding was still very very hard. In the last four hours I was able to ride again some decent laps and I fought very hard to the end. I ended in 2nd place with 31 laps / 310 km.

There was simply no way I could have won this race. It's a disappointment, but from the three goals I set one was successful. 9:ZERO:7 with 29+ wheels was indeed fantastic race machine, and I proved that it's also very capable for this kind of summer racing.

A few photos by my wife:

And these photos were taken by Teemu Moisio:

Huge thanks to my wife and her parents for a great pit crew. Without you I wouldn't have been able to do this. Big thanks to my sponsors 9:ZERO:7 and Nextie. Thanks also to Levi24 organisers for putting a great race. I still like it very much. It's hard to say if I will come back but you never know...

Merida MTB Finlandia

My uninterrupted run of Finlandia MTB from 2003 continued this year on August 16th. I have always done the 2 lap / 75 km race. That distance is a sprint for me so not very ideal, but I really love the race course which is not so easy as many might think.

This year I had company with my brother, who did the one lap race in the new retro mountain bike category for old mountain bikes. Also, this year marked 25th anniversary of the Finlandia MTB.

The race course had a couple of changes, and they were great, with some nice technical singletrack. The weather was fantastic, sunny and warm. I had slightly slow start as it took most of the first lap to really warm up. Nothing new here because my engine is slow to start. I felt really good after the first lap and rode the second lap furiously. To my surprise, I ended in 24th place with a time of 4 hours 2 minutes and 9 seconds. This was my best result ever in the race!

Photo by Aaro Honkala:

Thanks to my brother for the logistics.