Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Race Report UCI Marathon World Championships in Graz, Austria

Another year and another world champs, this time in Graz, Austria. This time we were smarter and arrived 2 days before the event, to give us a bit of time to get to know parts of the course.

The course this year was very different from last year: it was a lot more technical, both the uphills and the downhills. The uphills tended to be steep and rocky and the steep downhills either rocky or rooty and both were extremely difficult. There were a few uphill and downhill sections that I had to walk. There still was a lot of "easy" tarmac and fireroad to give us a bit of a break, but with some of them at 28% gradient, these did not always provide the necessary relaxation. Usually marathon courses tend to be a bit tamer than cross country courses, but this one was definitely an exception. It was like taking a technical cross country course and stretching it in length and height.

On our arrival day we chatted to the other racers and were told that the last descent is the hardest. So Ryan and I climbed up the mountain to recce it. And yes, it was really hard. For those who have done the UK NPS in Dalby, it was like a tilted version of "Puncture Alley" with lots of sharp wet rocks and little drop offs. It was really fun to ride though, and I found my S-Works Epic was just perfect for it. The constant downpour that evening was definitely going to make this descent even more interesting.

The next day we drove to another village to take the cable car to the highest point of the course to do the whole last descent to the finish. And so we made it up and descended the last 20km from 1438m down to about 400m. The loose rocky steep descents were even harder than the last bit we recced the day before. Another constant rain that evening did not add to my confidence.

Thankfully the rain stopped at night and it was nice and sunny and hot again for the start of the race on Saturday. 54 girls were lined up at the start line. I felt pretty good and well prepared, but was very nervous at the start. My heartrate was up at 130! Finally we were off and meandered towards the 28% tarmac climb. The speed was nice and comfortable, and I was well positioned in the group bracing myself for the climb. As soon as the front few hit the climb the real racing began. However, I didn't even make it that far because when I shifted down into the middle ring my chain went down completely and I had to stop to put it back on. I have no idea why it happened, because everything was working perfectly before and I had no issues later in the race. Anyhow, I just lost all my momentum and had to catch up to group. I steadily made up my places again on the long steep climb and finally reached Ivonne Kraft. I was feeling well, but I told myself to take it easy - I didn't want to burn myself completely on the first climb. When I arrived at the top I could see that the group was already far strung out. I decided to take a steady pace and raced along.

I was able to catch up with New Zealander Jenn O'Connor, resident in the UK and decided to try and stick with her. I've raced with her a lot in the UK and knew that with her experience in marathons she knows how to pace herself well. The race went on well and even though the elastic snapped a few times between Jenn and me, I managed to catch back up to her every time until I missed a bottle in one of the feedzones. It was a hot day and I was afraid I'd run out of water before hitting the next feed zone. I could still glimpse Jenn in front and hoped I'd be able to catch back up to her once I've refilled at the next feedzone. Unfortunately some confusion at the next feedzone meant I lost more time than necessary and had lost connection to Jenn completely, meaning that from about half way through the race I was on my own.

When I finally hit the last climb I had to really concentrate to keep going steadily to make it up to the top. It was hot and I was cooked and it was steep and I was not having a good time. At this stage the men had caught up with us (they had started earlier but had to do an extra loop at the start) and a steady stream of men started overtaking me. I was very relieved when I saw the top and grabbed a bottle with Red Bull from the neutral support. From then on it was mostly downhill bar one uphill walking section. I was very happy that I made it down in one piece without crashing and just before the last few meters of the descent before you hit the finishing circuit, Ryan came up behind me. I was very happy to be finished when I finally crossed the line after 5h 10min of racing, just a few mins behind Ryan (who had a longer course but started a little earlier).

I came 26th, 44min behind the new Marathon World Champion Sabine Spitz. I've improved by 3 positions over last year's World Champs and am closer to the winning time, so I am slowly climbing up the ladder. I had hoped for a better position since I felt well prepared physically, but I just felt as if I'd left my racing head at home. Ah well, there's always next year :)

Thanks to Andy from SportAmed to help us out with the bottles.

Womens Results
1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 4:24:16
2 Esther Süss (Switzerland)
3 Petra Henzi (Switzerland) 4:27:07
4 Erika Dicht (Switzerland) 4:28:49
5 Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) 4:34:46
6 Pia Sundstedt (Finland) 4:37:25
10 Sally Bigham (Great Britain)
17 Jennifer O'Connor (New Zealand)
26 Melanie Spath (Germany)

Full results can be found on the UCI website.

A report is up on IrishCycling.

There are a few pictures up on the event website.

Friday, August 14, 2009

UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Champs - Preview

Only 2 more long training units this weekend and then it's all tapering and resting up for the Marathon World Champs on the 23rd of August in Graz, Austria.

The women's course will be 84km with 3.061m of climb and the men's course will be 104km with 3.818m of climb. The race starts at 419m above sea level and the highest point is at 1438m. Below is the profile and the map of the course.

This year there are only 55 women signed up, with Germany sending a contingent of 10 women. My start number is 37, so I'm more towards the end of the field, but it's going to be a long race, so I am not too worried.

Entries list can be downloaded here (add .pdf to filename) and more info can be found on

Even though illness kept me off the bike for a few days after Bontrager 24/12, I had a very good 2 weeks of solid training, mainly longish rides with tempo/threshold/sweet spot long climbs. I concentrated on getting a lot of climbing done. Unfortunately the hills around me aren't that high, so in one evening training session instead of climbing 2000m in one go, I just went up and down 3Rock until I hit 2000m (it's about 300m a lap) - it got too dark in the end to go the whole (unlit) way up, so I stayed around the bottom for the last few meters.

That week was actually my second biggest distance and climbing week (400km, 7200m), after one of the weeks I did on Gran Canaria (460km, 9000m ).

Apart from being very tired yesterday after a hard 2 training days on Tuesday and Wednesday, I actually feel in good form. I am looking forward to see if I can improve on my 29th place from last year :)

Bontrager 24/12 Report

Better late than never, so here it is:

Last year, Ryan and I enjoyed the Bontrager 24/12 event in Plymouth, UK so much that we spontaneously signed up again for this event. This event would fill the gap nicely that was left when we had decided to give the Canadian World Cups a miss. Luckily TorQ had reserved a place for us in the 12hour Mixed Pairs category.

Last year the competition was pretty stiff, with our main competitors in the form of Kate and Ian Potter. Those two gave us a real run for our money that time and made for some very close and exciting racing which asked us to be as strategically clever as possible to etch out a close margin towards our win. From the entry list it seemed that this year would be a little easier.

The course was similar to last year, but due to some rain the week earlier, the organizers had to make it more weatherproof, cutting out some lovely singletrack sections from last year. It was still a very enjoyable course - with the exception of the Clif bar climb..... a very steep killer climb about half way through the 13km lap. I dreaded this climb every lap.

In the morning before the race I woke up with stomach cramps and a general feeling of shittiness. But of course I couldn't let Ryan down now. So I took a few painkillers and made it to the start.
The weather was nice - not as comparable to the hot 2 day summer from last year though. Our strategy was similar to last year: Ryan would do 2 laps and me one in repeat until Ryan would be too tired/slowed down, that we would switch to 1-1 laps each. However, I wasn't feeling well at the start and with every lap I felt worse. We had a comfortable lead on 2nd place, so I was happy when Ryan suggested to do a 4th set of double laps.

I also wanted to take a chance on the Queen of the Night competition for fastest female night lap but unfortunately due to some confusion I started my night lap too early and it was not in the queen of the night competition window. I tried again later on, but I was so wrecked and exhausted and just wanted to finish the race. In the end it was Maddie Horton who had the fastest female night lap (I think mine was 2nd fastest though). I wasn't happy at all when Ryan sent me out again to finish our race with another lap - grrrr....

In the end we had completed 18 laps (Ryan doing 11 of them) in 12hours 6min time, one lap more than 2nd place in our category. We actually almost beat all the pairs categories, we had a lead on the TorQ male pair before I started my last 2 laps, but unfortunately they overtook me on my last lap again and beat us by 3min.

Unfortunately though after the event I ended up being sick for 2 weeks, with 5 days almost completely off the bike and am still trying to get rid of a sore throat that keeps coming back.... :(

Results on timelaps here. Report by Joolze Dymond on BritishCycling here and Pictures by Joolze here.

Thanks as usual to TorQ for all their support in the race, and a special thanks the TorQ team manager Rob Barker.