Sunday, 11 March 2018

Andalucia Bike Race 2018 - My Best Race Ever (?)

Ninth place

I finished the race in 9th place in the M40 category. This is out of 250 starters. With the opposition and this being a UCI race it is probbaly the best result that I have ever had in a race.

For comparison: When I took part in the race in 2017 my best finish in a stage was 36th.

My partner, Sandra Backman, also took part in Ladies Elite. Here's her story

Adalucia Bike Race

  • 6 Stages
  • 400 km
  • 10.000 hm

Strong last stage!

Here's the data for the different stages. Obviously heart rate will drop for each new stage during a stage race. But have a look at the average power for the last stage! It's almost half an hour longer than the first but almost the same power! Even though the heart rate is much lower! Very interesting!

Stage  Placing Time    Avg H/R Max H/R Avg Power Weighted Power
1      13      1h18m   173     187     251       281
2      10      3h10m   164     182     209       243
3      10      3h48m   159     177     196       237
4      9       N/A     N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A (bike comp died)
5      N/A     N/A     N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A (stage canceled)
6      10      1h51m   155     170     241       275

Training for the Race - 0 rest days

Training for the race started in October of 2017. I was focused on increasing my Watt/kg performance and it worked:

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't increase your Watts while dropping weight. The above graph is proof that you can.

I didn't have a single rest day in the 4 weeks leading up to the race: I bike commute to work and continued to do so up until the day that I left for Spain. My bike commuting is however done at a very low intensity (Zone 1).

The four week before the race:

1 week before: 2 shorter HIT sessions
2 weeks before: 3 HIT sessions. 2 long distance
3 weeks before: 2 HIT sessions, 2 long distance
4 weeks before: 2 HIT sessions, one race, one long distance

The Bike - Full Susp

The Bike

I ended up racing up Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL.

This is the most compliant and smooth mountain bike that I have ever owned. It's a full suspension bike. If you're going to race Andalucia Bike Race and you own a full susp I strongly recommend that you race it on that kind of bike. The terrain is difficult and you need all the compliance that you can get. My bike was not particularly light, ending up weighing around 10kg. I had new and lighter wheels on order but they were delayed.

Gearing - Wide Range

SRAM Eagle, 34T front chainring and 10-50 cassette. This race, while being hilly, has a lot of flat stuff on gravel roads where speeds get really high. At the same time it has super steep climbing. You must have good gearing range.

Tires - Puncture Protection is Key

  • Front: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin (600 gram), 1.4 bar of  pressure
  • Rear: Schwalne Racing Ralph 2.1 Snakeskin (600 gram), 1.4 bar of pressure


A bit wider in front for better grip. I could've gone wider in the rear as well but opted for something that's easy rolling.

The race has a lot of sharp rocks. The risk of punctures is super high. You must have tires with thick sidewalls.

Brakes - Use Metallic Pads

I came to Andalucia with organic brake pads. This was a big mistake. The race is very hard on the brakes. I ended up wearing them out after just a few stages. New ones could not be found on location but I got a pair of used ones, that I ended up wearing out again in the last stage. In the future I will only use metallic/sintered brake pads.

Gels, Drinks and Energy

I used my own gels in two small gel bottles. My bottle size was (one bottle of) 900ml. That's all that fits the frame of the bike. I would've liked to have used my 1.1l botttles but they don't fit. There are plenty of food stations during the race. I actually didn't end up using any of them however with the race being shortened the way it was and also with the cold weather. I had a recovery drink waiting for me at the end of each stage which I gulped down quickly.

Tools and stuff

This is what I had with me:

  • Multi tool
  • CO2 nozzle, two cartridges
  • One extra tube (taped to the seat post)
  • Tire levers
  • Quick chain link

Andalucia Bike Race - Difficult Technical Terrain

Andalucia Bike Race is a bit special compared to other stage races that I've raced: It does take place in hilly terrain but it also has a lot of quick gravel road sections. So you need to be ready for super technical downhills, really steep climbs, but also some quick group riding on the gravel road sections. If you compare this to a race like Beskidy Trophy then Beskidy has much less flat riding but the descents are actually more technical at Andalucia Bike Race, even though Beskidy has much more climbing (altitude gain) per stage and longer descents.

The Weather

The weather was the big subject of ABR in 2018. It was TERRIBLE. The first three stages were good but the last three were under pouring rain and strong winds. Actually there were no THREE last stages as stage five was cancelled due to the extreme weather, and both stages four and six were shortened.

Thursday, 8 March 2018 2017/2018 - Second place is a 6 race Winter series in Denmark. The first race is in October and the last one in March.

I really like having racing during my Winter training because it allows me to have goals to focus on that are not 8 months away. Every race is also really intense and that makes it a great training session.

This year's cup went well with me finishing in second place in M40.

My individual placings were: 5, 3, 2, 1, 5, 3

There was a clear and good trend going from the first race, which followed my increases in Watt/kg, except for the fifth race where I didn't place that well. The reason is that that particular race was crazy slippery with ice forming all over the place and thereby rather dangerous. The race was just prior to my Andalucia start and I didn't want to risk injury.

(the total number of riders in M40 was 91)

Looking at my overall placing (all categories) I came in fifth place in the cup, a personal best.

Here are some photos from the different races

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Andalucia Bike Race 2018 - LIVE!

This is my race report from Andalucia Bike Race 2018. I wrote about each stage as it happened so everything is in reverse chronological order: Last stage first, first stage last.

  • 6 Stages
  • 400 km
  • 10.000 hm

Weapon of Choice

Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL
Gearing: 34T front chainring, 10-50 cassette
Tires: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 Snakeskin front, Scwalbe Racing Ralph 2.1 Snakeskin rear

Stage 6 - LAST STAGE - 35km, 500 hm

Result: 10th (out of 250)

Last stage! Today we had the worst weather of the race. The stage was shortened again to 35km. Probably a good idea otherwise we'd be swimming.

I got a little bit behind in the asphalt road chaos which was the start out of Cordoba. But as soon as we hit the first technical climb I was moving up. Today however I was really feeling the pain. But inspite of that I was going fast.

Intermediate times had be in seventh place at checkpoint 1 and then in fifth at checkpoint 2. At this point I had moved up to seventh place overall (from ninth when I started the stage)

And then.... I felt my rear tire start to wobble... "Oh, no! Not a puncture!". Sorry, but, yes puncture. Off the bike, out with the CO2, inflate, on the bike again and full speed ahead hoping for the best.

Obviously lost a few placings there. But then the downhills were crazy. Most of the time we were pretty much following small creeks with loads of water flowing downhill. And then there was the mud, the slippery stones, and the roots... I'm sure you can imagine. Still I thought I handled the downhills relatively well.

With about 10km left of the stage, at the top of the mountain, I came to a huge puddle of water covering the whole width of the track, perhaps 5 meters across. I tried to judge were it would be the most shallow and how deep it might be... but then it was too late and I was in the water. It ended up coming up to my chest and almost caused me to go over the bar. I got off the bike and waded to the shore. Got passed by two guys while I was swimming ashore.

As we approached Cordoba and the paved roads I got my boost up and went all-in. Passed a bunch of guys who took my wheel. Across the line in tenth place.

Overall I finished the race in ninth place.

Stage 5 - Canceled due to extreme weather conditions

There's a video here showing the weather:

Stage 4 - 60km, 1400 hm

Result: 9th (out of 250)

Late update to the stage because there's been a lot happening since it finished...

So yeah, I killed a set of brand new brake pads in four stages. I just managed to cross the finish line before they disintigrated in the calliper. They were making terrible noises for the second half of today's stage.

Now you'd think that:
1. I would be smart enough to bring a spare set of pads
2. There would be some spar SRAM pads to be found at a bike race venue
The answer to both statements is: NO

I have gotten hold of three sets of more-or-less worn pads: One from the Cannondale Service Team, the other from my friend Ben Thomas. Thanks Ben!

But how did the stage go!?

Well, first of all they had to shorten it due to the extreme weather we're having. Se we only did 60km instead of 90. It was raining through the stage.. all the time. The conditions were terrible.

But I was SO STRONG. I flew up the climbs. My legs were like diamonds!

I finished with a group of M40 riders where the lead guy took sixth place, I came in at ninth. This means I move up to ninth place in the total standings as well.

Me and a Norwegian dude

Stage 3 - 70km, 1838 hm

Result: 10th (out of 250)

When I crossed the finish line after today's stage I thought I was probably dead last in my class. Very surprised to find out I was actually 10th.

So what happened? Rain all night, all morning, and until about 5 minuter before the start. This third stage has the most difficult and dangerous downhill sections of the entire race. Everything was muddy, slippery and deadly.

The uphills went wonderfully. I flew past other riders. The downhills... well, everyone else flew past me.

But: I'm alive, and I move up one place in the overall standings.

On the overall clasification I'm now in tenth place

Stage data:

Average Power: 196W (weighted 237W)
Average H/R: 159 bpm
Average speed: 18.3 km/h

Stage 2 - 71km, 1400hm

Result: 10th (out of 250)

This was the first real stage. We lined up in the following starting grid: box 1 and 2: Men Elite, 3 Ladies Elite, boxes 4 - 8 Men Veterans. I was in the first Veterans Box: 4. The weather was sunny but really cold early in the morning.

As we started the obvious thing happened: We caught up with the Elite ladies almost at once and they started filtering backwards while being overtaken by Veteran men left and right. This is a very interesting process to watch, even more interesting to live through. The speed difference was in the region 10-20 km/h.

After just one kilometer there was a sudden stop in the middle of the pack. It was a wide gravel road so there was really no reason to stop. As I got closer to the 'incident' I noticed that it was just a very large puddle of standing water covering almost the entire width of the road. One female cyclist had just stopped and stod still in front of it and created the entire chaos. People were yelling at her: IT'S ONLY WATER!!!

After this followed some undulating smaller hills. It was a really tough section though as they were super steep and going up was done in the lowest gear, then downhill for a few seconds, and back uphill again. Very tireing.

As we left the hills we got onto a section of gravel roads. Here I was really lucky as I got into a very good group of about 20 guys with two cyclists who pulled HARD. We were covering ground at 40+ km/h and I was just thanking my lucky star. I noticed that we were catching up to a group of about 10 cyclists ahead.  They were perhaps 200-300 meters further up the road when the pace in our group dropped. I decided, for some reason, that this was a good time to sprint ahead to catch up to this group. I hadn't planned it all that much; I just felt really good. I guess in the back of my head I had hope that someone else from our group would join me and help me catch up. No one did!

While I was hunting down the group ahead I was looking down at my Power data and noticed I was doing around 360W on this rather bumpy gravel road. As I started approaching the group I began to believe that I would actually succeed in catching them... and a few seconds later I did! And it was an amazing feat of timing as just after I caught them we got into this tricky section of singletrack and I ended up in the middle of the group. I can just imagine that the bigger group that I had just left had some problems getting through this section. Good decision on my part, but really pure luck.

Next followed an amazing section of singletrack. We went around some lakes and followed the shoreline on tight natural trails. It was beautiful and technically challenging. I started thinking that we had been riding for a while and I wondered how far we'd come along so I looked down at my Garmin... 28km and just 1 hour 8 minutes!!! I had not done more than 1/3 of the stage! This is what happens when you spend the whole autumn and winter racing 1 hour races!

After this tricky section of singletrack was completed we did actually start approaching the end of the race. This was at about 50km down. We got out into a section of gravel and even some paved roads. Again I had the extremely forutnate luck of having a good group with guys who really cooperated and went all-in. At some point while third or fourth in the group and giving it my max just to stay with the rest I looked own and noticed that I was producing 350W... and that was just to stay with the guys! Can you imagine what the guy up front was producing!?

Towards the end of the stage there were some steep hills. Here the group split up. I was feeling good but decided to be tactical and preserve my energy: I held my own pace up the hills and didn't overdo it.

One thing that I did notice at this point is that I was catching up with some cyclists who were barely moving along. They seemed completely wasted. This on stage 2 of a six stage race!

Another thing that I reflected on during this stage was how good it was to run SRAM Eagle. I'm running a 34T chainring up front and 10-50 in the rear (obviously). This second stage had both road segments where we were doing 50+ km/h and also super steep climbs where I was in the lightest gear for a long time. I was really using the entire range of the cassette!

Coming up to the finish I was in a group with three guys. We were covering the last 5km of gravel road to the finish at a high speed. This was the exact same section that I did in the first stage yesterday and Strava actualy says it went 8 seconds quicker today! Wow! It turned out into a sprint between the three of us (silly, I know) and I came in second.

After checking the results it turns out I was tenth in M40. When I saw this I was overjoyed!

On the overall clasification I'm up to 11th place!

Stage data:

Average Power: 209W (weighted 243W)
Average H/R: 164 bpm
Average speed: 22.2 km/h

Stage 1 - Time Trial

Result: 13th (out of 250)
Tire pressure: 1.44 bar front, 1.48 bar rear

The first stage is a time trial. We start at 20 second intervals with the veteran classes going first (M60, M50, M40, M30) then elite (Ladied Elite, Men Elite). The results determine which starting boxes we will be placed in for the next stage.

The time trial is a short 33km 400hm stage. When we tried parts of it out the day before it seemed quite fast with some gravel roads sections. However we didn't do the whole thing.

My start time was set at 11:44 and I arrived at the starting area one hour ahead of time. There had been some rain in the morning and the streets were all wet.

When it was my time to start I went down a small ramp from a podium and then I was off. I have a Stages power meter on this bike and the power display right in front of me. I could see the watts and I was making more than 300W all the way down the first asphalt road and continued to do so as it turned onto a gravel road. It only took me about 1km to catch up with the guy who started 20 seconds ahead of me.

I kept catching up to cyclists and I must've passed about 40 of them during the stage. There were some streep inclines and some hairy downhill sections as well as some lovely singletrack. The bike felt great and so did everything else.

Going back towards the town and getting back on the gravel roads leading into Linares the watt meter was telling me I was still pushing more than 300W which felt great! I crossed the finish line in 13th place out of 250 riders in M40. I was pleased with that result. Last year during the first stage I came in 44th place. There are some good riders in my age category!

Here's some data from the stage

Average Power: 250W (weighted 281W)
Average H/R: 173 bpm
Average speed: 25 km/h

Top 14 in M40 (out of 250)

Strava data

You can check out how Sandra's race went here

Arriving in Spain

The trip by airplane went well. We arrived late Friday night at Malaga and spent the night a an airport hotel. Rented a van the next day and headed for the inscription in Linares.

When we arrived at the hotel in Linares we put out bikes together and tested them out. It turns out that my rear brake disc had gotten a bit of a hit during transport and needed adjusting. I had the Andalucia Bike Race service guys help me out and they got it working perfectly. Then we picked up our race numbers and other documents and tried out part of stage 1.

One other problem with the bike is that the front fork lockout isn't working. It's not just an adjustment issue, the fork has to be sent in to be fixed. This shouldn't be too much of an issue though. I've increased the air pressure in the fork a bit above where I would normally have it.

Sandra got to ride up front later

It's a Fiat!

Carbo Loading before the race

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Preparing for Andalucia Bike Race 2018

My first big goal of 2018 is coming on the 25th of February: Andalucia Bike Race

  • 6 Stages
  • 400 km
  • 10.000 hm

What happened last year?

I took part in the race last year but it went terribly; My achille's tendon was giving me terrible pain and prevented me from training in the weeks leading up to the race, I had a series of punctures in the race and also I kept having chain drops, and to top it off in the second to last stage I had to abort the race with a broken rear deraileur.

Current Form

This year's preparations have been going better. Weight is looking good at around 72 kg. I've been hitting the Monark HARD (my indoor training bike). I'm producing around 15% better Watts than I was at this time last year.


I haven't quite decided on which bike to use yet: My first choice is the Cube AMS 100 C:68 that I used all of 2017. It's light and quick. But I have another choice. I purchased this bike just a few weeks back and I haven't had a chance to write about it yet. A separate post about it is coming up: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL
The Trek is slightly heavier but I think it may be the best handling bike that I have ever owned.

Currently I'm trying to figure out my tire choice: Last year I went with Rocket Ron 2.1 Snakeskin front and rear. These are wonderfully light tires but I know that I wished for a little more grip in front. So I may go for 2.25 wide this year. Perhaps a Racing Ralph 2.1 in the rear instead of Rocket Ron because they roll better.

Andalucia Bike Race

So what's the race like?

  • It's a hilly race, but not super hilly. There's actually less climbing per stage compared to Beskidy Trophy. The altitude gain is between 1000 and 2000 m per day.

  • The downhills are super technical. I remember last year comparing it to Beskidy and thinking that Andalucia had more challenging and dangerous downhill sections.

  • Each stage starts in a town and has a bit of a transport section (10-20 km) before you get to singletrack. The starts in Cordoba are a bit hectic with too many riders going crazy while fighning for position and I didn't like them at all last year.

  • The first stage is a short single start stage with competitors starting at 30 second intervals. The result determines your placing on the grid for the second and first real stage.

  • The competition is SUPER HARD. Even though I had bad form and an injury coming to the race last year I was super surprised (and disappointed) when I, after what I thought was an okay first stage, found out that I had placed 44th! There are 242 racers starting in my M40 category.

The Stages

Monday, 19 February 2018

4 W/kg -> 5 W/kg in 5 months

Sunday, 18 February 2018

FTP Progress: 312W -> 312W -> 325W -> 329W -> 345W -> 353W -> 352W

February 18: 352W

20min @ 371W -> FTP = 352W (avg H/R = 178, max = 190)

NOTE: I'm 3.4kg lighter now than I was in December

December 20: 353W

20min @ 372W -> FTP = 353W (avg H/R = 176, max = 184)

November 25: 345W

20min @ 365W times 95% -> FTP = 345W  (avg H/R = 175, max = 183)

November 13:  329W

2 x 8min @ 366W times 90% -> FTP = 329W (avg H/R = 172, max = 182)

October 19: 325W

20min @ 342W * 95%: -> FTP = 325W (avg H/R = 172, max = 182)

October 9: 312W

2 x 8min @ 346W * 90%: -> FTP = 312W (avg H/R = 171, max = 183)

September 27: 312W

2 x 8min @ 346W * 90%: -> FTP = 312W (avg H/R = 175, max = 186)

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Service your Shimano SPD pedals in 10 minutes

Ever had your Shimano pedals squeak?

This is very easy to fix and in fact you should perform these few small steps that take 10 minutes in order to keep your Shimano pedals working flawlessly. It reduces friction and makes you faster!

Step 1: Use a vice to hold the pedal

Step 2: Unscrew the axle

Note: Left hand side pedal turns "the wrong way"

Step 3: Take out the axle and clean it

Step 4: Pour down axle grease and some wet lube into the pedal body

Step 5: Re-attach the axle to the pedal body

At this point some of the old dirty axle grease should come out. Just wipe it off

Done! Now you have a functioning Shimano pedal!