A classic leg of the race that had us negotiate through hiking trails rife with astounding vistas. Great for those that have the ‘luxury’ to slow down and enjoy all this beauty. The better part of the peloton was better off to ride mindfully and to watch out for sudden surprises the track featured today aplenty.
The general classement seems to be etched in stone, and as long as the final stage doesn’t present any unwelcome surprise, the Dane lone wolf Erik Skovgaard Knudsen will nail it down completely. Same goes for the teams with Martin Horák, Tomáš Vokrouhlík BMC-SAVO racing team [CZE], as well as in the mixed category – Lasse Brun Pedersen and Rikke Kornvig where only an undesirable cause may put an end to their lead. The battle goes on in the women classification as the time differences are still too narrow to call it a done deal.
Prudent pacing strategies pay off big time, and I’m just eternally grateful for being forced to back off in the first 1-2 stages. In doing so, my legs felt still fresh enough to respond to attacks that came today big time. The drawback was only the material, as hardtails were on this parcours totally at the lost. Never ending bouncing on a path full of tree-branches and seriously rocky and rooty trails. There is a certain technique you have to dial in, and just ride it through. An ideal track is next-to nonexistent, so it’s futile to change sites all the time. Those hundreds and hundreds of hikers and spectators managed to spur us on awesomely. These folks just kept screaming and cheering, and brought you back from your pain cave – simply surreal.
It didn’t change the fact that the frequent attacks had me make up my mind whether to burn all my matches today or leave some in the tank for the final ‘etap’. I opted for the latter, and had to sacrifice two places, even though the distances stayed within 20 and 30 sec respectively.
Somehow, we harbor the hope after every stage that the next one will be more forgiving. And it, indeed, does. Though, it just doesn’t get easier. A different day, and different route that exhausts us just like as much as the previous one. The general echo among the racing folks tells, though, that this works for them, and only the negligible minority asks for more harmless racetrack characteristic. Sure thing, one story follows the next, and we are just about to start licking our wounds. But somehow, none of those puts blame on the track designer for being way too heartless.
“We learned the hard way, that BCH is associated with challenging route characteristics” relates Andrew from South Africa. “And, let’s face it, we just came to love it somehow. Do any of us ask for a ‘walk in the park’, really?”
His statement is backed up greatly even among those stemming from rather flattish lands like Denmark or Netherland. This race enjoys an unbroken popularity mainly in these countries. “No, no lets just keep it how it his, otherwise we can compete in other ‘mundane’ marathons that don’t request a complete biker” narrates Marc from Belgium.
I close the day with top ten in the GC – something I wouldn’t envisage for a couple of days. That calls, on the other hand, to elicit all reserves I have in the stores. No I have to take all my chances and go all out, best from the very first part of tomorrow’s stage. The script is written and something whispers in my head that the very same is true for all who have ambitions to make up ground. It is all the more intriguing as there won’t be neither any lurking, nor any other ‘wait-and-see’ approaches. We must put our cards on the table and hope for some dry matches in the box.
The show-down kicks off, as does the poker-face shenanigan. How is everybody doing, did you pace yourself mindfully over those previous days? The last stage is sort of an in individual time trial battle. An honest race, a true full gas fight. It’s great to have a healthy cushion of, say 5-10 min, but 15 sec makes me anxious. That is the distance to the guy behind me, and he is equally narrowly followed by another 30, and 42 sec respectively. Yet, as the rule goes, as far as you bypass all misfortunes, mechanicals and wrong turns, the battle is half won, meaning it can be reshuffled again.
The gun goes off and as predicted the heat of the fight ups its grade, so does the daily temperature that reaches today as high as 31 degree. The usual suspects and protagonist of the daily attacks have played their role again, however was remarkable that only after a couple of Km the most backed off, and it was just way too obvious that it wasn’t due to their game plan [to play their forte later], rather the accumulation of fatigue and burnt reserves.
Erik Skovgaard Knudsen the Dane prodigy didn’t leave anything to chances and cemented his status as the best solo man by mind blowing performance even on the last day. His natural talent and charisma didn’t let him down and he once more showed his cannibal-like attitude by not giving any gifts. His performance is all the more shocking as his way to achieve these results are done by a unique laid-back attitude and great chilled-easy. Sebastian Szraucner of Team Focus RAPIRO Racing [GER] took second, followed by Josef Havel from Czech Republic.
In the mixed, the fabulously performing Danish team of Lasse Brun Pedersen and Rikke Kornvig [HMTBK SRAM]accomplished their exploit, and as expected went for the highest place. Second goes to the Polish pair Katarzyna Sowa, Paweł Urbańczyk Dobre Sklepy Rowerowe – Author. The podiums 3rd took Ewelina Ortyl, Wojciech Kozłowski MURAPOL TWOMARK SPECIALIZED SUDETY MTB CHALLENGE [POL].
Man’s team was occupied from the get-go by the BMC-SAVO racing team [CZE], the seasoned long distance racers Martin Horák, Tomáš Vokrouhlík. They didn’t surrender for a second and had Piotr Bereźnicki , Darek Zasada of OKULAR MTB TEAM [POL] took second. Manuel Fernandez Gonzalez and David Ovin Vitorero of PINyPON Asturias [ESP] scored 3rd.
Me, I felt despite the amassed tiredness fairly ready to up the ante, and so I was up to the task not only to respond to all-pervading surges but take more initiative and animate the race. My sole concern was just how to balance my trivial minuses in very technical descents compered to my direct competitors. I had a go on all uphillls, and built up some margin in the process. Besides that, I took much more risks in the downhills as well and hoped there are weary enough and will slow down a bit to avoid technical mistakes. No 10 sec feed-zone stops either. All those tiny things add up at the end of the day. The very last 30km were the most grueling when I dropped all of them in the small group, and I was pretty much on my own. The agony was partially unbearable. I could soft pedal and sit up a bit, knowing that my 15 sec advantage has gone, and so did my 10th place. Mind you, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. I meant to do my homework to the utmost within my power. Frankly, to keep 10th was just not viable, that said, I’m blessed with 11 to the nth degree.
Funnily, I had with all these polish stage races [and I did a lot of them] on every occasion an unfinished business. Either it’s been due to overcooking the race, mechanical, etc. It ended up with some negative connotation. This time tough, I’m really hard pressed to find any flaw or something incomplete. Admittedly, it may sound boldly to call it ‘all went to perfection’ but I really had not only the notion but, in fact the first-hand experience that it’s been just this: a perfect race week.
Thanks for reading all reports so far and please stay tuned to Sudety Bikechallenge racer feedback wrap up.