Start of the race
The first night was a night with not a lot of sleep. Sleeping in a large hall with 200 people can get noisy at night. Eventually I fell asleep and then my alarm went off. Filled with excitement I got dressed and went to get breakfast. I must say, an excellent buffet style breakfast. Good sandwiches, lots of choice in oatmeals etcetera and good coffee. During breakfast I caught up with my new mates from Belgium. They have experience racing this race from the years before. They tell me it's going to be a fast race. I can't wait to start.
After breakfast we get back to the mass camp and we prepare for stage 1. Packing our bags and leaving them to get picked up. Then checking out our bikes from the secured bike park. And we're off to the start. There is still an hour left to the start so the five of us try to relax in a nearby park. I quickly call my girl to tell her everything is great and i'm excited to race.
11am. Jetzt geht's los
Just before 11am we are summoned to the start and in order of category we are placed on the start line. My heart-rate goes up to around 100bpm because of the excitement and not knowing what to expect.
"The legs are not feeling great today."
11am. Jetzt geht's los! With the gun setting us all free we all start to ride. There is still a 3km neutralized zone, but we are still going 35km/h.
I'm glad when we reach the first climb of the day, because that means the bunch will split up in smaller groups.
In the first steep sections of around 15% I quickly learn that today is not the best day for me. My heart-rate is high and won't go down, and the legs hurt. I'm struggling to find a rhythm. But I need to push through this. So I did. After about 18km we reach the first plateau and I make my way towards the doctors car. I'm not feeling great, A terrible headache and light fever made me take an ibuprofen. At km 40 I made another visit to the doctors car, and got the same medicine. After about 10 minutes my body starts to feel better and I start to make up ground.
Bigger jumps bring bigger fun!
The terrain is also getting better suited for me. More 8% uphill sections where I can push a bigger gear. And also, technical descents where I can use my full suspension 29er with dropper post. More speed brings more fun. And bigger jumps brings even more fun!
In the last 30km I make up a lot of places and eventually cross the line after 4h13min on the bike. My time was terrible but I'm happy to feel a lot better. And there are still 4 days left t make up a lot of ground.
What did I learn from today?
Mountain biking deserves more credit that it gets. At least from me. In the olden days cross country mountain biking was a sort of road racing on gravel and muddy trails. But now it's completely changed. Fast road sections, technical 20% and more climbs, and very technical enduro-like downhill stuff. It's just not something you can do with a few times of training on the mountain bike.
I've also learn that i'm not used to spinning such a small gear. I just loose time at the 20% plus climbs because of that. But on the other hand, when I reach the top, I can immediately shift to the big gear and push on.
But all in all, an extremely fun and tiring day. Now I'm off to get diner and afterwards a good night sleep!
I'll write to you tomorrow.