I love races with a late start. Take Zygos’ 11:00 start for example – I woke up at 07:00 and I had plenty of time for breakfast, coffee, bathroom, loading bike and stuff. Then I drove ~30 km from Nea Peramos (Νέα Πέραμος) to Zygos (Ζυγός) and I had enough time for picking my race pack and number and then warming up for the steep start.
Well, almost. Right after picking my number I changed into my riding outfit, unloaded my bike from the car’s bike rack only to discover that my front tyre is not in a good shape! Apparently I had punctured it while stroll-riding with my wife the previous day. It had deflated very slowly over the night and I didn’t detect it until I mounted the bike and it sank under my weight.
With only 25 minutes till 11:00 I rushed to change the tyre. Then I went for a very short 4-5 minutes warm-up and finally lined up at the race start. Unfortunately announcements at this race (as well as at Galatas 2015, but unlike Thassos) were only in Greek. I hope there wasn’t anything too important that foreign participants needed to know.
Aaand off we went! I started among the last, but moved ahead steadily. First there’s about 1.3 km (+60 m ascend) to get to the main circuit, then you do 3 x 12 km laps (+185 m) and finally 2.7 km (mostly downhill) to get back to the start/finish. Total ~38 km with ~1000 m climbing.
I was feeling good and energetic, but my heart rate was unexpectedly high. The power meter was also measuring a reasonable effort (NP upper Z3) for the first 20 minutes of mostly climbing, which was not matching the high Z5a bpm. By the way, this was my first ride with a power meter (Stages). I trained all winter with Wahoo Kickr, which turned out to be overestimating my power with up to 30W, but that’s a story for another day. Riding off-road with a power meter results in a really really jumpy readings and I found 3s average power to be of very little use. I shall try 10s average next time.
My best guess is that my HR was high due to the rather steep start without sufficient warm-up.
Update: The next day I was not feeling great. Two days later my HRV and resting heart rate are really off. I feel quite tired and my appetite is nowhere to be found. So, maybe Sunday was the first day of a minor sickness episode?
Update2: Yep, on the third day that escalated into a fully-featured stomach flu.
Initially the weather was in a bad mood – dark clouds and even a few drops of rain (mixed feelings forecast), but ultimately it spared us and turned out just cool and calm, so we didn’t have to fight neither with mud nor overheating.
The terrain was very nice! Most of the climbing takes place on wide forest roads with most of the remaining parts being moderately technical single tracks (μονοπάτι) with some very short high difficulty segments. The soil is of the more sandy type which doesn’t hold water and has a good grip even shortly after rain fall.
As this is a C race to me I tried my new nutrition plan: UCAN mixed with very little water and some MCT oil in small zip bags. This worked well at home and also on a long road ride, but not so good on the trails. UCAN doesn’t mix well with oil – the two separate and overall it’s quite a messy experience. Must find another way to take the MCT.
Everything was going pretty good when with 2 km to closing the first lap I felt my front tyre is wobbling again! I managed to get through the last kilometre of the moderately technical single track without crashing and at the next checkpoint asked for directions to start/finish area. They asked me if I would like to continue the race or to quit. I explained that I only need to fix my tyre and then I will re-join the competition. I wasn’t too demotivated by this setback – after all this was a C race to me, kinda training race, so finish times weren’t of utter importance. Moreover, the trails were very pleasant and I would ride them just for the fun of it.
So, I descended down to the start/finish area. The tyre was holding enough pressure and by leaning heavily behind the saddle I successfully rode the whole time. This was the fastest tube repair I’ve ever done. 10m44s disassembling the wheel, glue, patch, 250 strokes of the mini-pump, go! An old Greek grandpa stood close by trying to help – he even volunteered to hold the wheel while I was inflating it.
I climbed back to the circuit, explained the situation to the guys and gals at the next checkpoint and re-joined the race having lost about 20 minutes. I attacked aggressively the first 1 km climb trying to catch-up, then I dived fast into the μονοπάτι… only to discover, that my front tyre had betrayed me again! This time it flattened quickly, so I had no choice but to turn back and walk to the start/finish Now I was really disappointed. The guy at the checkpoint pronounced me “The Bad Luck Winner” and was telling my story to the small number of people who were standing by, watching and cheering the racers.
Walking down to the finish I was cheered up a little bit, because everyone asked me whether I had “Σκασμένο λάστιχο;”, which sounded really funny to me. It sounds like “Скъсан ластик?” in Bulgarian, which would be something like “Torn elastic band?” in English
While I was changing clothes and loading the bike on the car rack, the first (fastest) riders appeared at the finish line (the fastest time was 2h2m). At some point Bo Dudek passed by and we had a short conversation. He recommended going tubeless, and I had to agree. The strange thing is I’ve participated in more than 10 races with my old Drag ZX5 bike using variety of different tyres and tubes and never had a flat during a race. With my current Canyon I have 4 starts (including Zygos) and every single time I had a flat — 1. a snake bite from a hard crash into a rock, 2. a snake bite from a low jump onto a concrete bridge, 3. upholstery tacks in both tyres, and now 4. two small thorn punctures. I’m not really sure tubeless would have saved me in cases 1 and 3, but I have to try and break the bad karma. It should be easy as I’m with Mavic UST shins (UST kit ordered and on its way). If this doesn’t help, then I should probably try exorcism?
Notes to myself:
Restaurants ordered by (our own) rating system/preferences: Isalos, Metaxi Mas, Kostantaki. Very nice apartments at Sea To See. The drive from Sofia to Nea Peramos via Ilinden-Exochi took 4h30m (with a single 15m gas station stop).