Another beautiful race, and yet another defeat. The MTB race on Thassos island is one of my favourites – the weather is already actually nice at the end of April, the views of the island and Aegean from above are dazzling, start and finish is on the beach (what’s better than jumping in the sea after 3+ hours of sizzling effort?), great organization etc. It was also my first race in another country back in 2013, so that might play role as well.
This year was my 4th attempt at it, but apparently Thassos mountains are not yet ready to let me through. Although I get faster and better each year, I’m still to execute my “perfect” race there. I’m far from elite level, and there are no categories (racing levels or “cats”) – that’s why I compete against the clock and myself. In this regard the perfect race is not the one where I step on the podium, but one where I ride with good flow, use all of my available power and finish strong without major technical failures or crashes.
In 2013 I completed the course without technical issues or crashes, but I wasn’t too fit and ended up past mid-pack.
In 2014 I trained quite a bit harder, acquired better bike and was doing well overall, but then crashed badly in a stream bed above Theologos. Thankfully no lasting damage, but lost more than half an hour due to tyre repairs, pain and loss of motivation.
In 2015 I became even faster, but got sick (common cold) the day before race and also torn tyre sidewall just 3 km from finish, so the perfect race remained elusive.
This year I’m in best shape of my life (so far 🙂 ). I trained hard and prepared for a strong ride with well tuned nutrition, hydration and light bike with tubeless tires. Went a little bit conservative from the start, but then picked up pace 10 minutes into the race. Felt strong and fast all the way up to Trikorfo peak, which is ~21 km into this 58 km race, but time-wise it is about the half-way through.
Just bellow Trikorfo check-point I noticed my front tyre (Rocket Ron) is hissing and spilling sealant from near the centre. This is not something unusual – it happened to me several times before, so I kept going feeling confident it’ll seal quickly. 2-3 minutes later it was still bubbling, so I had to stop and check what’s going on. There was an odd, very thin stone piece stuck just at the base of one of my central knobs. Like a piece of glass, but actually very small piece of rock. I removed it and left with ~1 mm hole, which sealed almost instantly. So, I jumped on the bike and resumed climbing only to find that my tyre started hissing again. Got off the bike, and hole sealed up quickly. This time I decided to push instead of ride for several minutes to give it chance to seal better. Unfortunately, when I tried riding it remained sealed only for few short minutes and then the hole re-opened.
More and more riders began to catch-up and pass me. My motivation was declining. I think the hole kept reopening because of its location at the base of a knob. The knob provided too much leverage and was forcing the rubber around hole to flex and re-open. I think that one possible solution would have been removing (cutting) the knob. Anyway, it was apparent that the sealant is not going to fix the problem and it’s time to put an inner tube. That’s when I found that I have inner tube with Schrader valve while my front rim is Presta valve 🙁 Motivation nose dived to zero. I descended slowly to Theologos (by topping up air every 5 minutes) and quit the race. Bonus insult to injury points: I’ve ordered tubeless repair kit (the one where you use rubber thread plugs) before going to Thassos, but due to national holiday it didn’t arrive on time.
Well, at least the weather was nice, the views spectacular, the food and the company awesome. I improved my Potos – Trikorfo climb time by another 15% compared to 2015 (1h54 -> 1h39m); 37% faster than my first ride from 2013 (2h16m back then):
So, I guess we are not done yet! Ну, Τρίκορφο, ну, погоди!