Foto: Nisse Schmidt
We went up to Sälen on Friday, my Dad took part in the “open track”, it was the first time one could do this the day before the real race, it was also his first time to do the full length of CykelVasan, he did “the half” 2 years ago. I stayed in Sälen while he was racing and my mom and brother went back to the finish to fetch him and then return to Sälen for the night.
CykelVasan is the biggest MTB race in Sweden and there are different races during the week, the 30km, the 45km (“The half”) the kiddies race, the “Open track 90km” and the race 90km (actually 95km) and all together close to 20.000 cyclists takes part, there are 12.000 on the last day when the race happens. Even though as a mountainbiker I almost want to call the race an off road road race, we averaged 31,9km/h this year, not a normal mountainbike race;)
The Swedish Television does not show a lot about mountainbiking, it is noticeable how big CykelVasan is in Sweden since it is the only race you can see on TV!!! (For all my South African followers this can be difficult to believe since MTB is so big in SA). TV showed a “before CykelVasan” programme live on Friday evening and I was part of it. The big focus was how the womens race "disappears" among the men, again – if I compare with SA this is the Argus and the same problem as we have had there with the ladies sprint! Last year I had men in the way and had to stop my sprint and got passed on the line, and it is not fair when we sprint for such a prestigious competition.
It was 4 degrees at the start when I started to warm up, we got the information that it was colder now than at the start of Vasaloppet (the cross country skiing race) this winter, luckily it got warm as soon as the sun came!
Since the ladies still start with the men it is important for us to get in to a good bunch up the first climb of 4km, at the same time as one can't go too hard and take the risk of going too hard since it is a long race. I decided to set an even high pace without pushing too much. It went well and I could easily pass through the bunch of men, Hildegunn came with me and we dropped the other girls. The bunch was all together at the first time check, we were at the end of the elite mens bunch and around 30 seconds ahead of the next girl. We lost a few strong guys when the big bunch split up before the second water point and as we left the station I could see Hanna coming in so I knew that she would soon be with us. As we approached the only intermediate sprint I moved up in our bunch, it is difficult when we have a sprint prize with men around us so I decided to go closer to the front, I ended up leading with 1km to go, which was not the plan… With 200 meters to go I put the hammer down and just hoped that Hildegunn was not going to pass me and when I crossed the line first I heard the speaker saying I had a gap, that was when I realised I had something in my legs which hopefully would be enough for a win today! The route had changed a bit this year and some new climbs had been added, Hanna caught up with us there and from the 30km to go mark we were all 3 together to the finish.
Since we had the problem last year with men in the way for the ladies sprint, the organisers tried something new this year. All men who were expected to finish around 80-120th had been informed that if they come together with a few girls they will be told by marshals to stay on the right hand side until the finish, so that we can sprint on the left.
I still wanted to take this sprint from the front not to risk getting blocked by any men so with 3km to go I made sure I was the first lady within the mens bunch, luckily the men kept a high speed so that everyone kept their spots. When coming over 2 bridges with 600 meters to go it got a bit messy, the guys were all over the place so I sat behind a bit longer. When I started my sprint I saw Hildegunn coming on my left hand side and a guy was close on my right side, I had no where to go and it was very close that both Hildegunn and I crashed because the guy came way too close to us, I re-started the sprint and gave it my all! It was a fight to the line and I managed to win by less than half a wheel! It was a great feeling!!!! This was one of my goals for the year and winning this race means a lot to me (SA readers, it is like winning the Argus).
Even though I won I am still disappointed that we never get a completely fair race and sprint, I am hoping that we can get our own start for next year!!
A huge thank you goes to everyone who was out there cheering on the day, it is amazing to do such a big race and constantly hearing your name along the way, it gives a lot of extra energy!! Thank you to mom and dad for the feeding along the route and being there with wheels in case something would happen, and always doing this at all the races, I would not have gotten this far if it was not for you! Thank you to Åbro and CBC for making this possible, I am so proud to represent such great companies and winning a race like this feels even better when I know that I am giving something back to you! Thank you Lauf forks for the great fork, it worked wonders on the day and was perfect for this race!! Of course thank you to Scott SA for the machine I was riding! And also thank you to Grip Grab, Squirt, Nike Vision SA, Stages power for my products!
If anyone understands Swedish, here are some programme to watch:-)
Video interview and text from DT.se
SVT Play "before CykelVasan"
SVT Play "A summary from CykelVasan"
In the studio the evening before
At the start
Intermediate sprint in Evertsberg
Foto: Nisse Schmidt. It was close on the line
With the winner of the mens race Alexander Wetterhall and the "kransmas and kranskulla"
Podium at the prizegiving