It was time to defend my jersey at the Swedish XCM Championships yesterday. It was going to be a tough task with the strongest ladies field to date at a Swedish XCM champ. There were many girls who would be up front fighting for the medals. However, the weather and the course were to my advantage. It would be over 30 degrees hot and I really like the heat and know that many others don’t. The route at “Finnmarksturen” had been extended to meet the criteria for a National championship course, therefore a few more hills and single track sections had been added which made the course harder than before. I was hoping for a tough race and that girls would drop off one by one if the pace was steady and high from the start.
As usual, I had been very nervous during the week, Swedish Champs is an important race since it is about wearing the jersey for a year. The preparation during the week went well and I felt more and more fresh the closer I got to race day. I got a bit more calm after riding the last part of the course the day before and I could plan where I would go hard and imagine different scenarios. Strangely enough I slept better than normal the night before the race, which was good!
It was already very hot during the warm-up and the heat in the start shoot was tiering. There were over 70 girls in the different racing categories who rolled off and out of Ludvika, it's so amazing to see that so many girls are taking part and that the sport is growing! Thank you Ludvika CK for having a separate ladies start for us! The pace picked up as soon as we started the first climb but there were still a lot of girls still in the group. We became a group of 8-9 girls who stayed together for a long time. On a downhill in the forest, Linn went fast and opened a gap, Sara was with her and Hanna and I managed to catch as soon as we came to the next uphill. The 4 of rode together through the first feed station. We tried to work together on the long flat bike lane that took us back to Ludvika but the speed was not so high and we were caught by the chasing group.
However, it did not last long as it all split up again on the climb up to the hill prize and as we left town again. I wanted to go for the prize and also to feel how strong the other girls were, I pushed a little harder and was surprised when I turned around with about 100 meters left and saw that I had a big gap. It felt long to ride alone for the remaining 40 km so I waited for Hanna and Linn who chased behind. I picked up the pace on the next climb and now it was only Hanna and I left. We took turns and she seemed very strong and I started to wonder if I had done the wrong thing to wait after the hill prize, I knew a sprint would be a gamble since anything can happen there. We took turns and I was making plans in my head to try something on the last climb, 7 km from the finish, I knew that would be my chance to get away.
Even if I liked the heat I could feel that my body was not used to it and it was so nice to get a bottle of cold water to throw over my shoulders and an ice cold bottle with Enervit sports drink at the last feedstation!
When we entered the hill I increased the speed and I knew I had to committee 100% and not look back. I just pushed as hard as I could and I got energy from not hearing a cyclist behind me anymore. I knew that if Hanna let go on a climb she must be tired, she is normally a good climber. I only looked back at the top and it was a relieve not to see anyone! I kept the pace high through the last forest section and through the tunnels which took me up on to the tar road. It was a fantastic feeling to see the sign with 2 km to the finish while I turned around without seeing anyone on the long straight road, I would take this home!!! I was overjoyed to be able to keep racing in my blue and yellow kit for another year!
Even though my legs were cramping badly after the finish I couldn't stop smiling. Thanks everyone who came and cheered along the course! I have my usual fan club at this race and was especially happy to see them since I knew they would not be home for this years race, they had come home earlier so that they would make it, it made me smile inside and out during the race!
A huge thank you to Ludvika CK for a really good Champs course, hard and challenging, just as a Champs course should be, this was proper!
Thank you to Craig and my brothers who were out along the route to hand me bottles and took nice pictures during the race! Thank you mom and dad for always supporting me and taking care of the business while I am racing! A big thank you to all my sponsors who help me do this!! Cycling at this level is not a one man show!
Before the start. Photo: cykelkanalen.se
A big ladies field! Photo: Robert Stenerhag
In action ;) Photo: Robert Stenerhag
With Hanna and Linn! With my brother in the woods, I never saw him though. Photo: Robert Stenerhag
Getting the bottle from Craig. Photo: Robert Stenerhag
Photo: Robert Stenerhag
On the last climb, you can see Hanna in the background. Photo: cykelkanalen.se
Ouch, I am cramping.... Photo: cykelkanalen.se
Happy during the interview after! Photo: Robert Stenerhag
The podium with Hanna and Emmy. Photo: cykelkanalen.se