Sometimes things just do not go as you want it to, it can often be because you simply want it too much and it just go’s wrong. I think I had one such day yesterday at Cykelvasan which is one of my favourite races in its own way. The course is a bit boring since it is flat and very easy so almost a road race on gravel and it normally ends up in a sprint. But what I like so much about this race is the atmosphere among all cyclists and the greatness of the race, it's the only race where we in Sweden have TV on site for example. It means a lot to do well here. I have previously won this race 4 times, so I know how it feels. Last year I rode with a lot of pain in my leg (after my injury in March 2018) and finished 3rd, and I was happy with that. This year I really wanted to feel that winning feeling again since my form was good!
I was excited and relatively calm when I cycled to the start at 06.30 (very early for Sweden). Every year we see a record-breaking starting field among the ladies and this year we were over 130 girls starting at 07.30! It is great to see how it grows and ever since Cykelvasan started with a separate ladies race the numbers and the competitive level has gone up.
I had decided not to take too much responsibility and not go on too many of the intermediate sprints, unless the opportunity was given without too much effort. We have 7 of them at this race which creates some extra excitement and of course also the possibility for a bit extra prize money. I was hoping we would be a smaller group at the end and maybe break away with one or two girls on one of the very few hills this course has. Nothing turned out the way I had hoped for.
Since this race is from A to B the wind direction is pretty much the same all the way and from the start, I could feel that it was a strong headwind. This affected the race a lot. Sitting at the front was hard but sitting behind was quite easy which made it easy to sit in the bunch and the first group was bigger than ever before. In the beginning, not many girls wanted to share the work and as we approached the first sprint prize at Smågan I went to the front and kept a slightly higher pace, mainly not to get too far back in the big bunch, Linn passed just before the line and took the first sprint prize. It was fast on the gravel roads leading up to Mångsbodarna and the second sprint, I had not intended to go on that one but shortly before Elisabeth Sveum from Norway went up and I sat perfectly on her wheel so a perfect move to move me up in the bunch.I could pass her as we turned on to the grass which led us to the sprint, from there it is difficult to pass anyone so I could take home that prize. By this time, we were probably still a bunch of 15-20 people and it was fast on the downhills after the water point. I thought it would probably split up on the climbs up to Risberg, which it usually does, but here the wind played a role and even though we were pushing up the hill, the bunch was intact. Shortly before the water point in Risberg it is a section on grass and loose gravel and it was clear that Linn wanted to be there first to take the next sprint prize, I sat on her wheel and managed to pass her with 300 meters left and could take that prize too. It was a bit slow for a while after Risberg, it felt pretty pointless to go hard when so many could just sit on wheels. As we approached the only hill prize in Evertsberg, Emmy came to the front and went hard, it looked like she was planning on trying for the prize, I got a perfect lead out from her and could pass her in the last corner with 200 meters left and take another intermediate sprint. When I turned around, I had even got a small gap. We were still 10 girls in the bunch.
After Evertsberg it goes quickly downhill to the bottom of the longest hills on the course, if the bunch would split up this day it would have to be here. I went to the front and sat the pace up the first climbs but nothing much happened, as we started the next climb which is a bit steeper, Hanna attacked and only Hildegunn and I could follow. At the top we had a gap, but Nellie and Elisabeth were close behind and the 2 of them caught up with us on the downhill. There was another sprint which Elisabeth took. We all realized that now it was time to push hard so that the girls behind would not catch. I thought Hanna and I were the strongest and had a hope that we would be able to get away, the others seemed tired, but it did not work. There is a short uphill at the Hökberg water point and I tried to go a bit harder there and thus also took the sprint prize but mainly to try and get away, Hanna sat with me but we did not manage. It was only to realize that there would be a sprint between us 5 girls. Everyone took their turns and at the last sprint prize in Eldris I could pass the others to take my 5th intermediate sprint for the day. I was very nervous as we approached the finish, Nellie took the front from 2,5 km to go until the first of two bridges, with 800 meters to go. Elisabeth went to the front without wanting to (I think). She was first at the last corner and I sat behind her. She did not want to sit first and tried to get us to move forward, but no one wanted to, which made it very slow everyone just watching each other. At the circle with a few hundred meters to go Elisabeth started the sprint and I started on the side of her and Hildegunn on the other. Unfortunately, it was too late, it is often the one who starts first that wins if it is a short sprint, and this was the case today. I was in 2nd the whole time until just before the line when Hildegunn managed to get just ahead by a few centimetres.
I was a very disappointed with 3rd place. I had felt strong all the way but felt that I did a really bad sprint. It is the crap sprint I am mostly disappointed with, more than with a 3rd place. I know that I can sprint much better than that, but I started too late and was in a too easy gear. No excuses, I’ll just have to come back next year and try to take that 5th win. As I started this blogg post with, sometimes you want something too much and then it all just goes wrong.
This was my last race in Sweden for 2019. Tomorrow we are leaving for Switzerland for the Swiss Epic on August 20-24th, I look forward to it and it will be great fun to do a stage race with Katie Lennard!
Podium with Hildegunn (Norway) and Elisabeth (Norway)
Before start. Photo: mtbfoto.se
Interview just before start. Photo: mtbfoto.se
Chatting to Hildegunn before start. Photo: mtbfoto.se
Just after Mångsbodarna and still a big bunch. Photo: mtbfoto.se
Just after Oxberg when we are 5 away. photo: happyride.se
Tight photo finish. Photo: vasaloppet