Survival of the fit(est)

Last Sunday I participated in the 217km Pirkan Lenkki sportive. With limited amount of riding under the belt I was quite worried one week before the event. During the week weather forecasts kept changing from hail and thunder to sunny skies. Bonking on the 100km rehearsal ride had not exactly helped ease my anxiousness. Despite the odds everything came together pretty much perfectly in the end.

During the week before I used considerable effort preparing. I cleaned the chain and switched to a faster set of wheels and tyres. I packed all the gear in advance and I had a strategy with a backup plan. I drank sports drinks and mineral water several days in advance in addition to a week of magnesium tablets twice a day. As a final touch I ate two full plates of mother-in-law’s oatmeal porrage in the morning (which is absolutely unheard of). 

With all that preparation done I felt quite confident in the morning. I ended up wearing just a short sleeved jersey with under vest and short bibs. I had list for the morning so I remembered to put on some sun and chamois cream. At 7.10 am when the horn rang I knew I would survive. Group 30a led by a Kaupin Kanuunat team headed to the unknown.

At first the breeze felt little bit chilly, but it warmed my heart to see some familiar faces on the side of the road. I didn’t expect to see wife and kid come cheering for you that early in the morning. Otherwise the beginning of the ride was uneventful. It felt most of the first 20km was downhill. It took a while to really warm up. The things started heating up after 30km.

Even though you are well prepared you can make a ride really difficult for you. This time I did it by dropping a bottle before Siuro. As something like that happens you don’t have too much time to decide what to do. I ended up dropping off and fetching bottle as I was bound to need both bottles during the rest of the rid and I knew if all fails I knew I could join the following group. As I turned around the group was disappearing in the horizon. Against all sound advice I decided to try catching up.

Fighting against the wind on your own makes you realize how much riding in the group helps. After three or four kilometers of riding solo I was running on the red with both legs burning and lungs gasping for oxygen. I had to really put a lot of effort into catching the group. In the end this ad-hoc tempo wasn’t the smartest of choice as the group stopped to have a lakeside break just a few kilometers later. I was little worried how the extra effort would play off later in the ride, but everything felt pretty good.

Rest of the ride went surprisingly smoothly. Kaupin Kanuunat did a good job leading the hills slowly so there wasn’t need to get off the saddle. Consequent even power consumption makes much easier to save energy on a long ride. There were plenty of breaks with snacks and sports drink served by jolly locals. Overall I think the best part of the event are the people. There were plethora of different kinds of people and bikes taking part.

After 100km mark there was a bit of a jubilation in the group. I thought I would wait for the half-way mark. The only thing is I got a problem with the odometer. For some reason (heat?) the screen did not change the odometer markings. Even thought I wasn’t in too much of a pain I started to get little bit desperate. At some point I heard people talking about the 150km mark. Obviously I was quite relieved at that point as the 70km left started to feel like we were on the home strech already.

Generally the route was very pretty and the weather beautiful. Finnish coutryside can be very beautiful. There were lot of big hills, but the pace was even and the it wasn’t too hot. I was very happy the forecasted rain did not materialize. The only thing I could grumble about where the lack of warning signs as they were not relayed back end of the group. I ran several times into huge  potholes. Luckily I did not puncture (or worse) and as I moved up in the group there were less issues.

As the area on the last part of the route wasn’t familiar to me so I was surprised when we were all of the sudden in the suburbs of Tampere. It took no time to fly from Teisko to the finish line. There were lot of people cheering and I was handed a medal. Next time I will be sure to take off my helmet and ask for a hug as well.  Overall I can be very happy with my performance. It felt almost too so easy I think I could have managed even the pace of the faster 32km/h group. The main thing is I reached one of my key goals for this year.

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