Tough going at TdH2013

Last Sunday I took part in Tour de Helsinki 2013 sportive. In advance I had high hopes for the event, but day before weather and mechanics were acting up. The forecast promised rain showers and I had issues with both derailleurs. Looking back I really had to push myself out of the comfort zone, but in the end everything came together beautifully. Sometimes the more you give, the more you get.

I had changed the cassette, chain and front rings in advance. Day before the event I noticed the rear derailleur would not go to all 10 gears and the front had trouble shifting onto the front ring. I spent couple of hours tinkering with the setup until I finally noticed the problem was with the barrel adjusters. The screw threads had disintegrated so there was no way I could get proper tension on the gear cable. The local bike shops were already closed so it was time for some good old ingenuity. I wound up using a zip tie and it worked like a dream.

On the day of the event I woke up with the sun shining and made my way to the velodrome. At the start the road was wet, but it wasn’t raining so things were looking up. I chatted shortly with some russian dudes as one of them also had a chinese carbon bike. Horns blaired and it was time to go (Davai!). We rode only a mile before it started raining heavily. It was pretty obvious we were bound to get soaking wet. In a sense it was good to get drenching out of the way and I cheered up as I saw my family cheering on the side of the road. Riding slowly behind the neutralising lead car I kept getting wetter, colder and more eager to get this thing over with.

The speed eventually picked up and I somehow ended up in a fast moving group. The pack was thinning out fast so I did my best to chase small groups and not let them get away. The Velskola hills are pretty intensive roller-coaster and really spread out the riders. I had done some reconnaissance beforehand so I knew the cracks on the descents pretty well so I managed to stay upright. . The speed just kept increasing and somehow I managed to hang on. Eventually on the descent towards Lepsämä I rolled towards the front.

I knew there would be some friends cheering on top of the Lepsämä hill. I figured I should do my best since they have come out to show their support even in this awful weather. I opened the throttle and sped up the hill and past the cheering crowd. It was a pretty awesome feeling, but I already knew  there would be consequences to such foolish endeavours. Couple of kilometets later it was payback time as I hit a patch of bad tarmac and lost touch with the wheel in front of me. Almost immediately people started flying past me and it felt like it was all over.

I ended up riding with an ozzie dude for a little while. Eventually a bigger group caught us. At first it was difficult to change pace and especially to keep up as speed always picked up as the rider at lead changed. Eventually I floated back in the pace line and started following my game plan. The average speed was around 33km/h so at times it was tough just to hang on, but I managed to conserve lot of energy. At Nikkilä there was a long false flat with crosswind that separated the men from boys, but I managed to keep at the front part of the group.

On the final 20k I felt I had fresh legs so I kept my eyes open for break away group. I think most people were totally satisfied with the pace and crashes in the round-abouts kept people in line. Suddenly sun and a dude I know from floor ball and Hepo group rides popped up so it was quite leisurely riding together towards the finish. I managed to force myself into a short sprint before the velodrome. At the finish line I didn’t even remember to check my time, but it felt great to have made it. We high-fived with the russian dudes and recollected the experience with my buddy.

For some reason my timing chip hadn’t worked so it took couple of days before I got my official results. I’m pretty stoked with top 10% finish (field of 1427) and the fact I managed to shave 20 minutes off my time. All the training and loosing some weight definitely paid off. Cleaning the bike from all the road grit I even noticed I had not used the smaller chainring all day. I guess when the going gets tough the tough got going.

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